In the last week and a half our family has enjoyed three excellent and thought provoking films, all based on real life events.
Perhaps the most remarkable and scandalous aspect of this story is that it hasn’t been widely told until now. Who knew that the US space program was dependent on a black woman figuring out the math so Alan Shepard and John Glenn could make their famous launches, and return safely back to earth? Our favorite line was when Dorothy Vaughan and her white supervisor meet up in one of NASA’s newly integrated women’s restrooms. The supervisor says, “Despite what you may think, I have nothing against ya’ll.” Vaughan replies, “I know. I know you probably believe that.”
The Queen of Katwe
This is the story of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in the slum of Katwe, who has become one of her nation’s leading chess players. One of the most refreshing parts of the film is that it avoids the individual hero motif. Phiona’s mother, siblings, and her mentor all share the spotlight in the tangle of poverty, the possibilities of education, and the temptations of success. We streamed the film through Netflix.
The Bridgemaster’s Daughter
What a thrill to be with many of you at last evening’s premier of this film that CMCers Elisa Stone and Matthew Leahy have poured their lives into over the last number of years. What was initially a project about the preservation of a culture in the Peruvian Andes – through an annual bridge building event – became an exploration of the many layers of tradition and loss in the family of the bridge master, Victoriano. A father-to-son lineage of bridge building expertise is increasingly revealed to be intertwined with patriarchy and generational domestic violence against females, including Victoriano’s daughter.
One of the key moments for me occurred late in the film when Victoriano and several men from his village are in Washington DC doing a bridge building demonstration. They are surrounded by American tourists observing and applauding their work. We as viewers get to watch the tourists watch the bridge-building. But the film has already given us the vantage point that the tourists can’t see — the complexity of a traditional culture in a globalized world, Victoriano’s sorrow about his daughter’s running away from home, and the struggle of these various characters to both preserve the good of their ancestors, and escape the sins of their fathers.
It would be fun to have a viewing at CMC sometime.
A week and a half ago I went on a weekend retreat with three pastor friends. We met up in Sylva, North Carolina at the second home of a member of the Atlanta Mennonite congregation. We got in a couple long hikes, sampled some excellent and just OK craft beer, and had lots of conversation. In regards to the latter, it was about the opposite of a silent retreat.
One of the things we talked about was busyness. I’ve never quite bought into the language of “work/life balance” since it implies that work and life are two different things. But being too busy I get. Specifically, we had some fun talking about what signals tell us that we’re too busy. For the last number of years, I’ve thought about four main personal indicators for this stage of my life. 1) First and foremost, Am I keeping a weekly (usually Monday) Sabbath day clear of work (church) responsibilities? 2) Am I going for a run three days a week? 3) Do I have time to read Christian Century magazine? 4) When was the last time I sat down outside and watched the chickens peck and scratch?
These are by no means the most important things in my life – being with family, play, sharing household duties, silent meditation, and getting enough sleep all rank very high. But if those other four things are happening, everything else is usually working out well. When one or more of the four start to fall away, other important things tend to follow.
I also recognize these indicators are laced with economic and educational status privilege. Although I recommend chicken therapy to anyone with a patch to keep them.
I appreciated the weekend in the woods with friends. We may make it an annual thing. It helped remind me to pay attention to these busy signals and made me wonder what others claim as their own signals.
“We believe Christians are called to a committed fellowship of believers.”
This is the first of five “We believe…” statements from the CMC Membership Commitment. This coming Sunday we’ll read that statement collectively as we welcome 19 new members into the congregation. The new members will participate in leading the service and will receive and serve Communion. They’ll also share briefly from their faith journey and why they’re choosing to join up with the journey of this congregation. It’s hard to do all that in one service with 19 folks, so about half will be sharing this Sunday and the other half on the 21st.
The new members group met together for lunch after church back in April. Although it’s hard to speak for the whole group, three major themes that emerged were the values of community, openness to questions, and peace and justice. It fits with what I have sensed from so many of you, that we long to be a part of a community that cares for each other, seeks deeper understanding, and is engaged with the world.
Another thing that caught my attention was the questions that the Membership Commitment raised. Phrases like “to care for the spiritual and physical needs of each other,” “We believe all our material things belong to God,” and “to seek justice for the poor and oppressed” resonated with folks. But much of the conversation focused on other phrases folks found problematic. If we don’t have a regular household worship time, can we say with integrity “we pledge ourselves to regular private and family worship?” What does it mean to “actively lead people to Christ?” Is the church doing as much Bible study as commits to in this statement?
It was a lively discussion. Noting that the statement was written in the mid 90’s, we wondered together how much the congregation has changed since then and whether it would be worthwhile to revisit the language and…commitments…of our Membership Commitment. Either to be more intentional about fulfilling certain commitments, or to acknowledge shifting priorities. My personal sense is that this would indeed be a lively discussion.
These next two Sundays you are invited to consider what it means for you to be a part of this congregation. What does it mean for us to participate in this particular and local manifestation of the risen body of Christ in such a way that draws us deeper into fellowship, into peacemaking and justice doing with one another and creation, into the Way Jesus has opened up?