Sunday, September 27, 2015
(transcribed with the best of my ability by Joann Lee)
Joann: Glenda Hope is here with us… We’re doing a series on faith stories with the Calvary Young Adults. And last week, we talked a bit about call and what it means to be called by God and how we respond to that in many different kinds of ways. So today we are hearing from an honorably retired minister, but we won’t always be hearing from ministers. We’ll be hearing from people who aren’t pastors as well. But today we’ll be hearing from Glenda. And I’ve asked her to share her story, her journey of faith, and the ways in which she’s felt God has called her, and the ways in which she has responded. Not alone, but also with a community.
Glenda: I don’t wanna just talk to the whole time. I hope to spark a discussion here.
And I have a real problem being called a saint or anybody being called a saint. The typical meaning of saint is a believer. And I’m definitely a believer. I’m a Christian. And I dare to claim the term, “evangelical Christian.” I know that sets off a lot of different feelings in people. To me, an “evangelical Christian” is one who seeks to proclaim God’s inclusive love in word and in deed.
So the people who call themselves “evangelical Christians”, and they’re talking about divisiveness or judgment or harshness or exclusion, I’d say we’re not reading out of the same book. So it’s a term I refuse to give up or relinquish to people who I think, in my opinion, well… I’m not gonna say that.
But it’s a term I refuse to give up even though it’s loaded now in our time.
I actually had a person a while back say to me, and this is a man who was formerly a Catholic priest and left the priesthood and then later got married. He didn’t leave to get married; he left for other reasons. But he said, “You know, the way things have gotten, I don’t want anyone to know I’m a Christian.” And I said, “Come on. Don’t give that up. Don’t give that up because there are people who are putting out a different version of Christianity, and it doesn’t speak about God’s inclusive love.”
Or I’ve heard people say, “if this is the way the church is gonna be, I’m done with it.” And I said, “What is the church? We are the church. We are the Body of Christ.” So…enough of that sermon.
I was born and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia in a family that was church-going. We were Southern Baptists. And in a society that not only in Georgia but pretty much everywhere, and still is unfortunately in a lot of ways, but definitely in the Deep South, there was unexamined racism, sexism. We didn’t even talk about xenophobia. That was not on our radar, so to say. Certainly, in terms of sexual orientation, I mean, for a long time, I didn’t even though that such a thing was in question.
I basically didn’t know people of another race or ethnic group or Jews or Catholics. Catholics all went to their own church and their own schools, and I was in public school. So we just didn’t know each other. We just grew up in these pretty limited circumstances.
What I feel like now, at almost 80, is that my life has been a series of being set free by oppressed people. And often by people I was told to look down on or stay away from or whatever.
We like to say that the other way around. We’re gonna set the oppressed free. In my experience, it’s been just the opposite.
I went to college, Florida State to train to be a physical education teacher. You might not guess that looking at me, but I was quite an athlete and also a dancer. And I tore up both my knees. That was long before we had orthoscopic surgery, so that pretty much put an end to that.
So I just took some liberal arts courses. I was an English major which prepared me to do absolutely nothing. In my senior year, I felt that God was calling me to enter a church vocation. And I have to say it like that because which I was in college I had become a Presbyterian. But the Presbyterians at that time did not ordain women. And indeed, I did not know a woman or known of an ordained woman. It just didn’t occur to me, like a lot of other things in my life.
I went to seminary in Richmond, Virginia. There were two seminaries there. One was called the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, and that’s where I went. It was basically preparing people for ministry, well not a ministry, but a vocation in Christian Education.
And what we had across the street was Union Theological Seminary. Now, in our school, it was almost all women. In that school, it was entirely men who were preparing for professional ministry.
So, while I was there, and I thought of this again this morning with something Joann said in “such a time as this” of being in the right place at the right time. That’s been my good luck for sixty years or more: to be in the right time at the right place, and I want to add, with the right people who changed me life.
So I was in this seminary in Richmond when the first sit-ins in the Civil Rights movement occurred. If you were here when I preached, you may have heard me say that. And a series of things happened, and I became involved in picketing Thalhimer’s department store. We were picketing Thalhimer’s because they would sell clothing to African American people, but they would not allow them to try them on or to bring them back. Hmm… So they were happy to take people’s money, but… We thought, “there’s something wrong with this.” So that was my start in the Civil Right movement, and one thing led to another, and I became deeply involved in that for over ten years in the Deep South.
But it was because I was in that school with people who saw that this was the right time to move that that happened. And I was in school with people, African American people, who had become my friends.
I’ll tell you one story about this. This is how change happens. Who knows how God gets us ready?
A friend of mine, Liz, was an incredible Greek scholar, which I’ve never been, and a wonderful, wonderful woman. She was from Tennessee. So I went down to get the bus to the city of Richmond, and there were a bunch of students there, including Liz. We just fell to talking, and the bus came. And I got on the bus first, and I went in to sit down, slid over so she could sit beside me, so we could continue our conversation. And without looking at me, she went by me to the back of the bus.
And I got off the bus at the next stop. All of a sudden, I got it. As well as a white person could get it.
So that was the start.
CYA: Can I ask you a question? What would’ve happened had you actually gotten up and gone to the back of the bus, as a white woman at that time?
Glenda: At that time, I was not ready to do that. And I honestly felt physically ill. I felt like I’d been kicked, and the wind knocked out of me. So I got off. You know, you look back, and you wish you had. I have so many times like that in my life, “I wish I had…” but yeah. I actually learned from that, too. Because why didn’t I do that? And I don’t know what would’ve happened. But so what?
Joann: Right, it’s not like you’ve not been arrested before.
Glenda: At that time, I had not been arrested. Since then, a number of times, but not at that time.
So that happened. I got involved in the movement. And at our school, our faculty were actually encouraging us and joining us on the picket line.
Across the street, where men were preparing for professional ministry, the male students who came out to join us were being called one by one into the office of the president and being told, “Don’t do this. You’ll never get a call to a church if you do this. You don’t want a reputation as a rabble-rouser.” If you think about it, that kind of thing still happens.
Think about the people who stood up for LGBT inclusion. Some of them found it very difficult to get a call. What’s going on here?
Or it could be others, there are many things you could speak out about, like Esther (from the Bible) did. We’re not risking our lives like she did, but … you know, things could happen.
So that was one thing. And then I was on two college campuses and then I served a church for four years as a Director for Christian Education, the first one they’d ever had. There were 950 members, and 500 children in that congregation. I was responsible for the whole thing. So I was there four years.
And then the Presbyterian Church U.S. voted to ordain women. and I loved being in the parish so much, even though I had said in seminary that I am never going to work in a parish; I don’t wanna be a DCE (Director for Christian Education); I want to work on college campuses.
So, God doesn’t always listen to us. She’s full of surprises. Yeah.
As I said, during that time, I had become deeply involved in the Civil Right movement which was no virtue on my part, it was just the right thing to do. And I was with people who were leading me in that direction.
So I came before Presbytery in Atlanta, the first woman in the Synod of Georgia to be a candidate for the ministry.
And I want to say at this point that being a minister is no better or worse than anything else you might do. It’s just a different way to serve God. It’s just one way, but there are a gazillion ways.
When you come before the presbytery as a candidate, all you’re doing is saying, “Will you kind of guide me and watch over me and pray for me and direct me? Because I’m going on the seminary, and maybe I want to be an ordained minister.”
So at this meeting, a man got up, and he said, “I want everybody to know that I’m going to vote no.” He didn’t want me to be a candidate. And he said, “Nothing personal, young lady,” (it felt pretty personal to me), “But your candidacy is upsetting the order of the universe.”
I had no idea what he meant. I had not a clue. I was not a feminist. I just wanted to be a pastor. But there was a certain hierarchical, patriarchal order of the universe in his mind, and still is in the mind of a lot of people, women as well as men, and for a woman to be audacious enough to break into that was upsetting the whole thing. It took me a while to figure that out. But I like to say, I didn’t understand what he was saying at the time, but I took it as a charge, and I’ve been trying to do it ever since. I highly recommend it.
So I came to San Anselmo to get the additional degree that I needed to be ordained, and while I was here, I became involved in the peace movement. So I was there ‘67-‘69. What was happening ‘67-‘69?
Vietnam. So that began my career as a jailbird. Actually, I take that back, my career as a jailbird started back in Raleigh, North Carolina, but this continued it.
So a lot of the students were involved in the peace movement and then draft resistance. Obviously, I couldn’t do draft resistance because the military wasn’t going to draft me, so we called ourselves supporters, and we would take somebody’s draft card and burn it. In that way, we became a part, symbolically at least, a part of the draft resistance movement. Therefore being a resistance to the war itself.
Dr. King spoke out about the war. Anyone here old enough to remember this? [yes].
Ok. He spoke out against the war. I admired him so much. Truly he was a great prophet among us.
And he connected the war with racism, and he connected the war with the poor. And I just think, what if he had lived to unite the Civil Right Movement and the Peace Movement. How incredible would that have been? In my opinion, that’s why he had to die in the eyes of some people.
I was out here when he was assassinated. That was a time when my faith was just shattered. And when I became, more than ever, some really ugly parts of myself.
This is a risk you run if you get involved, if you put yourself out there. I never knew I had such latent violence in myself, but when he was assassinated, I just thought, ‘if this is what happens to the good, to the loving, then why bother?’ And I really felt at that point that I’d take a gun to those barricades.
So friends of mine took up a collection and bought a plane ticket and sent me back to Atlanta, remember that’s my home town, where his funeral was held. A friend met me at the airport, and we went to the march. I guess 90-100,000 people were pouring through the streets of Atlanta, very much a movement of black people, although here and there, there were some white faces, but not very many.
So we marched, and along the way, there were people standing along the side of the road offering water. I’ll never forget that, it was like the cup of cold water, you know? Or they’d offer you a garden hose, and I was really happy to drink out of a garden house.
So we marched, and we went to the college campus there, and Mahalia Jackson was singing “Precious Lord, take my hand. Lead me on, help me stand…” and I looked around. None of these people got into the church. Only the famous people who hadn’t done anything, basically kept silent, you know, only they were the ones who went it, the vice president and people like that. Not the governor, though. Lester Maddox was the governor at that point, and he was holed up in the state capitol surrounded by armed game wardens. And I thought, ‘Oh my God. What a symbol.’
And where I was standing, there was a little rise in the ground. There were two men standing, I was standing behind them. and one of them looked around, and he said, “Oh, you can’t see. Come up here with us.” And he pulled me up, and we put our arms around each other, and we were singing “We Shall Overcome.” This was like a Damascus Road experience. And you can see the series of circumstances that led to it.
My family did not know I was there. I just didn’t want to deal with that.
Ok, so, I graduated. And six weeks before I graduated I met a man who was a professor at San Francisco State. And in six weeks, we married.
I don’t think it makes any difference how long you know somebody or whatever. And we were married for 29 years before his death. So, you know, you’re gonna work on it, or you’re not gonna work on it. Whatever.
We met on a blind date in a friend’s apartment. She had us over for dinner.
Do any of you remember or know about the Third World Students’ Strike at San Francisco State?
Believe it or not, there were no ethnic studies or gender studies, none, at San Francisco State or any of the schools around. So students went on strike to force the university to bring in ethnic studies which now assume are there although we shouldn’t assume anything because we can lose anything at anytime.
And the man that I met, Scott Hope, had been involved in the side of the students in trying to bring this about. And he had been, in an effort of trying to protect a female, badly beaten up by the police. He threw his body over hers, and they beat him instead. So he had been beaten up pretty badly.
And I had just been arrested at the Presidio as part of the peace movement, so it seemed like we were kindred souls.
As somebody asked me, years later, “Why did you marry him?” And I said, “You know, we had the same values.” And that’s crucial in any relationship. Do you have the same values? Do you even know what your values are, or are they evolving? Certainly for both of us, our values evolved. So, that happened.
And the whole story about the Presidio is a story in itself that we don’t have time for.
Then, I started looking for a call. And here I am, in liberal California.
I went to one church, and by this time I’m 34 years old, I had two masters degree, I had a year of Clinical Pastoral Education, and all this experience in the church, and they would say, “You have the background we’re looking for, but….”
The first church said, “We’re looking for a youth worker, but we don’t believe a woman can relate to the teenage boys.” Which of course is what I had just been doing in Atlanta because we had six youth fellowships when I left that church.
The second church said, “We’re looking for an Associate Pastor, but we don’t think our congregation is ready for a woman in the pulpit.” And I said, “How will they get ready?” But that was not their call.
The third one said, “We would like to talk with you further if you would agree not to be ordained.”
In the Presbyterian church, if you work for the church, you’re not an elder and not ordained, you’re powerless. I had just been through that. When I was in the church in Atlanta, some people there found out, not hard to find out, that I was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and they organized a campaign, going door to door to people to tell them I was a communist.
Now, you have to have been around that era to know what that meant. It’s kind of like today, I guess, being called a terrorist. Or something like that.
And that I’d been sent to that church to organize a cell. It was never clear to me why the communist party would want to organize a cell in the East Point Presbyterian Church. But there it was. And it was the kind of thing that once the idea was planted, it never went away.
However, thank God for the pastor and the session of the church who called these three people in and said, “We have a process in the Presbyterian Church to deal with this sort of thing, so put up or shut up.” These three people eventually left.
I had only been there six months, they didn’t know me. For all they knew I was a communist, but they stood up for me, for which I am eternally grateful.
So, if you’re not ordained, you don’t have power. I couldn’t even go to that session meeting where they were dealing with me. I had no access.
So I said no to that [position] and went back to working for a catering firm which I had done to put me through seminary.
Finally, through the old girls’ network, I heard that Old First Presbyterian Church was looking for a half-time minister, a pastor to work with young adults. And that’s how I ended up getting a call and ultimately being ordained.
Along the way, I’m developing a sense that there’s oppression of women going on and began to get involved in those movements.
I’m gonna skip ahead. I left Old First after three years to start work with unchurched young adults, sitting down in our living room, Scott’s and mine, forming a house church with eight of us. And from that Network Ministries grew and flourished for forty years. And did a lot of things. If you want to, you can google that and see what we did.
Very quickly, we were drawn into the Tenderloin. There was a place that we learned about that was available on Bush Street, a big space, and we just moved into it. And started a coffee house. This was in ’72, and the Tenderloin came up the hill to us.
A man came who was totally strung out on heroine, and he got there and just collapsed. I had seminary students at the time, and we were able to get him one block over to the ER at Saint Francis hospital.
I went over to see him the next day, and he said, “I don’t remember taking the drugs. I don’t remember coming up the hill. I only remember thinking that if I can get to the coffee house, I’ll be safe. They’ll take care of me. And that was like God saying, “Come down the hill. What’re you doing up here. Come down the hill into the Tenderloin.” So, we did.
I never expected to be there or to do that. We didn’t know what we were doing. We just went.
And that’s one of things I want to say. You don’t have to know. You don’t have to have a long range plan. You don’t have to know even what you’re doing. God speaks to you, just go.
I read something once, that the opposite of faith is not doubt. We all have doubt. The opposite of faith is disobedience. So if you feel God urging you, just do it. And if you fail, it’s better to try and fail than it is to fail to try.
It may seem outrageous. It may not be clear… this is hard because she [Joann] said basically what I wanted to say!
And it may be a blind alley. So what? You’ll learn something. Who know who you’ll meet in that alley.
Later, I became involved, because I started to know people, in the affirmation of LGBT people. Well, we didn’t use that term at that time, we just said “gay people.” And it happened because the Presbytery was presented with a resolution to get the presbytery to go on record as saying we will never ordain as deacons, elders, or clergy any homosexual person. And the presbytery, in good Presbyterian fashion, appointed a task force to make a study.
I was called to be on that task force. I didn’t want to do it. Two reasons: One was I knew it was going to kick up a lot of controversy. The other one was I didn’t really know how I felt. So I was certainly raised to be judgmental. But I was told the person who was the chair, who I so admired, specifically asked for you. Yeah, ok. So I got on the task force.
And for the first time ever, I looked at the Biblical passages that were used to be judgmental of people who engaged in same-sex love. And I thought, “hello? I’ve been lied to” or just misled.
So we made a study of this and brought in some people to speak to us, and our task force recommended against the resolution. We said, ‘Why not ordain people who differ from the rest of people of faith in this one thing?’ Well, as you know, it took a long time before the denomination came around to that position, but it did!
Meanwhile, here’s a warning…and also a promise. Once you put yourself out there, you’re identified as someone who is gonna be out there, and you’re gonna keep being asked. And you’ll be asked for this, and you’ll be asked for that, and your life will change. Praise God! Your life will change.
Not because you say, ‘I’m gonna change my life,’ but because you will come to know people who will change you. So that’s what happened to me. People of different race, people of different sexual orientation, and ultimately women on the street.
Now, I want you to stop for a minute and just think. All of us have been raised to look down on prostituted women, right? It may be subtle, but it’s there.
Sometimes, it’s not subtle. I spoke to a group like this but bigger in a congregation that shall be unnamed, talking about our SafeHouse for women, and a woman there said, “Why should I support those women?” And that’s what we have in our mind, whether it’s conscious or subconscious, those women.
Interestingly, I have learned over the years, there is a hierarchy among the homeless women, addicted, drug addicted, or whatever. There are those who are addicted, homeless, but who do not engage in prostitution, or say they don’t, and they look down on the women who do.
There are those who engage in escort services, online sex, or brothels, whatever, who look down on the women on the street. There’s an odd hierarchy.
We had a woman come to SafeHouse who simplified this so well. She said, “well, I’m not a prostitute.” And I’m assuming you all know that part of our ministry was that we had a residential program for homeless women with a history of prostitution, women who want to get out.
So a woman came and said in a scornful voice, “I’m not a prostitute.” And I said, “well, then, you’re in the wrong place. Because this is program for women who acknowledge that and want to change their lives. We don’t judge. These are God’s children and so our sisters. If you want to change your life, we’re here to help you do that.” And she said, “Well, I go in bars, and men offer me to buy me a drink, and we may end up in their room….” So a different venue, not on the street.
I forgot to mention, dance places, sometimes called strip joints. They also are regarded as higher than women who are standing on the street corners. So, interestingly, we had that to contend with. SafeHouse had this hierarchy of women who were basically doing the same thing, renting their bodies, but didn’t acknowledge it.
Now, please note that I call them prostituted women. Because they are a part of a system that, centuries old, world-wide, exploits, objectifies, and degrades women, and still goes on.
So I got to meet these women and began to know their stories, and it changed me, like anything else I’d gotten involved with.
Okay, last thing, (and I said I wasn’t gonna talk the whole time, but it’s a problem being a preacher. We can all talk indefinitely. Plus, I’m Irish, we can talk indefinitely, too.)
So, as I said, I’m pushing 80, and I’m fortunate enough to own my own home. But I live in an area of the city that is densely residential. There’s no senior center, no community center, no place where people hang out together. A great many people who are in my neighborhood, like myself, are widows or widowers living alone in a home who are property rich but cash poor. And not knowing each other.
So, started, partly out of self-interest, let me say, because I knew I was retiring, and I thought, ‘I need to know my neighbors. I need new friends.’ And it has evolved over a series of years, a model of aging in place network. We call it the Cayuga Community Connectors.
We are helping people get to know their neighbors, to do things together, to watch out for each other, to know who to call if I need a tablespoon of this spice, or if I need to go to the hospital or come back from the hospital, or need someone to look after my dog. It’s all these things that extended families used to do, but we don’t have extended families anymore, most of us don’t. so we have to create our own, and that’s what we’re doing in the Cayuga neighborhood.
So I have reached a point, definitely, where I felt like I don’t want to be in charge anymore. I want to be involved, but I don’t want to be in charge. So I was able to get some money out of the city which you really can do just by asking! Yeah, just ask. The worst they can do is say no, and you haven’t lost anything!
I went to my supervisor, and I said, ‘we need $35,000, so we can hire this woman who lives in the neighborhood who is 25 years younger than I am, and self-employed, and she’d be great. She can take this over.’ And he said, “well, how about $40K,” and I said, “sure, we’ll take that.” And now we’ve got this incredible model of aging in place that’s grown up.
So, I didn’t know anything about old people until all of a sudden I was! And beautiful stories, incredible stories from these people. And gifts that are just coming out.
I also got involved with the older women’s league which I would recommend to everybody here whether you are an older woman or not, but especially if you are. We are politically active. Just had a meeting yesterday where we were trying to educate people for pro and con speakers about the ballot issues. We’re really pressing for strengthening social security, so I would encourage you younger folks to get involved. We’re so old, changes in social security aren’t going to affect us, but they sure are going to affect you. So that’s what we’re working on.
It’s like that grandmother in the Civil Rights Movement who was in the Montgomery Bus Boycott who said, “I’m doing this for my grandchildren.”
Don’t let them make you believe that social security won’t be there for you. It should be. And it can be. And there’s no reason why it should not be. But it will, if we just… you know there are people who are trying to destroy social security? If you’re not aware of that, even if you are, look up the website: strengthen social security.
Most of the people who are getting social security are poor. And if changes are made like raising the age or cutting down the amount of payments, those are the people, as always, it will be the poor, the elderly, who will be hurt the most. So this is all God’s work.
Now, what about you?
What are your deepest convictions? Whatever you’re doing, what are your deepest convictions? Think about that. It doesn’t have to be your work. Bringing in the realm of God, bringing in the peaceable realm, doesn’t have to be a certain vocation. We who get to do this for a living, we’re lucky. We’re just lucky. But there are people who can be in this profession we have who do a lot of harm. So no profession is guaranteed that you will end up contributing to the common good, to the realm of God. It depends on each person to decide that.
It depends on an openness to God’s leadership, and it depends on a recognition that you’re gonna mess up. it really is true that when you reach this age, you look back and regret most what you didn’t do.
CYA: So, so far, up to this moment, do you have any regrets? You should’v e done it, but you did not do it?
Glenda: Well, most of it now is opportunities I had that I didn’t move forward on. You know? A lot of it has to do with not spending time with people that I cared about. Those are a lot of my regrets. Some of them are about not speaking up at the right time, taking the safe way. There are just so many.
But what I have also come to understand is that a part of grief, and we all have grief, the longer you live, the more you’ll have, a part of grieving and healing and a part of letting go, is letting go of the regrets. Which may be harder than letting go of the angers although there’s that, too.
We have all this. There was a woman who got mad at me; I never was clear why. It seemed really irrational, and she just chewed me out about something. And I couldn’t understand. I kept saying, “but Bernie, but Bernie…” (not Bernie Sanders, another Bernie). But she was just angry.
So I went to a mutual friend, and I said, “Can you help me out? Can we make some reconciliation?”
But he said, “Oh, Glenda, don’t you know what Irish Alzheimer’s is?” And I said, “no.” And he said, “Irish Alzheimer’s is forgetting everything but the grudges.” So you gotta let go of the grudges. There’s that great passage of scripture, you know, “laying aside every weight, every sin to which we cling, we run with zeal, with joy, the race in which we have been entered.”
It’s hard to let go of some of those grudges, especially if the people are dead and there’s no way to work them out. We’ve all had those.
CYA: I have a question. What does SafeHouse need most?
Glenda: Prayer and money.
CYA: Maybe not in that order. So do you provide housing then?
Glenda: It’s a residential program. A woman can stay, usually 18 months, but they can stay as long as 2 years. It’s a comprehensive program of education and therapy. When I was still there, I have retired from that now, but when I was there I taught money management, a very important skill not just for the women at SafeHouse but for other people. Socializing, it’s just a way of being among people, working towards being clean and sober. It’s a clean and sober facility, so there’s substance abuse treatment, education. We’ve had women who could barely write their names, and then we’ve had a couple years ago who graduated close together, an attorney and an RN. So, it just runs the gamut. Dealing with mental illness which we increasingly are concerned about, yeah.
CYA: Do you have volunteers?
Glenda: We do have volunteers. The main thing is for somebody to be there 2-3 hours once a week to answer the phones, answer the door, sort donations or whatever. It releases the staff to do the kinds of things that they need to do. We need places for our women to live when they graduate. Right now we have a woman who is an Iraq war veteran. She is our fifth Iraq war veteran to graduate SafeHouse. The women in the Iraq war had all the problems, the assaults of their being, that men had, plus many of them were sexually assaulted, usually by superior officers, and no one would listen to them or do anything about it. So Amber is our fifth Iraq war veteran to be graduating. One of the Iraq war veterans who graduated years ago is living at my house. I don’t need care, but I need help carrying the groceries upstairs. And she’s just wonderful.
So, we need a place for Amber to live. She doesn’t smoke, drink, use, chew, or dip. She’s got a job; she’s going to school. She’s delightful, but we don’t know where she’s gonna live. We need a room in somebody’s house. So keep that in mind. Ok.
So ask yourself, in your times of meditation, over and over in your life, what are my deepest convictions? What matters to me? And ask yourself, what breaks my heart the most?
Because I think that’s a major way that God calls us. What breaks your heart?
That’s what happened to me on that bus, going into Richmond. My heart was suddenly broken. And when your heart breaks, it opens up.
We don’t wanna have broken hearts because it’s scary, it’s painful, and it’s confusing. What do you do when your heart breaks?
Sometimes we think broken hearts only happen when you break up with somebody that you love, your partner or whatever. But there’s more to it than that.
In the Beatitudes, it says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” And we’ve turned that into something just personal. Our heart must break for God’s world.
It says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be fed.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst to see right to prevail,” is another translation. “They shall be satisfied.”
Do you hunger and thirst to see right prevail? This is deep.
And it’s the same with mourning. We all have personal grief. But then we also look at the world, and we grieve. And it is too much.
Pick something. One thing or two things. What breaks your heart the most? And allow God to lead you into that.
Don’t work alone. Wherever possible, find allies. They may not share your faith; they may do things or take positions you don’t totally agree with. But if you are moving in the same direction, you have the same values, hook up with them.
One of the groups that I collaborated with in the Tenderloin was the Coalition of Homelessness. I had a lot of disagreements with the Coalition of Homelessness, still do. But they’re doing some things I wasn’t doing, and we had the same values and the same caring. And we could do more together. And where I particularly connected with them was challenging city and state budgets. What is our money being spent on? Yup. And changing the budget.
So, even though we were “ewww..” with each other sometimes, it was okay. I mean, sometimes you’re like that with your own most beloved. Because it’s hard to live with somebody else.
So what are your deepest convictions? What breaks your heart the most? And finally, what are you afraid of?
We’re all afraid. We’re all afraid. There was a line in an anthem today that identified it, “Will you risk the hostile stare? Should your life attract or scare?” And maybe that’s what you’re most afraid of? What will other people think of me? Will friends think of me? And they will. Will I not get a call? Like those guys who were warned off several years ago.
What is it that I fear the most. Maybe I just fear being wrong. And looking like an idiot. The wrongest thing to do is nothing. And wrongest is not a word, but yeah.
So what are your deepest convictions? What breaks your heart the most? And what are you most afraid of?
Talk about it. Pray about. That’s my last thing. Pray about it a lot.
It wasn’t the Presbyterians that taught me to pray and meditate. It was the Buddhist. Mindful meditation. Two things about that: 1) there was a woman on our staff, a Catholic sister, who was to me, the image of a serene person who meditates and is a prayerful person. And I’m not like that. So I said to her, “I don’t get it. I tried to meditate and work on this.” (I had a certain idea of meditation at the time). I said to her, “I just do better in a group.” And she said, “Glenda, people are different. Here’s the thing you have to recognize. You are an extrovert. You are an off-the-scale extrovert. And in a group, you recycle that energy. And you connect. And that feeds you. I’m an introvert. And I feel drained by a group energy. So I meditate by myself really well. So don’t beat up on yourself. Recognize that most of the books written about meditation are written by introverts.” And I thought, “oh my gosh.” Then she said, she was a trained spiritual director, “Spend five minutes, in the morning maybe, in silence of in prayer. Write something, it may only be one word in your journal.” I’m not good at journaling, but this was a discipline to take on. “It may be ‘thanks’ or something like that. But during the day. Practice mindful meditation. What are you seeing? What can you see without naming.” It’s hard to see things without naming them. But walking down to my house the other day, there was a crack in the sidewalk, and there was a tiny flower, about half as big as the nail on my little finger, just a tiny little yellow flower. It was beautiful. Or it may be a person. It may be a person, and just smile. Mindful meditation. You don’t have to sit all zen. Maybe that’s the way you’re called. It’s not the way I’m called. Find your way.
There’s not one way to meditate, and there’s not one way to pray.
And the last thing is, do engage in communal worship. That’s crucial. It’s crucial. Yes, you can pray on the golf course or wherever. But you need the challenge, the support, the correction, the new ideas, the energy of other people who will carry you through at a time when you do not believe. And if you haven’t had those times, you will. And if you have, it’s ok.
One of the nicest things you can do for your elders, the elderly, is listen to us tell our story. The way we weave our lives together into a meaningful whole. Thank you so much for listening to me.
Addendum not recorded: (paraphrased by Joann)
Also, don’t ever call me a saint. Don’t use that word with me. Dorothy Day in the Catholic Church who really lived her ministry said on her death bed, “Don’t let them make me a saint.” I’m not comparing myself to Dorothy Day by any means, but we shouldn’t call people saints. Well, you know what they did? They made her a saint. But she didn’t want that because people deify saints and make them to be more than just ordinary people. There are no saints. Just children of God. We are all children of God. And we are all called. So don’t let them call me a saint. There are no saints, just people who follow God’s call.