Recently I participated in my first Baptism. Having a freshly printed Seminary Degree, and the designation of “Reverend” in the bulletin gave me, I thought, all the tools I would need to assist in this baptism.
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It was a beautiful morning in the early autumn. Several folks had gathered at the community garden to enjoy the fruits of the sweet potato crop. Up walks Joseph, listing a bit and slurring his speech. I had never met him before. He began talking to anyone who would listen, telling us which nearby bridge was his temporary shelter.
The Bethesda UMC congregation in East Asheville, North Carolina, recently returned to their sanctuary after being located next door in the retreat house/parsonage for over two years. The newly remodeled space, now available for a variety of uses throughout the week through Haw Creek Commons, went through several unexpected delays, otherwise the small congregation would have sought temporary arrangements elsewhere.
Growing up in America in a middle-class white household I always felt safe. I was so naïve and truly didn’t understand there were others that didn’t experience the same things I did daily: go to school and get educated; come home to a decent sized home where both of my parents were waiting; get help with my homework; eat dinner; go to sleep in my warm and clean bed—repeat the next day. Although my parents taught us about responsibility, hard-work, and respecting others, I was never truly put in a situation where I felt unsafe or needed to be brave.
Once there was a group of people. These people lived long ago, and, therefore, far away, but they were not so different from you and me. They loved, hoped, ate, and bickered. They had been following a great leader, but he had left them. They had been instructed to wait, and, like so many who wait, they did so fretfully.
On the improv stage, yes can transform two chairs and an empty stage into an imaginative scene of relationship and impossibility. With one audience suggestion, soon comes an encounter of a famous baby doing a book-signing, a law student in relationship with a cursed sorting hat, a couple arguing about giving birth to an avocado.
We all stand in different areas of the room, with our faces to the wall. The topic is five major feelings: joy/happiness, passion/desire, anger, sadness, and fear. With one emotion at a time, we are asked to express our feeling, in hand gestures, words and their content, tone and volume of voice, expressive body language, facial expressions.
In the container of improv, anything can happen. Such are the very bones and basis of improvised comedy: it is made up entirely on the spot. Never before has this show been performed, never again shall it be revisited. The epitome of you-had-to-be-there experience, even the performers are unaware of what is about to occur between them when they step out on stage.
Improv classes are a constant stream of new discovery and activity. A new warm up is taught to the group, we learn it and try it, we practice and stumble. Someone messes up in the warm-up exercise, a rhythm gets off, someone whooshes instead of pows, laughter ensues. After all, we are standing in a circle ready with playful, silly energy.
As a personal spiritual discipline of late, I have been taking improv comedy classes at the Dallas Comedy House. In improv class we begin with a few warm-ups. They move the body and get the blood flowing, they help lower our defenses and embrace the playfulness of the environment, they get us engaged. They help us practice saying yes, being present, and supporting one another. Read More
The highest point on the island of Iona is a peak called Dùn I (I = “ee”). While this climb, and the accompanying 360 degree island view, is available to anyone, pilgrims climb it as part of their pilgrimage around the island. It serves as a celebration point, a mountaintop moment, for it can be difficult to scale, and even harder, sometimes, to then find your way back down.