Ride, Sally Ride!

The news of Sally Ride’s death got me thinking about women in math and science. Dr. Ride was a great proponent of girls and women going into math and science. I’ve long felt a personal connection to the first woman astronaut, because we were born on the same day in 1951.

I’m glad to have a degree in mathematics, even though it didn’t stay in a math related field. (Except that theology is a branch of philosophy, which used to be the same as mathematics.) That background made me less afraid of computers when they came along. I remember that I thought I’d write programs for my first desktop model until I figured out how ridiculously complicated that would be.

I spent about an hour at a friend’s house this week helping her get an old address book off one e-mail program and onto a mail system on a new computer. I’m not an expert, but I understand how things worked enough to help. Last weekend I provided phone support to my mother as she learned to turn on her new iPad that she got as a bonus when she bought something else.  She’s 90.

I’m so glad that there are women who are not afraid of math, science, finance, or business. In the last 35 years, I’ve known women accountants, lawyers, doctors, dentists, and architects. Women like Sally Ride helped to break down the myth that women and girls aren’t good at logic, math, and science. For that I say, “Thank you, Sally Ride.”

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Yellowbird Baking

I officiated at a wedding last weekend at Duke Gardens. The couple getting married couldn’t have asked for better weather in late June in North Carolina. It was breezy and pleasant outside in the late afternoon of their day.

As you might imagine, I’ve attended lots of weddings. This one was particularly memorable for its beautiful cakes. My neighbor and friend, Jenny Leinbach, of Yellowbird Baking in Durham made twelve different cakes in twelve different flavors for the occasion.  There was even a red velvet cake. I was so charmed by them that I wanted you to see pictures.

More about Yellowbird here.

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Vote Against NC Amendment 1

North Carolina’s proposed Amendment 1 would harm NC families. There are nearly 89,000 people in NC living in domestic partnerships that don’t fall under the traditional definition of marriage. Amendment 1 would limit legally recognized domestic partnerships to one man and one woman thereby endangering the wellbeing of adults and children who live in other kinds of families. It would eliminate some workplace partner benefits now offered in NC.

You can read lots more about the harm it would at the link below. The main thing is to get to the polls and VOTE AGAINST. Early voting is open now. Take a friend or family member. Make a list of 10 people who might forget to vote and remind them frequently. Offer to pick them up and drive them to the polls.

We can defeat Amendment 1, if you and your friends vote AGAINST it.

http://www.protectncfamilies.org/

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Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday the first day of Lent, the forty-day period of preparation for Easter. (You remember the formula. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. To find Ash Wednesday, just back up forty days from there.) The word Lent is related to long and also refers the lengthening of the days.

I’ve been watching the light return a little bit each day, especially in the late afternoons, ever since Brigit’s day on the first of February. The night before, I put a blue piece of cloth out on the back steps to collect dew and Brigit’s blessing, and a group of us lit candles in honor of Brigit’s flame the next afternoon.

Spring came early this year. It is only the 22nd of February and we have been daffodils blooming in Durham for two weeks. I don’t usually expect them until the first of March.

Being a Presbyterian and not an Episcopalian, I have a weak connection to the practice of donning ashes on this day. Instead, I’ll keep a blue candle lit for my dear friend Mary Cleary who is undergoing surgery for breast cancer today, and I’ll write.

I used to try to think up things to give up for Lent, like chocolate, but I’ve never been good at deprivation nor found it particularly enriching. Now, I look for disciplines that would be good for me, and potentially good for others, that I can do during this transition from winter into spring. This year, I have promised to write each day during Lent. I write many days, but for the next forty, I’ll make a more concerted effort.

“Give it forty days,” my stepfather used to say whenever anything troubling happened. As a teenager, that length of time, seemed an eternity, but it did not take long for me to appreciate the wisdom of his words. When Easter arrives, forty days hence, Mary will, we trust, have healed from her surgery. If I write even a hundred words a day, that’s 4,000 words between now and April 8.

For today, we carry on, God willing. I, with candle burning and computer keys clacking; you, with or without ashes; and all of us with more light.

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Earthquake

Just before 2:00 pm yesterday, I heard something rattling in my house. I looked around for a bird pecking on a window and realized a framed childhood picture of my mother was rattling. I had never heard it make a noise before. What was going on?

I listened to see if the AC was on. No. I looked outside to see if the wind was blowing hard. Nope. I listened for a big truck that might be passing. Nothing. I put my hand on the bookcase to stabilize it and could feel the vibration. “We’re having and earthquake,” I thought.

I grabbed the phone and called my geologist friend a mile away. She had felt it also. In about 15 minutes, I looked on the Internet and learned that at 1:58 pm, a 5.8 earthquake hit in western VA. The trimmers were felt from NC to New York.

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Ordination of GLBT people

I was ordained to the ministry in the Presbyterian church twenty nine years ago. At the time, I was living in Greensboro with my partner Katherine and working two jobs, as a campus minister at UNC Greensboro and as the Director of the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South. My presbytery didn’t exactly know that I was a lesbian. They didn’t ask and I didn’t say.

That was 1982. I had been out of seminary for five year, and it took me all that time to jump through the Presbyterian hoops to be ordained—as a woman, never mind about the rest of it.

I went on being a campus minister for a few more years and then switched to just one job, the one with RCWMS, which I still have. I also went on having a female partner until 1990, when I took up with men again.

On this the 10th day of May, 2011, as I wait for the last necessary presbytery to approve a PCUSA amendment that will remove the barriers to the ordination of openly GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) people in our communion, my mind wanders over the stories of friends. Some of my gay and lesbian colleagues kept their mouths shut about their relationships, about their families. Some gave up their ordinations, choosing to be clear, well integrated, and open about their lives. Some left the denomination all together and found homes in places like the United Church of Christ who gave up crucifying and prosecuting people based on their sexual orientation.

For those who chose to keep going, being ordained members of a denomination that was uncomfortable with their presence, things got stickier. By 1997 and the passage of the “fidelity and chastity” amendment to the Book of Oder, GLBT ministers and elder were formally out of compliance with the Book of Order. Said amendment required fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness of Presbyterian clergy and elders. Since GLBT people couldn’t be legally married at that point, it left them outside the door, except for those who chose celibacy.

It is that amendment that is being “undone” today and to that I say, “Alleluia!” What we want of people in leadership is that they be open, honest, and faithful people. We want to teach young people mutual respect and not to take advantage of people who are younger, smaller, or in any way weaker. Sexuality can and should be an expression of love, not of power over. Sexual orientation should not the issue; the quality and equality of relationships should be.

We are a rugged lot, we Presbyterians. We often stay and fight it out. (Perhaps you’ve heard of the Hatfields and the McCoys. They were our folks.) I’ve been so proud of GLBT Presbyterians and their allies who didn’t give up. We’ve stayed in the church vowing to change the rules. The debates have become more civilized and somewhat more respectful in the last three decades. The number on our side of the issue has increased. I’ve almost been bold enough to believe I’d see this day. And now, just moments before the last needed presbytery begins its meeting, I have butterflies in my stomach.

The day I graduated from seminary, I turned to friends and said, “They’ll be sorry.” As I watched older people rankle at the idea of GLBT clergy, I said, “They’ll age out.” Here on the brink of my 60th birthday and what feels like the authorization of my ordination, I just want to say, “Thank you.”

I thank the scores of people who have stayed with this church family long enough to see this one issue a little further down the road. That’s a mighty fine example of fidelity in my book.

When we heretics finally get our way, I guess we don’t get to be heretics anymore. We get to take up the rank and file of regular, imperfect, sinful people of the church. We also get to remember that we are what there is, we are the stuff God has to work with. We are who there is to do God’s work in the world. And there is much more work to do.

To all those who have kept the faith, “Thank you.” Today, you have made me proud to be a Presbyterian.

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Brand Aid

My friends Lisa Richey and Stefano Ponte were in the Triangle this week promoting their new book, BRAND AID: Shopping Well to Save the World. They are both scholars in African policy, Lisa in health policy and Stefano in development policy. The book is a fascinating critique of high end marketing that pair the purchase of commercial items with the saving of women and children in Africa. This sort of disembodied philanthropy is problematic as it encourages rampant consumerism while suggesting that buying a “Red” iPod can save the world. Have a look at the book, I think you will find it compelling. See more about the book here.

After the presentation at the Bulls Head Bookshop at UNC, a group of us went to lunch at Weaver Street Market. B.J., Lisa, and I were glad to be together. Ten years ago, we spent a lovely week together near Siena, Italy.

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