Rating system queerphobic???

Online Dating

I am saddened that the reason this blog has been rated “R” is because of the frequency of the following words:

  • queer (8x)
  • gay (5x)
  • lesbian (4x)
  • pain (2x)
  • steal (1x)

I suspect there is some queerphobia inherent in the rating system. Not sure how “pain” and “steal” factor in but I’m hoping there is a good logical answer. Though I doubt it.

Published in: on 27 June 2007 at 5.47  Comments (1)  

Into the Woods

24 June 2007
CLF GA Worship Service
Mr. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson & Mr. Barb Greve

Imagine we are journeying out into the woods…

These are the things you might carry:

A compass. Something true and certain to point to in times of uncertainty. A core belief or value you know you can plot a course from.

A map. A description of your world, if not your route through it. A story by which you make sense of what is.

A walking stick. A source of strength and solidity to help carry you over uneven ground. A love that supports you, a challenge that calls you forth, an anger that drives you on.

A tent. A place of rest and a shelter against the tempests of time. The sense of self you may retreat to and say, “If nothing else, I have this.”

A knife. A tool to cut what binds and give a greater purpose to shape. The uses of an open, questioning mind.

A flashlight. A radiance by which to see, and to illuminate the way for others. The potential of your soul.

Strong shoes, long pants, and warm clothing for the journey. Protection for what is precious in you. Acknowledgement of our own vulnerabilities.

Binoculars. A means to sense farther and more clearly than you could have without help. The wisdom of teachers, strangers and friends.

First Aid kit. Admitting that things don’t always go as planned. Recognition that we can take some of our tools along the journey with us.

Take each of these with you, and let go of what you cannot carry. You may visit it instead, from time to time, but so long as you hold it, you cannot depart.

And if you cannot bring yourself to leave, you will never come to know the trees. The forest path has lessons to teach you: soft, merciful places for you to sleep, and sharp thistle, too, to instruct you with its sting. In the shadows of its branches, your own light may shine more clearly and deliberately. If you remain only in the short grass, the tools and treasures you have gathered will never be tested by use. Enter the arch of the welcoming wood, and let the self you bring to it be changed by the journey.

Published in: on 24 June 2007 at 11.30  Leave a Comment  

The Grace of Missing the Bus

17 June 2007
Arlington Street Church
Mr. Barb Greve & Mr. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson

So you missed the bus and here you are. Or perhaps you didn’t want to take the bus to the farm this morning and instead chose to be here in the sanctuary – our gigantic and eloquently adorned bus station! Or you might be visiting for the first time, wondering how religion and buses are even connected.

Congregational life is like riding on a public bus. Seriously! Have you ever ridden a transit bus consistently? Are you one of the regulars; have you ridden frequently enough to notice that there are “regulars” on the route? Bus riders seem to create their own micro-communities. Riders will notice one another. They recognize each other’s faces. If they’ve been riding together long enough they might even know one another’s names and stories. And you can be sure that at least one of the regulars will notice when one among them misses the bus.

If you think of our congregation as a gigantic bus, we’re really not all that different. Like buses, we have our transient and permanent riders – those who stop by to check us out, and those who return again and again. We have some who stay on the route for a few weeks and then move on, and some who only stay for one particular day. We have those who got on the wrong bus, or missed the bus they thought they were supposed to be on and hopped on ours because we were the next bus to come along. Some arrive when they are touring or visiting the area, and some who jump onboard because we are exactly what they were searching for. Hopefully most who take this ride will return to join us in community.

This year you have allowed Kelly and I to travel along your route with you. We have been blessed with your willingness to help us on the bus that is Arlington Street Church. Like any bus traveling in New England, our ride has traversed many types of terrain – from smooth comfortable roads to tumultuous ground, and everything imaginable in between.

In some sense we have become regulars on your bus. Our faces are familiar to one another; the stories of your lives, those that you have shared, are etched in our memories. We have traveled together through the loss of loved ones, the arrival of new children, holidays, worship services, trips to New Orleans, efforts to bring justice into our world, educational classes, spiritual passions, and the never-ending cycle of meetings.

Together we have built upon an incredible community. We have explored what it means to live in community, even in the times when we don’t agree. We have, at the core, lived into and deepened our understanding of this living tradition, this faith called Unitarian Universalism.

Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists have long been uncomfortable with, and even adversarial towards, the concept of grace. In the European Christianity from which both Unitarianism and Universalism emerged, grace is traditionally understood as an expression of love from an infinitely kind deity towards a fallen and undeserving humanity. Such grace is the source of salvation, whether in life or after it. This is the situation described by the famous hymn, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”

Calvinism, the ancient adversary of both Unitarians and Universalists, has held for centuries that the grace of Heaven is irresistible and completely predetermined. It’s mercy is reserved for the few while being kept from the many, and no human action can change this division between the winners and the losers. Some are meant for glory, while most are meant only to die.

The response of liberal religion, of Unitarians, Universalists and Unitarian Universalists, to this narrow and oppressive understanding of grace has been our clearest uniting point for four centuries: The work of human hands, and the thought of human minds, matters. Whatever salvation there is to be had in the universe is available to all, and it is found and distributed by our working together for the common good, in this life, on this Earth. This position, which is just as sorely needed today as it was 300 years ago, cherishes human agency, and so it has often left little room for grace.

But life is about more than just ourselves. It is about more, even, than each other. Beyond the reach of our own control, the world still spins. The parts of our experience that we do not choose for ourselves: the sunshine and the rain, the stranger encountered on the street, the old photograph found in a neglected drawer, the missed bus or train; our lives are shaped not only by our choices, but also by the countless elements of chance that we do not choose. These unchosen pieces of life are often dismissed as random and meaningless, in order to make room in the world for free will, and preserve the sense that our choices matter.

Abandoning the twists and quirks of our every day lives as without meaning or purpose may feel easy, but it is an awful lot to surrender. How much of your life, goes according to plan? We can choose to discard the moments when the world colors outside the lines of our plans for it, or we can, cultivate an openness to serendipity.

Serendipity means finding something good or important when you weren’t looking for it. The word comes from an Iranian fairy tale called “The Three Princes of Serendip”. Through their travels, the main characters in that story find numerous clues and facts important to a puzzle they were not trying to solve. The opportunity to learn is most potent when it catches us by surprise. Scientist, science-fictionist and prolific author Isaac Asimov said that the most exciting phrase in science, the one most likely to accompany a major breakthrough or discovery is not “Eureka, I’ve found it!” Rather, it is far better to hear “That’s funny…” Yet, modern living is predicated on predictability. Jobs, families, the demands of living in the here-and-now frequently require us to hold to schedules and strategies that leave little space for the unexpected.

But to live religiously requires openness to change, and the cracks in the shell of the sky are the points where the light comes in. Staving off our own moral agoraphobia, the habit of hiding in the familiar, fearing the challenges of the unknown, requires the injection of new ideas and new experiences into our lives. Luckily, whether we seek it out or do our best to avoid it, the world outside our skin slips every day into our living; it can be a wise and playful instructor, if we let it.

In Taoism, an old and influential religious and philosophical tradition from China, there is a crucial term: wu-wei, a practice of following the rhythm set by the world rather than struggling to enforce your rhythm upon it. Among many other things, wu-wei means a willingness to be spontaneous, and to embrace the randomness provided by the world as a constant potential for serendipity. A teacher of mine, a Catholic expert on Hindu theology and a leading voice in the field of interreligious dialogue, taught me once that there are two types of grace: cat grace and monkey grace. Cat grace is when something outside ourselves picks us up, whether we like it or not, and puts us back down where we need to be, like a parenting cat lifting a kitten by the scruff of the neck. Monkey grace, on the other hand, follows a different pattern: the parenting monkey will carry the child long distances, but the child has a part to play as well – it has to hold on. To hold on to the possibility to learn and change, provided in every moment, we sometimes need to let go of our plans and expectations.

The bus has stopped for a moment, and we have arrived at a destination. It is time for some good folks to disembark and continue down a different path. Kelly and I must depart for the time being, going off into the world more fully formed than when we arrived. As we turn and say our good-byes, we leave you with some parting thoughts…

Always remember and warmly greet the visiting passengers and newer riders. Like you way back when, they probably jumped on our bus for a variety of reasons. But, also like you, they are more likely to stay if they feel connected. The riders of this bus are an amazing group of people and you have incredible stories to share with one another. I charge you to spend time each coffee hour sharing and learning the stories of people here you don’t yet know well.

Become good stewards and congregational citizens. By this I mean, attend to the details of your own involvement and lead by example. Doing the work of being a congregational citizen is hard work! It means helping newer and/or overwhelmed members of the community find their places in the congregation and celebrating the involvement of those who are often taken for granted – those who plug along week after week. Being a good steward and congregational citizen means doing what needs to be done, even in the moments when you might not want to be the one doing it (and of course doing what needs to be done when you do want to be doing it also!). It means giving generously of your time, talent, energy, spirit, and money – putting all that you can into the congregation, knowing that if all were to do this, the congregation could truly be more than ever imagined.

Find the places where your soul’s passion and the world’s longing meet and plunge fully into that work. Be unapologetically religious! Know our living tradition and allow your lives to live out of your faith values. Take good care of one another and this magnificent place. The history steeped into the walls and pipes of this building have told the stories of generations of amazing people; people who will never be famous beyond these walls but who are nonetheless famous for their beliefs and deeds. There are more generations waiting to come – leave them a building worthy of their lives. This building is the physical manifestation of a living legacy; a legacy that believes in human worth and dignity, salvation for all beings, and embracing questions more than answers.

As Kelly and I disembark from this bus that is Arlington Street Church and board our next buses, we say thank-you. Thank you for being who you are and for sharing of yourselves with us. Thank you for making room for us to be here and for growing alongside us. The bus’s roar will echo in our souls for many years to come…

{ringing of bowl}

Published in: on 17 June 2007 at 11.20  Leave a Comment  

Instructor Barb

I spent part of my day today speaking before the attendees of the 11th annual International Conference of Gay & Lesbian Criminal Justice Professionals. This year’s conference is hosted by GOAL/NE, which is the “Gay Officers Action League” in New England. A few months ago one of my congregants at Arlington Street Church, who is a retired police chief, invited me to be a part of a training that GOAL/NE was providing for the police department of Cambridge, MA. A team of us went in and taught a class of officers by sharing our personal stories and providing accurate information about queer people/life issues, particularly as they pertain to law enforcement.

My small piece on transgender identity was always a hit (according to the class evaluations) and as a result I was invited to be a part of the international conference. I sat as one of 3 panelists on transgender identity. I had a blast! We each shared a few minutes of our personal stories and then fielded questions from the participants. They asked great questions and we heard from some police officers whose departments are making great strides towards being understanding and respectful to transgender people they deal with (regardless of whether they are citizens, suspects, or victims).

I love doing this work and walked away absolutely delighted with all we did. And to top it off, I had a bonus moment of joy. I hadn’t actually looked at my name tag when it was handed to me, but did so once I was in my car and had taken it off. Wouldn’t ya know it – I’ve been promoted to “instructor” – now isn’t that just a fabulous surprise?! Check it out:

Published in: on 14 June 2007 at 20.18  Comments (1)  

What Woke Me Up

9 June 2007 ~ Boston Queer Pride Service
Arlington Street Church
Mr. Barb Greve

It should have been enough when Sylvia Rivera, a 17-year-old, street-smart, Puerto Rican drag queen threw one of the first bottles at the police, fighting back for our dignity and rights in what we now call the Stonewall riots of 1969.

It should have been enough that in the aftermath of the Stonewall riots, transgender participation and the participation of people of color began to be erased from our histories in order to make our queer communities more palatable for the public majority.

It should have been enough when the “Twinkie Defense” was accepted as a defense to why Dan White, a former San Francisco Supervisor assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk on November 27, 1978.

It should have been enough that even as other mainstream churches were using their thea/ologies to justify the persecution and discrimination against homosexual and bisexual peoples, Unitarian Universalism was speaking out in support of queer communities.

But I slept…

It should have been enough when my kindergarten teacher told me I could not grow up to be the guy you see standing here before you today.

It should have been enough the first time I was kicked out of the women’s bathroom because I didn’t match the model of womanhood the other women in the bathroom ascribed to.

It should have been enough when, in 1979, the first national homosexual rights march on Washington, DC was held.

Or when in that same year Harry Hay issued the first call for a Radical Faerie gathering.

But still I slept…

It should have been enough when The Moral Majority started its anti-homosexual crusade.

It should have been enough when Massachusetts Representative Gerry Studds became the first openly homosexual member of the US Congress by coming out on the floor of the House.

It should have been enough when I learned more about HIV and AIDS in my church’s About Your Sexuality class than I did in my public school health class.

But still I slept…

It should have been enough when a lesbian couple was banned from attending their high school prom the same year I didn’t take who I wanted to mine.

It should have been enough when I came out publicly as a lesbian.

It should have been enough when Brandon Teena was raped and murdered in 1993, or when the third gay rights march on Washington, DC was held that same year.

It should have been enough when I came out publicly as a transgender guy.

It should have been enough when I heard a lone voice on a panel credit me for why he was able to come out as a transgender guy his sophomore year in high school.

But still I slept…

I began to wake up with the world as we responded in outrage after Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, was tied to a fence and left to die. I further woke up as I served the UUA’s Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns.

The Office served as my perpetual alarm clock. For it was not the atrocities against queer peoples nor the successes of the queer movement that woke me up, but rather the stories I would hear from our congregants and congregations who were working on queer rights issues or going through the Welcoming Congregation Program.

I woke up as day after day I received calls, letters, and emails telling me about the struggles in our own congregations. I woke up as I realized that the people on the other end of the correspondence were engaging in their struggles – our struggles – because that was what was needed to fully live our values and stay in right relationship with one another and the world.

I woke up as we Unitarian Universalists stated our commitment to justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

I woke up as Unitarian Universalists recognized and proclaimed that some things are rights, not privileges:

Access to healthcare;
Physical safety at work, home, school and church;
Correct pronoun usage;
Freedom of choice to dress as one feels best expresses oneself;
The ability to perform bodily functions in peace without raised eyebrows;
The ability to marry who you want;
The ability to travel where you want; and
The ability to say what you need without threat or reprisal…

…We Unitarian Universalists recognize that these are rights not privileges.

We have woken up and because it is important to honor where we come from, we gather at moments like this to learn from one another and to celebrate. We continue to imagine how the world might be different so that we can bring that difference into being. We listen for dissonance, recognizing that life is pluralistic and through that pluralism is our strength. We celebrate queer communities and stay awake to our ever-changing needs.

I invite you to stay awake and join in moving the world further towards justice! And today, we honor all that we have been through and celebrate one another’s presence in our lives! Stay awake and join in the struggle and celebration!

Published in: on 9 June 2007 at 11.25  Leave a Comment  

More SKSM Commencement Pictures

More pictures of me, my classmates, and friends at the 2007 Starr King School for the Ministry Commencement can be found at: http://www.pbase.com/bgreve/sksm_commencement


Published in: on 2 June 2007 at 4.28  Leave a Comment