I am forever getting useless ideas. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours working on a business plan for a chain of coffee- and teahouses which would locate Episcopal oratories in your local strip mall. Starbucks, watch out!
I fantasized about renting a storefront here in my town and starting up a little food-and-Jesus operation. It was pure lunacy, but great fun, figuring out how to franchise Jesus Coffee. (Hey, it could work!)
A good bit of this impulse comes from not having an Episcopal church in my hometown. My parish is 45 miles away, in a different time zone, and I never get there unless we have services at night—meaning twice a year, Easter Eve and Christmas Eve.
I love where I live, but it’s hard not having a safe church closer to home.
There are a couple of tiny Episcopal churches closer, but the last time I ventured to one of them, I got hit with a sermon alluding to the current schism, contrasting the numbers-challenged Episcopal Church with the allegedly growing Africans and advising us—all 7 of us there—to “go with the one that’s growing.” I wrote letters of protest to the Bishops of Chicago and Northern Indiana; the supply priest was from Illinois. They both wrote back and said “Eek!” and promised to give him a talking-to.
I wonder how many other hungry souls are out there—not just Gay or Episcopalian, but people of any denomination or simply those who yearn for God, without much “faith” at all—people who have been turned off or rejected by the institutional church but need a spiritual home. Might they find it easier to worship in a coffeehouse, or even a bar? How about a place that sells Bishops’ Blend fair-trade, shade-grown coffee, Monks’ Blend tea and Joshua’s Banana-Nut Muffins?
(I’ve always wanted to take over a Gay bar for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I think Gay guys would absolutely love it; as Julie Andrews said in The Americanization of Emily, “I’m grotesquely sentimental. I fall in love at the drop of a hat.”)
So here for your perusal and derision is another wacky idea: How about a spiritual retreat just for us?
I’ve lately become the Integrity “network coordinator” for both dioceses in Indiana. This means we don’t have a chapter here, just an e-mail network, but I’m expected to put on an annual event. At the Integrity/Midwest meeting last month in Cleveland, where I was appointed to this job, I made a little speech about how the Church’s LGBT caucus gets so caught up in church politics and schism that it may fail to nurture our souls.
An LGBT retreat might help cure that, so earlier this week I put together a plan for such a thing. I offer that plan below.
It may be as pie-in-the-sky as my Jesus Coffee Inc. franchise, but see what you think. I’d very much like feedback on it; is this something that would interest you?
It interests me, so here goes.
Integrity Indiana Retreat 2008:
Finding & Deepening the Charisms
of LGBT Christian Spirituality
May 9-11, 2008
Waycross Camp and Conference Center
In the 39 years since Stonewall, many people have begun to discover unique gifts among LGBT Christians. Is there something about being “two-spirited” in one body, one identity and one self, that helps us discern and reveal the nature of God?
Is God doing a new thing by liberating us? If so, liberation for what? What gifts do we have to offer our LGBT communities and the Church?
Many of us have come to an inkling of God’s unique blessings available to LGBT persons individually; but seldom have we met together to share our spiritual journeys, learn to grow in faith together and discuss ways to minister to others.
For three years Josh Thomas, an Integrity member in the Diocese of Indianapolis, has run websites offering simple monastic-style prayers four times a day. Dailyoffice.org has surprised him in its wide influence, spiritual power and popularity, with over 100,000 site-visits and very little publicity. As Integrity’s Indiana Network Coordinator, Thomas will convene a small-group retreat for LGBT Christians at Waycross Camp and Conference Center in world-famous Brown County, Indiana to help us all advance in our relationship with God in Jesus Christ.
All persons of faith and goodwill—Episcopal, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Inquiring, Gay, Trans, Lesbian and Straight—are invited.
There are three main ways human beings draw nearer to the Holy One: frequent participation in the Eucharist; “centering” or “listening” prayer; and the Daily Office. Combine these three and we inevitably draw closer to God, like iron to magnet, like sinner to Savior, like loved one to Lover.
For some, only the Eucharist is familiar; it truly is the First Best Thing, but we may not be fully attuned to the power of non-sacramental forms of prayer. We may not know the riches meditation and the Daily Office can open up for us, so we only use one-third of God’s gifts. In retreat we will study and practice all three paths.
To refresh our understanding of familiar services, we will experiment with little-used alternatives provided in the Book of Common Prayer. What is it like to make Eucharist according to its structure and necessary elements, but not its printed words?
To pray the Hours, we will utilize the tried-and-true method in the morning and the fire-lighting ceremony at night. Plus we will receive special instruction in the art of meditation, discovering the amazing gift of quiet listening to God.
No TV, no cell phone, no e-mail; just listening.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
(There follows a section on Retreat Leaders, which I won’t reproduce since none of them have agreed to be there. But my hoped-fors include a Lesbian priest in Chicago, a Gay-deacon-in-training in Ohio, an M2F Transgender with a gift for healing, and myself; 3 out of 4 of us laypeople.)
Friday night, May 9: Registration, Order of Worship for the Evening, dinner, welcoming address; social hour, Compline, the Great Silence.
Saturday, May 10: Morning Prayer, retreat leader’s address, small group discussions; quiet time with brief optional conferences with spiritual directors; Noonday Eucharist, followed by lunch; Daily Office workshop; community work period or optional quiet time; Centering/Listening Prayer workshop; brief optional conferences with spiritual directors; Order for Evening, dinner and address, party and Great Silence.
Sunday, May 11: Order for Eucharist, small group meetings, lunch, Noonday prayer and Healing, final meditation.
$250 all-inclusive. Scholarships may be available, please inquire.
Deposit Deadline: April 1, 2008.
Limited to 30 retreatants—don’t delay.
Waycross is happy to have us; what do you think, would you be interested in something like this? Or is it just another pipe dream, like Jesus in a strip mall?
I really love to bake muffins; I’ve got pumpkin-raisin, chunky apple-cinnamon, cherry cranberry, orange oatmeal, whole wheat, and a little side room where four times a day we say the Daily Office; on Sunday mornings we huddle together and Do This in Remembrance of Him.++