Posts tagged ‘Dreaming Church’

June 16, 2012

Lisa Larges: Final Letter

Dear Friends of That All May Freely Serve,

“Changing minds by changing hearts” has been the shorthand way of describing the mission of That All May Freely Serve. This is what we’ve done together as we worked, for instance, for the change in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church to allow for the ordination of all persons who are called to serve. This is what we’ve done as we’ve worked for marriage equality and the right of pastors to marry all couples seeking to make a covenant of love. We changed votes by changing minds. We changed minds by changing hearts.

For the sake of truth in advertising, we didn’t change any hearts at all, that’s God’s doing. We just tried to do our best to remain faithful to our assignment: to share our stories, even when doing so was risky; to come with open hearts, and a willingness to listen; to build relationships across lines of difference; to deepen the conversation; to remain patient when patience was generative; to challenge when doing so was healing; to seek the best in everyone; to remember, finally, that the Gospel message is that love always wins out over fear.

Hearts changed. Minds changed. Votes changed.

But what I want to tell you here, in the privilege I have of writing this one last letter to you as a part of my official work with TAMFS – what I want to tell you is how my own heart changed. This hasn’t so much been a job, or even a calling as it has been a journey of love.

When we’re engaged in the work of trying to change an institution like the Presbyterian Church, it can be easy to get mired down in an awareness of the many and sometimes tragic flaws of that institution: the mean-spiritedness, the indifference, the judgmentalism, the willful ignorance, the resistance to change of any sort, the failure to heed the prophets in our midst, the turning away from the Gospel message. All of that can be summed up in a word, and that word is fear.

But, what I’ve learned in these last ten years, and what I try to remember is how fleeting and inconsequential all of that is, compared to the slow, steady, and enduring power of love.

I have been mentored in love by those whose lives seem to glow with the Holy Spirit, “Saints on earth and saints above” alike. I have been sustained by love – by those who have opened their homes as we’ve traveled, by those who have quietly taken on the minutia of the behind the scenes tasks that are

necessary to build an organization, by those who have gone on the road with us and shared their own journey of faith with strangers, by those who have served on boards and committees, and so much else.

Time and again, thousands of people across this country have drawn from that deep well of generosity and given their time, their financial support, their talents, and their willingness to commit to believing in a better day, even when that day was slow in coming.

All of that is love, pure and simple. To each one of you who has given so generously from your heart, I am so deeply grateful. It’s love, in the end that changes us. I know, because it has changed me.

I am so grateful that Ray Bagnuolo will be our new Evangelist of love and hope as That All May Freely Serve begins a new chapter. Ray lives from the very center of his heart, and that’s how we knew it was right to call him to take on this ministry. Soon Ray will be telling you more about his plans and dreams, but for now, I want to say how glad I am that he has felt called to serve in this way.

You can watch our celebration service, marking this new day in the life of That All May Freely Serve by visiting us at www.tamfs.org. You can also read there more about Ray and about his dreams for the journey ahead.

It’s been an honor and a privilege to have worked with That All May Freely Serve for these last ten years. Thank you for sharing this journey of love with me. May you know all the blessings of love, the strength of hope, and the abundance of joy in all the days ahead.

With love and so much gratitude,
Lisa Larges

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May 16, 2012

Ray Bagnuolo: Courage in The Redwoods

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Presbytery of the Redwoods took a stand on Tuesday morning. They really took a stand. Rather than accepting the ruling of the GAPJC and its rebuke of The Rev. Dr. Janie Adams Spahr for marrying same gender loving couples during the time in California when such weddings were legal — rather than sitting quietly while one of their own was censured — they opposed the rebuke.

Yes. They opposed the rebuke; by a vote of 74 to 18, the Presbytery stood with Janie. They stood with the minister who has been a part of the presbytery for more than 38 years. They stood with one another and with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community and by their action said what the courts did not say: The church is wrong; we support our minister and really mean it when we say that all are welcome here. We accept responsibility for the actions of our minister; we stand with her. If you have any questions about this, see us. Leave her alone. She and our other pastors have work to do.

In this unprecedented action, something has shifted in this church. Something has been put into motion that is hard to know at this point, but will surely have an impact in our efforts to continue the work of a building a fully welcoming church for all in the PC(USA).

By this action, The Presbytery of the Redwoods has invited other councils and presbyteries to do the same. They have invited churches and governing bodies to pass their own statements of support for this presbytery; statements that affirm full pastoral care and inclusion of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community in the work and worship of this church under the care of its ministers. Statements that say enough with scapegoating our LGBT community; enough of the inherent violence in these trials and rebukes. It’s time for this to change. Enough. It’s time to get back to who we really are as loving Christians, loving one another — in word and action.

Thank you to all in The Presbytery of the Redwoods for stepping up in this most important of ways.

April 25, 2012

Something new is stirring

Only a few short months ago, That All May Freely Serve was making plans to end our ministry and find some appropriate ways to pass on our legacy.

Then, we got a note.

Our friend Ray Bagnuolo was feeling the deep tug of the Spirit to begin a ministry of healing and witness with the Presbyterian Church as together we seek to live in to a new constitutional era of welcome and inclusion.

Where fear remains, there needs to be reconciliation;

Where hope springs up there needs to be nurture.

Ray wondered whether there might be a place for him to begin such a ministry within That All May Freely Serve.

We listened.

We prayed.

“Yes,” we said.

We do not yet know how all of these things will unfold.

We do know that Ray envisions a ministry that is grassroots, simple, and integrated fully with the tapestry of our movement for fairness and full equality in the church.

We’re planning a Service of Remembering, Rejoicing and Renewal on June 10 to be held in Rochester to honor this transition.

And we’ll keep you posted as we go.

God continues to work and move among us.

May we listen well.

Lisa Larges
Minister Coordinator
That All May Freely Serve

August 8, 2011

Mardee Rightmyer: Lisa’s Twenty Five Years…

About five years ago Lisa asked me if I would preach for her ordination when the time came. Since then I have accumulated a thick file folder of sermon outlines as each affirmative “ready to receive a call” vote started my preparation for a sermon only to have it thwarted by another long and winding court process.

"23 Years Later"

An idea for the sermon I had hoped to be preaching in a month or so comes from an article by Eugene Peterson called “Twenty-Three Years… Persistently.” The prophet Jeremiah says “for twenty -three years… the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened” (Jer. 25:3). Peterson says “for twenty three years Jeremiah got up every morning and listened to God’s word. For twenty three years Jeremiah got up every morning and spoke God’s word to the people. And for twenty three years the people heard nothing.” Peterson then says that the key to this life is the word morning – a new day that gives the opportunity for surprise and creativity and God’s faithfulness.

Peterson concludes his article “the mark of a certain kind of genius is the ability and energy to keep returning to the same task relentlessly, imaginatively, curiously, for a lifetime… The same thing over and over, and yet it is never the same thing for each venture is resplendent with dazzling creativity.” Is this not Lisa to the core? Look at what she has done with her life as she has persistently listened for the word of God and spoken it regardless of the outcome. And look at the young adults who have been drawn into the church by this creativity in spite of church polity.

But perhaps it is for the recent PJC decision that I have been preparing rather than Lisa’s ordination sermon; Lisa learned this lesson long ago. This word is for me as I grapple with my deep yearning for justice for Lisa in the midst of the message that God is in control no matter how the people respond. May it sustain us in the coming year as we persistently wait for the church to catch up with God’s calling.

  • Mardee Rightmyer
    TAMFS Board Member
    (and dear friend of Lisa’s)
August 3, 2011

GAPJC Decisions

The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission’s rulings on the cases involving the ordinations of Scott Anderson and Lisa Larges were released yesterday.

Scott’s ordination was approved by the ruling in Caledonia et al v. Presbytery of John Knox. We at That All May Freely Serve love Scott, and we rejoice in this decision!

The ruling in the case of Parnell et al v. Presbytery of San Francisco was a bit more complicated, and — unfortunately — not as affirmative. The GAPJC remanded it to the Synod of the Pacific for clarification on two points having to do with scriptural and confessional arguments made by the plaintiffs. The decision did not deny Lisa’s ordination.

You can read Leslie Scanlon’s article in the Presbyterian Outlook for further information.

We hold our dear Lisa in prayer and stand alongside to support and love her. Despite this disappointment, we will always keep Dreaming of The Church That Can Be and working to make the Presbyterian Church (USA) one That All May Freely Serve.

July 18, 2011

A Quick Note from Lisa

Hey All,

Q: What’s better than a church, like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) which doesn’t discriminate against LGBT persons seeking ordination?

A:  A church that values the gifts, honors the call, and welcomes the witness of all it’s LGBT members.

2011 marks the 25th anniversary since I first became a candidate for Minister of Word and Sacrament.

Help us out by making a donation of $25 or more to That All May Freely Serve, as we make this the year when we showcase the gifts, faith and witness of LGBT Presbyterians!!!!

June 24, 2011

Lisa Larges: Hey Church, some day you’ll want to know this stuff!

“Pay attention,” my mom would say, “someday you’ll want to know these things.”

Pay Attention
My mom said this to me more than once. Often it was in the middle of a long car ride. We’d be on some summer vacation, and we’d be spending a night with some far-flung relative or another. My mother would be explaining just which cousin this was, whose son or daughter they were, their siblings, and the names of their children. I would be fidgeting.

Then she would say it, adding, “One day you’ll want to know your families history, and you’ll be glad we told you these things.”

Ok, so she was right. I’m not so good at remembering all those names – but I remember some, and I remember the wonderful stories about them. I like knowing who my people were, and what made them interesting, or a little odd. I like knowing where they settled and what they did.

Institutions too have a complex relationship to their own histories. A few years back, Mieke Vandersall and I worked together on an anti-racism training with other white Presbyterians (since it was our work as white folks to do.)  We set about haphazardly studying whatever we could find on the dynamics of race, racism, and resistance in the history of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor denominations. We read about the historical black churches, the establishment of Presbyterian churches in immigrant communities, our troubled and complex missionary history among Native American communities, the biographies of pioneering leaders who broke through Presbyterian color lines, and more. We hadn’t learned any of those stories or that history while we were in seminary.

Our church—like families, people, nations and institutions—has many hidden histories. Now, with the passage of time and the movement toward greater equality, and a deeper commitment to diversity, some of those hidden histories are surfacing: books and scholarly articles are being written, courses are being taught at our seminaries, and women and men are being honored for their work. Sadly, we’ll never know just which stories were lost forever. As a still overwhelmingly white church, there’s yet a long long way to go before these histories become a part of our official history, and not just an adjunct to it.

Often when I’m traveling I hear stories about part of our lgbt history in the Presbyterian Church that I had previously known nothing about – stories of the early gatherings of the Presbyterian Gay Caucus, stories from General Assembly committee meetings, or late night strategy sessions (these last, a little more hazily remembered!). I also hear the stories of how one person intervened in the life of another, or of chance meetings that would change the course of our common history.

Some weeks back I was talking with a woman who had been a commissioner at the 190th General Assembly (United Presbyterian Church U.S.A.) in San Diego in 1978. She said she was one of the 50 persons who voted against the amendment that put “definitive guidance” in to our polity. I said how fun it would be to see if we could find as many of those fifty votes as were out there. Someone else chimed in with the apt observation that probably 100 people or more would now claim to have been one of those 50. No doubt!!

At some point, long after struggles for fairness and acceptance have been settled, institutions find a new interest in their hidden histories: they proudly claim as pioneers, even heroes, those who once were at best officially ignored, or at worst, publicly sanctioned. By that time, many of those stories will be lost.

So we need to be telling our stories. Books like Called Out, Called Out With, Far From Home, along with various videos, sermons, online archives and more, tell part of this story, but there’s lots more out there.

As a community of folks who have been working for such things as the passage of Amendment 10-A, it’s our job to pay attention to all those stories – to write them down, to share them and preserve them. One day, a now fidgety church will be glad we did!

May 18, 2011

Derrick McQueen: Letter to Darius

TAMFS Board Member Derrick McQueen is a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and he contributes to the conversation in his blog, Hear Now the Body. Here is his most recent post:

James Baldwin often wrote pointed letters as essays.  In The Fire Next Time, he writes such a letter to his namesake nephew.  It is a letter to help him navigate race, the psychological effects of racism, and to give him an overriding ethic by which he might be saved from his own self loss caused by hating back.

In likewise fashion, this letter is to an imagined African American young man whose sexuality will cause him to be at risk of the same things but in response to his  church’s response to the politics of sexualities as well as his own that he holds close who share the abundance of pigment with him.

Dear Darius,

I have started this letter several times to you in the hope of your existence.   I call you Darius, the one who comes after me.  I call you Darius because this means “one who maintains possessions well”.  To you I entrust the all that I have for you to hold in a community that I can envision but which does not exist.  It is a community that I give to you to name, to call into existence.  To keep and hold the experiences of black men who love God who love men. It is a community I have longed for, one that my associations assume already exists.

I see you in the church pew amongst the sea of black, brown and beige bodies at the age of 6 or 7 dangling your feet to the sway of the music.  I notice how your eyes linger on your blink as the singer holds a soaring note invoking the Spirit of God to come here now.  How your head rolls to the right and your eyes slowly open, as if in a everlasting trance of a single moment, when the singer gasps for the breath to sing on.  I see how you jump to your feet to clap a syncopated rhythm in response to the choir’s exuberant gospel refrain.  And just last week I felt your heart yearn as your soul responded to the spiritual you are way too young to knowingly sing truthfully, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I Seen.”  And yet the furrow of your brow told me that you will know of what you sing.

As I see you, I see me.  I want you to know that someone sees you.  I don’t just see you sitting there, I see you in all your possibility.  As you grow you will be tempted to believe that your possibilities are limited.  In your blackness you will struggle with the sense that you are inferior, that something is wrong with you, that you are wrong to be who God has created you to be.  When you feel that way and don’t know why, stop and take a look at the world.  You will see that your grandfather’s mother and her ancestors before have wondered the same thing.  They have wondered why this feeling of less than when that’s not what the soul feels.  Know that it is not your blackness that offends but what your blackness represents.  It represents resilience, ingenuity, beauty, honor and history at its best.  But those things are also what pains those who would have you doubt yourself.  For they resent your resilience, begrudge your ingenuity, defame your beauty, want to replace your brazen honor with shame and have tried to erase your history.  But these things they will never have.  These things they can never have.  Through Middle Passage, through slavery, through midnight journeys north, through Jim Crow, through forest canopy lynchings, through fire hoses and dogs you still have those things we have always truly possessed that make us who we are and not who others would have us to be.

So hold onto those things, Darius for they are yours hold and to keep.  But you must hold tight.  For those around you would have these very things wrested from grasp.  They too see you in the rapturous ecstasy of what it means to be loved by Christ alone.  They too witness your reckless abandon in loving the one who loves you more than any other.  They too know of the trouble you see and will begrudge you the journey you have yet to travel.  For they will tell you that you must abandon the ways of your being if you want to associate with them.  They will whisper in darkened corners as you grow, wonder and whisper why you bring no woman home to love for their approval.  They will laud your singing and passion for the Lord, expecting you to serve at their whim while they accept you as sinner and guess at the sin in you they hate.

Whether you choose to stay or leave, neither revile nor revere them.  Honor the love of the man you choose to hold.  Honor the love that Christ has instilled in you to share as part of your gift.  Do not revere those who would shame you by recreating their way of being in the world.  Do not conform to what is their ideal; one man, one woman in service of procreation for the Lord.  Do not revile them as you choose a different path, your path as dictated by the Spirit’s guidance in your life; love in honesty, love with open heart, love to find your help meet as God has always intend you to find.

Darius, you may wonder where does your blackness and your loving of same gender cross paths in this address to you?   I tell you, do not allow the bigotry against your blackness from outside of your black family wrest away your possessions.  Do not allow the love of God’s chosen for you to be wrested away by your black family and out yonder beyond them.  Empathy may be the better part of valor.  For with empathy you see the result of the hatred of your blackness relived in the hatred of your sexual being.

For in our blackness, we have learned to perpetrate on others the hatred of our oppressors.  And this is an unintended allegiance to the powers that be will be inflicted on you unless…

Unless you find your power to witness to your possessions…Your possessions will have you witness to the struggles that have allowed you in your blackness to come this far…They will have you witness to all of your oppressors from the place, the mountaintop, from which Martin called for civil rights.    They will have you witness to your own kind…those who love like you, who look like you, who live like you…They will have you witness of a forgiving love because you will be armed with the right way of loving past the hatred and into the love that will make this world as God intended.

Like me you have been outside and are looking for a place to be.  For your sake I need to tell you these things and so I write you today.   Malcolm X tells us, “We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”[1] Love who you have been created to be!  Let this be the place from which you measure all else, Darius.  Your self is the most prized possession.  Not that you are to hold onto it as a dear possession to the exclusion of all else.  You are to hold it, love it, protect it and listen to it.  It will guide you through many turns on this journey.  You are not alone.  Build this community for me Darius.  For I am jailed in the trappings of my own psyche and must continue to break free of the hatred from without that is blocking me from the love that is within.  I give my hope to you.

The love of Christ and all that is holy is my prayer for you.


[1] A Declaration of Independence, Malcolm X, March 12, 1964.  “Teaching American History.Org.,  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=1148 (accessed April 2, 2011)


May 16, 2011

That All May Freely Serve at DUPC

from Downtown United Presbyterian Church

Bulletin cover from Downtown United Presbyterian Church

Our board member and local friends in Rochester shared a wonderful work- and worship-filled weekend together. We will be sharing parts of yesterday morning’s service of worship. We hope that they are as meaningful to you as they are to us. The Spirit is definitely present!

March 9, 2011

Feast of the New Day

God’s Steadfast Love never ceases, and of God’s mercy there is no end.

Join us this Easter season by sharing in a service of thanksgiving and praise! Whatever the final vote on Amendment 10-A, we will give thanks for all who have worked so hard to share the good news of a church that welcomes all. It is always right to give our thanks and praise!

We invite you to join us by planning a Service of Thanksgiving in your town during this Eastertide, April 25-June 11.

We’re already planning for one such  Service of Thanksgiving for May 14 in Rochester, New York, and plans are in the works for other cities.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Let us know if you’re interested in working on a service for your area
  • Submit your own litanies, songs, and hymns to be posted here
  • Send in your suggestions for incorporating art into worship
  • Check here for worship resources and ideas
  • Share your service with us through live video streaming and/or pictures
  • And, check back often to see the schedule of services and to help spread the word!

For more info, to volunteer for your area, or to submit resources, email Lisa at llarges@tamfs.org, and THANKS!

We give thanks for truly a new day is at hand!

Make a joyful noise, everyone!
Worship with gladness;
Come, singing!

Know that the Holy One is God.
And we belong to the Holy One!
We belong in the Land of God.

Enter with thanksgiving,
Come, with praise.
Give thanks to God, bless the Unnameable’s Name.

For God is good, so good;
God’s steadfast love endures forever and ever,
from our greats, to our grands, to ours, to us, to theirs
forever.

– A Paraphrase of Psalm 100 by Carolina Treviño