Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Stops at Fielden's

After the hundredth exhortation to see the play The Stops, I finally made it. WOW!

Richmond Triangle Players, who did a very nice job with Southern Baptist Sissies, have really scored a hit with this production. The general idea is that three members of a Lady Organists' Guild have gone on a concert tour in support of their favorite composer and organist, Dale Meadows. But the general idea could have been most anything and I would have paid money to see this cast do it.

First of all, the lady organists are all men in drag. It seems disrespectful to say that, however, because the actors are so talented and engage so fully with the audience. My guess is some therapy might be in order to unravel the characters from the actors at the end of the run.

Then there's the attraction that one of the characters is a Unitarian. She was so great that I almost slipped her my card so she would join our church.

But the best part of all is the often light-hearted, always on the mark skewering of modern American organized religion. I laughed until my face hurt and I will never look at a church potluck the same way again.

Our Performing Arts Circles will be going to see two Richmond Triangle Players productions this year. We can only hope that they will bring Stops level entertainment out again.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Vespers August 22

Our Vespers this past week was on hospitality. We combined prayers, silence, and hymns to meditate on the idea of opening ourselves up to others.

Next week's Vespers will be one of our mostly silent Vespers. We will have a few words and one piece of music, but will spend the rest of the time in silent meditation. We observe silent Vespers a few times during the year.

Rites of Passage

In two weeks my son starts pre-K at the elementary school. Yesterday was Little Man's last day of daycare and he repeatedly announced to all within hearing distance, "Today is Celebration Day!" The way he sees it, this is the last vestige of childhood before he moves into adult living. He's 4.

Minister Mama almost forgot that a day such as this needs a rite of some sort, an acknowledgement that our Little Man is growing up. I didn't have time to get him a tattoo. (Stop your fussin'. TEMPORARY tattoo.) Taking photographs wasn't enough. Luckily, we drove past the answer on the way home.

The Shankerosa.

The Shankerosa is the dwelling place of handyman, bartender, part-time guru, full-time cool guy, and my good buddy Shank. Yep, that's really his name. And yep, his house really is called the Shankerosa. It's got a sign and everything. Shank has been known to come to my rescue on many an occasion. He's also a reliable friend to the under 5 set. Once Shank heard of Little Man's big news, they made a date for soda in 30 minutes. At our local watering hole. Well, I believe bar is the term, but people are so stuck on terms these days, don't you think?

So at 5:00 yesterday I delivered my 4 year old to a bar wearing a clean shirt and his hat that is shaped like a giant hot dog for a drink with a guy named Shank.

That's the kind of sentence for which blogs were invented.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Circle Schedule is Out

The schedule of Community Circle activities and events is ready for pickup at the church. We've tripled the number of offerings this year and they are already filling up. Check them out and sign up soon!

This year we have 2 performing arts groups who go out for dinner and a show once a month. One is a Friday group and the other is a Saturday group.

The Adventure group is back, meeting on Saturdays and engaging in a variety of sporty challenges. (Sport-like? Sport-esque?) In addition there is a cycling group which meets usually on Sundays, with some Saturdays and will be doing rides of various levels of difficulty. (Although I prefer to think of them as various levels of ease.)

We have 4 book discussion groups with different themes. They are filling lightning fast.

We also have 3 UU Seekers groups which are ideal for those who are new to UU, looking to deepen their commitment, or hoping to learn more about the tradition.

We have had sign-up for one week and already have almost one third of the slots filled. Don't miss out.

Hope this makes sense. I'm violating a cardinal blogging rule - don't blog with a fever. Is it just me or is it hot in here?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Go, Pupke, Go!!!

As I am writing this and preparing to invent tonight's bedtime story for my pre-schooler, my buddy and colleague, The Reverend Jeanne Pupke, is perched on the eve of her preaching life at our shared congregation, First Unitarian Universalist, Richmond. Unlike yours truly, Jeanne actually enjoys preaching, so she's probably pretty mellow tonight.

Not me. I'm so excited. Not only is she bright, talented, fun, and kind... she is going to be amazing at this church. She is going to help lead us to our best selves. She is going to ride whatever waves may come, and help us ride them. And we will be better for having known her.

Best of all, she preaches three times a month and I only have to do once. God, I love this woman!

Come on out tomorrow. There's a new sheriff in town. Go, Pupke, GO!!!

Yes, We're Open

This past week we have been open every night for people who need to go somewhere after the day's events at the trial of R. Gray, one of the men accused of the Harvey murders and many others. I'm glad that we have offered this. Not only have people had a place to go, call, and email (yes, email - "can't make it tonight, but my heart is there"), but it has been a lesson to us and to the volunteers on the nature of pastoral care.

When I first began in ministry and held office hours, I expected a line of people looking for pastoral care. Instead, I spent alot of time listening to CDs and reading. I would go weeks ithout a formal appointment. But I was doing plenty of pastoral care. I just didn't know it at first.

People would stop me after a meeting to "ask a question." Others slipped me notes after services. Some would come 15 minutes AFTER office hours. It was actually a few years before I understood that this is the norm, not the exception. So many people are uncomfortable asking for help or sharing their pain. For many, they don't intend to come to me for help, it just slips out. I'm used to it now, but our volunteers are not.

I explain it in light of 12 step programs. A friend of mine says that he has been responsible for opening the room before a meeting for years. Sometimes no one comes. Other times people come and it seems fruitless. But every now and again, someone's life is saved. One life makes all the empty rooms, low attendance, and immeasurable results worth it.

Pastoral Care isn't about numbers, and measuring. Care of any sort starts with an open heart, leads to an open building, and never really ends.

Way Too Richmond; Way Too Virginian

Years ago our beloved weekly magazine Style Weekly hosted an annual contest called "You Are Very Richmond." The magazine invited submissions on what defined our community - good, bad, and otherwise. I almost won twenty years ago. Actually, I did win but when they discovered I had submitted it, I was disqualified. (My mom worked there at the time.) I'm still healing.

I had two You Are Very Richmond moments this week.

ONE: A woman said to me, "So, you are from Richmond. Where'd you go to school?"

And I proudly replied, "Fox."


TWO: I was reading the editorial page responses to the George Allen "Macaca Debaca". As people attacked him for his comments, his sorry excuses for apology via "explanation", and his cowboy boots (the only part of him I've ever liked), several closed their withering comments with derision over his birthplace.


Proving yet again that round these parts you can live here for decades, serve as governor, represent us on Capitol Hill, but if you weren't born here... you ain't one of us.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Foo Fun

After many weeks of anticipation, we drove up to DC last night and caught the fab Foo Fighters at Constitution Hall. They were doing their acoustic thing which was fun. There were some bumpy mixing issues with the bass player who didn't get the acoustic memo and whose electric bass was RRRMMMMHHHRRRR-ing for several songs. Unfortunately it rumbled right over "Virginia Moon" and pretty much ruined it.

There were plenty of high points, though: Dave's humor, Taylor's goofiness, the new acoustic songs sounding much better live, and the inability to resist rocking it out. Our fifth row seats didn't hurt either. We got lucky on that one. They were "possible obstructed view" seats. Only thing obstructing our view was the inexplicable haze from a fog machine. I guess it was supposed to give us that smoky club feel. Just made me want to rub the sleep out of my eyes.

I'm telling you... you've gotta' stop sitting at your computer browsing blogs and go out to hear some live music. Rumor has it that even you are not getting any younger.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Something in the Water

The Water Ceremony, an end of summer tradition at our church will be held on Sunday, Sptember 3. It will be our last 10 AM service. The pianist, Richard Becker will be performing some of his own compositions.

This year's service will be a little different. We do ask all who come to bring water from their homes or their travels. We will be comingling this water, and there is an opportunity for all to place a marker on a world map that represents their travels.

Instead of sharing our summer stories, however, the focus of this service will be peace. With summer violence in Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the recent terror scare in the UK, this service will center on hopes for peace and creating peace in our own lives. I hope you will join us.


My father was born the third of four adorable sons. His family moved all over the country throughout his childhood, causing him to go to a number of schools in the double digits before high school graduation. He joined the Marines, bench pressed crazy weight, married my mama, and was kind enough to participate in my creation.

As a child, I was Daddy's girl. He taught me how to balance a checkbook, appreciate opera, laugh til I cry, pick a crab crazy fast, and ride a bicycle. I've found these to be useful life lessons and I appreciate them all, as well as the one who taught them. He also loved the Kingston Trio. Well, we all have our flaws.

As an adult, Daddy (also known as Dingwa - a name I coined for him at age 8) and I have shared some passions that others don't. If I want to talk about church dynamics, theology, biblical history, or string theory - I seek out Dingwa. If the dog or the baby has done something really disgusting and I want someone to laugh it off with, I call Dingwa. When the NY Deli closed and it was time to have my last sailor sandwich there, Dingwa had one too.

I'm lucky to have him. He's given me a health scare or two over the years which has helped me to appreciate him in the moment. He's a kind, smart, sweet and funny man, and I'm glad my children can know him, too.

Happy Birthday, Dingwa. You are so loved.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Susan Greenbaum - This Sunday!

I am so excited, I could just spit! (And I'm a Southern gal - we just don't do that.)

A gentle spirit sent me to my rolodex to call emergency special music for Sunday. In that rolodex I found the talented, energetic, and dear dear Susan Greenbaum's number that had been MISFILED for almost eight months. I called. She was there. She was her usually lovely self AND


I could spit!

Tell your friends, call your mama, hang up a banner from your front porch and we will see you on Sunday at 10:00 AM.

All hail the spirits of the Rolodex.

(Who's Susan? Tsk. Crawl out from under your rock and go to

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Vespers August 8 Growing Up

I have had many reminders of childhood recently. Seeing old friends and passing places where I played as a child has called to mind the strange process of growing up. In this spirit, today's Vespers service is a combination of readings on growing up.

Readings include: Rainer Maria Rilke's "I find, you, Lord, in all Things" and "The Grownup", passages from Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality", and "Seasons of the Self" by Max Coots.

Music is from trumpeter Rex Richardson's CD Masks.

If you missed today's Vespers service I will be examining the topic more in depth in a sermon the first Sunday in October. Rex Richardson will be playing at the church on the Sunday following Thanksgiving.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Shine on August Moon

I am still newbie enough at this techno thing that I can be found wandering around my front yard on a balmy summer night trying to pick up the wireless signal from the coffee shop behind my house. Tonight as I ventured out half pj clad, I felt like someone was watching. The big old glowing face of the man in the moon is making a spectacle of himself in the night sky.

There was a time known as BC (before children) when I would spend hours on my front porch. In those days a moon like this would have never caught me unawares. I would have seen this guy coming a week away. But these days I only come out on my way somewhere else. I'm lucky to have caught this one at all. Two points for techno-aversion.

Looks like some thin cloudcover is moving in. Just now Mr. Moon was leaning back in a hammock of cirrus. Or stratocumulus. Or something. For once, I'll skip the Google on cloud terms, swat the mosquitoids, and enjoy the show. You might want to venture out this week. I hear Mars is supposed to make an appearance, too.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

19th Century Wins in Sunday AM Cage Match

In a battle of wills, 19th century technolgy won out over 21st century gizmos in this morning's sermon. After 5 days of preparation (and three successful test runs) we just couldn't get the DVD/computer/projector set-up to work when it counted. If I were the only one involved in this endeavor, the only surprise would be that nothing exploded. But no, I had plenty of help, and in the end we all failed.

Instead of the morning's highlight being the carefully chosen clips of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, the bright spot of the hour was my rendition of a gypsy creation myth in which I was God, narrator, and devil (who by necessity all became female and Southern.) Next time I think I'll skip the schmancy gizmos and make a few sock puppets.

Next week is the last installment in my summer series drawn from the lessons of The Sunday Philosophy Club. The topic is: Justice and Mercy. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Vigil August 13 Before Gray Trial

We will be hosting a vigil here at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond on the eve of the trial of R. Gray. Gray is being tried in the deaths of Bryan, Kathy, Stella and Ruby Harvey.

The vigil is from 7-8PM on Sunday August 13, 2006. Our church is located at 1000 Blanton Avenue in front of the Carillon and across from Byrd Park.

The church will also be open every night of the trial from 6-7 PM for people to gather in hope for solace and peace.

For more information comment on this post or call (804) 355-0777

On Digital Mastery, Kitty Retrieval, and Wonderful Weddings

The projector is in and we WILL be watching clips from The Village on Sunday morning as part of the sermon. I'm kind of torn on this because I was looking forward to playing the Adrien Brody part. However, I do think the film itself will be a better illustration of issues in truth telling. Thanks to our new church treasurer, George, who came over in blazing heat to teach me how to work the gizmo.

Sophia the Cat, beloved companion of our new minister Jeanne, came out from the chimney last night. She waited until the pest control man arrived and he still had to be paid, but YAY for Sophia. My guess is that her freakout was her way of saying, "Richmond?!? I thought you meant Richmond, Maine! Virginia?Are you out of your mind? Have you seen what they've got on the ballot for November?!?"

In other news, we've come to the end of the first half of wedding season. This was a great year for weddings for me. No bridezillas, no clueless grooms, no angry parents, no invasions of uninvited varmints or critters... a good season. So it means alot when I share that one of the high points of an already great season was the wedding of Dottie and Jim.

Here is a photo from the ceremony. That's Jim in the sandals, Dottie in white, and I'm the tall shoeless gal. We did the ceremony right there on that rock in the mighty James River. Jim arrived via canoe, their dog Jake was in attendance, and it was a beautiful day. Thanks to Dottie and Jim for letting me be a part of their special day. It was one of the greatest weddings I've ever attended. I'm grateful to have been a part of it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sunday Sermon on Truth, Lies, & Doubt; Other News

I storm the pulpit this Sunday for the third installment of my summer series on Alexander McCall Smith's The Sunday Philosophy Club. This week we look at Truth from practical, philosophical, and religious perspectives. We start at 10 AM in the interest of the heat index. Feel free to check out the website for directions or other church info at
(Added Bonus: If a new piece of equipment arrives, part of the sermon will be a brief movie clip from "The Village". Otherwise, I'll just act out all the parts.)

Things are starting to hop again at First UU after a brief summer lull. Our new minister, Rev. Jeanne Pupke has arrived to Richmond. Poor woman. Her first days here and it is smoking hot, Richmond miserable, and last we talked her cat was hiding up a chimney. Welcome to River City!

We have a New UU class starting August22 at 7PM for those of you who've been waiting for the past two months to try it out. Vespers continues in cool comfort on Tuesdays at 5:30 with yours truly leading through August. (See previous posts on What is Vespers? and some of the themes.)

My biggest project is our Community Circles program. We have 11 groups to join that are fun, exciting, and introduce you to other members of First UU. The program includes four book groups, an Adventure circle, a cycling group, two performing arts groups who go see plays and music together, and three UU interest groups. More to come on that front.

Hope to see you Sunday!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Vespers August 1 - God

The topic for today's Vespers service is God. I chose this service topic in response to the latest Middle East violence. A frequent reaction to wars is to despise all efforts to describe God. The argument goes that every time we humans set out to determine who or what God is, we feel an overwhelming urge to kill people who don't agree with us. So, the logic goes, eschew all God-talk and peace will have a chance.

Part of our religious heritage is the belief that pride, greed and violence are human characteristics; not our only or best characteristics, but definitely ours. Any concept of transcendence, permanence, or love must work to remove itself from our worst pitfalls. To illustrate a peaceful variety of perspectives on the divine, we will be reading three poems by Virginia Hamilton Adair: Whodunit, Long Beginnings, and Enormous Day.

Musical selections are "God Don't Ever Change" and "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" as recorded by Corey Harris.

Vespers July 25 - The River

The Vespers topic for July 25 is the James River.

After numerous reports and studies on the foam in the James River, I decided to make the river a theme for our contemplative Vespers service. I recently performed a wedding ceremony on a large rock jutting into the river. The groom arrived by canoe. The wedding party was mostly barefoot. The music of the ceremony was the splashing and rushing of the river past us. It was a beautiful day that renewed my affection, admiration, and wonder concerning the river.

For the Vespers service readings are from T.S. Eliot, Henry David Thoreau, and our own church member Ann Woodlief. We will contemplate the themes of the river's solitude, power, history, ecosystem, and beauty.

Musical interludes are from the solo recordings of Thelonious Monk.

Minute 16 Entered After Decades of Expectation

If WNYU radio does its work, my fabulous super-stardom will be officially over. I was interviewed in Central Park on Sunday on the subject of "The Ballad of John Henry" and responded with some nonsensical groupie rant about the Drive-By Truckers. If aired, this will mark the final minute of my Warholian 15. How apt that it be in NYC.

Unlike many, I chose to do my fifteen one minute at a time over a 20 year period. Some highlights include: Minute 1 when I was a dancer in a troupe who opened for LL Cool J, Minute 6 when I was immortalized in a true crime novel, and Minute 12 when my children and I were on the local paper's front page as pro-choice supporters.

It's been a good run, but I'm ready to step out of the dim 10 watt bulb of the minute-at-a-time limelight. In my upcoming anonymity I plan to clean out my kitchen, write more often to my grandmother in Florida, and work on my Spanish. In years to come, you will not see me on a "Where are they now?" special relishing Minute 2 as a performance artist or my 10th minute cameo in a PBS news blurb on schools and volunteers.

No, fame like mine comes at a price, and I will spend the next few decades recovering from the frantic biannual pace of blink-and-you'll-miss-her stardom.