Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Blessing Station at the Station

This morning, during the darkest week of the year, a small team of us from Grace Episcopal Church in Medford, Massachusetts, stood at the West Medford Commuter Rail Station with a Blessing Station. In an attempt to help be part of Christ’s light during this darkest week of the year, we offered blessings and prayers to anyone who walked by. We were inspired by “Ashes to Go,” and some discussions on Episcopal CafĂ©, and were wondering about others ways to help bring the message of the Church outside onto the streets.

Doing this was completely outside of my comfort zone – the day before I found myself hoping that it would rain, and we would have to cancel. I was nervous about leaving the safe walls of the church, and offering sacramental ministry in an unfamiliar way. I was afraid that no one would come up for a prayer, and I would just feel embarrassed. But, while doing it, in became easy. It was beautiful and moving to pray with perfect strangers, acquaintances I knew from my son’s school and Grace Church parishioners who were on their way to work. It felt like doing God’s work, and like we were part of Christ’s healing light to a hurting and broken world.

We held a sign that said “Blessing Station: Come Experience a Moment of Advent Peace in the Midst of Life’s Busyness.” We offered folks who came by laying on of hands, prayers, and anointing with oil, if they wanted it. We gave them a card with an invitation to our Healing Service that night and our Christmas Eve Celebrations. In just over an hour over 20 people came for a blessing. Some wanted prayers for protection of their children in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, a mother who was in the hospital, help as unemployment was running out, just general prayers for the day and thanksgiving for children. Some folks just walked by and said as passing by, “what a great message…” and “this gives me hope…”

In fact it was so amazing; we are going to a bus stop this evening to offer blessing during the commute home…

The Blessing Station was covered by some national and local media:

Boston Globe:  Amid the morning rush, moments of Advent peace
Episcopal Cafe:  A Blessing Station: out in the midst of the Advent crowds
Medford Transcript:  Medford church sets up Blessing Station at West Medford Commuter Rail

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Picketting Walmart. Because Christ is King

November 22, 2012

It all began at a Thanksgiving Day clergy family meet-up at the local playground in Medford, Massachusetts. We all talked--three Episcopal and two Unitarian Universalist clergy families--as our kids played. We talked about our congregations, families who were visiting for the holidays, and about the awful commercialism of the coming season. Rampant consumption has led to environmental crisis as well as massive income inequality, the cost of which is suffered by some of our society’s most vulnerable people. Someone finally said, “Hey, want to Occupy Walmart tomorrow?” With facebook and tweeting started at the playground, the movement continued and by the time we all had sat down to our various Thanksgiving dinners, we had recruited six cars full of people to join us. Our group will include four kindergarteners and two preschoolers—offering them a vision for a world in which they know how to make themselves heard.

This year on Black Friday, we are standing with Walmart workers who are picketing at over 1000 stores across the country. On Friday morning, at 9:00AM, my family and I will join Walmart workers in front of the North Reading, Massachusetts Walmart Store. We will stand in solidarity with their cause, and help to give their suffering a voice and honor the courage of picketing Walmart employees. We will give the luxury we have been blessed with of an extra day off to help give rights to the 1.4 million Walmart workers in the United States right now.

Walmart is our nation’s largest employer, bringing in more than $16 billion in profits last year, mostly going to its corporate shareholders. Walmart workers struggle with low wages, positions without benefits, and negligible job security. Walmart has fought against efforts to unionize and is now taking action against picketing workers across the country. Because of its size and market strength, what happens with Walmart has ramifications far beyond the company. It will affect workers at other retailers and in other sectors as well.

By the end of the day Walmart will have made millions in sales and profits, but many Walmart workers will not be able to make ends meet, and many will go without the basic necessities of food and clothing. The call to stand for justice and in solidarity with those without a voice is throughout our sacred stories. This coming Sunday, we will proclaim that Christ is King, not corporate interests or shareholder profits. We will stand in the Walmart parking lot in hope of the world were justice rolls down like waters, and were the dignity of every human being is recognized. And hopefully, our kids will learn their own power to speak up and make a difference in the world. That will be something to give thanks for!

This post was also run in Episcopal Cafe...