Friday, February 20, 2009

Another kind of testimony - City Council

I testified at a recent Portland City Council meeting that was held in East Portland, not the usual downtown council chambers. The city council was voting to accept a special report on East Portland. Here is my (very short) testimony. It goes remarkably well on a religion and spirituality blog since its all about equity. Warning, there is some wonk talk in among the equity talk! It's my secret side.

After thanking the council I said:

The East Portland Action Plan has a whole section on equity. The plan asks for equity reporting and audits. We want our fair share of investment in our neighborhoods and opportunities for the children and adults in East Portland.

Equity is about fairness and our desire to improve our neighborhoods, but it is also about our desire to be fully and wholly a part of Portland. You are familiar with those t-shirts that say, "this is what 50 looks like" and "this is what 60 looks like", well this is what Portland looks like. As proud as we are to say East Portland, we aren’t just East Portland.

Equity is one of those concepts that can come across negatively as "getting ours", but equity in the positive sense is about connections, about being a part of the larger whole. There is a sense of being cut off, when equity isn’t there. This symbolic city council meeting, like the earlier events of Sam Adam’s and, even before that, Ted Wheeler’s Parkrose inauguration, builds connections. The new East Portland swimming pool addition to the East Portland Community Center builds connections. I believe, that if the connections are there equity will automatically follow.

I invite you to continue to build connections with this part of Portland; and one way to do that would be through equity reporting. The equity audits and reports that are recommended in the East Portland Action Plan, need to become a part of the decision making culture at city hall. I was delighted to see Mayor Adams linking neighborhood equity reporting to the bureaus and to the future Portland Strategic Plan in one of his earliest announcements as Mayor. Someday the East Portland Action Plan will be old and outdated, but it won’t matter if you are systematically using equity in your decision making.

Thank you Mayor Adams: thank you Counselors, it was a pleasure to serve on the East Portland Action Planning Team.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The new look of my blog is inspiring me to write more. Just looking at that picture of Waldo Lake and remembering that I was actually there on a dazzling day in July is an inspiration. Yes the quality of the light was that magical and the water was an incredible clear blue.

I am writing my first exegesis paper for Marylhurst. Doing this is fraught for me because I have to take a LOT of Bible classes to get my MDIV. It isn't so much this particular paper, but the fact that I will have to repeat the process over and over. I wish very much, that the DIV part was more interfaith and I could fill my head with the theology of all the world's great religions.

I cringe a little when my teachers say bright little aphorisms about all that we will learn. The depth etc. I imagine that I could study pickle-making and take some meaning out of it. If you delve deep enough in any subject you learn something that you can take with you and apply somewhere else. Naturally, I have already learned much from this Bible look-see. I am saddened though by the opportunity cost. I have this time to study and I am going to have to spend it on the Bible. I am not denigrating the Bible so much as wishing for more balance in my studies. It saddens me. I am old enough to be sad, and a bit angry, about wasted time.

My original prejudice that the Bible is no more divinely inspired than any other spiritual writing is being confirmed. Once you know how copied, translated, changed and selected it is its hard to see God's hand there. Yes, there is faith and religion, which I respect. But each generation is yanking the book in one direction or another depending on the politics of the day. There is this great human need flowing through it. I am convinced it is a holy book, but more because of the faith and tears, and sometimes blood, of the readers and writers than because of some grand plan. And of course there are some beautiful passages.

Here is my pickle-making insight from the Bible. I was reading about Dick Cheney and his criticisms of Obama because he was closing down Guantanamo Bay and I though "He's a Roman!". Dick Cheney is all about empire and in empire its OK to level whole towns to preserve it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In the Belly of the Beast

I just signed up to get trained as a Trauma Counsellor through Trauma Intervention Programs of Portland Oregon. For my MDiv we are being asked to do practicums. I think that means get real and be practical. Its the doing rather than the thinking part of my program.

I tend to get lost in the thinking. I tend to enjoy the thinking. Many of my Marylhurst cohort (the folks I am travelling through the program with) are getting a slightly different degree called Applied Theology. I love the name of that degree and wish my own degree had such a nuts and bolts name. There is something nutty about acquiring a degree called Master of Divinity when one has so many doubts about said Divinity.

However, Trauma Counselling is a nuts and bolts skill of the Minister and I am oddly looking forward to it. Partly because I felt my intuition kick into gear when I read about it in the newspaper. 'I could probably do that' is what I thought. I confess I have been wondering about the pastoral side of ministry. Can I deal with other peoples problems? I feel I have the compassion gene; I am pretty sure I don't have the sympathy gene.

There is a part of me that probably needs a little roughing up, that needs examination, that needs a regular dose of humility, that does not like garden variety people problems. I try not to complain a lot myself, and there must be something in me that just shouts that to the world. People tell me nothing!!! They think I am going to disapprove! I don't think I do that, but sometimes I probably look puzzled, like huh, why are you telling me this. What can I say, I blame my mother. Why not, she doesn't have a computer. But I got to say, I don't think anyone tells her anything either.

I don't think I am going to need sympathy for Trauma Counselling. I think I am going to need empathy. It's scary and I hope I am strong enough for it. It feels a little like going into the belly of the beast. Or rather, like signing up to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.