Finishing The Mirror | The better the mirror, the more light that can be reflected…


Some of you know that I’m a vowed member of a dispersed religious order called the Society of Ordained Scientists. It’s been an important part of my life and helped to focus my work on the integration between faith and science since I became a member.

Mother Pan Conrad is the Warden of the North American Chapter of the society, and a friend. She’s also a wicked smart scientist and is principle investigator a couple of instrument packages in the new Mars explorer Perseverance. 

And now she’s blogging!

Finishing The Mirror | The better the mirror, the more light that can be reflected…:

I’ve been thinking a lot about this mission to Mars and how it intersects with my mission as a Christian. You see, whether lay or ordained, we all have a mission—our heritage as followers of Jesus. How we carry out the vocation—our individual missions as Jesus followers—is unique to each one of us. My own formation as a Christian and quest to find my vocation has been a long and rambling exploration. I kept praying for a teacher or guide to help me figure out who I am, and it didn’t dawn on me for decades, that exploration itself WAS my vocation. I am an explorer-priest, and my vocation is to use both the exploration of creation and the exploration of relationships in God’s Kingdom to learn better how to live into the promise inherent with being made in the Image of God.

I love this. It reads to me like an updated version of the pilgrimage language we often use to contextualize our faith journey. It strikes me that exploration is an even more evocative metaphor – and one that speaks more powerfully to the work of integration that seems to be missing in our lives these days. (It’s common in my experience to have an active faith life in church and an active secular life outside of worship and bible study, but rarely do I meet people who have tried to put the two together.)

At any rate – follow her at the blog above. I hear that she’s planning on journaling the mission as it unfolds – and doing it in the context of a priest and scientist.

Can God still use a people such as us?

Current Affairs

John Meacham writes in his 2006 book “American Gospel”:

”A tolerant, pluralistic democracy in which religious and secular forces continually contend against one another may not be ideal, but it has proven to be the most practical and enduring arrangement of human affairs — and we must guard that arrangement well.”

As we celebrate a difficult anniversary of the Declaration of Independence this weekend, fully aware of the flaws in our foundation and the shortcomings of our nation, it’s worth remembering that in spite of them all, there’s still something of value. And perhaps we can, by God’s grace, breathe upon that ember and re-ignite something greater than we now have.

Something is shifting in this country’s understanding of race

Current Affairs

It feels like this moment in America’s racial divide is different than the moments that have gone before. There have been racially motivated shootings and violence in the last decade or so here in America, but after a few weeks of protest, most of us move on to the next issue.

Yet this year, the data indicates that there’s a real and measurable shift in the way white American’s view discrimination. The data is presented in an article in The Washington Post. The article ends with this:

The Floyd protests have changed public opinion about race and policing. Here’s the data. – The Washington Post:

In fact, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. justified his 2013 decision to dismantle key sections of the Voting Right Act by writing, “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

Americans, however, no longer reflexively agree with the chief justice’s argument. At the time of his 2013 ruling, only 19 percent said there’s a lot of discrimination against African Americans; just 20 percent thought we haven’t made much real progress against racial discrimination since the 1960s. Those figures are now up to 50 percent and 41 percent respectively.

Fifteen years ago I would have never imagined that public opinion would shift so rapidly on same-sex marriage. But it did. Five years ago I wouldn’t have imagined a shift on racial justice could happen suddenly. But it seems to be.

There’s lots to lose heart about right now, and lots to worry about. But take heart. Perhaps in the midst of the turmoil something new and hopeful is starting to emerge.

That’s my prayer for us today.

Remarks for the Vigil for Racial Justice, Peace and Reconciliation

Current Affairs / Reconciliation

This evening the Center for Reconciliation held an online candlelight vigil. As board chair I made the opening remarks:

On behalf of the staff and the board of the CfR, I welcome all of you who have joined us for this time of prayer and silent vigil, on this the Eve of Juneteenth, the anniversary of Emancipation and the “effective” end of slavery in the United States, and in the week when we mark the fifth anniversary of the slaughter of innocent people at a Bible Study at Mother AME in Charleston. We are gathered from across the state and around the country to make a witness that our nation still has not lived up to what it claims about itself. All people are not equal in the United States. Black lives matter and the majority in this country have not behaved as if they do. They have not been equal from this nation’s founding and are not equal in the 21st century. We gather to grieve this, we gather to call for change, we gather this evening to commit ourselves to the work of making this nation a more perfect union, fully lamenting how much needs to be done, and how deeply hurtful our history is and has been to the people pushed to the margins by people like me and the communities that formed me.

In my religious tradition, which depends so much on the unbroken witness of the Jewish teachers and prophets, there is the practice of lament. There are times in human experience when we simply despair. Today, in this moment, we despair of a lack of justice, a lack of will to make effective change, and of lives lost to the forces which have corrupted us and are destroying us. We lament, joining our tears with those who have come before us, and those who will in all likelihood come after us. We lament that children are turned against one another by a lie that some are more valuable than others in human eyes. We lament that people die and are dying today because of our desire to have power over others, because of greed and fear and unbridled pride. And yet, I believe though that God has the power and does act to collect our tears, to wash us and renew us through them, and by lament and contrition we can be transformed.

And maybe this, throwing ourselves at God’s feet, repenting of the evil we have done, and which has been done on our behalf, is the most effective response in this moment to the battles that are being waged on the streets of our cities and in our capitals across the world today.

Tonight, the Center for Reconciliation, a program of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island has invited a diverse group of leaders to address us all. We will hear from them and be inspired by them. We will keep silence for 8 min and 46 seconds, a time that is now seared into our collective conscience, the time that passed as George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. We will name the victims of racism and its diabolic consequences and keep those names and their memory before us. We will lament and beseech God, our Higher Power, to move mightily for deliverance of the oppressed, and to change the hearts of stone that are causing sin and death.