Forest Home Chapel
Friday, February 22, 2019
United Methodist Church, Ithaca New York

Pastor's Blog

December 22, 2018

I wanted to write a letter for this blog about Christmas that speaks to the faith, which should come as no surprise as I am a person of faith!  Yet, it seems important to say, out loud.

I honor all the ways folks celebrate the thing that is love this season, but friends, Christmas is not about gifts under the tree. Let’s be plain: gifts symbolize the love we feel for one another, and Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the one whose love made love possible.

This season, the commercialization is bothering me more than other years, perhaps because I have been involved in professional ministry for nearing 20 years, been ordained and hold a Doctorate in Leadership through a theological perspective and specialize in spiritual care of women and children. I am totally invested in the world view that speaks to love being a part of our figurative DNA, that part of us that is elusively called, the soul.  We yearn for love in some form; it can be meaning making through caring for a pet, a family member or a partner/friend. All of those relationships find that love is a journey and is generally reciprocated; we can be grateful, even joy-filled with this reality.

We know all that is good comes from the Lord our God, and even though we question the miracle of Jesus’ birth, the mystery of our faith, or the announcement of the angels, we somehow know love what it is genuine.  Somehow, life becomes worth living in all languages (including those with words), when we realize we are not alone and the spiritual truth that is love can be experienced. Praise be to God!

So I am asking that each one of us brings a little Jesus to each party, each cookie tray, or each coffee with a friend as we notice the lights, decorated trees, and mall muzak in the speakers.  If you can say – Oh Come All Ye Faithful – before you sip, nibble or use the credit card – praise be to God.  You will have remembered why we celebrate with such hoopla each year. 

We celebrate the birth of the One who came to know us, that we should know the character of God and that God is an unstoppable force in the universe.  That presence is love between each living thing, in each language.   I say each living thing’s language because the language of the trees in relationship to air, or the birds and migration, or the whale that travels through the sea for food and survival – all move on love and instinct.  As people, we do the same; and we make a choice to be aware of that over which we we can have great influence, like the respect for the trees and air that they might do what they are meant to do.  Or  like the birds we help feed before they fly south for the winter and like whales that need to swim in water not surrounded with islands of plastic that ruin food sources and speak to the waste we humans inhabit.

Caring for all that lives on and around the planet starts with love – and love, starts with God and God, is known, through Christ.

September 28, 2018 

Dear Loved Ones,

Watching the media coverage yesterday of the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh - I was as emotionally exhausted as I imagine so many of you were.  What a mess. What a spiritually confusing tangle of truth, peace, love, honesty, courage, and fear. I cried and cried at the pain of it all for lots of reasons. Maybe you did, too. 

It is possible that all the testimony and who is holding a truth and who is not, triggered spiritual issues or questions for you.  I want you to know that if you need  spiritual direction or just your have pastor to be available to listen, I am here for you. 

This situation is really is more than "he said, she said" in terms of truthfulness, I think.  Dr. Ford is totally believable, her recollections as she presented them are consistent with the memories and sensibilities of someone who has endured a traumatic event of rape, incest, sexual abuse or sexual crime;  if you would like to read a bit more about what that means, there are a variety of resources and here are two of them:

I hope it deepens your compassion for those people that you know who carry this burden of trauma, and who carry it in a culture that does not prioritize its healing and end. 

I don't know how to relate to Brett Kavanaugh's testimony, except to say that his inability to hold a more even emotional temperament without anger is very concerning.  His arrogance at tossing questions back to the women on the committee is also concerning since they were not questions relating to clarity (do you like beer Senator Klobuchar?) were jaw-dropping in this process.  If a woman of any stripe had done that - there would be no end to the criticism.  

And that he felt entitled to behave like a 12 year old who was told he had to go to bed early because he used a 'bad word' to his parents or some such infraction of the rules for which he needed to be punished or disciplined, was confusing.  This man is a judge who hears all information before making/passing judgements that cause people's lives to be permanently impacted? Really?

That Kavanaugh did not speak gently of a women who had clearly been traumatized and that he was innocent could have been demonstrated in many ways, but he did not do that gentle, measured, intelligent and compassionate response addressing his innocence.   He displayed his belligerent, entitled self.  He demonstrated he was indignant of the process itself, furious that he had to be there and while I can only imagine how awful it was to be accused of such ugly actions, the mature response needed, to my way of thinking in this very elite and pivotal moment in time where brightest and the best, the most intelligent and compassionate, the most reasoned and helpful people in our country are held to a very high standard, was not shown to the American people by Kavanaugh.  

How to understand something deeper about this man evaporated yesterday because his immature emotional response overwhelmed; to be in control of his emotions while expressing them, not hiding them, was not a part of his strategy.  It was more like being in a middle school cafeteria during a fight.  I have expect a slice of pizza to go flying through the room. 

It was hard to hear his truth over his claims of being the victim in the process.  I have great fear if he is moved forward in this process - just from his behavior in this process.  Spiritually speaking, I believed him to be a liar who was arguing with peers as in Mark's gospel, 9th chapter: "who is the greatest?" and Jesus  said, "the one who helps the vulnerable, of course."   So, in all those Sundays you say you went to church Brett - were you listening to anything?  

Finally, I cannot help but wonder if the midterms were not fast approaching, would the committee have already passed on this candidate because of the stink that comes with him?  

Survivors of sexual trauma and abuse, there are those of us who know you are indeed of value and who will believe you.  You are not alone.  You are in my prayers and if I can be of service, do not hesitate to call.

Rev Robin Blair, DMin
Pastor, Forest Home Chapel
Spiritual Director
Founder, Common Good Radio 

For my first blog at Forest Home Chapel (the Chapel) I thought it might be nice to share some of what I perceive to be core values we focus on and pray over, here.  It is not a big reveal because all you need to do is wander the website and you will see scripture embodied by this loving community of folks serving the “least of these” who deal with food insufficiency, or who need warm clothes, school supplies or even clean underwear from the elementary school nurse. 

You will see, “make a joyful noise” as we offer worship with community- out-loud prayer and song, drenched in the spirit of hope and love as we “pass the handshake of peace” in the very beginning of worship Sunday morning.

And you will witness, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” sprinkled everywhere in all we aim to do as a congregation of the UMC.  If you join us for worship, you will experience it, too.

So, I want to share that the Chapel is a historic, progressive United Methodist Church that welcomes all, worships sincerely, challenges the status quo, and seeks to transform the world through God's love. Drawing upon long-established rituals and spiritualities, the Chapel delights to be a place of safety, positive change within Christianity, within our denomination, within our own souls, and in the world.  We stand firmly in unity with all our brothers and sisters who yearn for our UMC Book of Discipline to be updated and remove the language that restricts persons of the LGBTQ+ community to be ordained and married in our sanctuaries by our clergy. We believe it is so harmful to have this institutional hurt a real thing.  We pray for God’s blessing to be poured out to all God’s people.  We also stand in resistance to all the ism’s that separate us – for with God, “all things are possible.”

The Chapel’s mission is based on its statement of call to deepen faith through worship and challenging study, to create engaged community through inclusiveness and caring, and to transform the world through active service and prophetic leadership.  We hold Micah 6:8 in our hearts as we ponder with the prophet: And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 

This scripture gave rise to our mission statement:
To embrace God’s will for our community through education, compassion and justice.

The Chapel sits on the edge of Cornell University’s campus, and just a few miles from the Ithaca College campus. We have students, staff and faculty from both schools in our congregation and as part of our ministry we honor education.  We honor compassionate living as we reach out with love’s response to what has been given to us, and we seek justice for those whose justice seems a distant dream: we march in protests if we find the cause just – like a solution to school shooting and gun violence, like spiritual justice in our institution for the LGBTQ+ community, like ending racism and sexism. 

We collaborate on ideas, projects, ministries and even paint colors – the entire lower level was recently renovated and the congregation still stands!

We also aim to practice radical hospitality & inclusion so that when you are here, you feel loved. And we aim to build partnerships with local efforts to make the world a bit kinder, gentler or joy-filled because it speaks to the notion of beloved community, and we find ourselves committed to that ideal.

If you would like to explore the idea that says, Love the Lord your God with your passion, prayer, intelligence and energy, AND love others as you love yourself. Then I invite you to join us at the Chapel.  You will be most welcomed to bring your gifts and grace to a place where you can belong.  Then we send you out into the mission field to share what has been given to you.

These are some of the core values lived at Forest Home Chapel UMC, Ithaca, NY. Praise be to God!