Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Tag: renewal

Journey Into Darkness

Our reading this Sunday was titled, “Potbound” by the poet Diana Chapman Walsh.

It was the usual atmosphere you’d expect from a conference.  A large room with too much air conditioning, bright fluorescent lights, and people easing in to their seats – a few people scurrying across the room to say hello to people they know, but most sitting and looking around, wondering what they got themselves into.

In this instance, it was a room of about 90 clergy, 8 religious educators, a radical Mormon mother, and a secular Dutch teacher that mistranslated the information about the workshop and was probably wondering what the heck she was doing in a room with mostly clergy.

The lights dimmed, soft music began to be played, some people started singing some sort of song, and once that was all done, the lead presenter jumped up to the front and center enthusiastically.  With a massive grin and a very gentle but resonate voice, he welcomed us.  He again welcomed us.  He welcomed us again and again, looking at as many of us as possible.

A colleague of mine turned to me and said, “This is going to be one of those self-improvement things, isn’t it?”  I nodded.  She sighed.  Indeed it was.  One presenter after another that morning glowed about what awaited us, they enunciated their syllables with frightening clarity, and spoke in a gentle lulling tone with a pace that let each word stand out. Anyone that has ever attended a corporate team building seminar, a workshop on empowerment, or anything that even has a hint of being what some call “new age” knows what this looks like. Read the rest of this entry »

Giving Yourself Another Glance

Our reading today comes to us from Brené Brown, titled “Manifesto of the Brave and Broken Hearted” from her book Rising Strong.

There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics
and fearmongers
than those of us who are willing to fall
because we’ve learned how to rise.

With skinned knees and bruised hearts
we choose owning our stories of struggle
over hiding, over hustling, over pretending.

When we deny our stories, they define us.
When we run from struggle, we are never free.
So we turn toward truth, and look it in the eye.

We will not be characters in our stories
not villains, not victims, not even heroes.

We are the authors of our lives.
We write our own daring endings.

We craft love from heartbreak,
compassion from shame,
grace form disappointment,
courage from failure.

Showing up is our power,
story is our way home,
truth is our song.
We are the brave and brokenhearted.
We are rising strong.

I remember the moment when church first disappointed me and I burned myself out. It was during my undergraduate years and I was one of those people in college — involved in pretty much any progressive student organization on campus — interfaith, multicultural, LGBT, student government.

I led worship services on campus for the progressive people of faith with a team of other likeminded leaders, and I still participated in the life of my home church, maintained a job, and so on. There is the saying about burning the candle at both ends, but really I just threw the whole candle into the fire. The eventual burnout should have been as clear as day. Read the rest of this entry »