A question of belonging
During the second half of last year we had a resident at Parkview for almost the entire time. Then for the first seven months of this year it was back to the old way of doing things. I don’t know about you, but that felt a bit ‘retro’ to me. So with others at Parkview I am excited about welcoming Chelsea Page, our new resident at Parkview on August 1, just as we are starting our Hawaiian Sundays. She is another bright young woman, but with a different theological perspective than Chakrita’s. I think that diversity is good. Chelsea is a thoughtful person who integrates a deep Christian spirituality with a consistent commitment to making the world a more just place. She is from the Bay Area and received her Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies at UC Berkeley. This is an interdisciplinary social science major with focus on conflict resolution, international development and human rights. There she received the Peace and Conflict Studies Departmental Award for Service. Although Chelsea grew up Roman Catholic, she finished a MA in Theological Studies at an Episcopal Divinity School where she received the Alison Cheek Prize for activism and scholarship focused on ending oppression in the church and the wider society. Most recently she finished a Certificate of Advanced Professional Studies at the Pacific School of Religion. It is a Certificate of studies for parish ministry to extend a MA degree into a Masters of Divinity-equivalent, under direction of the United Church of Christ Committee on Ministry. She has been working as Director of Catherine’s Retreat House, a Catholic Worker Farm and at a retreat center for low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco. Chelsea has managed a House of Hospitality for people experiencing homelessness in Albuquerque, NM, coordinating food distribution and networking with faith communities. After college she served as coordinator of Nevada Desert Experience where her job responsibilities included organizing interfaith events in Las Vegas, NV in resistance to nuclear testing. Chelsea is finishing up her internship as intern at Skyland Community Church in the foothills. Chelsea and her husband Marcus have a farm in the foothills where, among other things, they tend to a group of goats. I can’t wait to hear a sermon on how to deal with goats!
As I received the notes from May Lee and Jerry Champa of the second coordinating group meeting at Parkview, it occurred that the people who attended that meeting have something in common with Chelsea: they are from diverse faith backgrounds: Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Buddhist. God has brought all of them to Parkview because of a reason. Somehow they have found or are in the process of finding with us a spiritual home. It is interesting that most people who come to Parkview do not have that many questions about Presbyterian theology, but more how about how things are organized, how a newcomer can join things and how things get done etc. It can be a bit confusing. As a coordinating group (which is open for anyone to join to think about and plan events) they now help shape that thinking. Again for Chelsea it is a similar experience. She now has to figure out one more denomination. I commend her for taking the initiative, at her own cost, of doing an online course on Presbyterian ‘polity’ through Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa this summer. So she will be shoring up my memory on those issues!
Underneath the question of how we are organized as a Presbyterian congregation and the question of how to be spiritual and the issue of the diversity of our various church experiences lies the bigger question of whether and how we belong. Can we belong to this group of believers in Jesus the Christ and beyond that: do we belong to God and how? This period at Parkview will be a time for Chelsea to discern whether she will truly become an ordained pastor in the UCC. As a congregation we have the vital honor of assisting her in determining that. May we make her feel she belongs and may God bless our ministry together. See you in church. Aart