Friday, June 25, 2010

Stop to Smell the Roses!

I recently spent some time at the Garfield Conservatory in Chicago, one of the largest in the country. Wandering through the beautiful plants and flowers fed my soul and connected me to nature. I felt so centered and connected.

Thank you Spirit for the opportunity to commune with the sacred and holy in nature.

Q. When was the last time you engaged nature and explored your relationship with nature? If you cannot remember then carve out some time to do so.
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

A story of faith-based resilience in Haiti

Below is the story of a female pastor in Haiti. She recounts the impact of the earthquake and how they are coping. Let us hold the Haitians in our hearts and in prayer as they rebuild their lives and country. Go on line to find agencies to make monetary donations.

Q. When disaster strikes what support network is in place in your life? How do you cope and what resources do you draw on?
Blessings! Rev. Dr. Qiyamah

A story of faith-based resilience in Haiti

Mitchelle Mothersil in front of the ruins of her church which was destroyed in the earthquake in January.
Photo: Catianne Tijerina/WCC

By Maria Halava (*)

When the earthquake hit Haiti on 12 January, Mitchelle Mothersil, an independent Pentecostal pastor, was lying on her bed in a two-story house in Carrefour Feuilles in the suburb of Port-au-Prince. When she heard the noise, which seemed to be coming from beneath the house, she immediately knew that it was an earthquake.

”The house was shaking and I fell down several times when trying to find my mother and my children,” she says in describing the first moments of the quake.

She managed to get downstairs but could not open the door to the yard. The house next door had fallen on her house and blocked the door. The fence of another neighbour fell on them from the other side. When she finally managed to get her children out of the house, she still needed help from the neighbours to get her mother out in her wheelchair.

Now the family lives in a wood and tin-sheet hut next to the ruins of the house.

”There is no way to explain what happened that day,” she tells a reporter five months later. "People in the streets were shocked, and they didn’t know what to do or where to go. Many of them were calling for God."

Recently, when an ecumenical delegation led by the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) visited Haiti, Mitchelle Mothersil traveled with them as their interpreter.

Radical woman pastor
Originally born to a Catholic family, Mitchelle Mothersil committed herself to serve God for the rest of her life seventeen years ago, while worshipping at a Pentecostal church.

Later on, while living in the United States, she felt the call to become a pastor. She started engaging in Bible studies, preaching in different churches and even hosted a radio show on biblical themes.

After four years in the United States, she felt led by the Holy Spirit to move back to Haiti with her youngest children and her mother. Her two oldest children stayed behind. But she knew in her heart that it was meant to be that way.

In Haiti she started a church, and to her knowledge became the first woman pastor serving there in a church. ”In the first service, we had about 10 people,” she recalls.

The church-goers were mainly teenagers and university students who were searching for something and were willing to "have their minds changed". But others thought Mitchelle Mothersil was too radical. That’s also the reason why her radio show in Haiti was terminated.

”I ask people realistically what they want God to do for them if they just sit at home without attempting anything. God will bless you if you work, but if you don’t work, you shouldn’t even eat,” she declares.

She also urges people to take responsibility for their lives. ”Ask God what it is in your hands or inside you that can use to help things change. The change is not in the hands of your pastor, your mother or your father. It is in you.”

At the moment, her church has approximately 30 members. They join in worship services, prayer services and Bible studies. Many of them have sought support from the church after the earthquake.

”Even though the church was destroyed in the earthquake, people kept coming. We meet outside instead of inside,” she says.

She has explained to the church members that the earthquake was a natural catastrophy. She does not know why it happened, but she is sure that God was not absent.

”God is not responsible for how we build our houses,” she said, referring to the destruction of almost 1.5 million houses in the earthquake. ”The quake in Chile was stronger than the one we had in Haiti, yet they survived with less damage.”

Calling in Haiti
Many of the church members lost houses or loved-ones in the quake. Together with Mitchelle Mothersil, they have been talking and crying in the ruins of the church. ”Sometimes there are no words. Everything would sound like a cliché,” she admits.

Some people, like Mitchelle’s youngest daughter, don’t want to talk about the earthquake. Most of them do, because the quake affected so many people’s lives.

”Our theme song in the church for the year’s end was I’ll Praise you in This Storm. After the earthquake a lady who had lost her three daughters in the earthquake told me: 'Pastor, we sang, I’ll praise you in this storm, but I did not know that the storm was going to hit so hard.' It was heartbreaking.”

Life has to continue, though, and what happened in the past is past.

Mitchelle Mothersil doesn’t know where she gets the strength to continue her life, but she knows that she has to do it. She is taking care of her 90-year-old mother and her children who, after having lived a very protected life, were suddenly living in the street.

”I cannot show them my weaknesses. I have to be strong for them,” she says with emotion.

Demolition work on the house and the church is underway. But since it is done by hand, it will take a long time. The most important thing for Mitchelle Mothersil is to rebuild the house.

”Food and washrooms are not priorities: we need help to rebuild our houses,” she says in anticipation of the approaching hurricane season.

Life has not been easy during the past months. But Mitchelle Mothersil knows that the future is in God's hands. ”God will take care of his own, I’m sure.”

She herself will stay in Haiti. Her calling is there, until God tells her to go somewhere else.

[929 words]

(*) Maria Halava is communications and advocacy advisor for the ACT Alliance in Haiti.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Belated Reflections on Father's Day

I recently took the train to Ann Arbor, MI to hang out with my family. We were celebrating Father's Day. My youngest sister Jackie lives in Ypsilanti, MI. She and her husband are truck drivers and they usually spend their time hauling loads all around the country. She was a short order cook in a previous life and loves to cook. She has recently bought a HUD house that she fixed up. It is her pride and joy.

It was great seeing family that I have not seen in a while. And the food was great!

It is so easy to take our loved ones for granted, to be short tempered and ill acting toward them or worse yet to ignore and neglect them. One is particularly vulnerable to this if you live away from your family like I do. I call my children, my daughter in law, my mom and two of my sisters. I talk infrequently to my brothers and my other sisters and almost never call my nieces, nephews and cousins. I usually wait until family reunions and holidays to see everyone.

So one day when three of us were on the phone we talked about putting together a small BBQ to bring everyone together. This BBQ would be a way to let the fathers in the family know how much we love and appreciate them. It would be a small gesture but imagine if we were more intentional about doing this in various aspects of our lives? What a difference it would make.

Besides seeing everyone and falling off my diet, Sunday I had the opportunity to hear my younger brother preach and hear his testimonial. He was saved at 19 years old. He will be 50 next year. As he tells the story, my mother had given up on trying to make him a productive citizen and well rounded human being. So she decided to turn things over to god. At the time he thought that was the best thing that could have happened. He was coming and going when he wanted to and hanging out with his buddies, smokin' and drinkin'. Then he got in trouble and was facing 5-15 years in prison. That was when he took a hard long look at his life and decided to in his words, "serve god and not the devil".

While our theologies are very different and I do not believe in heaven or hell or the devil I love his very compelling testimonial. Life has a way of getting our attention! We can heed it or ignore it. The choice is ours! Intentionality and taking responsibility for our lives is key to creating happiness in life.

Q. How can you step up and take more responsibility for those things you want to change in your life? What is your pattern of change? Do you resist change? Do you wait until things get so bad that you have to have the universe/god knock you on your behind before you take action?

Q. What do you need to change in your life to fully be the loving and wonderful human being that Spirit/god is calling you to be? Who are you called to be in the world?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Stories for the Journey: Creating Multiracial and Multicultural Congregations

Workshop presenters at Strategies for Growing Inclusive Multicultural Congregations and Ministries

L-R Lynn Anderson - member at UU Congregation of Atlanta (UUCA)and Rev. Anthony Davis, minister of UUCA

L-R Lynn Anderson, Rev. Anthony David,Senior Minister at UUCA in Atlanta, GA; Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, Senior Minister of All Souls Unitarian Church; Rev. Elizabeth Lerner McClay Silver Springs; Rev. Kathleen Rolanz at Rocky River UU Church in Rocky River, OH and Sunshine Jeremiah Wolf, intern at Rocky River UU Church.

Please find below a rich resource list obtained from Taquina Boston, Director of Identity Based Ministries at the Unitarian Univeralist Association in Boston, MA.

Each year several thousand Unitarian Univeralists attend several days of the General Assembly (GA) in different locations around the country. This years GA is being held in Minneapolis, MN. I facilitated a panel titled, Stories for the Journey: Creating Multiracial and Multicultural Congregations. This unique panel of ministers and laity shared their cutting edge journey stories that were warmly received by the attentive audience. The panel consisted of: Rev. Rob Hardies, All Souls Church Unitarian, Washington, DC; Rev. Dr. Fred Muir, Senior Minister and Rev. John Crestwell, Associate Minister at UU Church of Annapolis; Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK and Ms. Taquina Boston, Director of Identity Based Ministries with the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Please find the resource list below:

Question: What are you and your faith community doing to make your church/mosque/synogogue/temple welcoming to diverse individuals?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Creating Multicultural Congregations Resource List:

People of the Dream by Michael O. Emerson

Against All Odds: The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organizations, Korie L. Edwards and Michael O. Emerson

The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches, Korie L. Edwards

The Power of Stories: A Guide for Leading Multiracial and Multicultural Congregations, Jacqueline J. Lewis

One Foot Planted in the Center, the Other Dangling Off the Edge: How Intentional Leadership Can Transform Your Church, Gordon L. Dragt

The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, Soong-Chan Rah

Building A Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, Mark DeYmaz

List of multicultural congregation resources developed by Alicia Forde and Janice Marie Johnson:

the Diversity of Ministry initiative ( website - , including a recent story about the first 2 settlements – UU Church of Pittsburgh, PA (Rev. Alma Crawford) and UU Church of Annapolis, MD (Rev. John Crestwell) are included on the UUA website. A few URLs are listed below. Also search at using “Diversity of Ministry.”

Additional Sources:

The UUA will release the DVD and study guide for the UU University Multicultural Track in November. Meanwhile, contact Diane Martin to get copies of the “Now Is the Time: Leading Congregations Into a Multiracial/Multicultural Future” conference DVDs. There have been 3 conferences . The last DVD from 2009 was in production.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Prayer for Forgiveness, Hope and Reconciliation

(During our times of crisis life is like a desert - dry and unyielding as we struggle to find nourishment and renewal - hoping to find the means to sustain us on this journey of life.)

Wednesday night I responded to an invitation I received and visited the Calvert House, the Catholic Center at the University of Chicago. Many of you are aware of my interest in interfaith dialogue. At the time I responded I was not aware that this gathering was a "prayer for forgiveness, hope and reconciliation" for the misconduct of Catholic priests recently revealed by the media. A student had evidently approached Father Pat, the Director at the Center about conducting the service. Since I had not been following the news I sat present with a sense of deja vu hearing the pain and anguish expressed by the students. Those of you that know me are aware that I did my dissertation research on clergy sexual misconduct in the Unitarian Universalist Association. While my degree was conferred in 2007 I began my research around 2004. Listening to the students and the priests conversations about recent occurrences it almost appeared that nothing has changed except recognition of its global context. This global misconduct now removes the perception that somehow American decadence was a result of the clergy misconduct in this country.

A total of eleven students attended. All but one of them was Catholic. The other was Disciple of Christ.

Here is an excerpt of a prayer, A Song of Christ's Goodness from Saint Anselm of Canterbury that was recited:

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you; you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Often you weep over our sins and our pride, tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment. You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds, in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us. Jesus, by your dying, we are born to new life; by your anguish and labor we come forth in joy. Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness; through your gentleness, we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead, your thought makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy, remake us. In your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness, for the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us.

The rest of the service was modeled after the 2000 "Day of Pardon" Service by His Holiness John Paul II in which participants confess their sins, repent and ask God's forgiveness. After each reading there was a moment of silence and after each confession and prayer a candle was lit on the candelabra at the front of the Chapel.

The service was ended with a very moving prayer and we dismissed, exchanged the greeting of peace and I departed.

Q. What have you recently done to promote healing where there is dis-ease and pain? to promote justice where there is injustice? and to stand with the marginalized?

Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah