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miked's blog

What Makes a Church? No Steeple Required: By Mittie Quinn

What makes a church? Our travels have taken us literally around the world, to many interesting and unusual places. But our recent trip to New Zealand has made me stop and think about this question. Australia and New Zealand are both countries that are “younger” than the United States, and yet the Aborigines and Maori have been present on those island nations for much longer. The mix of cultures and spiritual encounters yields a blend of “church” experiences for the visitor.

Traditional Maori Wharenui

It Takes a (Singing) Village

A September Reflection from Thew Elliott, Director of Music Ministry

The first Sunday after Labor Day isn’t an observed date in the formal church year, but it’s important in our congregation year as we say goodbye to summer visitors and adventures, return from travels, and shift from more relaxed vacation rhythms into the patterns of school and new projects.  September is a good time to pause and take a look at who we are and what we mean to be doing. I’ve been thinking about the role of music in our life together—how it helps us to forge the community we intend to be.
Your voice matters

Why I Was Arrested Today

By Chett Pritchett:   The last few weeks have been filled with prayerful discernment, conversations with colleagues, and a bold decision to be arrested at The White House as part of an act of civil disobedience for families and children caught in the middle of an immigration system that is harmful and unjust.

Dumbarton Blog: A Leap of Faith to Help a Reformed Thief

I am having trouble believing in my character, the forgiving priest in the musical, Les Miserables, in South Boston, Va. When the main character, Jean Valjean, is caught stealing silver from the monastery, the priest not only tells the police to let him go but gives him more silver “to become an honest man.”

Now, I have trouble with this. I am a crime victim, and the detective, Javert, rightfully believes that crime should be punished. But the musical tells me a different story. So I opened up this dilemma to a Facebook discussion, primarily with clergy and actors.

Advent Blog Dec. 7: By Mary Kay Totty

OK, yes, I admit it -- I love the Christmas season and all the trappings and customs and music that go along with it. Some traditions are so deeply rooted with me that it would be hard for it to feel like Christmas without them. Christmas stockings are one such tradition -- I know, I know, my mother rolls her eyes and shakes her head that her nearly 50-year-old daughter still wants a Christmas stocking. Peppermint nougats are the taste of Christmas -- the Brach's soft peppermint taffy with a Christmas tree design.

I love Christmas cards and Christmas trees. And Christmas would not be Christmas without Bing Crosby's "Merry Christmas" album (though why he included "Faith of our Fathers" on the album is beyond my comprehension). My all-time favorite song of the season is "O Holy Night" -- I love the music and the words. I love the blending of the hope of the season with the commitment for justice. The last verse of  "O Holy Night" includes these words:

Dec. 6 Blog: Without a Song. By Mike Doan

My dad sang loudly in church. He wasn't just loud, he was really loud. People stared at him. As a teenager, I was so embarrassed! My father, Philip Doan, had been a tenor in the San Francisco Opera chorus for about 15 years and didn't want to sing softly.

As years passed, his mind went. Before he died in 2001, it felt as if we had already lost him a little at a time. I was pretty stoic about his death. I was surprised by how little I was grieving.

Maybe a year later, I went to the family church in Placerville, Calif., with my mother, and it was time to sing the first hymn. The music started but there was no loud voice. No towering high notes to ring through the rafters. No stares.

I completely lost it. I had to leave the church. My mother came out to find me.

The song was over.

Editor's Note: No, it wasn't, Mike.

-- Mike Doan

Advent Blog Dec. 5: By Walter Schmidt

When I was about 8 years old and at Woolworths 17 days before Christmas, I saw a record for sale ($0.99) entitled "Messiah."  Somehow, the singer and orchestra were anonymous.  From that year on for a decade, it was played while assisting my Mom making Christmas cookies.  The two lines in one of the songs captured pristinely what Christmas was about:  "Why do the nations so furiously rage together?  And why do the people, why do the people imagine of vain things?"  War was why my Dad lost his business, nearly died on the Russian front, why they were a family among a million or three refugees who lost whatever they could not carry, famine was rampant, and three years later I was born.  Another three years later, we were in America, starting an enti

Advent Blog Dec 4: Waiting. By Angela Maves

After Dad died four years ago and Mum moved into a retirement home, our house of 60 years was rented out for the first time. Every stick of our furniture was removed, and strangers moved in with their children and six dogs. Yes six. And two were mastiffs. When those two reclined on the kitchen floor, there was no room for furniture!

I visited this family each time I went to England. They were good tenants and their children are bright and polite. However, nothing stays the same for very long. I received notice from them last month and they have moved out. Now we are waiting for new occupants. I’m working diligently with the property management company, and the neighborhood bush telegraph is helping out. I trust that there will be someone who will care for our home lovingly and enjoy living there

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