Peggy is a Psychology Instructor and administrator at Chemeketa Community College.
It was the first day of June in the year 1880, and winter had finally let loose of Marinette Wisconsin. Marinette sits on the border of the upper peninsula of Michigan. The town hugged the spot where the Menominee River poured into lake Michigan. Well, the river and the lake froze for more than half the year. Superior and Canada being not far off. But when the water was liquid, logs flowed down that river till you could walk across it, and a dozen sawmills cut those logs up and shipped them by water and rail.
The census worker was given the task of counting up the workmen and their families. This day he was in the company housing that belonged to the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. Scots and Irishmen mostly, many immigrants who came through Saulk St. Marie. Housing hardly better than shacks, he was glad he did not have to winter over in any of them. His script was beautiful and he prided himself on a neat page. Since he was counting the railroad yards he had written in R R Labor down the page to save time. Door by door he took the names of the men and their wives and children.
The Scotsman sat by his door enjoying the late day sun. Still filthy from shoveling coal. His wife stood in the doorway, a toddler on her hip. Name? Alexander Morrison he said, deeply burring the r's. The wife was Mary, the child called Bess.
Occupation - Railroad worker, the census taker supplied.
Birthplaces? Mary spoke up and named her home.
Nae! boomed the man.
I was too born there! said Mary
Nae, I'm not a Railroad man.
What? said the worker. Your livin' here and you're covered with coal. What am I to think you are?
I am an Explorer. Scrive it doon right, now. That's what I be.
Mary sighed and rolled her eyes.
And the census worker smudged his page, in several places, due to irritation.
But he put in the record that Alexander Morrison was his own man, and an Explorer.
Alexander Morrison was my great-grand-daddy.
I've been carrying around the name Parsons for the last 37 years.
It hasn't fit for the last seven.
So I went to the courthouse, and I shed it there.
And I have taken up Morrison for my dear grandmother and her beloved Scots Father.
They always were my clan.
And... I am also an Explorer.
It is that time again. I didn't do much with Holy week this year, We did palm Sunday a week early with a triumphal party for Freedom Friends. That was followed by my Friend Stan's death which was enough Good Friday for me, thank you very much. Tomorrow will roll through with the songs that we need to sing to balance that out, and we will move forward into the building of the Kingdom that is not of this Earth. Again.
This morning something was drawn to my attention that I want to share with you.
It is a Presbyterian/Pagan midrash of of my Heretical Christian midrash of Good Friday.
What a wonderful weird world we live in! Read what Rebecca has to say. Her exposition of my implication is something that I believe I can completely own.
And just for new readers, or a reflective review,
after Good Friday
Try The Harrowing of Hell
then a Poem for the Apostola
And an apologia for why I take this whole thing quite literally.
Blessed Easter to you all.
I used to be an ally
These are my personal reflections after the Nov 7, 2012 Sexuality forum at Geo Fox University. It was panel discussion with four members. G Breshears, Professor at Western (Baptist) Seminary PDX, Nathan Meckley, Pastor, PDX MCC church, Erica Tan clinical psychologist, adjunct at Fox and Darleen Ortega, Judge Oregon Court of Appeals.
I used to be a straight ally. My personal views about equal rights started to form when I was in college in the 1970’s. I publically started to express those views in the early 90’s. I put a rainbow sticker on my car in 1998 when Matthew Shepherd was killed – I figured if you could get killed for being gay in this country better they should be confused and get a straight preacher than an actual gay person. In 2004 I co-founded an inclusive Quaker Church and resigned my ministerial status with Northwest Yearly Meeting to do it. That grieved me greatly. I lost some friends and the esteem of many over that – but I gained the esteem of others. I started writing publically about it in 2006 when I started a blog. I spent a lot of time listening to people like Petersen Toscano. I showed up with my body at the State Capitol whenever Tara Wilkins and the community of Welcoming congregations asked for it. I thought I got it. I even thought that I got the fact that being a straight ally was a lot easier than being gay.
I did not get it.
In 2007 my marriage of 30 yrs blew up and I was single for the first time as an adult. I took inventory of my mind and soul in a whole new way. I realized that I had never really understood why it was not possible to love someone regardless of what body they came in – it actually didn’t make deep sense to me. A friend said “Peggy. We have a word for that - it is called Bisexual” That made sense. And I realized that I didn’t choose that either. It was simply true for me. And in time I courted and married my best friend Alivia Biko, a lesbian. And I thought I got it.
I did not get it.
I estranged some with that decision. I gave a lot of smug people an “I told you so” that wasn’t true, but I just put up with it. I thought I was paying my dues.
I was not.
It has been two years of Happy with Alivia. I mostly travel in circles that are happy with and for us. I don’t sit under the preaching of fundamentalists these days. Liv has medical issues and her doctors and the local hospital treat us with great respect. Both of us can be out at work, our bosses came to the wedding. We get seated at restaurants. We travel without fear. I traveled to Africa and my host there, when told, smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and said “Congratulations.” I started to wonder if it was too late to get in on that oppression thing.
I signed the OneGeorgeFox protest letter with no ramifications whatsoever. I was happy to see this conversation starting at my Alma Mater. I knew it would be a long one. I knew it would get messy. I thought I was ready for that.
I was not.
The election Tuesday went great by my Lights – No only The Prez, but Maine, Maryland, Tammy Baldwin, Minnesota, Washington. I was in a good mood on Wednesday. I was happy to show up at the Forum at Fox. I knew it was going to be messy and hard, but Good Lord, there was the Pastor of the MCC Church sitting up there like a regular expert, gonna get his say, on THAT campus. Amazing. And they could not even get one of their own seminary professors to take up the conservative Biblical position, they had to send across town to the Baptist seminary to get that. This is real progress, and quick progress. The backlash was in full force and very real, but, no, this is progress.
But I started to get queasy from the get go.
Phil Smith from the school started off suggesting that we all come to the table with the idea “That I might be wrong” and that if we came with that idea we would get a better result. And it sounded sorta good, but part of me started crawlin right then.
See, when I came to the table as an ally, what I had to put on that table was my beliefs, some of them heartfelt and precious, but still my beliefs. For some people like my EFI pastor Friends they might be putting their jobs on the table, if they decided they had been wrong. But like a lot of the faculty at Fox, they could change those beliefs and keep quiet about them to keep those jobs. But now, I am being asked for a whole different thing. If I come to the table with the “I might be wrong attitude” I have to put my love on the table. If I am wrong about my love for Alivia being at the very center of God’s will for us – then what? Another divorce? A sexless marriage? Are any of the straight people in the room, allies or not, willing to put those things on the table?
Of course not. That would be wrong. Because the default setting is that their love is good. Only my love is hanging in the balance. It is not an equal equation, Phil. You are asking of me, something you would never ask of yourself.
Then the Baptist got his say. And he started with one of those beautiful evangelical confessions and apologies. And I think he meant it. I think he believed it. “Sorry for all the hurt, the bad words” He copped to homophobia, personally and corporately. He said they had all been “wrong about the choice thing – they knew now that it was not true.” He said that “the only law of Jesus was to Love your neighbor and that this is what the church should be doing.”
And I let the shields down and thought, well, maybe this IS progress.
Letting the shields down was a mistake.
Because he immediately launched into a whole new round of dismissive, painful, condemning language and judgments. According to him, His virgin-initiated straight marriage was chaste, everything else was something less. EVERYTHING. This was supposed to make us feel better. The word he used for my most holy, delightful, God centered moments with Liv was “Porneia” But he didn’t want us to take that as special condemnation, because so was straight guys using porn, and people who get divorces, and people who have sex before marriage. It’s all Porneia
Everything except what he does – that is Holy.
But he didn’t want to be seen as judgmental. These aren’t his words and ideas after all, they belong to Jesus. And Jesus is the only one who comes to the table without have to take the “I might be wrong pledge” And because he is only bringing Jesus’ words, Prof. B doesn’t actually have to put anything on that table. And he really thought he was doing grace and being fair.
I would rather have the Westboro Baptists. Horrible but honest. They are better than the guy who does nice, nice, nice, I really love you, you are my friend, I just want to have you over for dinner, and then he sticks you the shiv between the ribs.
Because my heart is between my ribs. And what he was calling porneia is the absolute best thing that has ever happened to me. And our sexuality is an indivisible piece of that. And our love, every bit of it is dedicated to Christ. And I talk to Jesus every day and He never talks to me like this.
I wanted to puke. When I was an ally, I would have wanted to puke from disgust. This is different - I wanted to puke from pain. Torture puke is worse than disgusted puke.
Without thinking, I started curling up in a ball. Protecting my vital organs. I was sitting with Stan, who noticed this, and draped his coat over me, thinking I was cold. I was not cold. I was cowering. You all know how much I like to cower, how easy it is for me to admit weakness. This guy had me in full retreat. He had sucker-punched me. He landed it.
The rest of the evening was various parts of taking a breath, a cool cup of water (Nathan and Darleen), and being asked to swallow more poison. And for the most part it was lauded as a real good evening by most folks. And I suppose it was.
I could now write the smarmy evangelical apology I owe for all the insensitive things I have said and done as an ally. The times I have thought that my gay friends were being a wee bit too impatient, or too sensitive, or too thin skinned, or for the fact that they might not be looking at the big picture or the long run. Puke. Ow.
But I now know that the time is past for justice. My heart is not too sensitive, my skin is not too thin. The picture is no bigger than my bedroom. The run is no longer than the today I have with my love.
The people who have been putting up, for years, with hate, and then fake-grace wrapped crap are not troublemakers - they are saints.
And I know that I should send these words to the Baptist professor. For his education. But I am not going to. Because I don’t have the strength for it. And I don’t want to be hurt again. And you know how much I like that.
But I am going to be just fine. And I don’t need to be comforted – you know how I hate that. And I do aspire to be as heroic as Nathan was on Wednesday. But I am not there yet. I may never be there. That I get.
Just another Sunday at Freedom Friends Church
Travis was 25 blocks south when he needed to be 10 blocks north.
There was not a thing familiar and he knew he was lost.
He saw the OPEN sign and walked right in.
We had just finished gratitudes when the first petition walked in the door.
"I'm sorry to barge in, but I'm looking for north 13th street and I think this is south 13th, I'm all turned around and don't know how to get where I'm goin."
He was skinny, sweaty, strung out, and talking Deep South. His ball cap was backwards, his skin was a mess and his belt was pulled tight holding up the too big pants.
We continued worship with attention to giving directions. He asked for water, water was given. He was a little frantic at the idea of being so off course. The directions we gave him were clearly not making much sense to him. He thanked us for the directions and the drink and went out to retrace his many steps.
We were a literal handful of women. I looked at the pastor and said "This is safe, right? I'm gonna drive him." She said "Go." (that's how we do discernment at FFC)
I followed him out.
"Son!" He turned. "You clean and sober this morning?"
"Yes, Ma 'am! three whole days!"
"You got anything like a weapon on you?"
"No Ma 'am! I came up here to get away from all that!"
"Okay, let's get my car - I'll take you where you are going"
"Oh! Thank-you, Ma 'am! I 'priciate this, I do!"
He was lately of the State of Mississippi. Came to a cousin's house to start over.
I told him my name, and it immediately became Miss Peggy.
He was talkin a mile a minute. "The house numbers kept gettin bigger - that shoulda been my clue. Somebody told me that golden man there on the capital was solid gold - No? - plate huh? I figured as much. Say - Was that a church meeting I just walked into? Yes? Well, what kinda church IS that?"
I told him we were Quakers.
"We don't have much of that down home, Baptists mostly.
But Miss Peggy, If you were willing to leave church to help a lost man find his way, I guess y'all must be some kinda Christians!"
We found his cousin's house. He God blessed me up one side and down the other.
"Say a prayer for me, when you get back, ok?"
Early Readers Wanted!
I am in need of 3 Early Readers for my soon to be published (and as yet untitled) narrative theology.
It is a quick, light read, 200 pages. There are lots of Motorcycles, Quixotic adventures, and a few horses and Quakers. Angels, both the Hell's variety and the regular kind appear.
I need three people who can read the manuscript on a screen, within two weeks and give some general impressions and maybe answer a few questions. (If the readers I want turn out to be paper only - I will print and mail copies)
Rule Outs: The right individuals will NOT be Quakers. They will NOT have previously read any of my stuff. They will NOT be academics.
I have three specific profiles. I do not want them to be married or living in the same household.
Reader #1 Female, 35-60, Evangelical or Fundamental Christian. A regular church attender. She likely reads faith based adventure lit, missionary stories and biographies of spunky gals. If she lives east of the Rockies, that is a plus. If she is not white that is a double plus.
Reader #2 Male 35-60 NOT a regular church attender, but not anti-religion. Working or lower middle class. Blue collar a plus. Likes/rides motorcycles and/or horses. Veteran a plus. In recovery a plus. Reads non-fiction and historical fiction.
Reader #3 Any Gender 20-35. Deity friendly, but not church attending. Active. Not educated beyond a BA. Reads ebooks, comic books and is pop-culture aware.
The readers get a free book when it comes out and buckets of gratitude. The person who recruits the right reader will also get a free book.
I don't ask for much, do I.
Johnny be Good
Hero of the Faith
Well, the Olympics are almost over. The US lost Hockey and Putin lost the Ukraine.
Johnny says that showing up and being extra special flamboyant was not a political statement. That he is just being himself. But when they are doing this outside
Well then, just being yourself, can make a statement.
Especially when yourself is as fabulous as this.
Somedays, being yourself is heroic.
And The Faith says that everyone gets to be what they are called to be.
Annual Recorded Minister's report
2013 Recorded Minister’s report - Peggy Senger Parsons
It was a year of great change and expanded challenged for me. I started the year working with C. Wess Daniels(NWYM) and Kathy Hyzy (NPYM) on a weekend event called the Nursery of Truth. It was held in Camas Washington. It was a convergent event focused on bridge building and nurturing ministries. It was well attended and spiritually fruitful. I taught a workshop on Friends use of the Bible and preached the Sunday morning sermon. High times.
On February 4, I accepted a position as program coordinator, of High School Partnerships at Chemeketa Community College. I facilitate 9 programs on three campuses for marginalized and underprivileged youth who are not making it in the public schools. For the first term I did this more than full time job while finishing teaching three sections of Psychology. The first two months were exhausting. Since then I have found some sustainability and life balance, although the Quaker world has shrunk to Freedom Friends Church on Sunday mornings.
I closed a counseling practice of 20 years to take this position. I all but abandoned by blog, just as it went over 100,000 views.
In some faith communities going from Pastor and preacher to full time education administrator would be the end of your ministry career. I am grateful to God and Friends that the prevailing view is that I have taken my ministry focus into the field of education. My mission as a pastor and counselor was to preach good news to the poor, dress wounds and facilitate freedom. My mission has not changed a bit. We educate, we heal, and we facilitate social and economic freedom for the least of these. I feel that Jesus has given me a position in his diplomatic core. Embassy staff in a land of poverty and ignorance. It is very good ministry.
One practical application is supplying the girls bathroom in the GED building with feminine hygiene supplies. You cannot buy these products with food stamps. Girls really do go without. Friends at Freedom Friends have helped me with this. None of the girls know where they come from. One was heard to say “the tampon fairy has been here!” I also keep the trunk of my car full of used textbooks that I loan to students who cannot afford their books. I work with students with mental illness, depression, anxiety and autism. I am a fierce advocate for those who have been bullied. One of my favorite things about my job is that my boss appreciates my spiritual center. In an expulsion hearing, I can talk about grace and redemption and have it taken seriously. I don’t have to say Jesus’ name, I just do his work and stay connected to Him while I do it. I was asked to officiate at a wedding for one of my Russian Orthodox co-workers, who needed a legal ceremony after her church wedding. We closed the office and staff gathered around and we blessed a union. No one seemed to think that it was off the have the coordinator praying over this young couple. That day I did use Jesus’ name, and held my grandfather’s preaching Bible.
For Halloween, I dressed up as the staff exorcist. I spent the day giving the last rites to zombies and blessing the meek and casting out evil. More than one person said that it wasn’t really fair dressing up as your actual self.
As things lightened up for me, I started to write again. I have just this month sent to my editor a first draft of a narrative theology in a Quaker flavor, but written for the wider audience. It is the most transparent that I have ever been in my writing. This will be my fifth book. I expect that it will be published by summer. It does not have a title yet, but I am excited about it.
In November and December I served my beloved Alivia by producing her new CD. I also sang a little.
I continue to serve Freedom Friends as co-treasurer. This has not proven to be a burden. I attend to my self-care in many ways including 2 motorcycle-based spiritual retreats, and monthly sessions with a Spiritual Director.
I am glad to be part of a community of ministers.