Archive for August, 2009

Centering Summer Celebration

// August 26th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

We have mined the tradition, we have examined our own lives, we have experimented. Some practices didn’t go so well. Wednesday night labyrinth walk drowned out by torrential rain. Basil plants cultivated in worship that didn’t make it at home. But some practices have been beautiful to experience. Evelyn leading us in body prayer under the skylight. A clothesline full of pictures made by people willing to be vulnerable together. Sacred hand holding, reminding each other of the gift of touch, the gift of people to walk with on our journey.

Centering Summer.

Labyrinth Walking
Body Prayer
Cultivating Relationships
Hanging out with Children

Tonight we are celebrating that God meets us in and through these practices. And beyond.

We’re wrapping up our summer series on spiritual practices with an old fashioned ice cream social and t-shirt making party. Paul has the Cliff Clavin CitC design ready, so bring a t-shirt for printing (pre-washed and the color of your choice, he will be using black ink.) We’ll have sloppy joes and potato salad for dinner. Bring your favorite flavor of ice cream and drinks.

221 S. Edgefield Ave. 6:30pm. All are welcome.

Grace and Peace to you all this day,


The Story of the Seed Growing by Itself

// August 19th, 2009 // 2 Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized


My grandmother is going to be worshiping with us this Sunday. Mrs. Opal Morgan, 96 years old, is still gardening. My mom says that growing up my granny always planted a vegetable garden and a row of zinnias, like those above. Mom says that that row was her beauty. But what is interesting is that my granny never watered her garden. It either “made” or “didn’t make” based on the rains which came.

This week we are talking about planting as a spiritual practice and studying one of my favorite little parables, the parable of the growing seed. It is also called “The Parable of the Seed Growing by Itself.” With this title it makes me think of a children’s book. This is the only parable found in Mark which does not have a parallel in the other Gospels. Perhaps that is why it tends to get less airtime in church than its more famous cousins, like the parable of the mustard seed.

In this passage the Kingdom of God is likened to someone scattering seed on the ground and waiting to see what happens. This person sleeps and wakes and time passes and the “earth produces of itself”, we are told, first the stalk and then the head and then the mature grain. This someone reminds me of my granny.

She was busy sleeping and rising and taking care of my mom and the chickens and sewing and going to the well for drinking water and bathing water. She didn’t have time for an extra trip to water her garden. She was dependent on the rain.

My mom says most years the garden made it and they had okra, black eyed peas, and onions. As well as a row of beauty on which to rest weary eyes.

Planting it seems to me is an act of hope. The seed in the moist and rich- smelling soil is the meeting space between human work (preparing the soil, preserving or buying seed, timing the planting after the final frost) and the mystery of germination and new life. The seed lives in a liminal zone between what is and what can be. And this fertile space is where God does her work. 

Now there is a lot to this little parable. I don’t want to domesticate it but instead I invite you all to read it and reflect on its multiple meanings in our lives together. What might it say about the Reign of God and the way in which it grows in our midst?

Join us tonight as we practice some Lectio Divina and sit with this passage over Mediterranean fare at Wes and Teri’s 6:30pm (call 214. 233-4605 for directions)– and Sunday morning 11am. 

Grace and Peace to you all this day,


Travel as a Spiritual Practice

// August 12th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

In much of the Hebrew Scriptures God is on the move. Literally. God could erupt anywhere and people marked the spot as best they could, like Jacob positioning and anointing the stone after his radical dream of a stairway to Heaven. Before the temple in Jerusalem, Yahweh camped out with people who were also on the move, and Moses would emerge from these face to face encounters with Yahweh in the “tent of meeting” with his face shining like the sun.

Likewise Jesus covered some ground in the course of his ministry. You almost get the sense that any one community could not really contain him. They couldn’t bear to integrate Jesus’ topsy-turvey, last are first, teachings into their day to day social structure. So he kept going– leaving people touched and challenged and transformed in his wake.

Surely Jesus himself was deeply moved by what he saw and experienced during his ministry. I wonder if all of his traveling helped him to stay in tune with the living Spirit of God: God in a tent. God on the move. God dropping a ladder from Heaven down into an unfamiliar landscape. God who shows up in the face and stories of perfect strangers. 

In this time of summer vacation I invite you to reflect on travel as a spiritual practice. Have you had those moments? Camping out in a forest, wandering the streets in another country, working with someone whose language you don’t speak on a service trip? Those encounters where you are far away from the familiar yet you feel more at home than you do most days in your regular life? Where the beauty of creation hits you in the gut and you stop and pause because you just can’t pretend you don’t see it? When the thing you fear the most is returning to school or to work and having this impactful experience, this awakening to life’s textures and vivid smells, drain away?

What do we do with these encounters? How do they point us to deeper and ongoing relationship with the Spirit of God? How do we make sense of our own privilege to travel, in a city, and a world where people are bound to their own small spheres by poverty?

Provocative questions. Bring some travel photos and join us as we dive into them — tonight while eating some pulled pork/vegetarian quesadillas at Wes and Teri’s 6:30pm– and Sunday morning 11am. Call church at 214.233-4605 for directions.

Grace and Peace to you all this day,


Pastor Bio

// August 6th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Courtney at Church in the Cliff

I created a bios page on our site with my info and links to our Santa in Chains community art project. Say wha? Santa in Chains? Another interactive art installation with members of Church in the Cliff and artists with CityGallery. Think of this as a cross between a “secret santa” and a “chain letter”. Whatever. It’s an artful way to connect semi-serendipitously with friends, old and new. Thanks to Courtney Perry for the photo of me during service and to Sarah Jane for help writing my bio and launching the Santa in Chains project during our Wed night conversation about relationality a few weeks back.

grace, Courtney

Baptism in an Ecumergent Context

// August 5th, 2009 // 1 Comment » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

This Sunday I will baptize my daughter Perl Teresa Amory-Pinkerton at Church in the Cliff and invite everyone to join us for worship. This will be my first time to administer the sacrament of baptism and what a strange and glorious thing to be able to baptize my own little one, born almost exactly one year ago.


In fact, I went into the labor the evening of another baptism, that of my sister Heather’s baby Aiden. Heather and her partner Kate were the first same sex couple to have their baby baptized at First Richardson UMC. I remember with such clarity the power of being in front of that large community, praying over Aiden- his head still wet, feeling the touch of the Spirit around me and through me. The senior pastor of First Richardson who officiated the baptism was so supportive and members of the congregation stopped their car in the parking lot to congratulate Heather and Kate and reach out to them. This day healed many wounds for my family, one of many faithful Methodist families and individuals working for full inclusion of GLBT folks into our church.


The very night of Aiden’s baptism with thunderclouds blowing in I stepped out on our veranda and invited our baby to be born. I stood in the wild wind and I felt it move and I felt the baby move and I said yes God. Yes, I am ready. Yes baby, yes we are ready for you. We will catch you and keep you and love you. And sweet Perl was born at high noon the next day, August 11 2008.


Baptism is an ancient practice which speaks to the movement of God in our lives. Like the winds on the night of Perl’s birth, God’s grace blows before we are even born, throughout our lives, and continues after our death. Baptism is an act of God in and through the church. Through infant baptism we celebrate that God says yes to us before we are even capable of saying yes to God.


In an ecumenical and emergent environment like at Church in the Cliff, we have the privilege of celebrating the diversity of the Christian tradition and consequently infant baptism may be a new practice for some and I welcome your participation. CitC is our church family and Richie, Coleman and I look forward to celebrating this special day with you all. I think the multiple perspectives we bring on these ancient sacraments only helps us to look at them more closely, to study them more fully, and to hold them more dearly. And hopefully to love each other more deeply in them and through them.


Please join us tonight as we eat Indian food and talk more about baptism and the theme of this week, hanging out with children as a spiritual practice. We meet at the Semrad’s home at 6:30 (call 213.233.4605 for directions) and all are welcome!


Grace and peace to you this day,