Archive for May, 2013


The Welcome Door

As my Facebook friends know, last night I posted this:

“I’m on church vestry. It’s like Congress, and just as methodical and slow-moving. Tonight, however, we ‘DMC-fast-tracked*’ the same sex marriage issue…”

Father Nick himself put same-sex marriage on the agenda. He eloquently spoke about the mix of feelings and sentiment on this issue, about the separation of church and politics, and about the logistics. He’d checked with our Bishop; ceremonies can be done using our current Book of Common Prayer, or a newly approved book (of which he already had a copy and he now showed us) and he will conduct a forum for the congregation in September to inform and answer questions. In proper Father Nick form, his entire speech took about two minutes. And then he said, “In the meantime, we have people in this church who are loved and have been serving this church for years, and this law affects them directly. I think some of them would like to take this sacrament. Personally…” he paused, and casually moved the Kleenex box on his left and repositioned the pen on his right. He’s brilliant for his pauses. Then he looked at us. You could have heard a pin drop. He continued, “Personally, I want to do the ceremonies for them.”book

With that, we opened it up for discussion. Fourteen of us at the table, from various backgrounds, many of us originally from out of state, took our turns to speak. Around the table there are Mayo doctors, IBM engineers, lawyers, a waitress (me!), retirees, clergy spouses, financial advisors, and I’m not sure what the new guy does, but he and his wife are my age—which is to say, mid-thirties and on the younger end of the spectrum. I looked around the table with a bit of dread. We can’t agree on the colors for our website (six-month ongoing debate I don’t want to go into), how are we going to come together on this? Perhaps this is a jumping off point, and maybe by September we’ll have reached some working solution. But I was wrong. Oh, was I wrong. As we went around the table, one after the other, each of us and all of us had our say. Each and all.

Retired doctor, “Agreed.”

Current Mayo rules-maker, who likes to follow the book, “I agree. Long overdue.”

Lawyer, “I’m in favor.”

My turn, “Agreed. And I echo, ‘Long overdue.’”

Around we went. All in agreement. When we got around to Heather, the church secretary (and in my personal opinion, Super Woman), Father Nick said, “Heather? What are your thoughts?”

She stopped typing the minutes and replied, “I’m hoping to be a flower girl. Agreed!”

“All in favor?”

A resounding, “Aye.”

“All opposed?”

Silence. Sweet, melodious silence.

Done.doodad

We acknowledged that possibly some members might leave the church because of the decision. Father Nick’s forum will have tremendous importance. The message is this: We believe marriage is a sacrament. The law in our land now says marriage is legal for same-sex couples. Thus, we are within the law to offer the sacrament to everyone, and so we shall.

Now, we’re not Vegas. As a church, we have rules to follow. All couples getting married have required marriage prep classes with Father Nick. All couples, which has a nice ring to it.

We think of our church as a sanctuary and an oasis to anyone “heavy-laden and needing refreshment.” Just as some may leave us, it was brought up that new families may join our church because of the decision we just made. Open doors work both ways. Faith tells us our door says, “Welcome.”

On May 15, 2013, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota. The ink is barely dry on his signature, and my church is forging ahead, unanimously. Fourteen people sat around that table yesterday and spoke from their hearts, and made history. I was lucky to be a part of it.

Minnesota is the 12th state of in the union to enact such a law.

I live here.

*DMC is Destination Medical Center, a Minnesota bill written and passed in an unprecedented 90 days in 2013, offering support to the Mayo Clinic to make Rochester a top-notch medical destination, complete with housing, shops, roads and infrastructure, hotels, arts, culture, and the like.

 

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, available on Amazon.

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That’s My Mom!

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms everywhere!

When I was a kid, my mom taught me to say please and thank you by offering me something, then withholding it until I said please and not letting it go until I said thank you. When I was a teenager, my sister and I would laugh that Mom could be in the middle of making dinner, talking to Grandma on the phone, watching the news, and telling my dad something, and we could come in and tell her we had dentist appointments on the 12th, and sure enough, she’d remember to get us to the dentist on the 12th. That’s my mom.

I also remember, as a teenager, arguing my point to get out of being grounded and telling my mom she was being unfair, to which she replied, “Jody Lynn, one day you’re going to write a tell-all book about your life. And when you do, spell my name right.” That’s my mom.mom

As an adult, when I bought my first car (the Jeep that I still drive), my Mom told me nine ways to Sunday not to buy it. She wanted me to get a Grand Am or something like that. She had the car all picked out, too, and wouldn’t listen to anything different. Jeep shmeep. I told her I wanted a small vehicle that would turn easily so I could park it in the city (I was living in D.C. at the time), a vehicle that sat up higher than a car since we had the third worst traffic in the nation and I wanted to be able to see the road ahead. Mom would hear none of it. But I’d really thought this through, and when my car died on me, in traffic, of course, I marched myself to the dealership and bought a Jeep against my mom’s wishes. But, days later, I got a call from my sister who told me she overheard mom talking to Grandma and the Aunts about how my Jeep is so practical and will be easy to park in the city and sits up higher than the other cars around me… This one surprised me. But, that’s my mom.

When I lived in Virginia my next door neighbors were two gay men who looked after our entire street and would invite me over for amazing dinners. My mom made them jelly. They had her on speed dial. Yeah, my mom.

When I published my book last year, my mom became my biggest champion. gift basketShe sent books to the neighbors and relatives. She started keeping a box of signed copies in her car so she always had them handy to sell. She even bought herself an iPad so she could use a Square reader to take credit card payments for books. That’s my mom.

I know my mom’s impressive. I grew up with this strong, vibrant, opinionated woman who is caring to a fault, and I know how exceptional she is. This is a woman who once snuck backstage at a concert “because no one was looking” and got as far as the dressing room door before she was stopped. Mom and meThis is a woman who asked my dad if he’d take her skydiving for her birthday one year (and he did!). She’s a woman who was once whistled at in Pittsburgh by a former Steeler quarterback–which completely mortified her because she thought Grandma could throw better. That’s my mom.

Last week I went to a meeting at my church here in Minnesota and the deacon asked about my mom—by name. My parents live in Pennsylvania. My mom has been to the church here maybe a couple times. The deacon knows her by name?? And that’s when it hit me: Others see it, too.

Hundreds of miles away from where she and my dad live, people ask about her. She’s revolutionary. Strong. She’s learning new tricks all the time (and now she’s teaching them to my nephew). She’s my biggest advocate.  Fearless. She’s accepting of everyone and everything. (Well, except for bad manners, of course.)

Happy Mother’s Day to the short, spunky blonde woman in Pennsylvania who taught me everything I know about how to treat others, how to make choices, and how to really live.

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, available on Amazon.

The Curious Thing

As we wind down the Sunday School year and practice for this year’s finale, I’m reminded of last year where my second and third grade class acted out Moses parting the Red Sea in front of the parish parents. We divided the class into two groups, one for Israelites and one for Pharaoh’s army. The Israelites dressed up in robes and hats and carried their belongings with them, mostly wheeled suitcases with the occasional rag bag tied to a stick. Pharaoh’s army group carried the swords they made in class out of cardboard and aluminum foil (decorated with jewels, of course) and were instructed to act as marauders.

Aswordss these things go, everyone wanted to be in Pharaoh’s army and no one wanted to be an Israelite. (I hear Moses had the same problem.) So, we did the skit twice in order to rotate the groups. Thus, everyone got to be in Pharaoh’s army. We explained this to the parents and no one minded watching it two times.

Picture: The army stalking the Israelites around the watching parents, Moses raises his staff and parts the Red Sea (a giant sheet of blue paper filled with colorful paper sea creatures the kids invented), the Israelites pass between the paper sheets which then close over Pharaoh’s army who fall to the ground and lay there flopping and twitching. (Look out Hollywood! These kids know how to be dramatic.)

The curious thing is that, during rehearsal, as the army lay flopping and twitching, and the Israelite kids were supposed to be celebrating their miraculous getaway, the Israelite kids again and again dropped their bags and returned to pull the twitching army kids to safety (away from the paper water), yelling things like, “Don’t die, my friend! Live! Live!”

Boys dragging boys by the arm, girls pulling girls, teams of Israelite kids pulling a train of the fallen Pharaoh’s army who’d linked arms… The teachers and I tried to stop them, reminding them that that’s not how the story goes. Then we conceded that if they wanted to save each other, it was okay for practice, but not for the real show in front of the parents. And finally, we silly adults stopped being directors and let the kids do what came naturally.baggage

And that’s just it, the major life lesson that I learned from them that week: When left to their own devices, kids drop their baggage and try to save each other. They don’t hesitate. They act on instinct.

It’s a lesson that changed the way I think about the world.

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, available on Amazon.

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