I stand with you

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At the tail end of the People’s Climate March in NYC somewhere around 37th St. and 11th Ave. there was an auto repair lot made sacred by art and ritual, where weary marchers could enter to feel the strength of the nearly 400,000 people who walked together that day.

The entrance was made between two sky-reaching cardboard cut-outs of a woman gazing upward with rivers flowing down from her core. Inside the space, each person was invited to write on a ribbon an answer to the question, “What is worth protecting?” or stated another way, “What do you fear losing [if environmental degradation continues]?

There were thousands of ribbons tied to lines strung between the “trees of life” by the time we arrived.  I wrote on my ribbon, “life, breath, the community that grows from a place to garden together”.  Will wrote, “the soil.”  We tied the ribbons on the line and we were invited to take a ribbon off and tie it to our own wrists.  The ribbon of a stranger with the words of what they cherish most on this earth would remind us that we are not in this struggle alone.  Some read the words on the ribbon they would tie on their wrist out loud: “The rhythm of four seasons. Jacob Rodriguez of Massachusetts…I stand with you.” After each ribbon was read, the refrain resounded, “I stand with you.”

“Standing with” is the phrase and the feeling that has stayed with me since the People’s Climate March a few weeks ago.

I thought about that phrase – “standing with” – this past weekend as members of Community Voices Heard (CVH), an organization of low-income people working to improve NY communities, gathered at White Plains Presbyterian Church.  CVH invited county legislators to come and stand with community members as they testified to proposed legislative action that would address poverty in Westchester.  (More on that event soon).

I’m thinking about that phrase – “standing with” – as I look forward to a call later this week during which  participants in the Presbyterian Defense Initiative will discuss the new sanctuary movement and hear about the witness of congregations who have opened their doors to provide sanctuary for undocumented individuals and families living in the U.S.

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Community Voices Heard at the People’s Climate March

“Standing with,” implies not just agreement but also proximity.  Its our proximity to one another – actually being physically present to each other – that inspires the greatest change.  

At the Climate March, labor unions and workers, immigrant-led groups, concerned families organized by region, anti-fracking activists, politicians (we need more on board!), artists, octogenarians, toddlers,  indigenous leaders, people of every race and creed stood with each other and walked together.   From within the march, the closeness of a multitude of voices gave strength and a new breadth to the local action we all carry on at home.  For anyone witnessing the march, hundreds of thousands of people standing with one another looks like (and is!) a force to be reckoned with, a network of alliances that can change everything.

Putting down roots

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20 moves = so many boxes

Since 1999 I have packed up my boxes and moved approximately 20 times.  Some were fairly routine moves: from home to college x 4 years.  Other moves felt more substantial: driving across the country to Texas after college to discover a new state and city on my own, out of the nest.  

This October marks the first time I have lived in one place for more than 3 years since high school.

It was a hard transition, this last move to the Northeast.  Will and I arrived here from South Texas, where I moved after seminary to live closer to Will, where we worshiped with a bilingual Mennonite congregation that taught me so much about love, where we got married on a balmy January day, where I assisted as doula at the birth of a beautiful girl who turns 4 this week, where we gardened with friends who ate and played and laughed together.  It may have been only 2.5 years but those roots went deep.

I arrived to White Plains excited to begin work as the Cross-Cultural Network Coordinator for Hudson River Presbytery and wishing we could recreate our South Texas community overnight.  But, of course, we couldn’t.  The soil is different it here, it grows new and different relationships and at its own pace.  This year, as I walk around town and talk to people from White Plains Presbyterian and the surrounding community or visit with friends from throughout the Presbytery, I am excited to notice the roots are going deeper.  I’ve known people over seasons in their life (and mine) at this point.  I’ve seen small ideas grow and take shape. I know the late-blooming sycamore tree in our front yard and when it put on leaves late in May long after the other trees, I thought, “Right on time.”

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Old and beautiful roots.

If you’ve been following this semi-(in)active blog for some time, you’ll notice it looks different and has a new title, “Cross-Cultural Catalyst”, which is the new title for my position moving forward in Hudson River Presbytery.  The Catalyst position is about growing deep roots.  

As Catalyst, I’ll spend half of my week in grounded ministry at White Plains Presbyterian Church, a diverse growing congregation, as we strengthen relationships with each other and the broader community through English as Second Language classes, the Groundswell Community Garden space, the Lineage Farm Community Supported Agriculture program, and the deepening friendships between the three congregations sharing space in the Presbyterian church building.

The other half of my week will be spent gleaning  and sharing the stories/models/mishaps/revelations from my time in White Plains to inspire community-growing work throughout the Presbytery.  Alongside the Cross-Cultural Network, I’ll encourage and learn from models and practices for cross-cultural community building that exist or emerge in this region.  Together with the Presbytery leadership, I’ll continue the work of growing to be a Presbytery that lives into its commitment to unity and diversity.

I’m putting down roots and noticing just how good it feels not to be packing boxes…for the third year in a row!!!

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More accurate representation of the roots I’m talking about…newer, more tenuous but still growing some good food.