Thursday, July 31, 2008

Queer Presbyterians

So, I've been meaning to blog about this for a month now -- that is, since I started the blog, I guess, but it's hard to know where to start. A big thing happened about a month ago, when the Presbyterian Church voted to immediately overturn previous rules barring "self-affirming, practicing homosexuals" from serving in ordained positions in the church, and proposed an amendment to the constitution that would remove language requiring ordained persons to adhere to "fidelity in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness," thinly veiled anti-lgbt code that is selectively enforced. That second part, the amendment, has to be ratified by local governing bodies before it can take effect, and will be hard-fought. This was I am sure an historic moment in the history of the Presbyterian Church. Removing the bizarre and offensive "self-affirming, practicing" language is itself an enormous victory. More later on the importance of all this, to me, and to the wider world.

Today I want to talk about the hardest part of this for me, which has been watching it from a distance rather than being there with the folks I still consider in many ways to be my faith community. I became a member of the UCC a few years ago, not in any protest against the anti-queer policies of the PCUSA, but simply because there were no local Presbyterian congregations within a 45 minute drive who would genuinely welcome me. Initially I did not think going UCC would be a big deal - the UCC comes out of the Reformed tradition, and the differences would be minimal - if anything, the UCC's socially progressive record seemed a better fit. But seeking to become UCC - and I did this wholeheartedly, becoming an active member, serving on Church Council and as Vice-moderator of my congregation - only reinforced my sense of Presbyterian identity. Some of it was about polity, some of it about local traditions in my congregation and their departure from Reformed ideas, but most of it was about my sense of connectedness to other Presbyterians. I missed my community.

There is a potential route back for me to the PCUSA since my friend Heather is providing some much-needed nudging toward a long-discussed but as-yet-unrealized dream of a new church development in my area that would be Presbyterian and welcoming in nature. How great would it be to form this new community even as the larger Presbyterian Church mulls over what to do (again) about its queer members, who still haven't seemed to go away despite three decades and more of abuse and neglect through second-class citizenship and worse.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blogging in a vacuum

Here's another contradiction -- I have this blog, but no one is reading it (except maybe Alice). I know this is because I haven't really told very many people that I'm doing this. Right now, I like it this way. I don't feel like I'm saying anything particularly interesting or important, while the more interesting stuff of my life, I don't feel like I can put on the Internet, for fear it will be read by people who will not only be offended or alienated, but also feel exposed or betrayed.

I know very well from my involvement in various kinds of activism and the blowback I've experienced in my time (links intentionally omitted) that offending people comes with the territory. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I just wrote a book that lays it on the line for social justice in engineering. Still, there are people I dread reading that book, not because of their critique of the work, but because of how it might impact my relationships with them.

Perhaps I am still finding my voice, figuring out this new medium and how to speak my mind in ways that shine the light where it should be shone, without creating unwanted havoc in my personal relationships. And as I figure out what I have to say, it will be worth a wider conversation.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


My big project this year was dealing with a narrow, weedy slope between my house and my neighbor's fence (about 10 ft across). Solution: a small flagstone patio just large enough for a bistro table and two chairs. Perennial plantings all around with a flagstone path meandering through the space. I didn't think to take a before photo, but believe me it's a huge improvement.

The best part is that the leveling of the slope makes the garden somewhat sunken, and not visible from the street with foliage and all. A nice retreat that will get better as more plants grow in!

Monday, July 21, 2008


I've committed to raise $1000 for Barack Obama's campaign. I figure if I find 20 Obama-supporting friends who can each give $50 (or 50 who could each give $20, etc.) that would get us there. I don't have the funds to just whip out my checkbook and write a single $2300 check (the federal limit for a candidate in an election). But by pooling the resources of myself and others like me, we can collectively feel like one fat cat supporting our candidate. If I could raise $2300 that would be amazing, but I think $1000 is realistic for now, maybe with another cycle in the fall if I meet with success now... any readers out there, please feel free to participate.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

first sweater

After a close call, I finished my first sweater project. You have to celebrate the small victories.... I used a free pattern in Berroco Zen Hako Mix. It's labeled "easy" by the folks at Berroco, but the cabling suggests otherwise. Although, while I think cabling should earn it an "intermediate" rating, I have to say that it was fairly easy for this novice knitter to learn cabling - the instructions are fairly straightforward using a cable needle. Working with slippery ribbon yarn also proved a challenge for me at the beginning, so much so that I put the project down for more than a year before finding the confidence and motivation to finish.

I was surprised that it fits beautifully. I don't insist on perfection in knitting, and thus live with many flaws that carry meaning for me: I'm proud both of my accomplishment and of the fact that I allow it to be what it is - hand made by me, warts and all. So it's an added bonus that it's actually wearable. Can't wait to show the folks at the knitting group! And I've still got half the summer left to enjoy wearing it. Maybe I'll even be ready to tackle that sock project soon...