The Weekly Flame for Thursday, February 4, 2021
From Our Rector
Last Sunday, a few hours after the conclusion of our Annual Meeting, I watched a documentary called My Name Is Pauli Murray as it premiered online at the Sundance Film Festival. The film portrayed the life of this increasingly celebrated, pioneering lawyer, activist, poet, and Episcopal priest whose work contributed to major gains in racial and gender justice in this country. I was so moved that I bought a ticket to watch its second online screening at 7AM Tuesday morning. There Dr. Murray was in the opening moments of the documentary, shown in black and white film footage made during the last years of their* life in a home office, surrounded by books and file cabinets, typing away on a type writer, and interrupted by an insistent, jovial black lab (“He always has to be in the middle of everything.”) As one film reviewer commented, that opening sequence gave the film “the feel of a cordial Zoom visit.” It made me think of all the additional animals that have been coming to church from home during the pandemic.
I was particularly moved by how the complex intersections of race, sexuality, and gender in Dr. Murray’s life were respectfully brought into the film. This complexity was portrayed through interviews and archival materials – particularly personal correspondence -- that Dr. Murray made a point of having their grandniece preserve and submit to Harvard’s Schlessinger Library. Some of the interviews were with people who knew Dr. Murray, while others were with scholars and activists. In particular, I noted with appreciation the contributions of writer and activist Raquel Willis, and former coordinator of the Pauli Murray Center, Dolores Chandler. Both of them spoke about Murray’s race, sexuality, and gender identity in ways that honored their complexity and “eloquently place Murray in the context of trans history”. As Willis put it, “Pauli’s historical record allows us to consider the humanity of someone who was black and gender nonconforming in the time that Pauli was living.” Chandler further commented, “Sitting in front of Murray’s medical records and notes [in the Schlessinger library archive] as a trans, gender nonconforming, queer person of mixed race myself, I thought, mm, this is a feeling I know well.” And then a bit later Chandler continued, “I identify with the turmoil of someone who was trying to live life as a complete being, with an integrated body, mind, and spirit.” Amen to that.
Dr. Murray’s relationships were very movingly portrayed in the film, as well. I was especially struck by the depiction of Murray’s bond with Irene Barlow. Their notes were supportive and endearing, featuring pet names from the Peanuts comic strip, and 007. Their shared spiritual home in the Episcopal Church was clearly a bedrock of their relationship. Barlow’s death in 1973 was devastating to Murray, and launched Murray toward a final life chapter as an Episcopal priest.
This chapter notably puzzled a number of people in the film, including the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg who commented to that effect. One of the reviews echoes this sentiment, calling Murray’s priesthood a “late life twist,” and “one of the final curiosities of Murray’s life.” In a Q & A after the premiere screening, a question came up about this pattern of puzzlement. The filmmakers commented that it was people on the activist, legal, and academic side of Murray’s life that were flummoxed, but not Murray’s family, and especially not Barlow. The filmmakers shared in the Q & A how they gestured toward this facet of Murray’s life, even if they could not explore it fully. Yet even so, Murray’s faith and priesthood hovered over this film. Visually speaking, the main black and white video footage of Murray, to which the film repeatedly returned, shows them in a clerical collar, in their home office. In a scene at the Murray Center featuring a speech by Chandler, a life-sized photograph of Murray in a purple chasuble stands visibly in the background, arms outstretched in the prayerful "orans" posture, as if looking on from a Eucharistic vantagepoint.
However much Murray’s faith and vocation may puzzle, it is just as central to their legacy as their legal and activist work for racial and gender justice – indeed, it grounds that work.
Murray’s prophetic, opening quote in the film resonates so strongly today, particularly in the wake of the attack on the Capitol: “I want to see America be what she says she is in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. America, be what you proclaim yourself to be!”
So too does a reflection from a 1979 sermon (not shared in the film) in which Murray preached about rejection and failure. Instructions (from Mark 6:11) to Jesus’ disciples to shake the dust off their feet when they weren’t welcomed “suggested ongoingness,” Murray reflected. “We cannot let our failures overwhelm us, or quit when the going is rough” (ed. Anthony Pinn, Pauli Murray: Selected Sermons and Writings, p. 37). Faith, Murray preached a month earlier in 1979, both wrestles with doubt and is suffused with “courage that carries us beyond the defeats, failures, conflicts, suffering, and death inherent in our finite condition” (Pauli Murray, 45).
The faith Murray preached is as powerful today in its sharply prophetic as in its grounding tones, its clear-eyed recognition of failure, and its call to courageous ongoingness. May all who are putting one foot in front of the other in the face of terrifying vulnerability and entrenched injustice be inspired by this pioneer.
*I use gender neutral, ‘singular they’ pronouns in this piece in recognition of the gender complexity of Murray’s life, though I agree that, as Chandler comments in the film, “If Pauli Murray were sitting here today and I said ‘Pauli, what pronouns do you use?’ I don’t know what Pauli Murray would say.”
Diamond Diners Recap Addendum
Yesterday’s Spark had a recap of the wonderful Diamond Diners fare. But soon after I pressed send, I realized I had completely neglected to mention the contributions from the Little Red Hen and Good News Gardens. Nicole Miller and Tim Fabatz contributed salad greens they’ve been growing at home in connection with our Good News Gardens efforts, Margaret Dyer Chamberlain brought bags with greens, potatoes and a combo of lemons and pears, and Anne Edwards contributed Meyer Lemons from her garden. I loved getting to add this beautiful produce to the lunch bags, and I know folks really appreciated the fresh bounty in addition to the wonderful lunch. Thank you so much, all!
A Special Puppy (and other Companion Animal) Blessing on February 7, 12:00 noon
Some of you might have heard the story of the New Year’s puppy surprise for my family in Ohio. My sister Mary and her family took in a foster dog, Meadow, in November, and by late December it became clear that Meadow was pregnant. Early on New Year’s morning, seven beautiful puppies were born. (And we thought 2021 wasn’t off to such a good start!) Mary and her family participated in our St. Francis Day animal blessing via zoom, and they asked us if we would be able to bless Meadow and the new arrivals before they move on to adoption to their permanent homes. So, we’ll do that on Feb. 7 after church.
We’ll bless any other animals that would like to join us too. Please don’t feel that you need seven puppies in order to receive a blessing!
Sponsored by the ELM Committee: Workshop on Planning Your Funeral or Memorial Service - February 10, 2021 7-8:15 PM
Certainly this past year of COVID has brought us face to face with death. It is doubtful that any of us have been untouched by so many of these deaths and the ways so many have died.
The End of Life Ministry (ELM) at St. Aidan's has previously presented two workshops on End of Life Planning, both offered by Dr. Mileva Saulo Lewis, R.N. We are now offering another timely workshop, this one led by Rev. Cameron Partridge. He will help us think about the components to be considered in planning our memorial or funeral service. This will be an overall discussion of what parishioners might consider as we think about what we want for our service such as scripture readings, music choices, inclusion of Eucharist or not, or participants you would want to have. Then in subsequent individual conversations with Cameron, specifics could be decided. This will be held on the regular Wednesday evening Zoom link on February 10th at 7:00 PM. We hope you will join us.
- Betty Carmack
From Faith in Action: "Action of Love for Our Homes"
Feb. 12, 3:00 p.m., San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
Faith in Action Bay Area invites San Francisco faith communities to show up in support of vulnerable neighbors who are experiencing great economic distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Together we are calling on city leaders to provide timely and dignified support through the GIVE2SF fund and create a permanent fund to address the need for rental assistance. Faith communities are invited to bring banners and signs to identify themselves and communicate solidarity. The event will be masked, socially distanced, and translated in English and Spanish.
Please RSVP your attendance, and any questions, to Rev. Joanna Lawrence Shenk: email@example.com.
Contemplative Prayer Series led by Amy Newell-Large in January and February
Join us on a New Year journey to deepen our prayer practices! For the first eight weeks of 2021 Amy is sharing eight guided contemplative prayer practices, posted as twenty-minute videos on St. Aidan’s Vimeo page (https://vimeo.com/user111499332) for anyone to access. Each Saturday a new video is be posted, with a link shared in the Spark. Throughout the week you are encouraged to use the video to help you do the practice and on Thursdays there will be a Zoom gathering for anyone wishing to reflect together. Check out the info page attached here or email Amy at with any questions!
Remote Worship Continuing into 2021
Last August our vestry agreed not to regather in person before the end of 2020. Given the surge in COVID cases locally and nationally, we are continuing that pattern well into the New Year as well, meeting together on Zoom, and refraining from holding events in our building with the exceptions of the Friday Food Pantry and Diamond Diners, and the Cielito Lindo Preschool, which reopened last summer in strict compliance with state, county and diocesan rules. This current state of affairs won't last forever, and we anticipate and very much look forward to regathering at some point in 2021. In the meantime, we need to keep staying the course to stay safe. Thank you very much for all your support as we continue to make our way forward together, and please feel free to reach out to us with any questions.
Resources for Engaging in Anti-Racism, from Elena Wong
Thank you to Elena Wong for recently sharing this list of resources that were in turn shared with her through her membership in the Western Association for College Counseling:
Resources on talking to young kids about race and racism
The 1619 Project (all the articles) | The New York Times Magazine
“Who Gets to Be Afraid in America?” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi | Atlantic (May 12, 2020)
LISTEN (Podcasts to subscribe to)
1619 (New York Times)
Code Switch (NPR)
Seeing White Series on Scene On Radio
13th Film (2 hours)
When They See Us (Four episodes)
Color of Change
Southern Poverty Law Center
Groups and people doing anti-racist work, such as @colorofchange @weinspirejustice @showingupforracialjustice
Please send in your recipes for the COVID Connect Cookbook!
As shared in previous weeks, Peter Fairfield and Linnea Sweet are putting together the COVID Connect Cookbook. He's received several recipes thus far but would very much like more. He writes:
We are living through a time that will change our world in ways that we cannot yet begin to understand. We can hope that our shared vulnerability to this virus worldwide will help us see that all humanity is connected and that we must all work together. As we shelter in place, many of us are concerned with food. If we are not working, how will we afford it? If we cannot go out, how will we get it?
In our community of Saint Aidan’s, many are able to feed themselves and to help others get fed. More than that, we appreciate the food that we get and are finding new ways of making the sharing of food as enjoyable as possible.
The soup recipes that Cameron has been sharing have made our diet much more enjoyable and have given Linnea and I the inspiration to collect recipes from all the congregation and share them. We ask that everyone with a favorite recipe email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will collect and edit them into a cookbook which will be a lasting reminder of this strange and special time in all our lives.
We hope to be able to publish this cookbook in printed form and sell it to raise funds in support of Saint Aidan’s food ministries. We know you have been sharing food. Now please share your recipes!
if you need the remote access information.
Contemplative Prayer continues: Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday from 9-10 AM via Zoom
To provide some sort of worship experience every day of the week while we are still sheltering in place, we are re-starting Contemplative Prayer via Zoom, adding an extra day, Saturday. Contemplative prayer is silent with the beginning and ending marked by a bell. You can practice meditation, silent prayer, journal, or otherwise enjoy the collective quiet. Thank you to Susan Spencer for offering to anchor this practice once again, especially the Saturday, during this time.
Morning Prayer continues: Mon, Wed, Fri at 7:30 AM via Zoom
We also continue to have Morning Prayer to help sustain and ground us, online/over the phone:
To add an announcement to the weekly bulletin of the Flame,
please send your edited text no later than 11:00 am Wednesday to email@example.com