A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast

Decolonizing Spiritual Spaces and Practices w/ Michiko Bown-Kai

April 06, 2023 Simon Doong and Lee Catoe Season 1 Episode 125
Decolonizing Spiritual Spaces and Practices w/ Michiko Bown-Kai
A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast
More Info
A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast
Decolonizing Spiritual Spaces and Practices w/ Michiko Bown-Kai
Apr 06, 2023 Season 1 Episode 125
Simon Doong and Lee Catoe

This week we continue to discuss the anti-trans bills in the US and continue to call for gun reform in our country!

Question of the Week:
What does Holy Week mean to you?

Special Guest:
Rev. Michiko Bown-Kai, Minister in The United Church of Canada

Guest Question:
We hear about people from marginalized communities reclaiming spaces and practices. But what does that actually look like? What are examples of prayers or spiritual practices that reclaim or decolonize? Or examples of practices that intentionally affirm queer identity? Can practices be “reclaimed” by a community even if they were originally constructed in a way that overlooked or even oppressed them? 

Rev. Michiko Bown-Kai's Website

For Listening Guides, click here!
Got a question for us? Send them to faithpodcast@pcusa.org!
A Matter of Faith website

Show Notes Transcript

This week we continue to discuss the anti-trans bills in the US and continue to call for gun reform in our country!

Question of the Week:
What does Holy Week mean to you?

Special Guest:
Rev. Michiko Bown-Kai, Minister in The United Church of Canada

Guest Question:
We hear about people from marginalized communities reclaiming spaces and practices. But what does that actually look like? What are examples of prayers or spiritual practices that reclaim or decolonize? Or examples of practices that intentionally affirm queer identity? Can practices be “reclaimed” by a community even if they were originally constructed in a way that overlooked or even oppressed them? 

Rev. Michiko Bown-Kai's Website

For Listening Guides, click here!
Got a question for us? Send them to faithpodcast@pcusa.org!
A Matter of Faith website

Speaker 1:

Well, hello everyone and welcome again to a matter of Faith, a Presby podcast, the podcast where we respond to your questions of faith, justice, and church life. Don't forget to write in your question and send it in because if it matters to you, then what does that mean, Lee?

Speaker 2:

If it matters to you, it matters to us. And it really just might be what Simon?

Speaker 1:

A matter of faith. Go figure.

Speaker 2:

Go figure. You know, it just might be, I think everything's a matter of fate sometimes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Especially these days in the town we're living in. But how are you Simon?

Speaker 1:

I'm doing pretty well. I, uh, I went for a run this morning that was just really nice and I'm very grateful for that. The ability to get out, breathe fresh air, sneeze a little bit because of allergies. Mm-hmm.<affirmative>, but to be out nonetheless. Yeah. It is a blessing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I'm like soaking in all the pollen like I am. My eyes are red, my nose is stopped up. It's just a fun time to be in springtime when you have allergies. But it is a beautiful day outside and lots of things have been going on. Everybody knows I am an on the h o a of our, of our complex and we had a huge leak, which was very scary. And yeah, that's been something else. You know, you learn a lot when you do things like this and you learn a lot about people too. So

Speaker 1:

Would you call it a, a holy leak considering we're in, in holy week now.

Speaker 2:

There actually was a hole. There actually was a big hole in a pipe. So yes, it wa it is a holy leak. Nice. And the water is, the water is flowing, the water was flowing and ceilings have collapsed and yeah, it was something else.

Speaker 1:

So what a beautiful metaphor for the resurrection of Jesus.

Speaker 2:

I know. You know, just an h hoa metaphor for all of us here in Holy Week.

Speaker 1:

So Yeah. But before we get to our topic of the day, which is holy week, there is some news we did want to quickly recap. Firstly, obviously I think a lot of people have probably heard that, um, former President Donald Trump has been indicted on indicted, I believe on 34 accounts. Is that correctly? That's what

Speaker 2:

I saw, yes. 34, yeah. 34 counts, which is wild.

Speaker 1:

Right. And of course, I think in probably surprise, no one surprises no one that he is pleading not guilty to all of them. Um, we'll see what happens. But just wanted to make that note because that is something that is happening in our political and legal system currently. Yeah. There's some

Speaker 2:

Other things happen. Wanna give it too much? Yeah, we didn't wanna give it too much light cuz that's, I don't know. I don't know. We just don't want to give them too much air time. But we did want to give the fact that, you know, I always talk about, I lived in Nashville for a very long time and this past week students walked out, did a walkout of their schools and protested at the Tennessee State Capitol Building. And I was just, so, it gave me a lot of hope because there was a lot of young people marching for their rights marching to tell their representatives that they are tired of being scared and fearful about guns and their schools and they're tired of seeing their fellow students being killed by guns. And it was just great. But, but along with that, uh, representatives Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Harrison were and are possibly going to be expelled from the Tennessee State legislator legislature because they were somewhat involved in this protest, which is their right to do is is the thing it's their right to do. And the state legislature is predominantly Republican and they are taking steps to expel these three Democratic members, uh, because of this gun, uh, control protest. And it is very scary. It might be something that many people may be like, oh, whatever, but they have been stripped to their committee assignments. They're their, their actual ability to get into the building has been taken away. And this is a step that, that is very scary, that you can silence people that, that don't think the same as you do. And who were citing what their constituents and their amendment like, their a first amendment rights of protest. And so with something everybody should be looking at. And it's, it's just, it's just very disheartening and very scary. And we as people of faith act through our faith and through our morals and we all have the right to protest and we all have the right to stand up for, for laws and to things that give life instead of take that away. So I want everybody to pay attention and know what's going on and hopefully be upset by it and speak out against it and call your reps. If you're in Tennessee, uh, we're praying for you and we are with you. I wish I could be there and, and to be in that space with y'all. But it's just very, very scary. And it's just interesting that a lot of these things when it comes to anti-trans bills that are going up that are continuing to get passed, you know, it's just interesting that all these things are kind of coming to a head on Holy week and the things that we grapple with theologically during this week alongside all this, it makes it feel very different. So I'm glad we got this question about Holy Week.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And so the, the question for today reads, what does Holy Week mean to you? That's a pretty big question within Big question. Holy Week. Yeah. Within Holy Week we have Monday, Thursday we have Good Friday, we have Easter. Am I missing any?

Speaker 2:

Well, I like to think of all of it. Like holy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. And we always That's fair. Forget about Saturday. That's fair. Which is like the, like the lull time, you know, like you have the death, but then you have the

Speaker 1:

Right, the awkward in between that, that is the definition of a liminal space. That's Saturday.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it really is. Cuz we always say like he descended into hell. Now, I don't know<laugh>, like, I don't know if, I don't know what that one was like. I don't know what that time where Jesus was gone for three days.

Speaker 1:

Right.

Speaker 2:

Like, I always wondered what did he do? What was he doing? Yeah. Or was he,

Speaker 1:

I don't know. I also just realized, and this is probably just because of the way that we celebrate it in Western Christian tradition, but we say on the third day he rose again, but if he died on Friday and resurrected on Sunday, is that actually three days?

Speaker 2:

I don't know. Or is that just

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Or is it really, I mean it could just be symbolic of Yeah. Just like, you know, it's the next holy day in the cal in a weekly calendar. So

Speaker 2:

We probably should know and probably somebody will say something if you, which is totally fine, just let us know. Yes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Happy to provide correction and more information on the next episode. But I was just thinking about that. I was like, Friday to Sunday is not three days.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. It's just an interesting, it's an interesting time because you start with Palm Sunday, which is an interesting image, Jesus on a donkey. And I saw a lot of donkeys out there on Facebook this time and Simon's waving his Palm branch and that was, it's always said that, Ooh, excuse me, I just drank a protein shake and talking about Palm Sunday just brings it up. Um, and Palm Sunday was always just kind of taught to us that it was kind of the opposite of what a ruler would be at the time, you know, so it always starts very interesting with Palm Sunday and the throwing of the clothes on the street and the little donkey and yeah. Holy week it, the meaning of it has changed for me a lot. And I, I, I'm always very honest and tell people I don't go to church very often and you know, and, and it's the same case when it comes to this too, but I think for me, I do my own kind of holy week things like I'll read the scriptures and I will, I think sometimes Holy Week is a lot about pageantry and especially Easter. Um, I've always enjoyed the Monday Thursday service, which this will come out during that time and like the foot washing and that gets very weird and like intimate and you have communion. And then Good Friday's all about the death, which kind of scares me a lot. We went to a Good Friday service once and it was very interesting, but there's a lot of feelings wrapped up in Holy Week, especially when stuff goes on like it's going on right now that I think kind of puts you in a different place. It kind of puts you in the need for, like we always say Hosanna on Palm Sunday and that means save us. It's like, God, please like something come and like fix this stuff because it's just so much and the people then were shouting and within the same kind of thing that we're going through now, un instability and fear and all those kinds of things. So it's, it's a lot of meaning for Holy week.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I also think that it's interesting because in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's very easy to think of Christmas as an Easter as these very separate things when actually they are two parts of a very important story.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And I think that we often also see something as beginning and ending, but that's also not true because technically nothing ends, there's only opportunities for growth and transformation within this story. And because of this story. And I always like to think that when we get to Holy Week, it is about remembering and, and, and contemplating not just, not just dwelling on sacrifice and death. That is a huge part of it. And that is, that is a definitely something that is to be remembered and understood, but also as you were saying, when you have Palm, starting with Palm Sunday, this journey. And I don't think that we spend enough time sometimes with the perspective of Jesus knowing I'm going to go and suffer this fate. There will be something on the other side, but I still have to go through it. Which is Yeah. Which is probably at times the most human thing anyone can experience is this part's gonna be really, I hope the other side is good. And even if you're pretty sure it is, it doesn't make the going through of the tough stuff any easier.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Doesn't change the pain, the struggle and the challenge of that

Speaker 2:

Mm-hmm.<affirmative>,

Speaker 1:

But I don't think we always think about that. We're just like, oh, Jesus born and now he's gonna be betrayed.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

And i's gonna die<laugh>. Yeah. Not to be reductionist, but I think sometimes we do that because, you know, we're human as well and get caught up in other things in our lives. And I think also the, the i, when we get to Good Friday, especially the idea of the Last Supper sitting with all of your friends before well be before what, what people are understanding as the end in that moment or expecting. Yeah. There's something very powerful about that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. It's, it's very, yeah. And I feel like sometimes we don't set the scene very well either during this time. It's like, I wish we, I wish we could sit back just like with any movie or like any kind of play or production to really take in the scene and take in the context and take in the people around us. I mean, Jesus was a young person. Jesus was younger than I was, and he surrounded himself with young people. I mean, these people left their families these, and I mean, I'm not saying there wasn't any older people around, we don't know how many people around during the last supper, we don't really know that. We know that the disciples were there and we know many of them were young because they left their families. They, they just hopped off of boats with their dad, uh, that their dad was just fishing and they hopped off and all these young people were following him. And this was a young person who was going through this. And I often think we forget that. We forget about, like Jesus was a young person. And then it makes me think about these young people protesting for, for the rights of them to live and, and in conjunction with the fact that Jesus did a lot of things that went against the status quo. I mean, that's why he died. I am not of the, it takes a lot for me to have conversations about salvation and things like that, but I am more of here's the context. And, and Jesus died because of what he embodied and what he did. And He, and he was killed for it. And many of his followers didn't really want to get on board with that because they finally learned like, oh, this is real. Especially Peter Peter's my favorite one. Not because he

Speaker 1:

You read my mind.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Founded the church or whatever we say about Peter. But because g because Peter was kind of the realist of them all, he was like, hold on, no<laugh>, I'm not, I'm not playing that game. I'm not going that deep in, but he cared for Jesus. But at the same time, you know, shows the fear and the, the hesitation and the realness of what was happening, like being crucified is absolutely awful. And I'm not saying we should worship the, kinda like the passion of the Christ. I don't think anybody should watch that cuz it's like worshiping the gore and the violence and things like that. But it, but it is, it doesn't necessarily kind of show, you know, how that impacted everybody in the community as well. So I think, yeah, y'all don't go watch Passion of the Christ, please. Yeah. That's just not something we should do. But

Speaker 1:

I really like what you're saying about Peter because Simon Peter, because if we think about the number of things that Jesus experiences during that week, he's betrayed by Judas, a friend. No one wants to experience betrayal.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

And then Peter, interestingly, I believe it is, I could be wrong, but he has the whole interaction where he cuts off the, the soldier's ear being like, oh, I'll, you know, I'll, I'll do, I'll protect Jesus. Right? Yeah. So he, he has this one emotion where he's like, oh, I am, I am dedicated to the cause you will not touch this friend of mine. And then just a few turns later, Jesus is like, you will deny me three times. He's like, no, I won't do that. And then proceeds to do exactly that. Yeah. So in the span of this, in this span of time, there is betrayal, there is dedication or, or very perf, I don't wanna say performative, but like very visible action, demonstrating commitment to the cause and then denial.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Very relatable<laugh>. Yeah. And to, to, to everyday life for us. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. It's a, it's a human story. And that story is complex. Uh, we like to simplify it too much. It's like, we are humans and this is what happens. We get caught up in moments and we do things that we might not realize we should do, or we become fearful in retreat and then, and, and like all these emotions that go on into people's minds, you know, I think that that is something that we don't necessarily think about. It's like these characters had emotions, these characters have complexities within them. And I think we often like to simplify it because it's, oh, it's an antiquity. It was back then, it's like, no, I mean, people had thoughts and people had emotions and, and like complex. I mean, critical thinking is not anything new. It's, I think it's something that during holy week, I hope we can all kind of ask those questions and think more about the context and think more about setting the scene and not necessarily getting to like the things that are flashy and not, and because I often think sometimes, and we see this in a lot of different other traditions, the glorification of death and the sal the salv language, and this always comes up during holy week and we, and people have debated what salvation is and, and all of these things. But for me, what makes Holy Week meaningful is the humanity around it all. It's not necessarily this like this lofty theological jargon that we often talk about here. And it's, it's almost like we should sit back and look at the context and also simplify our theological thinkings about everything. It's like, it's like maybe we should take it as it is and how does that also speak to me and the context around us with all this stuff happening. And that's why I really like Saturday, holy Saturday. It's because it is a time to sit in all of it. I mean, you experience the death of Jesus, which is traumatic. What's a traumatic thing to go through for people to see that, for anybody to see that, I mean, we glorify it so much that we, we don't, we don't bring out the humanity of it. Like we even put clothes on Jesus. Jesus would not have had clothes on. Jesus would also probably have been upside down. And that is another kind of thing that I think we don't realize about how traumatic these experiences are. And then on Saturday when people are trying to find you, when you just saw your best friend die in this way, being very vulnerable and then all the other stuff happening in your lives, Saturday is a time to really sit in all of it and to kind of just wonder in all of that, like that's what I like about Saturday. Mm-hmm.<affirmative>. Um, when we, when we celebrate Holy week, it's, it is a time to, to kind of think about all the things that you just saw and experience. Now it'll, it would take a lifetime to process all that.

Speaker 1:

Mm-hmm.

Speaker 2:

<affirmative> and, and yeah, I think it's, I think it could be a lot more for me holy week is that it's the humanity of it all.

Speaker 1:

Um, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I think there's also something to be said. Not again, not to focus too much on the death and sort of glorification of suffering, but I also think there is an interesting, maybe an interesting paradigm is the correct word when you think about Jesus, again, being betrayed, denied, and then obviously die dies. Mm-hmm.<affirmative>, when he gets on the cross, despite all of what's been going on with his innermost circle of friends, the disciples, it's a criminal that is next to him that is also dying. That says, I believe,

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

There's something kind of powerful about that. And I know it's easy to probably just be like, oh, well that guy will say anything. He just wants to make sure that he doesn't like die and then just go to someplace dark. Yeah. But I don't think that, but I, which might be true, that would also be human. Don't

Speaker 2:

You blame them<laugh>? Not really.

Speaker 1:

But I also think that there is something powerful to, Hey, I'm at the end of my life. I believe in you. I believe in this, this value, this God that you are, that you stand for and this faith.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

There's something powerful to that because it is very, it reminds powerful because I think it reminds us that no matter where you are in your life, no matter where you are socially located,

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

You can have that faith and it matters and that belief matters. So folks, yeah. Why don't you write in and let us Oh yeah, go ahead.

Speaker 2:

Go ahead. Well, I was gonna say one thing everybody. So we haven't even talked about Easter and we won't get to cuz Easter will just happen, but I won't, I would, I don't know where the lectionary is, but everyone should read about, everyone should read the Mark resurrection story, not the ending. That's not really the ending. Now there's, if you could look in your Bible, the last chapter was added on because Mark's resurrection story is my favorite because it's not glamorous, it's not flashy, but it's simply the tomb was empty and it said that, that Jesus would meet them back in Galilee where it all started. And so it just reminds us that this isn't a one-off, this isn't something that ends. This is, these things are cyclical. Like these things that we experience and like all the things that we talk about theologically and the things that happen in our life, it's all cyclical. And I think sometimes we see Easter as like the, the epi, like, like the crescendo and the ending of it all. But like you were saying, Simon, it doesn't end there. Like it doesn't end there whatsoever. They all had to go back and kind of start over. So mark us that like, this isn't the end of it all. Like you still have work to do. Like, Jesus rose from the dead, that's great. Let's sound the horn and let's celebrate. But it's not over. And it was never meant to be such a, a thing that has kind of taken on all this pageantry. It is something to celebrate, but it's also meant to push you to keep doing what we're doing. And I think oftentimes in certain traditions, the resurrection is the end and it's like, oh, we've been saved and I don't have to do anything. I am saved and I am good. And that's not the case. Cause you all, we all have to go back to where it started and start all over. It doesn't end. So I just wanted to make sure though, to, to hopefully people read Mark's rendition of the resurrection.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. So folks, check that out. And then also, why don't you write in and let us know what does Holy Week mean to you? Do you have a favorite part? If you have a least favorite part, what's the most interesting or powerful aspect of this journey that happens during Holy Week to you? Write in and let us know Faith podcast at P C U S a.org. And we hope that you all will enjoy our conversation with Reverend Micko Boai, who is a minister in United Church of Canada, in which we talk about reclaiming practices and spaces that have been previously very colonial or, um, uninclusive of various cultures, peoples and identities. So we hope that you enjoy this conversation with Reverend Micko. Well, we are so excited to be joined on this episode by a very special guest. Joining us is Reverend Micko bound Kai, who is a minister in the United Church of Canada. Reverend Micko, thank you so much for being with us on the podcast.

Speaker 3:

Well, thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be

Speaker 2:

Here. Yeah, it's really good to have you on the podcast with us this week. And yeah, we have a question for you. We hear about people from marginalized communities reclaiming spaces and practices, but what does that actually look like? What are examples of prayers and spiritual practices that reclaim or decolonize or examples of practices that intentionally affirm identity can practices be reclaimed by community even if they were originally constructed in a way that overlooked or even oppressed them? So that's a lot of questions, but I am so glad that you are here to respond to them. So what would you say to those questions?

Speaker 3:

Um, I love this question. I love that it's actually like maybe five or 10 different questions wrapped up into one. Um, it invites, uh, conversation around so many different topics around this idea of reclamation, um, safety, belonging, um, yeah, decolonization and faith and religion. Um, there is so much that's, uh, swirling around in this. So hopefully we have a bit of time to tease that out together. Yeah. So I guess just a bit about me and who I am and how this question became one that was relevant to me, um, is that I am a non-binary person of color that is doing ministry, um, within congregational settings. But, uh, how I sort of ended up in ministry was actually doing a lot of work around organizing and activism, much more like frontline based with communities, um, you know, LGBTQ plus two-spirit people here, um, in Canada, but also just, you know, um, it's been my passion to be connected with all sorts of justice movements and these are questions that came up, you know, a lot of people had some religious backgrounds, we're trying to figure out what made sense for them, people who felt like they didn't belong in religious spaces, people who were just struggling, I think on a spiritual level, but then didn't have tools, didn't have a community of faith, didn't have experience with these things. And were wondering, uh, you know, what can that look like for me?

Speaker 1:

Thank you for sharing that. And I know that on the podcast before, we've had some folks who have also shared a lot of those, of those same struggles and those questions around identity and particularly as it re relates to their faith journey as well. Um, and so as we're thinking a bit more about, about this question in relation to your own experience as well as for for other folks, um, yeah. How do we sort of decolonize some of these practices and, uh, well practices traditions and how do we ma allow it so that people can make it their own so that it is truly a rep representative of, of an embracing of who someone is as opposed to feeling exclusionary or arbitrary or, uh, colonial?

Speaker 3:

I think for me, these questions always come back to power, being able to see who has power, what kind of power, how is it being used? And I think often when we talk about spiritual practices, norms are that there is, um, a professional, there is someone who, uh, knows what's going on and therefore they're the one that gets to control what a spiritual practice looks like. Or if they are leading it, then it's deemed as the worthwhile practice practice. And so part of my philosophy in ministry is empowering people with the tools to say, actually we're all spiritual beings and we all have that relationship with God. And so we all have within us the capacity to imagine, and I think even better than someone sort of beyond our communities or beyond even our own spiritual lives. We know best where we're feeling called, uh, where the spirit is stirring within us in terms of our own needs for healing in terms of, um, what is drawing us to community. And so if anything, rather than say a colonial model of worship, which would be hierarchical top-down thinking, you know, how do we empower from the grounds up people to feel like they can be, have agency in naming what is meaningful and important to them. So maybe that's, that's like a step one in it, but I, I think also part of what I experience around colonialism, white supremacy, there's, I guess we're, we're cycling through a lot of different language here today, but that supremacy in any form relies on this idea of scarcity and fear to maintain control. And so I'm also drawn to this question because I think that spiritual practices can help us resist fear, especially in a very embodied way and can also enable us to see abundance in our lives, to be connected to God, to be able to see God's definition of abundance, not a capitalist one, um, can be so nourishing for us as individuals and as communities.

Speaker 2:

It. Yeah, and you know, I often think about like rituals and practices that are created and who has the power to create those things. And it's oftentimes that I think that a lot of the, a lot of the ways or a lot of the places in which we work and the places that we do, yeah. Do our work. We preach this pro progressivism and we wanna dismantle racism and we wanna dismantle white supremacy. And there's oftentimes where I think a, we, we miss a vital connection into, into how we create spaces and how we create models of worship and ritual and spiritual practices that are very much dismantling those systems. And so sometimes I think we, we may preach a good game and we don't often reflect that through our practical theologies. And so how might, how might, in your experience in the models that, that you may be a part of, like maybe maybe we can talk a little bit about those models and your experience in how we create rituals and practices that also dismantle these systems and what that might look like. So I just wonder about kind of your experience and all that.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think it's so easy to even sort of slide back into patterns that feel comfortable, even with the best of intentions. What I found really helpful is to create spaces that are more workshop like, to create that shift in people's approach. You know, if you say we're all gathered here today to participate in something and figure this out together, um, I think that can help people, um, who maybe when they think of worship, think of what they've always experienced. And so don't show up thinking, oh, I'm gonna contribute in a certain way. I'm gonna have to be checking in with myself and how I'm feeling and my ideas and being ready to contribute. Of course, when I do workshops, I like to make it accessible and people participate as they feel comfortable. But I've really loved that model. Uh, I think there's a certain type of community building and intimacy that can be created, uh, that oftentimes, you know, sadly we don't do in worship. And I often kind of wonder like, how can worship feel more like workshops? Uh, I feel connected to God and community often in workshop spaces in a way I can't access in worship. So I think that's part of it. And I think another part of it is just to pay attention to where ritual already exists in our lives and to figure out ways to just, uh, pay attention to that more and lift that up, you know, when things happen that are, you know, really distressing and upsetting for us, when we're grieving as communities, you often see people know how to sit visual. People know how to gather around in a community space and light candles. There's an understanding that, um, being together in a space, sharing stories, sharing music, uh, are all really meaningful ways to express how we're feeling as a community. So I think those rituals exist and part of it is, uh, especially if we are sort of in a smaller Christian bubble, imagining that, you know, protests and vigils and demonstrations are actual rituals that are calling for justice that are very much can be a part of our faith practices.

Speaker 1:

I really appreciate that you use the word invitation to participate so that it is not something that it, it, it implies that it is not something that is fixed already. It's not already set in stone. It's something that we build together. It's something that we can change, it's something we can adapt that we can continue to, to figure out. I think that's beautiful because so often we wanna think of as like, if this is a ritual or this is a practice, this is, like you said, it's set in stone, this is the way it's been done, this is how it is kind of end of story. I also, what I hear in that is that it's more than simply changing a few words within a prayer that we usually say to try to make it more inclusive language wise. That is certainly a part of maybe adapting or, or trying to improve some of the rituals and practices we already have. That also means that there can be room for more to be done, whether it's within that prayer itself or a completely different practice or prayer could be created that could be something more inclusive and frankly more creative and wonderful than we imagined before. So I real, I really, really appreciate that you said that. And as I, as we're thinking about and this idea of, I guess I would call it reclamation<laugh>, um, I think about an experience that that I had when, um, I was at a funeral once, and I, I've shared this story on the podcast before where on the Chinese side of my family for this funeral, there was sort of both Christian and more, I guess I would call them sort of Buddhist slash Confucian traditions mixed into it. And I distinctly remember an elderly member of my family, uh, telling me, do not take the incense, do not light the incense because we are Christian and we don't do that. Which was very interesting because other folks were sitting down and bowing and lighting incense in front of, you know, and in front of the, the casket and whatnot, this little sort of, I don't wanna call it a shrine, but a little, a little area that had been set up. And I realized this is different from say, a practice that is about necessarily overcoming fear or something we might see in a more regular worship service. But in that moment I was like, you know, I'm not entirely convinced that we have to just cut this out of our tradition or out of our culture. Maybe there's a way that these things can be brought together in a way that symbolizes what our family is in this moment, uh, which is multicultural, which is, uh, in a position of, uh, grieving and just understanding that, that that doesn't mean it has to be done in this specific way. Um, so I'm wondering if, if you have any thoughts on something like that as it relates both to worship? And also I appreciate, as you said, as it relates to things like advocacy and protests, that all of those things, um, allow for this sort of this blend to be authentic to who we are.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, thank you for sharing that story. It sounds like it was a beautiful space to have different traditions present. For me, I think the work of reclamation was something that I was interested in, in terms of how do we do this work intentionally, um, so that it doesn't look like appropriation. And that's why I think what's so important is connecting to a tradition and educating yourself so you understand the heart of it so that you can honor it in your own way. Um, and I think that's what's so key to, to these things is saying, what's going on here? Why was this important at the times when it was developed and first practiced? What was the messaging? What was the meaning behind it? And so then you can figure out how to adapt it in a way that feels true and honest. Just like during Covid when all of a sudden our ability to have communion completely shifted, we were able to say, okay, why do we do this? What is happening in the breaking of the bread? Can I actually come on zoom and say, go grab whatever's daily bread to you and you know, we're gonna share in this liturgy together. And obviously people have different theologies and so that landed differently for different communities of faith. But, you know, to be able to do that work of what's true and what's honest around this. One of the activities that I love doing with groups of people, and I've done this in more secular settings and more religious ones, is, uh, uh, reclamation sort of exercise with the attitudes and saying, you know, what's so beautiful and unique about this was that Jesus was naming these certain people or groups as sacred, as beloved and the, he was lifting up marginalized people. And so if we were to imagine this today, what would you like to name as sacred? What do you not see being named as sacred in your day-to-day life in your community of faith that you want to name? And so it's amazing then, I love this when you're in spaces and people contribute and you can say blessed are, you know, people, blessed are under housed people, blessed our people who are struggling with addiction, you know, the people that we see marginalized today. Um, and I think it, it holds true to what was being said and done when Jesus offered those words. Um, but it also contextualizes it in a way that's really meaningful. And, uh, I've just loved seeing the variety of examples and the ways people have engaged in that.

Speaker 2:

And and we're also having a lot of conversations right now about, you know, how we are to, how, how some things are not or should not be reclaimed and what that might look like and, and how to often kind of explain that to folk and saying like, there are some things in our faith and some things in our theologies that that should not be reclaimed. There are a lot of awful things that are in the Bible and there are a lot of awful things that have been said in our traditions that I don't like sometimes I just don't think need to be reclaimed or wrestled with and are just kind of plain, just not very life giving. And I remember whenever I went to to divinity school, I had a professor that always said, you know, like, some things can't be reclaimed and that's okay. And to give ourselves permission to that. And so as you were talking, it really did make me think about that conversation that we've been having in the church about what does it mean to, to kind of say some things can't be reclaimed. And so I wonder about, I wonder about that as well.

Speaker 3:

I think that, um, there are tools which if we can understand them in their sort of neutral form, can they exist in this way, then we're able to determine whether or not we can reclaim it. Um, but if we're looking at something that is become sort of like inherently evaluated with values that don't add up or don't line up with our own, um, then yeah, there's, there's limits. And I also think it has to do with who we are and where we're at, especially if we're people, um, healing from religious trauma, some things are just going to be triggering and it's not going to be life giving. And so that is also assigned just for what's going on with you. And so it might speak to one person and then it might not speak to another person. And I think it's important to not assume right, in a blanket way that some things can be reclaimed, um, or not. And sometimes we need to see other people reclaiming things in healthy ways to sort of give us a potential path that we might want to follow or decide that we're not interested in. So I think that that, uh, is an important part. I think about the lesson that I've been working with around the idea that ease is a part of liberation. Um, there's so much about the work, the struggle for our collective liberation, which is about having to confront our desire, um, or maybe a sense of entitlement to comfort at all times. That's a part of white supremacy culture. We struggle with the fact that maybe something spiritually worthwhile, um, will call on us in big ways. And I think that's true and that's beautiful and meaningful, but I also think at some point it's important for us to lift up that liberation's about also what just feels good and that we should be able to follow our instincts around those things as well. So if it's not feeling good right, then that's also an indicator too of whether or not the spirit is present there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I really, I really like what you said that it's like ease is a part or should be a part of our spiritual practices. Yeah, I think, I think I'm really going to really hold on to that. So, so I really, really appreciate that.

Speaker 1:

I think it also builds on what you were saying earlier, that our spiritual practices and traditions, part of the, one of the part of the purpose of some of those is to help one manage deal with, engage with fear. And if said, practice is putting you back into a state of fear because it is triggering or what whatever else maybe that, like you said, that practice maybe just is not appropriate for you. Maybe the spirit is not there for you and that a different one would be better<laugh>. Um, and I think in order to feel at ease in order to start to start getting on the way to, uh, to that, that ease, um, is that, am I hearing you correctly? A little bit there?

Speaker 3:

Mm-hmm.<affirmative> mm-hmm.<affirmative>, I think about too, how much, uh, colonialism, white supremacy, these things, um, are about a separation from our body. Um, you know, ideally if you, uh, wanna control a group of people, um, yeah, have them not paying attention to what the spirit is saying within them, have them feel so disconnected that they don't even have the tools to know how to listen to what feels true and honest in these like most basic spiritual ways. Um, so I think that's what I, for me, the idea of ritual, um, and reclaiming it feels important because I think ritual done right is a very disruptive force, um, in all the ways that we need it. Uh, we need people being able to honor and know what oppression feels like in their bodies to know that it is not okay, and that we need to collectively work to resist all of those things. So yeah, for me it's a, a part of the piece is where and how can I access, um, a healthy sense of embodiment.

Speaker 1:

When you've done workshops with folks, particularly in religious spaces, but also also not in religious spaces, would you say that people sort of have an aha moment at some point during the workshop, or at least the aha moment about sort of what questions and ideas they take with them moving forward and in the workshop itself? Would you say that there's a, is it, is it actually kind of surprising how much work can be accomplished even in that initial sort of introduction phase to the participation and seeing folks come together? Or is it very much a, this is just the beginning take with you now and that it, I mean, it is a lifelong process, but how much can be accomplished and maybe in that initial timeframe that you're introducing folks to this?

Speaker 3:

I think if we're talking about the deeply needed work for us to regulate our nervous systems heal from trauma, that is, um, a very long journey for many people. And it requires accessing a variety of resources. And I think especially if we talk about decolonization in terms of like actual just access to land and especially for indigenous people, like this is, is all part of like, you know, material things in the world. I think that when I've been in spaces and I've talked about this, what I've seen in terms of a shift or aha moment is just the ways that, um, I'm able to sort of remove the smoke screen around this. Like, I think sometimes people feel like there's someone that steps up and is, they're a leader and they're like, I'm gonna lead this prayer now and I'm gonna be the one that calls us together as community. I can do this. And then I just say to them, here's how you do that. You know, how do you wanna name this community? What's really important to you? What are you hoping for? Um, what draws you into doing this work? It like, it's almost like a, what is it called, like a mad lips, you know, just fill in the blanks for these very simple questions or sentences. And there you have like a beautiful, powerful prayer. And I think when you're able to just offer people these very simple 1, 2, 3 steps, um, they realize that it's not so mystifying and that they really do have the capacity to do that work that they think some other leader might be coming in to do for them instead.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's, it's, it's like that ability to really like to make things complex and, and we often see it specifically in like our tradition to where things are so complicated. And then you throw on top of that kind of a, like the requirements for academia and then you add like all this intellectualizing of theologies and, and, and all these ways in which we have to, to, to say things in complicated ways that we think are profound or that we're conditioned to talk about in. And yeah, these very academic intellectual ways. And it's almost intentionally intimidating people to not be able to see themselves as enough in the ways in which they are and the ways in which they experience God. And it's, it's almost intentional and it's oppressive that, that you have to be able to speak this way in order to, to get your point across at how you are experiencing God. And to me it's very intentional. And for me it just shows kind of the ways in which we, we, in this thing we call faith in certain traditions, don't empower people enough to feel the spirit in which they, they feel it for themselves. Like I know sometimes, like, I can't explain it. Only thing I can explain this, like, I feel the spirit and I don't know how to tell you in this academic very like, westernized way of, of explaining myself when I, when I talk about my faith or talk about how I experience the divine, if, if that makes sense. And so yeah, I really do see this kind of intentionality behind complicating faith and complicating theology so much so that it does become oppressive. And for me, sometimes that's just very intentional. And then you add the ability to go to school or the academia and that comes with money and all these kinds of things. So yeah, it just makes me really think about that a lot.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, the system sort of, um, insulates itself, you know? Mm-hmm.<affirmative> here I am a religious leader, I'm a minister. I went to school for all of these years. I jumped through all these institutional hoops. So if someone wants to come and do quote unquote my job, then they better have done all these things too, right? But I also have the potential to say action. This is pretty simple. I could, you know, approach probably some children or youth in my community of faith, ask them these questions, you know, be patient, be creative, and what they would have to offer would be equally as beautiful and meaningful as my academically informed whatever I pull together. And I've noticed that within myself too. Like when I've done workshops and I kind of think, oh, I wonder if people will sort of get it and if it will land the way that it needs to. And uh, of course the lesson for me always is when you just let people speak, when you give them a voice. Maybe it doesn't have the same liturgical flow that, you know, would get published in a prayer book, but it's, uh, it's authentic in a way that I think is so much more valuable. And yeah, that it's, it's a call for those of us who are kind of wondering why we have institutional power and things aren't being, you know, changed. Uh, I think there are possibilities

Speaker 1:

And not to, uh, not, not to get us off on on a tangent, but with something else we've talked about on this podcast a lot is champion, not exactly championing, but the importance of empowering and giving voice to not just marginalized communities, but also young people. And I love that you mentioned young people in your example. I could go to my youth, the young people in my community, and what they would write would be just as beautiful, just as real and just as authentic. And that is, that is good and wonderful as it is. It doesn't need to go through all these hoops. Um, sometimes I actually think the reason I'm still involved in the church myself is when I was in, uh, I think I was in middle school, we had our middle school youth Sunday after coming back from a, I guess I think it was a church camp week, or no, it was a mission trip, sorry. And someone said, um, would someone like to write the prayer of confession? And I said, yeah, sure, I'll write it. I didn't think that what I write wrote, or what I said was actually gonna make it into the prayer because I figured it was gonna have to go through all these hoops, and I just wrote what I felt and the pastor looked at it and said, yeah, okay. And it went in there and it was in that moment I felt like empowered. I felt like, oh, I'm enough. And that's something that I wish more people felt that way in our faith communities and in our church spaces. Um, so I just wanted to affirm and, and thank you for also mentioning, uh, young people in your example.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we, we really just don't talk about'em enough,<laugh>, but, but I am very appreciative of, of this time with you because I know it has helped me and thinking about the complexities of the systems and, and all the intentionality behind that complexity. And when we really think about spirituality and kind of distill it, spirituality, and these practices really are rooted in us and who we are and who we want to be in the world, and who God created us to be. So, so, yeah, I, I really appreciate this and this time with these, so, so yeah, I just, I, this has been wonderful.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so much. I can I just say one more thing that I thought of? Um, yeah. As like, I just like to give really practical, concrete things. So if you're sort of wondering about this for yourself, I really invite people to think about, you know, I'm just gonna try it. And if it doesn't work, like there's no failure, there's only lessons, um, in terms of doing this work. You know, if you're like, that was a complete flop, then you know that there's maybe another direction. Um, if you're someone that does sort of ritual worship leadership stuff, it's really great to say to your community of faith, we're gonna try it this way for a week. You know, we're not changing this forever, let's just try it. Um, I think invitation into these things, um, can be really helpful because people love their traditions, people feel strongly about certain things, but to know that it's just an option and then we can always change, adapt, go back as needed, um, can help ease some of that exploration. So I hope that that, uh, inspires you to go out and give it a try.

Speaker 1:

I love that. Thank you so much.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Thanks again.

Speaker 2:

Thanks everyone for listening to this episode of a Matter of Faith, the Presby podcast. And we wanna thank Mic Chico for being with us this week. It has been such a blessing to have you with us and to talk about how we provide and how we create space for, for all of our identities and how we create space to be authentic. And so thank you so much for being with us, and we hope you all subscribe wherever you get your podcast. Also, we hope you leave us a review, five stars, hopefully, and write us little something. If you have any questions for us in the Fate podcast@pcusa.org, check out our website, a matter of fate podcast.com. There you'll find our Spanish and Korean sibling podcast and all those details. And of course, we will talk to you again next week.