It’s not enough to be weary. #stoptheharm

mark lloyd richardson:

I share these important words by a United Methodist colleague of mine, the Rev. Melinda Teter Dodge. We are involved in planning the October 10 event she mentions. It will be a celebration of marriage equality and a renewal of vows for those who were previously denied a wedding by the church because of the church’s official position forbidding same gender weddings. If you are in the Pasadena area (or San Diego or San Luis Obispo) on that day, please join us.
Also, since this is her first blog post on WordPress, here’s your chance to follow her or like the post or offer your words of support.
Grace and peace, Mark

Originally posted on pastorchixsta:

Like you, perhaps, I am weary of the battle that is being waged in our church family.  And I am embarrassed that what so many of God’s people see and know as the United Methodist Church is that we harm people:

  • We charge clergy, bring them to trial and defrock them.
  • We excommunicate.
  • We silence burgeoning calls to ministry.
  • We injure our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters over and over again.
  • We alienate entire communities, families, and younger generations.

Yes, I am weary and embarrassed of this battle.  Moreover, my heart is extremely heavy knowing that I am part of a church, ordained by a church, that continues to injure deeply God’s people all the while proclaiming that we are following Jesus.

What the world sees of our church right now is not the hours and hours dedicated to ending homelessness or malaria.  What the world hears of our church right now…

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Before Heading for the Exit


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Photo credit: Dallis Day Richardson

Photo credit: Dallis Day Richardson

Here’s a topic most pastors don’t want to talk about – what to do when someone leaves your congregation. I don’t mean because they are moving out of the area or being relocated by their employer. We have rituals for saying goodbye to people as they make these life transitions, especially if they have been intimately involved in the life of the church. We acknowledge the pain in farewell and pray God’s blessing upon them. We celebrate the gifts and graces they have brought to our faith community and express our thanks. More often than not there is cake and ice cream! Grief, grace and gratitude mingle in such moments.

I am not referring to these expected partings when people are simply living their lives and for a time we are blessed to be in beloved community with one another and then their life circumstances change. I am referring instead to those occasions when people make a conscious choice to leave a church because they no longer feel in sync with the direction the church is moving.

It’s never easy. Maybe that seems obvious, but I just want to acknowledge the pain. For everyone involved. For those choosing to leave. For those being left. For those charged with spiritual leadership of a congregation. Even for those who are only minimally aware of what has happened. The sudden unexpected loss hurts. There’s no way around it.

You may have guessed by now. This happened recently in the church I currently serve. A couple who had been involved in many dimensions of church life for years informed us one Monday morning that they were withdrawing their membership, effective immediately. It is not an understatement to say that most church members who knew them were left in stunned disbelief when they heard the news. No one, not even close friends, saw it coming.

To their credit, this couple had fulfilled their annual giving, completed various assignments on committees, and tied up loose ends. They did not leave angry or maliciously. Over a period of some time they had simply determined that their spiritual path no longer lined up with the theological emphases they were hearing from their pastors or their denomination. It was not a decision they made lightly, and I have no trouble affirming them as a sister and brother in Christ.

Every pastor who has been at this work of shepherding congregations for more than a year or two has experienced this kind of significant loss. We each have our own ways of walking through the aftermath with those we are called to serve. My own pastoral response involved first going to visit this couple in their home, listening as carefully and lovingly as possible, praying with them, telling them they are loved and will be missed, and asking God to bless and keep them. Then of course, I needed to leave, not wanting to prolong the new reality that I was no longer their pastor.

I was troubled by one thing though, and I heard myself verbalize it in their home that day, saying something like, “One thing I am struggling with is my belief that a community that follows Christ is going to be diverse and have many gifts and viewpoints. There is room for all of us at the table of grace. We don’t have to be in agreement on everything to have community. In fact, an important part of our church’s role is listening and caring for one another in our differences so that the world knows it’s possible.”

My pastoral default position will always be to bless people as they choose other paths. However, that morning in their home I wish I had gone beyond blessing and been bold and alert enough to venture, “I think you may be making a mistake. I think Christ calls us to something more than finding like-minded people to be our community. It would be better if you didn’t leave because of differences of opinion. It would be better if you stayed and continued the hard work of being in community with people who don’t always agree on everything, because honestly, that is what you are going to find wherever you go.” Those are the thoughts that were left unsaid because they were not yet clearly formed in my mind.

Creating genuine Christian community is never going to be easy, but a good place to begin is with the shared commitment to talk things through before heading for the exit in search of greener pastures!

Words (c) 2015 Mark Lloyd Richardson

May I Become


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Altar at First United Methodist Church, Santa Barbara, CA Adorned by Julie Hayward

Altar at First United Methodist Church, Santa Barbara, CA
Adorned by Julie Hayward

Our congregation has been engaging in learning and conversation about what the Bible and the Christian faith say about hospitality and welcome within the Body of Christ, specifically as these relate to LGBTQ persons. It has not been an easy process thus far. We have looked at the words of Scripture related to same-sex activity and tried to understand their cultural and historical context. I have led a teaching forum on the United Methodist Church and the LGBTQ community, specifically addressing how our denomination has characterized homosexuality as sin and yet many of us experience a deep tension between institutional loyalty and obedience to Jesus’ teachings in the gospels to love our neighbors. We have gathered in a worshipful setting to listen to the personal stories of what our experience and reason tell us about same-sex attraction. I have preached sermons on the necessity of changing the United Methodist stance on marriage equality, ordination, and the full inclusion of our LGBTQ neighbors, friends, and families in the life and ministry of the church.

After a time of Holy Conversation recently, in which over fifty people gathered prayerfully to listen to one another’s stories, I shared my heavy heart about a few matters. A day or two later, someone in the church sent me the following poem/prayer. It was an encouragement to me, so I share it now with you. The words below are not my words (though I wish they were). I hope you find them meaningful for whatever paths God is leading you on today.

May I become at all times, both now and forever,
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those without shelter
And a servant to all in need.

Jesus is the one who illumines my spiritual path. When others assign false motives to my leadership, I keep my eyes on Jesus. When they question my fidelity to the gospel of Christ, I keep my eyes on Jesus. I let the bigger picture of those who have been marginalized and excluded in church and society remain in my sight, and I remember the pain this has brought to their lives. I pray that in some small way I can give voice to Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Words (c) 2015 Mark Lloyd Richardson

From the rising of the sun to its setting


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Knapp's Castle, Santa Barbara, CA

Knapp’s Castle, Santa Barbara, CA

From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
~ Psalm 113:3

The posture of praise
begins with eyes turned toward the sun.

This glimmering star was there
the day the world was born.
It was there as our first parents walked in the garden
as creatures of all variety came into existence
as nations and peoples were formed.

This star warms us
guides us
keeps us
like the one who placed it there.

From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.

Morning praise
awakens us to life’s sweetness
celebrates the gift of being
honors deep relationship.

Noontime praise
walks in the light of love
seeks justice
longs for peace.

Evening praise
gives thanks for a day made holy
surrenders to life’s brief tenderness
drinks from the wellspring of hope that never runs dry.

From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.

Words (c) 2015 Mark Lloyd Richardson
Photo credit: Dallis Day Richardson

Love. Period


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Interfaith Pride Celebration Santa Barbara, CA

Interfaith Pride Celebration, July 12, 2015, Santa Barbara, California

Members of our church recently participated in the first Interfaith Pride Celebration in Santa Barbara. I was pleased to be part of this outdoor worship service in support of the LGBTQ community. There were about 20 sponsoring faith communities, including ours, and an estimated 250 to 300 people in attendance.

The reason we were there is simple really – if Jesus were here it’s where he would be. We are Christ’s body on earth and so it follows that we will go where Jesus would go, and we will spend time with people with whom Jesus would spend time, and we will be the bearers of grace and peace to those with whom Jesus would do so.

It was a beautiful afternoon, with great gospel music and inspiring speakers. I was among the faith leaders who read a Confession written by the Rev. Frank Schaefer acknowledging the wrongs that faith communities have done to LGBTQ persons. We have not always been welcoming and affirming of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We have failed as churches and people of faith to acknowledge the human dignity and worth of LGBTQ persons. We, the Church, have treated them as second-class believers and have harmed them with words of exclusion and hatred, defining them as “sinners,” “perverts,” and “abominations.”

We have not given them their own voice to express their love of God. We have subjected them to abusive “religious counseling” and harmful “conversion therapy” in a misguided effort to fix them. The heterosexism and homophobia of our faith communities has caused real suffering in the lives of our sisters and brothers in the LGBTQ community. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, told us to “Do no harm.” But we have been doing harm for decades now.

Following the service, a woman came up to me with a couple of her friends, and with tears forming in her eyes she said, “It was very moving for me to hear the words of confession. It is the first time I have heard anyone say they were sorry for the hurt we have felt. Thank you so much.”

My heart is with my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, who have been harmed by the Church’s message of exclusion and condemnation in the past. I have been involved over the years in advocating for marriage equality. I have been involved in trying to change the language in the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church so that it no longer singles out one group of people based on sexual orientation to deny them the ability to be ordained as ministers or to receive the blessing of the church for their committed relationships. I will continue to do these things because I owe my primary allegiance to Jesus Christ and his reconciling grace and not to the United Methodist Church.

I want to be unequivocal and stand on the side of love, because as I see it, “love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). “Those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (1 John 4:16b). As long as I am the Pastor-in-charge in the church I serve, we will be working toward full inclusion of all people in the church’s ministry, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other ways we have of dividing people into classes.

Christ is our peace, my friends. Christ has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. We become people after God’s own heart as we continue this work of tearing down the walls that have harmed others, and indeed have harmed us all.

Words (c)2015 Mark Lloyd Richardson
Photo credit: Dallis Day Richardson

As the Sun Paints the Sky


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Birch Bay, Washington state Photo credit: Janelle Bruland

Birch Bay, Washington state
Photo credit: Janelle Bruland

Precious Lord,
walk with me this day
as you have in days past.
Wrap me in your deep presence
for the work you place before me.
Center me in your holy companionship
for these disquieting times.
Lift my spirit
that I might in turn lift others.
Lend me the perspective of your creative love
to help me perceive each person’s sacred worth.
Hold me accountable to the divine image within me
that it might be visible through my actions and words.
Then as the sun paints the sky at day’s glorious end
let my soul find its rest in your peace.
Awaken me renewed in the morning
to rise and meet the summons of a new day
sustained by the bounty of your grace. Amen.

Words (c) 2015 Mark Lloyd Richardson

With Sighs Too Deep For Words


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Pentecost Sky

Pentecost Sky

We do not know what we should rightly pray for,
but the spirit intercedes with groans that cannot be uttered,
and he searching our hearts perceives the mind of the spirit,
since as God commands the spirit intercedes to help the saints.
~ Romans 8:26-27

The spirit,
from your first breath,
breathes God’s loving intentions through you.

in your weakness,
don’t know enough to welcome this silent grace.

Your days are littered
with numbed neglect of your soul
and unresponsiveness to the groans of creation.

When you pray
the noises of your mind clamor and disrupt
the stillness where you had hoped to find rest.

Yet below the words
in a deeper, mysterious consciousness
the divine within appeals to the divine above.

There your heart is laid bare,
and with sighs too deep for words
the spirit intercedes to help you find your way.

This day’s sorrow
takes the hand of your heart’s undying gladness
and crosses over into the mystery where hope resides.

Pentecost 2015
Words © 2015 Mark Lloyd Richardson



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“Life is short. We do not have much time
to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us.
So be quick to love, make haste to be kind.” ~ Henri Amiel, 1868

To acknowledge the brevity of life
is to heighten the value of each moment.

You travel with me,
you take my hand and we walk,
you take my heart and handle it tenderly,
you take my loving and return it many times over.

We travel this road together,
you and I,
and who could be more fortunate?

(On the occasion of our 12th wedding anniversary)



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earthy gray
dry as parched wilderness
symbol that we too shall perish

Dust to dust
ashes to ashes
each of us makes our humble return
back to the habitat of our origins

All that is false is allowed to die –
misguided allegiances
harmful compulsions
lingering resentments
ego-driven agendas –
dead on the ash heap of confession

Only then is there a new beginning
a reconciling
a turning toward wholeness
a desiring for God

Finally in the fullness of time
the desert blooms again
salvation comes
life triumphing over death.

Words (c) Mark Lloyd Richardson, 2015

When I Die


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I wrote this poem several years ago as I reflected on the joy I have always felt from running, which has been for me a life-long endeavor. Running has taught me lessons about perseverance and potential I do not believe I could have learned any other way. So, with tongue firmly in cheek, I penned the following words to imagine a future where my running career would be admired and not forgotten. Besides, my wife Dallis just captured the perfect image during a recent race I entered on New Year’s Day 2015!

New Year's Resolution Day Run 2015

When I die

I’m thinking of donating my body
to medical research, though I haven’t signed
anything official yet. It’s not that I object to
the idea of decaying under a pile of dirt and leaves,
in fact it seems quite right—dust to dust,
ashes to ashes—the way it should be
if we are to give back to the material world
what it has given to us. But I figure that

if my body goes to science, then on some
perfect afternoon when the sun glimmers
through autumn leaves of red and gold,
pre-med students will huddle around
my cold preserved form with their sharp
utensils to explore what remains of me,
and one will say, “Look at this brain. He
clearly had an active mind.” Another will
comment, “See these shoulders. He must
have carried life’s burdens well.” Someone else
will observe, “His heart is quite big. Do you
suppose he felt compassion more than most?”
Another budding scholar will take the measure
of my arms and wonder, “Did he use these to
hold the ones he loved? Did he embrace life?”

Then someone will take one studied look
at my long sinewy legs
and remark in a way
that would make any cadaver smile,
“Damn! This guy was a runner!”

Words (c)2009 Mark Lloyd Richardson
Photo (c)2015 Dallis Day Richardson


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