"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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of the things I did today was go to Costco and buy 300 rolls of toilet
Here's the story of why:
One of the youth -- a twelve year old! -- at the church I serve, The Falls Church Episcopal, has a ministry, and that is to provide
toiletries to the homeless who attend the monthly “Welcome Table” across the
street at The Falls Church Presbyterian Church. (This is the same church that welcomed and gave space to The Falls Church Episcopalians during the
recent six year exile from our property, so there is a long and good relationship between our faith communities).
homeless gather for dinner at The Welcome Table one Wednesday per month. A couple of years ago there were only twelve or so guest.
month they have 200 folks or more attend.
As one part of the evening they are invited to go
upstairs in groups of ten or so and pick a toiletry to take home: either a roll of toilet paper, or a
bar of soap, or a tube of toothpaste, or a toothbrush, or a bottle of shampoo.
They can take either a roll of toilet paper, OR a toothbrush, OR a bar of soap, OR a bottle of shampoo, OR a tube of toothpaste.
attended last month and was suprised at how many of them picked – and even
instructed their children to pick – a roll of toilet paper as their one thing.
some went to take another item, and were told “sorry, only one item,” a couple
of them traded in the roll of toilet paper for, say, shampoo.
But most kept the toilet paper. Apparently it is often the most in-demand thing to take.
stood there thinking, “if that's the case, why not give everyone a roll, plus whatever else they
When I asked that question out loud, they said, “because all this is donated, and we just don’t have enough rolls of toilet paper to give everyone a roll: we'd run out.”
I thought to myself, “you have got to be kidding me."
“In Northern Virginia, in one of
the wealthiest counties in one of the wealthiest parts of the country in what is perhaps the wealthiest nation in history, we’re telling people that they can have “only one effin’ role
of toilet paper?!?”
last week I went and found someone to donate $1,000.00, that will cover, as a kind of start up, 300 rolls for 3
And this morning I borrowed Mary's van, and went to Costco, loaded up, and during a break today delivered them to The Falls Church Presbyterian:
With the months of June and July already covered, I plan to spend those two months telling this story, and count on people's generosity to come through, from August on.
So when it comes to toilet paper and toothpaste, no one there will hear "either...or..." again!
For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year. What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…
So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…