Thursday, April 12, 2018

Out and About – Winter 2017-2018

Well, the spring equinox may have been and gone but we're still experiencing wintry weather here in Minnesota. In fact, winter storm is forecast for this weekend, with the Hennepin County Emergency Management issuing a warning that "all precipitation types are likely . . . including heavy rain, freezing rain, snow, and strong winds." In response, the hospital where I work has issued a statement that includes the following: "Predictions vary, but the worst case scenario includes a foot of snow, ice accumulations, widespread tree damage, and power outages." (4/14/18 Update: The Spring Blizzard of 2018.)

Given all of this, I don't feel that bad for the time it's taken me to look back on the winter that looks and feels as though it's very much still with us.

But first, regular readers will be familiar with my "Out and About" series, one that I began in April 2007 as a way of documenting my life as an “out” gay man, seeking to be all “about” the Spirit-inspired work of embodying God’s justice and compassion in the world. I've continued the series in one form or another for the last 10 years – in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 . . . and now into 2018.

So let's get started with this latest installment . . .

My year-long chaplain residency at Abbott Northwestern Hospital (ANW) in Minneapolis continues. In fact, I'm a little over halfway through – which I find hard to believe. Where does the time go?

In the photo above I'm pictured with my fellow resident chaplains Hae, Chandler and Katie. We're in the Bigelow Chapel of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities at a Transforming Chaplaincy forum on January 10, 2018.

Right: Getting into the holiday spirit with Hae and chaplain intern Simeon – November 29, 2017.

To find out what exactly we're doing to create some holiday cheer, click here.

Above: My desk in the Spiritual Care department of Abbott Northwestern Hospital. If you look closely you'll see a piece of bark from the Prayer Tree, a photo of my family from last August (the last time I was in Australia), a photo of myself with singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and drummer Michel Lee Bruyere (from August 2016), my Adsum Award from the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, and a framed print of "The Compassionate Christ" by John Giuliani.

. . . And, yes, I have a new statue of Cernunnos (right)! For a picture of the first one, and a reflection I wrote last year about this Celtic deity, click here.

Following is part of what my CPE supervisor Mark Mallinger wrote in my Unit I evaluation.

Michael has a big heart for those outside the mainstream and much of our patient population is part of this diverse group of people. Michael’s unconditional acceptance of others is I’m sure felt by the patients and families he encounters and cares for. When my mom and daughter were sick, I experienced Michael’s care and compassion as he reached out to ask how I was doing. He is a good listener and skilled at picking up themes and content under the surface. Michael taps into his love for ritual by facilitating appropriate and helpful ritual moments in his care. Michael has received several words and notes of gratitude for his care and wrote the following in his final self-evaluation:

I have no problems with initiating and maintaining pastoral relationships with patients and staff. I see such initiating and the relational interactions that follow as an integral aspect of my role as a chaplain, i.e., to embody a listening and caring presence. I think that, understood in this way, this role answers the key questions of each and every chaplaincy encounter/relationship: Who am I? and Why am I here? . . . I am an embodiment of compassionate listening and care and I’m here to be this embodiment within the context of this particular situation and with these particular people.

In terms of future ministry, Michael has in many ways found his niche in chaplaincy where so many of his gifts are valued and where he has discovered profound meaning. Michael wrote a beautiful paragraph about how he views “calling” and his own preferred description of discovery:

To be honest, I don’t believe in a “calling,” other than that of being a kind, compassionate, and aware presence in whatever circumstance I find myself. But I feel I’ve experienced enough encounters of genuine connection, transforming connection, through my chaplaincy work that I know in my heart that I make a difference – a positive and healing difference – in people’s lives in my role as chaplain. I am definitely mindful of this, and humbled by it too. Whenever I pause to think about it, I find it to be such an awe-filled thing: to be a human embodiment of the Sacred in the healthcare setting – a setting in which people, more often than not, find themselves at their most vulnerable, with many, if not all the securities and certainties of “normal life” suddenly swept away by the anxiety, uncertainty and fear that an illness, loss, or new diagnosis often brings. I’ve discovered that to be a “rock” – a grounded, compassionate, non-anxious and listening presence – for people in these types of situations puts my mind and heart in a space of such gravitas that it can’t help but be for me an amazing, humbling, and transforming experience.

Above: The wonderful group of chaplain interns we had at ANW from the beginning of September until mid December. From left: Simeon, Verna, Parker, Angela, and Yvette.

Above: The new group of chaplain interns that started at ANW in mid January 2018. From left: Dave, Phillipos, Sheila, Suzie, Dong, Mark, and PJ.

Above: The Rev. Denise Dunbar-Perkins, who retired in December 2017 after many years as a chaplain at ANW.

Left and below: The December 19 farewell party for Denise, hosted by the Spiritual Care department.

Above: Katie, Hae, Denise, and Verna – December 7, 2018.

For more about my journey in interfaith chaplaincy work, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
Interfaith Chaplaincy: Meeting People Where They're At
Chaplaincy: A Ministry of Welcome
Spirituality and the Healthcare Setting
Getting Into the Holiday Spirit

Above and below: Two of a number of gatherings I hosted this past winter to celebrate both the Winter Solstice and Christmastide.

For more pics and commentary, click here and here.

Above: My boyfriend Brent in a winter wonderland! . . . Actually, we were at Rosedale Center. We were there to see the latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi.

Above: My housemate Tim and his girlfriend Colleen by Minnehaha Creek, close to where we live in south Minneapolis – December 9, 2017.

Above: My dear friend Noelle with her granddaughter Amelia – December 23, 2017.

Right: Brent and Amelia – December 23, 2017.

Above: My dear friend Joan and her fiancee Matt – December 24, 2018. You may recall that Joan accompanied me on a visit back to Australia in 2015.

Above: My friend Kathleen – January 20, 2018.

Above: On Saturday, January 20, 2018 I hosted my fifth (somewhat) annual tea party at my home in south Minneapolis. At this event were my dear friends Ken and Carol Masters and a number of the wise and inspiring women who are members of (or closely connected to) the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet – St. Paul Province. I'm a consociate member of this Catholic order, and two dear CSJs, Marguerite Corcoran and Rita McDonald, served as my companions during my two-year consociate candidacy (2006-2007).

For more images and commentary on this event, click here.

Above: My friend Omar – January 27, 2018.

Above: My friend Simeon – March 13, 2018.

Above: My friend Deandre – March 16, 2018.

Above: With my friend Brian at Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall. I was Brian's guest for the Minnesota Orchestra's February 9 concert, a definitely highlight of which was the orchestra's performance of Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, Opus 48 (concert version of 1900).

For my reflections on what I call Fauré's "ChristoPagan" requiem, click here.

Above: Hey, it's Black Panther himself!

On the evening of Thursday, February 15, Brent and I went to see Black Panther at the West End in St. Louis Park. . . . And who should have reserved seats right beside us but our friends George and John (left)!

The young boy pictured above was just one of a number of movie-goers dressed up as either characters in the film or in traditional African attire. It was great to see how happy and excited everyone was about seeing a movie which, in many ways, is about envisioning a world were all are recognized, represented, and valued. Without doubt, Black Panther plays a big role in ushering in such a world.

For more on Black Panther at The Wild Reed, see:
The Important Cultural Moment That Is Black Panther
Celebrating Black Panther – Then and Now

On Sunday, March 4, 2018, my boyfriend Brent hosted an Oscars Night Party.

Above (from left): John, Brent, George, Jim, and Omar.

Right: With my friend Kathleen.

Above: My friends John and George – March 4, 2018.

Above: Winter scenes – Minneapolis, MN, 2017-2018.

Winter 2017-2018 Wild Reed posts of note:
Our Quiet Time
Vessels of the Holy
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Medicine Songs
No Room for Them
Christmas 2017 – Reflections and Celebrations
If God Is Love . . .
Let Us Be "Energized by the Beauty All Around Us": Jane Goodall's New Year Message
Hope in the Midst of Collapse
Waking Up
Global Condemnation for Trump's Latest Ignorant and Racist Comments
Three Winter Gatherings
Nakhane Touré's "Tortured Journey to Clarity"
Winter of Content
Blessing the Dust
Gabriel Fauré's "ChristoPagan" Requiem
The Important Cultural Moment That Is Black Panther
Happy Birthday, Buffy!
In Minneapolis, a Snowy February Friday
In the Wake of Yet Another School Shooting, Signs of the Times
A New Day
Remembering Dusty
In the Garden of Spirituality – Marianne Williamson
Celebrating Black Panther – Then and Now
A Day to Celebrate the Survival of the Old Ways
Farewell Winter

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Autumn 2017
Out and About – Summer 2017
Out and About – Spring 2017
Out and About – Winter 2016-2017

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

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