Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I've been the pastor for Mission Bay Community Church (MBCC) now for two years and I've learned a lot from this community. Most recently, how well the community cares for one another in times of need. The care they give is just one way they share hospitality.

Earlier this month a newer family in our community experienced complications with their pregnancy. We got word one morning that the mother needed to go into the hospital and she had her two young boys (ages 4 and 2) with her.  I found myself wanting to jump into action and at the same time, I felt overwhelmed with how to help with all I was juggling that day.

Instead of jumping in, I waited a bit and watched with pure amazement as the community sprung into action. Within an hour, a plan was established. One member would go to the hospital, visit with the mom and take the boys off her hands. She then drove the boys to another member's home where the boys came in for snacks and got to play until their dad could leave work. Meanwhile, two other members stopped by the hospital after work to check in with the mom and keep her company.

By the next day when I heard how things had gone, the family already had rides figured out to and from bible study and worship. Meals were being planned and the community was surrounding them with prayer.

WOW. I mean, seriously, this family just moved here a few weeks ago!

It's amazing to see how the deep bond of faith in Christ comes into action in our daily lives. The family shared their need and people jumped up to help going out of their ways to care for each other, feed each other, care for each others' kids.

MBCC does hospitality well. We receive Christ's radical hospitality and then we are compelled to share it with others.  I'm grateful to serve alongside this church!

***Permission was given by the family featured in this story.***

Friday, July 18, 2014

montreat...another home

As soon as I entered the Montreat gates, my soul felt welcomed home.

For some of you readers on the west coast I know it is odd to you that I would choose to fly across the country to be at a place like this...so I want to write a bit about what Montreat is and how I ended up here.

Montreat is a town, a college...but known best to me, it is a conference center. I grew up coming to Montreat...

- first as a child with my parents attending Presbyterian Peacemaking Conferences,
- then as a youth for youth conferences,
- later as a college student working on summer staff as a camp counselor,
- now as an adult planning team leader for the youth conferences.

Montreat for me is a place of study - engaging scripture in keynote, worship and small group. Having theological conversations with anyone...everywhere.

Montreat for me is a place of recreation - climbing mountains, rock hopping, running, paddle boating, energizing (Presbyterian do these choreographed dances...ask me and I'll show you some time).

Montreat for me is a place of reunion - I run into people I know from all different stages of my life. People who have known me since I was a child and remind me that my faith roots run deep.

Montreat for me is a place of spiritual rest and renewal - I don't mean rest in terms of sleeping, but rest in the way that I breathe a little more deeply. I feel comfortable, at home, known and loved here.

Montreat can be a bubble... full of insider speech and connections. But at it's best, it is meant to be a safe haven, a sanctuary, a thin space where you feel closer to God and to each other.

West coasters, I hope to share Montreat a bit with you through this blog and maybe, EVEN MAYBE spark some interest in bringing some of you with me next time to experience God in this place. Participating in conferences at Montreat helps us remain connected to the larger church and learn more from each other.

This week, one thousand youth were brought together to explore the theme "rooted and reaching." Through keynote, small group, recreation and worship, we explored together what it means to be rooted in God's love so that we can reach out to others. I served on the planning team that has worked the last 2 years to create the conference. It's been a great way for me to give back to the place that has given so much to me. I prefer to serve the larger Christian church this way because I believe in the power of investing in the youth of our church and learning about God through them.

As I'm here and reflecting, I realize that I am rooted in this place. Throughout my life, the seeds of my faith have been nurtured and grown here. Coming to this place reminds me of my deep faith roots so that I can continue to reach out in love to others.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

practice resurrection

"Practice resurrection" was a motto I learned in Haiti. It was an integral part of the orphanage St. Joseph's Home for Boys in Port-au-Prince. The boys and their leaders lived this motto every day. Rising early in the morning for prayer they would recite their core scripture: "You can do anything in Christ who strengthens you" [Philippians 4:13].

The devastating earthquake in Haiti destroyed St. Joseph's building and a few months later, I received in my inbox an email with a picture of a plant growing out of the rubble.

Resilience, the email said.

Reminding us as well as them to practice resurrection.

I love this motto: practice resurrection. It's core to my belief in God, in Jesus Christ, in forgiveness, hope, and new life. But, no matter how much I like the idea of it...living and practicing resurrection is hard work.

In order to practice resurrection, you have to live through death. Death of a life, destruction of a building, the end of a worthy ministry or relationship.

In order to practice resurrection, we have to experience great loss. Something taken away from us. A dream, a person, our control.

My friend Kate recently helped me put an image to this feeling. It's like a harrow tearing through soil.

A harrow - the garden tool with a heavy frame and teeth. A harrow - with the sole purpose of breaking up what exists. Cutting roots. Turning soil over, bringing what was on the bottom to the top.

The verb "harrow" can be used to describe our emotions during a time of loss and grief. It means distress, torment, grieve, pain, hurt...

The process of loss is harrowing. The darkness, the pain, the deep sadness is brought to the forefront. The harrowing makes a mess within ourselves, mixing the old with the new. Creating ugly chaos. And yet, in the garden, pulling up soil creates a sense of relief. A sense of hope. Harrowing gets things out of the way for us to prioritize and make room for what what is new.

Perhaps what is most difficult in practicing resurrection is not the loss.

Rather, it's trusting that something new will come.

During our Good Friday service at church, the sanctuary grew gradually darker as we retold the story of Jesus' suffering and death. At one point, all the candles were extinguished and we sat in darkness together. I could tell that some of us wanted to stay in the dark. There is a familiarity there. We've been there before. It's not pleasant, but it's real. There are things to be learned in the darkness.

And yet, there was new light to come. With a clang of the cymbals a new candle was lit. A small child sitting on the back row let out a gasp, "Whoa!" Not expecting the light to come and amazed at how it lit the room.

Whoa is right, little one. The promise in practicing resurrection is that the light WILL come. New life will emerge out of darkness. That is the promise and truth of our faith.

As I am harrowed by the changes in my ministry at an organizational level and also in peoples' very lives...I find myself searching for the light. Not emerging from darkness prematurely, but seeking and hoping and praying for the new life that will come from this change.

I'm trusting in the process and in the promise that new life will come. I'm living my motto:
practice resurrection.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Communion on BART

(left to right) Intern Lacey Hunter, Elder Tom Pack, Rev. Dawn Hyde

Things that were awkward about this morning:

- an incredibly tight clerical collar
- standing on the steps of BART holding elements (bread and juice)
- the eyes that stared at us

You see, today is Maundy Thursday. It is the day when we remember Jesus' final meal with his disciples right before he was betrayed, beaten and crucified on a cross.

At Mission Bay Community Church, we celebrate the sacrament of communion every Sunday because we view it as a vital part of our identity. We are fed so that we can feed the world. We extend the fellowship of communion after worship during dinner. Breaking bread with one another provides the space through which we get to see and know each other as children of God.

Per my post on Ash Wednesday, I feel pretty convicted to be in public space more as a pastor and to hold space as holy. So today, Lacey and I broke bread in the very public space of a BART station (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and offered God's love through this sacrament to those on their morning commute.

What we realized is that there is a lot of baggage around communion. People were much more willing to come forward and receive ashes (symbolizing their mortality) than they are to to come for communion (symbolizing new life). Interesting...

As Lacey and I reflected afterwards, we recognized the church's responsibility for creating a lot of baggage around communion. Centuries of rules dictating who is allowed to receive communion and who can bless and give it. The long stares of people passing by made me wonder how many were considering if they were really welcome to partake in the feast. Shouldn't this happen in church? Have I confessed recently? Can females do this?

I stand by the importance of us holding sacred space and pointing people back to God. I realize many people don't know what this day means or why it would even matter, but perhaps having two women in clerical collars holding the symbols of bread and cup sparks some interest. I like to think there will be a (small) bump in google searches for "communion," "bread and wine," or "who were those crazy women outside of Powell St. BART holding bread?" One can only hope :)

Communion is meant to be powerful. Jesus shared this meal right before he suffered and died. But, I don't think it is meant to portray power plays. I get communion and you don't. Or I can serve it and you can't. Pretty sure when we play that game we are missing Jesus' point.

Jesus charges us in his words at the table to love one another. "As I have loved you," Jesus says, "love one another." (John 13:34-35)

It can be uncomfortable to spread God's love out in public. But it can be pretty awesome and faithful, too.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lenten Prayer Station

Lent is the 40 day period leading up to Easter when we consider the passion story of Jesus. It is a contemplative time when we yearn for God. 

In worship at Mission Bay Community Church we are participating in a lenten prayer station. 

During our time of confession, we consider the ways we have intentionally or unintentionally wronged each other or God. We write down those confessions and our burdens on a piece of paper and then bring them forward to the communion table to nail them to the cross.

The nailing is symbolic. The sound poignant. Nails going into wood reminds us of the violent truth that Jesus was nailed to the cross - crucified - by the brokenness and sin of the world. 

Each Sunday, we will nail our prayers of confession to the cross and then on Easter we will let go of those confessions and the cross will be cleaned and covered with flowers. 

Life, death and resurrection frame the rhythm of our lives and our faith journeys. By participating in this lenten prayer station, we are remembering how Jesus takes our burdens from us and washes us clean. We practice dying to our sin (to the burdens that we carry) and rising to new life in Christ. 

Side story:

I often have these creative ideas, but then have no clue how to actually make them happen. This idea in particular came in conversation with our intern Lacey as we considered what to do in worship to liturgically and physically process Lent. 

I admit I thought it would be easy. Grab two pieces of wood, put them together and wa-la! Creative prayer station.

Well..let’s just say it’s not that easy. This is where my husband Tim really becomes my knight in shining armor. He listened patiently to my idea and then asked a few questions:

(1) How do you plan to attach the two pieces of wood into a cross?
( 2) Do you want it to stand upright?

As soon as he started talking about circular saws and a special rod to create the perfect stand I knew I was way out of my league. He then took the lead. 

We went to an awesome recycling store and recovered wood:

Tim cut the wood, sanded it, and made the two pieces fit perfectly. 

He created a stand so this hefty cross stands on it’s own. 

He even helped me think through the types of nails we would need and how and where to hammer in the sanctuary so we didn’t harm anything or anyone :)

This lenten station has been really cool because it has brought in more of our senses. 

We use our minds and hearts to write down our burdens and sins.
Our hands to nail.
And our ears to take in the sound.

It's one way we are making our invisible faith more visible. One way we are making our faith particular, concrete, involving us in our physical world here and now. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dreaming Big

Most days I have to remind myself that I'm not the boss in charge. Actually, that is God's role. The conference I just joined today (Trent Symposium) focuses on just that. A group of young pastors have come together to learn and practice some of the basics of church business (worship, fellowship, service, stewardship) and we started with a reminder of who we are (children of God) and to what we are called (serving God). The business of the church must all be rooted in our identity in God, lest we be led astray.

God's role is to lead. My role is to pray, to discern, and to dream with God.

Our church community has been dreaming with God recently at our retreat and as I reflect on our gathering I am learning two things:

(1) God's dreams are BIG. They're going to take some time to reach. Small steps and lots of trust will get us there.

(2) God moves powerfully through people present. The energy (of the spirit) is with us always, we just need to show up and commit to doing the worthy work.

The work of discernment is the hardest, I think. Managing, sending emails, showing up, giving of our resources and skills...those are much easier.

So...to do this work of discernment together....

During this season of Lent, I invite everyone to join me in praying the psalms. Calvin (theologian) calls the psalms "an anatomy of all parts of the soul." Through the psalms, we learn to pray.... to listen for God's voice. We also gain the courage through the stories of trust of those who have gone before us to take great leaps of faith in following God's will and dream for our lives - both individually and as a community of faith.

Join with me, google the psalms now, Psalm 66 for today and begin praying with me (with us!) for God's dream for you and for MBCC to come.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Urban Pastor

Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by how secular this city is and I wish more people knew and appreciated my identity as a pastor. 

Sometimes I love how I can go completely unnoticed. No one suspects my role as pastor.


This last Wednesday I felt both of these things as I put on my collar and grabbed some ashes to offer ashes and prayer on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). 

Early Morning with intern Lacey Hunter

One of our pastors, Leslie Veen, mentioned last year how protestants always receive their ashes at the end of the day. Wouldn't it be cool to get them first thing? So, as is tradition at Mission Bay Community Church, we set out to try something new. 

It was new for us - hanging out in the train stations and streets of the city instead of holding a worship service in the church building where we normally live. 

I had several reflections from the day:

-  I was amazed by how many strangers approached me with questions. I must have busted the myth of "only males are pastors" about 10 times and had some fascinating conversations about Lent and what the ashes do for our faith.

- I was humbled by the way strangers stepped into the intimate space with me of receiving ashes, recognizing our shared mortality and asking for prayer. It was holy.

- Standing in silence with a sign offering prayer and ashes is my kind of evangelism. Several people eyed me cautiously and a few came forward risking whatever we may offer for the ashes and prayer. Once one person would work up the courage to walk over, others around them would see that we really just were imposing ashes and offering prayer, and then several more people would follow. One woman watched as her friends received ashes, read the scripture verses we had for people to take and said, "You really are just giving out love?" "huh."

My day in a clerical collar on the secular streets of San Francisco taught me that I need to be out there more - meeting God's people. Risking my comfort to mark spaces as holy. 

(left to right) Intern Lacey Hunter, Rev. Dr. Leslie Veen, Rev. Brian King, Elder Tom Pack

(left to right) Rev. Diana Bell, me, Rev. (and mentor) Maggi Henderson 

Good thing I've got some awesome clergy friends and MBCCers who are willing to risk the comfort with me! 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My Goal

A year and a half into this role as "pastor" I'm learning to articulate my role better.

I'm not a "quivering mass of availability."
I'm not an executive director of a non profit.
I'm not a preacher.
I'm not a missionary.
I'm not a saint.

I'm a child of God and my role/my profession is to create and hold space for people to connect to the divine. 

I say it is my role, when really it is my goal, my "calling" in church-speak.

This goal sometimes manifests itself in being available to others and sometimes it means functioning much like a non profit director. Weekly it means opening the word and proclaiming the gospel. Daily it means thinking outside myself and my community to connect with others and address real needs.

Clarifying this role and my goal has redirected my own energy to connecting with the divine. In my long "to do" lists my goal is no longer to complete the tasks, but to create and hold space for connect to the divine. Thus, my "tasks" of organizing worship, facilitating small groups and maintaining communication are not to grow the church community. It's not at all about numbers, it's about the connection. Connection with God and with each other. Every thing I do is to create and hold space to connect with the divine.

My coach, Jeannie, has been so great to help me better articulate this part of my identity and I'm grateful. The more I can clarify my goal and purpose in life and in ministry...hopefully, the better I will be able to live it out!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fairness and Grace

Last night, a small group from Mission Bay Community Church met in my home to eat dinner and study the biblical story of two sisters - Mary and Martha.

You can find the whole story here: Luke 10:38-42. The basic storyline is that Jesus comes to visit their house and one sister Mary sits at his feet and listens while the other sister Martha is busy cleaning the house and providing hospitably to Jesus. When Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is not helping her, Jesus tells her to stop worrying and busying herself. He says Mary has chosen the "better part" by listening to him.

It's a beautiful and important reminder to put Jesus first and for all of us busy/productive people to slow down and prioritize. It also doesn't seem fair. Martha was doing all the things culturally expected of her to prepare for and value the guest and Mary just sat there.

We want Jesus to be concerned with fairness. And yet, Jesus concerns himself with grace.

The more we talked about the story, the more other stories like this came to mind - the story of the Prodigal Son, the Workers who worked different amounts and yet all were paid the same, Jesus's persecution and suffering.... you know, none of those stories seem very fair either.

Perhaps it is our expectations for what we define as "justice" or "fair" that are the problem.
Perhaps our feelings of entitlement and desire for recognition get in the way of our being good people and sharing God's justice and grace.

I left our small group knowing I need to resist my tendency to compare, criticize and want my fair share in order to give and receive grace and love. In order to really put God first.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

10 Ways To Share Faith With Children

Sharing our faith with others can be hard. Sharing our faith with children who are at a different developmental stage than us can seem really hard. Here are a few simple ways to reach out to children and share your faith with them. 

(1) Pray with them.
Help them know God is available to them anytime through prayer. Pray out loud together, encouraging them to pray, too.

(2) Read scripture together.
They'll notice if you read your Bible and they'll want to do the same. Set time aside to read a Children's Bible together.

(3) Worship together.
Children learn by observing those around them. Help them know what to expect next in worship and get them involved in the music and the prayers. Make sure they have a front row seat and can observe all that is happening around them.

(4) Be honest about life and death.
Young children are concrete thinkers. They see bugs die and grieve over pets that die. Share with them that death is a natural part of life.

(5) Welcome questions as they grow.
Children are wonderfully curious! Encourage their questions and explore answers together.

(6) Model Jesus' love in action. 
Take children with you to serve the community. Bring them to care for others in the community. Help them see what it means to love others as Jesus loves them.

(7) Reassure your child that God's love is unconditional.
The song "Jesus Loves Me" says it well: "Jesus loves me when I'm good, when I do the things I should. Jesus loves me when I'm bad though it makes him very sad."

(8) Don't try to correct them.
Children experience God in all sorts of beautiful ways. Their understanding of God will change as they develop. Ask what they think about God and explore the mystery together. They may even have something to teach you!

(9) Allow them to notice the injustice in the world.
Our world is an unfair place. Allow children to notice the unfairness and talk together about how we can help. Pray together about the injustice they see.

(10) Pray for them.
This is the most important. Pray for the children in your household, in your community, in the world. Pray that God might work through you to share Christ's love with them.

*Written with LOTS of help from my mom, Rev. Dr. Genie Martin, who has a huge heart for children in the church.