Communities and Chapels

Over the years I have worked in education, the for-profit world, and with multiple non-profits. I have never worked in government… until now.

The city manager of Englewood, Colorado, was a member of Left Hand Church when he lived in Longmont. We were at a party in December when I mentioned that a neighbor wanted me to run for the Board of Trustees in the town in which I live. I had always heard that small town politics is like national politics – you never please anyone.  But my friend said we all have our civic responsibilities and running for the town board would be good for me and for the town. He said more often than not, our particular town’s government was comprised of people who tended to work together, moving in the same general direction.

So, I gathered the signatures necessary and left my completed application with the Town Clerk and waited for the election on April 5. I figured I wasn’t likely to win, since I am transgender and all. Only I found out a few weeks ago that there will not be an election. Only six people filed to run for the Board of Trustees, and only one person filed to run for Mayor. Apparently when that is the case, everyone whose paperwork was accepted automatically becomes a member of the Board of Trustees, or Mayor, without an election. Huh. Now this is starting to get real.

After several weeks of training, on April 18 I will be sworn in as a member of the town’s Board of Trustees. I am eager to serve – seriously. I mean, why not? I am the pastor of a church, a pastoral counselor, a speaker on issues related to gender equity, and an author. Why wouldn’t I add public servant to the list? I have no idea if I will be any good at it or not. I’ll let you know.

Speaking of things at which I may or may not be good, did I ever tell you about the time I helped renovate the chapel with several church members and one of my co-pastors, who had to say repeatedly, “Uh, no, Paula, let me help you with that.” She was patient and kind, and the chapel is a beautiful, sweet intimate space. I get to preach in a place with a cool coffeehouse vibe.

Left Hand Church meets in the chapel of a United Church of Christ. Like every other chapel built in the 1960s, it was not given a lot of forethought. Adding a chapel was just what churches did back then. Nobody builds chapels anymore. They figured out that they don’t get used. This chapel collected dust and sat behind hideous solid brown doors, one of which defiantly pierced a splinter all the way through my finger when I was carrying it to the dumpster. Behind the doors was a neglected carpet, dirty purple chairs, and a giant mosaic of Jesus which left the room out of balance. Jesus didn’t leave the room out of balance, just the mosaic.

But my co-pastor had a vision, and with the help of a bunch of other lesbians with power tools, she brought it to fruition. She bought lots of mismatched chairs and recovered the cushions with bright fabrics which we put around wooden tables, and the whole thing looks just like our church looks– eclectic. If we’re expecting a lot of folks, we take out the tables and put the chairs in rows. If it is likely to be a more intimate gathering, we sit around the tables and talk and sing and listen and worship.

I touch a lot of the bases in my life. As a therapist, I spend sixty minutes at a time with precious humans and help them remove the obstacles hindering them from discovering their own answers. It is hard and holy work, helping them find the light hidden inside their hearts.

My church work is where I join with a group of people to figure out how to do life together. Outside of the family, the church is the only institution whose main purpose is to help people search for meaning together. That is why the church is always messy. Humans are messy.

And now I am joining my town’s Board of Trustees, caring for its citizenry. I won’t be helping individuals find answers; I won’t be helping fellow church-members search for meaning; I will be helping our town figure out how to be a better servant to its residents.

I hope I don’t let people down, though I am sure I will. It’s just the nature of things. I’m sure someone will have to say to me, “Uh, no Paula, let me help you with that.” But maybe I’ll do enough redemptive work to help keep the universe in balance. That is my hope.

My term on the Board of Trustees lasts for two years, probably just enough time to figure out what I’m doing. It took me a few decades to figure out ministry, and several years to become a decent counselor. Let’s hope I’m better at town governance. I don’t have that kind of time to get up to speed.

I have no intention of slowing down. I like to be busy. Between my speaking career, my pastoral work, my counseling practice, and now my service on my town’s Board of Trustees, I’ve got enough to keep me going for a few years, and that’s how I like it.  I’ve been saying that I’m semi-retired for about eight years now. I’m not sure any of the last eight years are what semi-retired looks like. But hey, it is my life, and I do want to make a difference while I’m here.

And so it goes.


6 thoughts on “Communities and Chapels

  1. >>and with the help of a bunch of other lesbians with power tools…

    I can’t believe you said that! I look forward to the day when we no longer identify each other by our sexual orientation.


  2. I wonder how different/similar the town board will be in comparison to church boards you have worked with or for! Just thinking about my own experience with church boards!


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