Friday, July 19, 2024

Br'er Abbot

A little bit about my nickname "Br'er Abbot"...

It was given to me years ago by Bishop Eugene Tyrsson SilverWolf Kyle a dear friend and brother of our religious order. It came about as a play on words from the old children stories of Br'er Rabbit (Brother Rabbit) and because I was the abbot of our order and he knew of my affinity for Saint Melangell, the patron saint of hares.

What he couldn't have known was my love of the Br'er Rabbit stories and the Disney movie the Song of the South. These stories were made popular in the United States by Joel Chandler Harris, though he wasn't the first to publish them.

They were based upon the continental African people's folktales and subsequently the derivative folktales of the enslaved Africans of the Americas. They were my first introduction to liberation theology, though I didn't know that at the time.

I grew up in a deeply racist family and these folksy tales helped me struggle against learned generational racism and to start to discover a different world around me and a different way of being at an early age. Those folktales and stories would inform and thus shape my world, political, spiritual, and emotional view for the rest of my life.

To this day I still treasure the memory of those books. For good or bad, right or wrong, they helped make me who I am today and I treasure my dear brother's nickname that he gave me all those years ago. I am humbled and grateful.

+Br'er Abbot

Friday, June 28, 2024

Daydreaming About Clouds

I've been listening to Joni Mitchell a lot recently. She soothes my soul in these troubled times. She's absolutely one of my favorite artists and has been since my college days when a paramour of mine with long blonde hair, not unlike Joni's hair in her younger years, introduced me to her.

I have so many favorite songs of Joni's but one of my most favorite songs, especially as I get older, is Both Sides Now. It starts out talking about daydreaming about clouds and I know something about daydreaming about clouds.

When I first started elementary school, every day at recess at I would sit under a tree and watch the clouds drift by. Wanting to get away from playground bullies, I would imagine what it might be like to stand upon a cloud and float away.

I longed to get away from the meanness of the class bullies. I wanted to get away from a family that was at best, alien to me and at worst, abusive at times. I dreamed of building a house in the clouds and staying safe up there in the sunshine and the moonshine. I really thought I could walk and climb on clouds! The only problem I couldn't figure out was getting up there in the first place. That eluded me but I looked at clouds that way for a long time. I really didn't know clouds at all.

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
Looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and they snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
And you leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It's love's illusions that I recall
I really don't know love
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say, "I love you, " right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

Oh, but now old friends, they're acting strange
And they shake their heads and they tell me that I've changed
Well, something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day
I've looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all
It's life's illusions that I recall
I really don't know life

I really don't know life at all 

Monday, May 27, 2024

Reflecting on My Ordination to the Priesthood on the Feast of Saint Melangell

An Icon of Saint Melangell created on the Island of Mull by the monks of Mull Monastery.

 A blessed Feast of Saint Melangell to you and yours in this year of our Lord two thousand and twenty-four!

It was nineteen years ago today that I became a priest within the Free Catholic tradition. I was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by Archbishop Robert M. Bowman and Bishop Larry Cameron, of the United Catholic Church, on May 27, 2005, the Feast of Saint Melangell. The ordination took place at Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church, the church of my baptism and confirmation, surrounded by friends, family, and members of my ministry from the four corners of the country.

In many ways it seems like a lifetime ago and in some ways it seems like just yesterday.  The experience of the passing of time is odd, especially as one ages.  The ebb and flow of time seems to move as it will, where it will; collecting in reflective pools of memories, or perhaps murky swamps of vague recollections, and sometimes dangerous riptides of regret.

When I first began to sense my calling, I immediately told my mentor and friend, Fr. James Martin, an Episcopal priest of blessed memory.  His initial response was "what took you so long to figure that out?!"  Before I would start my discernment process for the priesthood he gave me some good advice.  He said, "Brian, if you can do anything else with your life, go do it and don't become a priest. Only follow this path if you absolutely cannot turn away from it."   He knew first hand that the priesthood was not for the faint of heart and that it was simultaneously a heartbreaking and heart-healing vocation.

While I thank God for my calling, I still question God sometimes why He called me and why He wouldn't let me go.  I also thank God for my mentorship and friendship with Fr. Martin, who was one of the most Godly men I have ever encountered.

I am a terrible priest and that is not false humility, just a simple reality.  Too often I fail and I am strong willed when it comes to listening to the gentle call of the Holy Spirit.  More than I care to admit, I want things my own way without a thought for what God wants for me and sadly, sometimes I allow my passions and ego rule my life instead of giving myself over to the simple obedience and grace of Christ. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to my priesthood.

There's a traditional prayer to God and Saint Melangell whenever one sees a hare hopping about, "May God and St. Melangell save thee and may a thousand angels guide your steps!"

A self-indulgent prayer for myself on this auspicious day: May God and St. Melangell save this Br'er Abbot and may a thousand angels guide my steps!

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Generation X: Trapped in the Rust of Reality's Broken Dream

Generation X: Trapped in the Rust of Reality's Broken Dream
+Brian Ernest Brown

We were the latchkey kids, the MTV generation, the ones who watched the Berlin Wall crumble and the internet rise, all while their parents waxed nostalgic about picket fences and bootstraps.
Now, Generation X, sandwiched between the Boomer optimism and Millennial hustle, finds itself in a curious purgatory – disillusioned, restless, and clinging to a faded American dream that seems perpetually out of reach.

Unlike their forebears, Gen X didn't inherit prosperity. They entered a workforce already tilted towards the top, wages stagnant, and benefits shrinking. The promise of homeownership evaporated in the housing crisis, replaced by a crushing burden of student debt. The once-assured path of work-hard-get-ahead now feels like a treadmill to nowhere, the finish line perpetually obscured by a mirage of unattainable comfort.

This disillusionment breeds a gnawing restlessness. Gen Xers are the masters of the side hustle, the perpetual moonlighters, always chasing a financial horizon that seems to recede with every step. They're the parents juggling childcare and aging parents, the ones putting off passions in pursuit of stability that feels ever more elusive. They're the cynical realists, the ones who scoff at motivational quotes and see right through the cracks in the gleaming facade of the American Dream.

But is there a solution to this disillusionment? Is there a way to mend the broken dream for a generation left holding the empty promises? Perhaps. Here are a few possibilities:

Shifting the narrative: The American Dream needs a reboot. It can't be just about material possessions and endless growth. We need to redefine success to encompass well-being, community, and a sustainable future. Gen X, with its pragmatism and adaptability, can be at the forefront of this reframing.

Prioritizing well-being: Mental health, long neglected, needs to be central to the conversation. Affordable healthcare, accessible therapy, and policies that support work-life balance are crucial for a generation burned out from juggling precarity and responsibility.

Empowering the squeezed middle: Policies that address income inequality and wealth disparity are essential. A living wage, affordable housing, and accessible education can chip away at the feeling of being stuck in a rigged system.

Embracing the collective: Gen X's cynicism can be channeled into collective action. Supporting unions, advocating for worker rights, and pushing for social safety nets can create a sense of agency and build a more equitable future for all.

Ultimately, the solution to Gen X's disillusionment lies not in individual heroics, but in systemic change. It requires a collective reimagining of the American Dream, one that prioritizes well-being, fairness, and a sustainable future for all. Gen X, with its resilience and resourcefulness, has the potential to be the generation that not only mends the broken dream, but builds a better one from its ashes.

Remember, even the rustiest gears can be oiled and set in motion again. Perhaps it's time for Gen X to dust off its collective cynicism, roll up its sleeves, and start building a future where the dream, once again, feels attainable, not like a cruel mirage shimmering in the distance.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

The Looming Shadow of Christian Nationalism: Dangers and a Path Forward

The Looming Shadow of Christian Nationalism: Dangers and a Path Forward
+Brian Ernest Brown

The rise of Christian nationalism in the United States presents a significant threat to both the religious and political fabric of our nation. This ideology, which seeks to merge American and Christian identities, promotes a dangerous blurring of the lines between church and state. This article will explore the dangers of such a merger, highlight its contradiction with true Christian teachings, and offer potential solutions for the Christian Church to return to its core values.

Dangers of Christian Nationalism:

Erosion of Religious Freedom: When a single religion is elevated above others, it can lead to the suppression of minority faiths and the marginalization of non-believers. This directly contradicts the fundamental American principle of religious freedom enshrined in the First Amendment.

Undermining Democracy: Christian nationalism often promotes a single, "true American" identity, excluding diverse voices and perspectives. This can lead to political polarization, social unrest, and ultimately, the erosion of democratic values.

Misinterpretation of Christianity: Christian nationalism often cherry-picks scriptures to justify its agenda, overlooking key teachings of Jesus Christ, such as love, compassion, and forgiveness for all. This can lead to the weaponization of religion for political gain and contribute to social divisions.

Christianity and Separation of Church and State: The separation of church and state is not merely a legal principle, but also a core Christian value. Jesus himself instructed his followers to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). This clear distinction between earthly and divine authority is essential for ensuring religious freedom, preventing the abuse of power, and maintaining a just society.

Solutions for the Christian Church:

Returning to the Gospel: Christian churches need to refocus on the core teachings of Jesus, which emphasize love, inclusivity, and service to others. This requires a critical reevaluation of theologies that promote exclusion and discrimination.

Promoting Interfaith Dialogue: Fostering dialogue and understanding between different religious communities is crucial to combating religious intolerance and promoting a more inclusive society. This includes partnering with other faith groups on social justice initiatives and promoting interfaith prayer gatherings.

Engaging in Politics with Integrity: Christians can participate in the political process while upholding their core values. This means avoiding aligning themselves with political parties or agendas that contradict their faith, and instead advocating for policies that promote justice, compassion, and the common good.

Examples of Hope:

There are many examples of Christian communities actively working to counter the harmful influence of Christian nationalism and return to the heart of their faith. Here are just a few:

The Sanctuary Movement: This interfaith movement provides sanctuary to immigrants and refugees facing deportation, upholding the biblical command to care for the stranger and the vulnerable.

The Poor People's Campaign: This movement, led by faith leaders across denominations, advocates for policies addressing poverty, racism, and environmental destruction, demonstrating how faith can inspire action for social justice.

Interfaith Communities United for Justice: This national organization brings together people of diverse faiths to work on issues such as immigration reform and voting rights, demonstrating the power of interfaith collaboration in shaping a more just society.

These examples offer a glimpse of hope for a future where the Christian Church lives out its true calling, not as a tool for political gain, but as a force for love, justice, and peace in the world. By reclaiming its core values and fostering interfaith collaboration, the Christian Church can play a vital role in healing the divisions within our society and building a more just and equitable future for all.

Monday, December 11, 2023

A Nation Divided: The Lingering Anger and Anxiety After Trump's Election

"Mulberry Fourth"
Acrylic on Canvas
By Brian Ernest Brown

A Nation Divided: The Lingering Anger and Anxiety After Trump's Election
+Brian Ernest Brown 

The shockwaves of the 2016 election continue to reverberate through American society, leaving a trail of anger, anxiety, and division that threatens the very fabric of our nation. Donald Trump's unexpected victory ripped open the long-simmering wounds of inequality, injustice, and cultural clashes, leaving many feeling disillusioned and dispossessed.

This anger manifests itself in various ways. For some, it's a simmering resentment towards the political establishment, fueled by the feeling that their voices have been ignored and their concerns dismissed. Others express their anger through protests and activism, demanding change and challenging the status quo. Still others, disillusioned by the political process, turn inward, withdrawing from civic engagement and feeling increasingly isolated and unheard.

Anxiety, in turn, permeates the social fabric. Many Americans, particularly those from marginalized communities, fear for the future of their rights and freedoms. The rhetoric of hate and division, coupled with policies that target specific groups, creates a climate of uncertainty and vulnerability. This anxiety manifests itself in increased stress, depression, and even physical health problems.

The consequences of this anger and anxiety are far-reaching. It erodes trust in institutions, weakens social cohesion, and fuels further polarization. It creates a society where empathy and understanding are replaced by suspicion and fear. It makes it difficult to address critical issues facing the nation, as entrenched positions and ideological divides impede any meaningful progress.

While it's tempting to view this anger and anxiety as simply a response to Trump's presidency, the roots run deeper. They are the culmination of decades of economic inequality, social injustice, and political gridlock. They are the result of a system that has failed to address the needs of its citizens and left many feeling unheard and marginalized.

Healing these divisions and finding a path towards a more united future requires a multi-pronged approach. First, we must address the underlying causes of anger and anxiety. This involves tackling economic inequality, investing in education and healthcare, and promoting policies that ensure equal opportunity and access to justice for all.

Second, we must foster a sense of shared purpose and belonging. This requires leaders who are willing to engage in honest conversations about our differences, bridge divides, and build common ground. It requires citizens who are willing to listen to and understand those with different perspectives, even if they disagree.

Finally, we must rebuild trust in our institutions and in each other. This requires holding our leaders accountable, promoting transparency and accountability, and engaging in civil discourse. It requires a renewed commitment to the principles of democracy, equality, and justice for all.

The road to healing will be long and arduous. But if we are to emerge from this period of division and anger, we must be willing to confront the challenges we face head-on. We must engage in honest conversations, listen to one another, and find common ground. We must rebuild trust and work together to create a nation where everyone feels heard, valued, and empowered. Only then can we hope to create a future for all Americans, one filled with hope, opportunity, and belonging.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Transgender Day of Remembrance November 20

Introduction Given at the Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014
St. Martin’s Episcopal Church Fayetteville Arkansas
By Bishop Brian Ernest Brown

I Wonder Did You Know You Were Making History
By Stephanie Mott

In honor of those who have walked openly in the light and in memory of those who have suffered the violence of ignorance and oppression 2011 Transgender Day of Remembrance.

I wonder did you know, you were making history,
you were setting people free, when you died.
I wonder did you know, we would ever know your name,
our lives would never be the same, because you tried
I wonder did you know, we would come to love you so,
and I wonder did you know, you were making history.
I wonder did you know, we would stand up to insane,
we would reach beyond the pain, because you cried
I wonder did you know, we would learn to stand up tall,
tell the truth to one and all, for those denied.
I wonder did you know, we would come to love you so,
and I wonder did you know, you were making history.
The lives we live we owe to you, and I wonder did you know,
you were making history.
I wonder did you know, we would finally learn to fly,
we would fly beyond the sky, because you tried
I wonder did you know, we would finally say no more,
we would open up the door, please come inside
I wonder did you know, we would come to love you so,
and I wonder did you know, you were making history.
I wonder did you know, you were making history,
you were setting people free, when you died.

For Rita Hester

Let us pray.

Giver of Breath and Lover of our Soul, we thank you for the great witness of Rita Hester and all those who have gone before us who have suffered bigotry, hatred, persecution, and sometimes death.

In particular, on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, let us remember those who have identified as transgender or gender non-conforming, who have blazed a path for each of us to follow in our own unique and diverse way, with their very lives. We thank you for those lives, the courage of those who lived them, and the light they shone on the path for the rest of us to follow.

Help us to be ever mindful of the pain, injustices, and discrimination perpetrated against so many who are simply trying to live out their lives to be who they were created to be.

Give us the grace and strength to live our lives so courageously, authentically, and fearlessly that we too offer others, who follow after us, permission to be themselves so that they may join us on the path toward acceptance, inclusion, compassion, and love.


Marianne Williamson from her book A Return to Love offers: “As we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I want to speak just briefly about how far we’ve come, specifically how far we’ve come since the Stonewall Riots of 1969. I was only ten days old. Now just briefly, for those who may not know what I’m referencing, The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the ] gay community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.

My how far we’ve come since those days! In large part thanks to those who have gone before us, some of whom are still with us, and many of whom have passed away, and still others who laid down their lives for the cause whom we remember today.

For those of us who were born around that time or afterwards, it’s hard to see the progress we’ve made because we sometimes lack perspective and often take so much for granted getting caught in our own struggle towards equal rights. But here we are openly holding a Transgender Day of Remembrance and no one is breaking down the door and carting us away to jail or worse. Thank goodness. Thank justice. Thank courage. Thank those whom we remember today.

We live in a day and age where, with some exceptions, albeit too many exceptions because one exception is too many, transgender folk can legally be married. A big difference from 45 years ago. However, there’s still so much more work yet to be done.

We live in a day and age where, with some exceptions, albeit too many exceptions because one exception is too many, transgender folk are able to more easily and freely transition into who they were created to be, than they were 45 years ago. However, there’s still so much more work yet to be done.

We live in a day and age where, with some exceptions, albeit too many exceptions because one exception is too many, transgender folk are gaining equal rights within community after community. Look at our struggle in our own dear Fayetteville and the struggle of Springfield, MO, our neighbor to the north, which have both passed sweeping Civil Rights Ordinances for LGBT folk. That was just a dream 45 years ago. However, as we all well know, there’s still so much more work yet to be done. Vote against the repeal!

Even so with all this progress, the papers, or probably more accurately in this day and age, Facebook, too often, because once is too often, tells us stories of bigotry, discrimination, abuse, and sometimes murder of transgender or gender non-conforming folk.

So the struggle is far from over and a struggle it is. However, please remember as we struggle for equal rights let us not so much seek to do battle with one another, for in battles there is a winner and a loser, but rather let us seek to become reconcilers, for in reconciliation, one to another, our human family can finally begin to grow together in acceptance, peace, respect, and ultimately love and that’s what we’re really struggling for.

So even though there’s more work to be done, have hope, we’re on the winning side of history and we shall overcome!

Pax Christi,
+Brian Ernest Brown