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Pilgrimage Retreats with Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell
Organizing Pastor, Community of Pilgrims Presbyterian Fellowship, Portland, OR

Have you and your church leaders had a hard time thinking about what you want your next Session retreat, men's or women's retreat, all church retreat, or youth group gathering to focus on, and are wanting something new, different, outside the box and experiential, and yet of the Church?  Consider a Pilgrimage Retreat, an ancient practice for current times.

For the last twenty-years I have been on and led pilgrimage around the world with small and large groups - providing workshops on living an everyday pilgrimage life, for all-church events, Session retreats, men's or women's groups gatherings, youth retreats, and mission trips shaped as pilgrimage.  I have worked with churches and other faith organizations in Oregon, around the country and abroad.  Along with leading workshops, retreats and actual pilgrimages, I've also published three books on pilgrimage that I use for these sessions, the latest being Practicing Pilgrimage (Wipf and Stock, 2016), and have many articles published on this theme in both popular and church-related publications.

Reverends Beth and Greg Neel of Westminster Presbyterian Church said of my leading their all-church retreat at Rockaway Camp Grounds: "Brett is a natural teacher and his winsome style is laid on a foundation of deep spiritual practice and wide-ranging study of pilgrimage.  Brett engaged a variety of ages in a variety of activities, so that all who participated came away feeling as though they really had been on a meaningful pilgrimage” (Beth); and “Brett is gifted at assisting persons at different places on their faith journey to be on pilgrimage together.  He connects faith to the present and provides language that allows for questions, growth, and even possibly an ‘Aha!’ moment" (Gregg). Rev. Del Burnett of First Presbyterian Church, Salem said this about our time together at Suttle Lake on the men's retreat, “The Everyday Pilgrim Retreat led by Brett was a wonderful blending of biblical insight, personal experience and interactive engagement for our men.  The content was rooted in scripture and enriched by a morning pilgrimage, in which we were able to experience the pilgrim spirit.  Brett was a marvelous guide for our weekend experience.” And Rev. Sharon Edwards of First Presbyterian Church, Corvallis said this of their church leader retreat on pilgrimage at Mt. Angel Abbey said: “Brett's passionate and energetic presence helped us use the lens of ‘pilgrimage’ to examine the past, present and future of our lives.”

So, as you are thinking about a creative and out of the "box" experience for your church's next retreat, please consider a pilgrimage-focused theme and explore what it means to follow Jesus on our everyday pilgrimage lives in this contemporary world.


Feel free to contact me, Brett Webb-Mitchell, brettwebbmitchell@gmail.com; or 919-444-9111. Fee scale is sliding, so let’s talk about you and your church, and go on a pilgrimage!
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This is my testimony against reparative/conversion therapy, debated yesterday at General Assembly of the PCUSA:

For Bill/Motion #11-23

The Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell

In Psalm 139: 13-15, the Psalmist wrote, “For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well.  My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth.”

These words from Ps. 139 are my touchstone as I came out of the gay closet I lived in for forty years and realized that our Creator made each of us: male, female and non-binary identity, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex, and it was good.  Nowhere in this Psalm or any Scripture do we read or hear that God didn’t make us as we are.  As one popular poster in the 1960s boasted proudly, “God don’t make junk.”  The Creator created us just as the Creator wanted us to be in this world.

This positive message of Holy Scripture has been conveniently forgotten by many in our faith community who promote the misconception that an individual can change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity through what was erroneously titled “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, which implies my being gay, or another person being lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or non-binary, was a mistake by God, and thus human beings needed to “repair” we who were created by the Creator. The research on such efforts has disproven their efficacy, and also has indicated that a person who is a client for one who practices reparative therapy may be harmed for life.  How is one harmed?  In this supposedly “therapeutic” approach, the LGBTQ person is filled with the societal prejudice and family rejection that many of us experienced earlier in life. Indeed, the very architect of reparative therapy, psychiatrist L. Spitzer has since denounced this very practiced and has apologized for endorsing the practice.   

I urge you to vote for #11-23 and against any motion that comes to this committee or the floor of General Assembly that endorses this rejected form of therapy. After all, the God who beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb, fashioned me.  Therefore, I will thank God because I, as an out gay Presbyterian pastor, am marvelously made (Ps. 139)

The Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
3228 SW Sunset Blvd.,
Portland, OR 97239

919-444-9111
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Again: a difference between NC and OR.

In OR, Gov. Kate Brown signed legislature that banned conversion or reparative therapy in the state of OR.

In NC, the legislature is still trying to find ways to restrict the rights of LGBTQ people from marrying.

What a difference.

Here's the article about the state government's actions: http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/20/politics/oregon-outlaws-gay-conversion-therapy/
Pax!
B
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The Pulse Night Club attack came across my Facebook feed and Huffington Post as I prepared to preach on Sunday morning. At first, the report was 20 were killed, which was a horrific amount.  By 9:30 am, it was 50, including the killer, Omar Mateen.

I was shocked.  Horrified.  Stunned.

I went into the pulpit to preach a sermon that I had eerily titled, "Healing a Broken Community". To say the least, it was easy to weave in the story of Orlando in the part of the sermon that covered the sense of "brokenness."

But then I surprised myself toward the end of the sermon when I recounted that the gun violence towards gays/LGBTQ people is not isolated in Orlando, but also here in Portland, Oregon.  There are some streets and areas of this city where I would not kiss a partner because of my fear of violence. And four years ago, I could not be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) if I were an out LGBTQ person.  In fact, I know that charges were being drawn against me by another ordained clergy person in New Hope Presbytery because I am out and gay and an ordained clergy person.

Violence: my mom realized by the end of the sermon that I could be a victim of violence because I am gay and live in the USA, where guns and AR15 rifles can easily be purchased.

Friends of mine are visiting from Australia.  I asked them before the shooting if they thought we were a gun loving country and they laughed: "Of course! You have guns everywhere, don't you?"

My friend Paul Fukui and I went to one of two vigils in downtown Portland, outside of Embers, an LGBTQ night club. 2,000 people were there.

But there were no vigils near where I live and preach.

So tonight there is a vigil at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.  I bought the church's first rainbow flag. I expect 25-30 people to arrive.  I touched base with the rabbi in the neighborhood and president of a nearby mosque, but haven't heard back from them.

And I will pray.

We will read the names.

There is a sheet to give people an idea of what to do to curb gun violence.

This is a solemn week.

Prayers.

Silence.

Writing letters to representatives and senators.

Action.

God be with us.

Pax! B
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So, since I last joined this blog, much has happened.

1. I am no longer the only out gay Presbyterian pastor in a pulpit in OR.  I left St. Andrew's on April 30, 2017.

2. I am now (part time) the Spiritual Life Director of L'Arche Portland.  This is a spiritual/religious community with or without people with intellectual disabilities;

3. I am starting a new church of Presbyterians.  It is either going to be called Community of Pilgrims/the Pilgrim, or Church of Pilgrims/the Pilgrim.
Much more to come!
Pax!
Brett
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Practicing Pilgrimage | Brett Webb-Mitchell - YouTube
Here's my youtube.com clip for Practicing Pilgrimage.

Remember: this pilgrimage "thing" is the way I understood and understand the process of "coming out" of my or one's LGBT or Q closet: it is a process, a way of moving out of the confining closet of living as a closeted gay man, to living out free from these self-imposed and culture-imposed confines.

Oh: and also please consider purchasing the book! https://www.amazon.com/Practicing-Pilgrimage-Becoming-Pilgrim-People/dp/1620329484/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483574390&sr=1-1&keywords=practicing+pilgrimage
Pax!
Brett
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So my dentist in NC asked me how I was enjoying my short stay in NC.  "It's going well!" "What have you done in NC while you've been here?" he asked. "I've gone into every women's bathroom in the state," I said.  He laughed so hard he almost fell off his padded stool.

Crazy times in NC.

Hate-filled times in NC.
Time to take the state back to the 21st century rather than the 1950s.
Pax! B
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Dear Friends!

I am celebrating the publication of my 10th book, PRACTICING PILGRIMAGE: BEING AND BECOMING GOD'S PILGRIM PEOPLE, published by Wipf and Stock in Eugene, OR: http://wipfandstock.com/practicing-pilgrimage.html

In this book I explore both pilgrimage as a intense, actual event, say to a place like Santiago de Compestela, or in your backyard, rural fields, or urban setting, in which we live out our ordinary lives in extraordinary fashion.

I also cover how "coming out" of one's gay/LGBTQ closet is a pilgrimage of sorts, in which we are always coming out.

So click on the link, and buy a copy!
Thanks for the support, friends!
Brett
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In the last few days I've gotten to know Adam Philips and his wife, who with his church, Christ Church, an Evangelical Covenant Church plant in Portland, OR, has been kicked out of the denomination because of their support of LGBTQ people. Crazy buy true.

I've had the pleasure of getting to know Adam via emails, hope to have coffee with him next week, and read all about him in the mail.  I support him as a pastor, regret that they have to find another space, lost the money from Evangelical Cov. Church, and will be with him and his church in terms of solidarity of support.
Pax!
B
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I'm off this Sunday for India and Nepal for pilgrimage.

It is time for me to go on pilgrimage.

The life of the openly gay Presbyterian pastor in Oregon needs some time to walk, reflect, think, and ruminate about life.

Everything is well.

It is just time.

To walk.

It is also time to learn.  This is my continuing education.  I am fascinated by the issues surrounding the universal nature of the Christ figure.  What better way to explore it than going to India among my Hindu sisters and brothers, and Nepal and Buddhists.

So I'm off then.
Time to sojourn.
To pilgrim.
To be.
Pax!
B
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