Tag Archives: Houston

A Move in Progress


Boxes and lists surround me couple of weeks before I move

from my Houston apartment back to my house in Austin.


Obviously the days of this month are diminishing, but new items on the lists continue to appear. Not everything will be accomplished in the end; something will be left undone or left behind in one form or another.

Mainly I want to clear my schedule as much as possible for goodbyes. First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston (firstuu.org) is full of wonderful people. They are smart, funny, kind, friendly, wise, creative and many other positive attributes.

Yesterday I wrote about 2/3 of my final sermon here, to deliver on July 27. So soon!

Then there will be a farewell party hosted by the members and staff. I anticipate tears and laughter as we share what’s on our hearts. In just under 2 years we have changed each other. We have made indelible memories that have filled me with gratitude.

The weekly commute became too much to continue for another year. Husband, friends, and family await my permanent return. To rest, to plan our trip to Barcelona and the Canal du Midi in southern France, and to contemplate the next chapter in my life–those are my 3 primary goals. Perhaps more blogging, too!


In the Public Eye


Goodness, gracious, what a week this has been! Generally speaking, clergy are sometimes asked to deliver a public prayer or something along that line. This week I had three different opportunities that came around serendipitously during the same week. Okay, part of it is that I’m the designated summer minister while the other three in our team are on vacation or study leave.

Cherry Steinwender, founding director of the Center for the Healing of Racism, asked me if our church would co-host a Community Dialogue on “The Legacy of Trayvon Martin: so that he may rest in peace.” That has been a plea by Trayvon’s parents, who have gone a long way toward advancing a national conversation about race in the United States. Their son was one more young person caught up in the fear and general unconsciousness about race. I feel sad about our vast separation along skin color lines, but grateful that we could encourage an honest conversation.

Participants packed the place. More and more chairs were brought in until there were anywhere from 75-90 people in close quarters. It was the most diverse group of people I have seen in one place with a common, interactive purpose.

We wanted to express feelings–confusion, anger, tears, and even some laughter. Ground rules were established from the start. I provided opening and closing words; others gave a short history of racism in the country and a little about what people were saying on opposite sides of Highway 288, one of Houston’s color lines.  Cherry facilitated as individuals shared their feelings. We tried (not always successfully) to keep speakers to 2 minutes each.

The collective dialogue was honest, respectful, and heart-felt. I would say that every one of us heard something to make us uncomfortable, but we stayed with it for two hours. Afterward, people made personal connections and invited one another to coffee, to lunch, or to another event. Our next event at the church is a video and discussion about Michelle Alexander’s scholarly work on the New Jim Crow (the prison system as modern segregation).

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During the month of July, my sermon series has been on immigration, with the Big Idea = Welcome the Stranger. On the 21st I addressed the issue of minimum wage ($7.25 / hour OR the “tipped” wage of $2.13 / hour). The $2.13 hasn’t gone up for 22 years! The $7.25 was established 4 years ago. Anyway, I had read Saru Jayarama’s book Behind the Kitchen Door and decided it was sermon-worthy. Word got around to a former president of the church Board who has since moved to the west coast. Her daughter, who grew up in our church, is now an Ph.D. student and an intern with Restaurant Opportunities Center. ROC is establishing a presence in Houston and has joined with other organizations in campaigning to Raise the Wage.

So I met with ROC organizers and was invited to deliver the closing remarks at their March to Raise the Wage on Wednesday. We started at a downtown building where the cleaning staff gets low wages, marched past some of the others with our signs and chants and drums, and ended the rally with a few more testimonies from low wage workers and my remarks. (I’ll post them separately for anyone interested.)

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Today I delivered and invocation / grace before the Greater Heights Chamber of Commerce. Board members Jacob  I was seated at a table for the Houston City Council, and met Council members Brown and Bradford, their Chiefs of Staff, a Constable, two photographers, and a few from the Power Women Group–they had 3 tables! There were women throughout the gathering of 200 folks, but the Power Women’s table sign caught my eye. My prayer was as inclusive as possible, knowing that it was a diverse group in attendance. I’ll post that later, too. Congressman Ted Poe was the keynote speaker.

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Now it’s back to sermonating / sermonizing / wrestling with words for Sunday. It’s the last in the immigration series this time around, with stories of people I know who have crossed international borders to make a new life. There are some truly remarkable stories. Natalie, Lin, Rob, Fibi, Maru, Farah, and so many more, I salute you!

A New Neighborhood


I found a Houston apartment last week and have started gathering (lightweight) things with which to turn it into a home. It is a one bedroom unit at Allen House Apartments, close to Allen Parkway and in the area of Montrose, Midtown, and River Oaks. I’m not quite sure if there are specific boundaries to those neighborhoods. At any rate, I’ll be about 3 miles from work at First Unitarian Universalist Church.

Filled with advice from friends and an apartment locator, Jon and I drove to Houston to check them out. We learned quickly that a  nine-month lease is both harder to come by and more expensive than a 12-month lease. We looked at multiple options. One of them was a high-rise with lots of amenities: granite countertops, washer and dryer in every unit, a cyber café, and a personal trainer  who assists residents upon request in the fitness center. For all its pluses, it had an institutional feel–like a fancy hotel instead of a home. There’s not much of a neighborhood; it mostly serves patients and medical staff at the massive medical complex in Houston.

[A side note: I did my chaplaincy in Houston at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center back in 1990 as part of my ministerial education. It was a great experience with many strong memories. My ministerial internship was at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church in 1992. I haven’t lived in the area since then.]

Allen House consists of the remaining apartment complex after ones across the street were demolished for redevelopment. Eventually these will be gone as well. Sigh. Prices fluctuate daily, so I managed to get 850 square feet for less rent than the 714 square foot unit. Big closets and built-in bookshelves are a plus. Gated perimeter and covered parking will help me feel more secure.

The walkable neighborhood is a draw. The Allen House entrance gate opens directly into a lushly planted courtyard with a gazebo and a couple of fountains that add to the ambience. My apartment faces the courtyard (not the pool–yea!) so I will likely open the front windows to hear soothing sounds of water.

I’m on the ground floor although I had hoped for 2nd or 3rd. Wrought iron stairs and railings along the balconies add to a New Orleans feel. Residents include a variety of age, language, and ethnicity. Some have lived there for decades!

Take a peek at the web photos:  Allen House

Jon and I will both commute–he’ll drive to Houston early in the week and I’ll drive to Austin late in the week. We’ve done this before, so I trust the rhythm will soon become familiar and comfortable. For this nine-month run I look forward to change and I expect  surprises everyday. Any advice? I’m all eyes!