A good funeral balances grief and gladness. We have grief, that the person is gone and gladness that the person was here. Half of the memorial time should be sobbing; the other half laughing. Or at least tearing up and also smiling. Why not school all speakers in the 50/50 rule? They won’t listen but at least you will know you tried. You set a reasonable and achievable objective by which to measure, both a life and a memorial of a life.

By the way, a funeral is a service about death, which emphasizes one person’s death; a memorial is…



The Extraordinary Opportunities in Religious Real Estate


In Appreciation of The Funnel

One almost unmentionable item in the current pandemic is the kind of equipment we need, as women, when out and about for a few hours. We may be willing to use the bathrooms at the gas stations and we may not. We know that Starbucks, Chipotle and most thrift store rest rooms, as well as those in the big box world, have closed. The stores may be open but the facilities are not.

I love that work facility. It comes from the Latin/Spanish facil, which means easy. While there may be many enormous difficulties associated…

The Right Way to Light the Advent Candles

If one more person asks me about the right way to light the Advent candles, I will relinquish my cradle Christianity and become a pagan. Or Buddhist. Or Jew. I might have to give up my 43 years of ordination also but that might involve my pension. So let me not overdo myself.

The candle controversy is, as Pooh would say, a bother. Some argue that the hope candle comes before the faith candle; others argue the vice versa. Some argue that you have to hope to have faith; others argue you…

Advent Wreaths

Abortion Rites and Abortion Rights

Father James Martin, a liberal Jesuit priest, closed the Democratic convention with a prayer in which he asked God to “Open our hearts to those most in need.” On his list was “The unborn child in the womb.” Cardinal Timothy Dolan opened the Republican convention praying for many things including “the innocent life of the baby in the womb.” Neither really understands how little their words matter to most people.

Religion has been dying a slow death, not even hidden in plain sight. The churches close; the weeds grow up in the parking lot; the…

Unattended and Unmarked Deaths

The Brooklyn ‘disaster morgue’ on sunset park pier, pictured on May 6 with the statue of liberty looming behind the trucks through the fog.

For years when I was a young chaplain, I brought groups of students to New York City on what we called then ‘urban plunges.” Today they would be called urban discoveries or immersions or something less active and more contemplative. “Plunging” was often a required experience for students, particularly those from rural areas. We knew what we didn’t know about cities.

We would plunge for a week. We would stay on the…

Churches have spent a long time in the land of institutional danger. We fight. We split. We have different ideas about just about everything. Some of us love politics and see them as part of religion. Others think that politics and religion don’t mix. Jon Dominick Crossan, theologian and one of the founders of the Jesus movement, argued that Christian religion has something to do with Jesus. In fact, it has everything to do with Jesus — and whatever else it talks about is “adiaphora.” Adiaphora is Martin Luther’s famous term. It means the nonessentials. The pews. The roofs. The…

Knee Surgery and Repacking our Backpack

America needs knee replacement surgery. We are just bone on bone. Knees are important to prayer and to protest — and they seem important as a gesture too. Police taking the knee before protesters who take the knee in return? What strange images. They capture something important, even if it distracts from what needs to be done. More than mutual respect is needed. We need the mutual respect to turn into real change in different policing, different kinds of capitalism, different kinds of high schools.

We can get knee surgery! We don’t need to…

Donna Schaper

Donna Schaper is Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church and writes avocationally as the Dolly Mama. She is an irregular Baptist and UCC Clergy person.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store