When ever I introduce myself as Michael Landon, inevitably one of the first questions I am asked is if I am related to the late actor of the same name. This is a question I have grown up with, especially having grown up in southern California. There are two ways that I have come to answer this question: 1) I’m the original, as it is on my birth certificate and not his, plus when he chose his name he picked it out of the phone book, and the only Landon’s in LA County at the time were my family, as I am a third generation from LA County. 2) If I have to share my name with someone famous, he didn’t do to badly by it. In fact, I have always enjoyed his shows, and now my own children enjoy his shows.
Growing up in LA, I am always asked how I ended up in Indiana of all places. After finishing my B. A. in Sociology, with an emphasis in Social Welfare, from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) I worked for several years as a psychiatric social worker with the homeless and the homeless mentally ill. I then moved to Chicago to begin work on my Masters of Divinity at McCormick Theological Seminary. Upon graduating I began serving churches in Illinois and Indiana.
In addition to my B.A. and M.Div., I also have a graduate Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction and a Doctor of Ministry, both from San Francisco Theological Seminary. I was also trained as a labyrinth facilitator by Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, and had the extreme privilege of spending a week with her and Veriditas at the Cathedral of Chartres, in Chartres, France. I am also ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
I have over 20 years experience of walking beside individuals, families, and communities in grief – serving as pastor, spiritual director, hospice chaplain and bereavement coordinator, and retreat facilitator; I have a lifetime experience of personal grief and healing.
As for worship, I have been going to church for as long as I can remember – yet I have come to learn and experience that going to church and worship are not necessarily one and the same thing. Worship can and does take place in many places and in many expressions, some in a special building set aside just for that purpose, some in homes, or storefronts, or in the woods, or on the beach, or the desert plains, or even in ones car in the middle of traffic. Worship can take place individually, but I believe that a core element to worship is the communal aspect; mostly because we are relational beings created in the image of a relational God – whom it is we worship.
Prior to the ordained ministry, I was involved in all aspects of worship – from singing in the choir, playing handbells, reading liturgy, being a part of liturgical movement teams and drama teams, to sitting in the pew as a part of the congregation. Worship and the various rituals have played an important role in my life. Even as a young child, when in my faith tradition children were often excluded from worship and especially from participating in and experiencing the Sacrament of Communion – I found that I was curious to the point of pushing the envelope a bit. In my Presbyterian tradition, at the time, children were not welcome at the table (Jesus’ table) until they were confirmed. Confirmation did not take place until the 8th grade. When I was in the 3rd grade the rules changed that it was okay for unconfirmed children to partake with parental consent, but it was still strongly urged to wait until confirmed. Well, I used to help the Deacons in the kitchen after worship clean-up after communion. They would let me eat some of the bread, and often times I was sent home with left over bread and juice. This got me thinking – “if it’s okay for me to eat the bread and drink the cup in the kitchen, and even take the leftovers home, why can’t I eat and drink in the sanctuary with the congregation?” My poor parents weren’t quite sure what to do with me, but I was able to answer their questions about what the Sacrament meant and why I wanted to participate, and from then on I was allowed to participate with the congregation.
I share this communion story of my youth as it underscores another important aspect of worship and rituals, they need to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Worship and ritual is not about me and God doing my thing privately and their happen to be others in the room with me. Worship and ritual is about unity and oneness – with God and and all of creation. I love creating liturgies, and I especially love to create a sacred space that invites visual opportunities to connect with the overall theme of the service. Worship involves all of our senses, not just our brain or cognitive reasoning. The book of Psalms is a wonderful reminder that we can bring our whole being – even our painful, angry and uncomfortable emotions and experiences – to God in worship – in communal worship. I have found that too often the painful and uncomfortable aspects of life get left at the door and not brought into the sanctuary, making it difficult to be authentic, and even more difficult to experience God’s presence and healing. So part of my mission and calling is to create safe worship spaces where people can bring their whole self to worship together.
I am also developing a new ministry of worship coaching – helping pastors and worship leaders in their planning and leading of worship, but this is in the fledgling stage of development. I will also be offering spiritual direction on-line via Skype in the very near future. It is my prayer that I will be able to resume my retreat work as well.
I share these ministries rather tentatively as I am learning to live and adjust to increasing limitations brought on by multiple chronic diseases. Life took a dramatic change in 2009, when I became so ill that I could no longer work. 3 surgeries later, some things have improved, while others have gotten worse and a few more have emerged. So as they say, the mind is willing, but the flesh is weak. Making this website is a big step in and of itself, but I am not a quitter. When Moses stood before the Israelites he gave them a choice – to choose life or to choose death by what path they would follow. Publishing Grieving hearts, and now starting this site is my way of choosing life – even when it is rough and all I want to do is hide under the covers.
So if you continue to follow this site and join the conversations, one thing I can promise you is that I will be real and honest, and as fully present as I can be.
Some final things about me are that I am the father of two amazing daughters Moriah and Juliette. Though my marriage to their mother has come to an end, my joy of being a father continues to grow. It is pure joy watching them grow and develop into amazing young women. I could not be prouder of them.
I am also on a journey of authenticity – learning to live as God created me to live, and that is as an openly gay man who is a follower of Jesus. I know that there are many views on homosexuality, particularly in Christian Churches. Some believe that being gay is an outright sin and something that is “chosen,” while others (like myself) believe that one’s sexual orientation is part of how we are created. I want to be clear, that this site will not be a place of debate or bashing of one side or the other. I will be sharing from my experiences as they relate to grief and worship, and growing in faith – but I will not be engaging in biblical or theological debates or arguments on this matter. My disclosing my sexual orientation is part of my being real and honest. I know and continue to experience the unconditional love and grace of God in my life, and in response I hope to continue to share that gift with others. The purpose of this site is to be a safe place of healing and hope, so whether you agree or disagree with my views and understandings, may we agree to be loving towards one another. There is room in God’s kingdom for all of us – regardless of our views.
I pray the loving light of God’s healing and love surround and fill you,