Thursday, December 29, 2011


One of the things I hate about growing older is that with each Christmas, I find friends have died. Yesterday came the news of the death of the “boy next door.” Only a few years older than I, Mike was the clean-cut, Boy Scout and then ROTC cadet that any girl would have liked to have as her boy-friend, even me.

He was 8 when we moved in across the street. I was 4 so we grew up together spending time in each other’s houses and with that kind of communal parenting that went on streets all over the South and Mid-west in the ‘50s. If you got in trouble with Mike’s mom or dad it was just as bad as if you had gotten trouble with your own.

Mike was just enough older to teach me how to play ball and climb trees. He rode a bicycle before I did and helped me when I got an old Schwinn with coaster brakes. We had the same teachers at the local primary school. Mike was a better student than I so I always felt a bit in his shadow. But I could sing and he could NOT.

One of the things that we did do around this time of the year was to gather up all the discarded Christmas trees and make forts out of them. For those in the North, this was the Texas answer to snow forts and we threw mud balls instead of snowballs. The premise was the same. I always wanted to be in Mike’s team because he had strategies to “get” the other kids unawares. It is not surprising that the military became his passion. He did ROTC in high school and at A&M taking his place among “The Corps” and finally the Army.

I worried about him while he was in Viet Nam and checked with his mother regularly when I would come home from college. His mother became one of those “parent alternatives” that all teens need. She was one of 5 girls of an old Texas macho father who gave boy’s nicknames to his daughters. I never heard Mike’s mom called “Edna”; she was always “Jack” and that suited me just fine. Both she and Oscar, Mike’s dad were funny people. Oscar was an incessant reader and seemed to know EVERYTHING even when he didn’t. Jack knew the funniest jokes—a little on the ribald side—something I never heard at home.

I learned to play cards with Mike and his younger brother Tom: first Fish, then rummy and then poker for toothpicks. I was too Scot to play for money.

I became the best half-back on the block since I grew earlier than the two younger boys. It was Mike who always included me in the games until he went to high school and didn’t have time for ‘little kids.’

Our lives began to touch again long after some of our parents had died. Mike had married a girl from my high school class and they ended up Episcopalians as did I. When I lived in Washington, DC, I would sometimes see his wife at church events and Mike was a Lector at my installation as rector of my parish there. We weren’t close, and yet we were. We were both proud of each other with that kind of “hometown-kid-made-good” type of respect.

Last year I saw him again. He happened to be in town for the Cotton Bowl when another parent of that neighborhood died and I was doing the funeral. After the funeral we went with the family to lift a glass in memory of her. We talked of the old times and the fun. We remembered together silly events that make up childhood and made the grieving for the family rich with wholeness and holiness.

I am saddened by this loss. I hurt for his wife and children. I give thanks for the friendship with a boy who I knew as a child and watched as a man. I ache at the thought of not seeing him again, but my memories are warm and dear. He became the man that I though he was all those years ago—courageous, kind, faithful, innovative, generous, inclusive and above all, patriotic in the good sense. I give thanks for friends like these who have called me to my better self and mourn their passing.

May he rest in peace and rise in the Glory of God.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

O Mysterium

Christmas Eve is especially dear to me. Many years ago a nun friend invited me to play French horn at the convent chapel for Christmas Eve. I already had scheduled a gig earlier in the evening. Christmas season services are the bread and butter to symphonic musicians. But this Midnight Mass was different. I was doing a favor for my friend.

The chapel was dark. We had lights on our music stands but then the nuns processed in with candles and there began an event that changed my life. Somewhere in that darkened chapel my ‘gig’ turned into worship, my music turned into gift and my faith entered into relationship with the Holy One.

It would take years for me to even begin to understand what happened to me that night. It is still a mystery and each Christmas after, that mystery inserts God’s self into my memory. It reminds me of what the ancients called the mysterium tremendum. It reminds how silently and unexpectedly God enters our lives and often can only be seen in hind sight. But even in its silence, it impacts how we live, and move and have our being.

My hope for all my friends is this encounter of the Mysterium Tremendum in the services of faith tonight and tomorrow.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Theology 101: Incarnation

I have been reading Mapping Human History by Steve Olson. It was published in 2002 and I got it from the library. It is a survey of DNA mapping. One of its themes is that race as a biological event is quite recent in human history. Skin color, pointed noses, flat faces, curly hair, all markers that societies have used to delineate groups of people from others are newcomers to the human DNA spectrum. And how many wars and people subjugated simply because of some blip on a chromosome?

Olson shows that after the rise of modern humans in the Great Rift Valley in Africa circa 65,000 years ago, humanity followed a couple of paths: one up into the plains of the Middle East and another by water routes to Southeast Asia and ultimately to Australia. It is fascinating to know that these migrations can be charted in the DNA of wandering groups.

From the time of my youth I have dabbled in genealogy. I was interested in knowing how my family had arrived in the Midwest and who fought on what side of the Civil War. I found that we were basically farming people who followed where good land could be found. My appreciation for cultural movements began to expand when I found that it was the Industrial Revolution that moved parts of my family from Connecticut to Missouri or from Virginia into the Missouri Valley or from enclosed England and Scotland to America.

Now to those who follow Creationism would have difficulty with this mapping of human history by genetic means. But I have never understood the Bible as a purveyor of factual history. The Bible has always been for me accounts of how people who have faith in God have conveyed how faith was passed on. I believed in archaeological developments long before I ever read the Genesis accounts so I have never had to 'give up' my faith in order to believe in science. So historical and pre-historical accounts that are confirmed by genetic research makes Scripture all that more rich and interesting.
Humanity has been far more mobile than most of us are aware. The "Journey" is at the heart of what it means to be human, it seems. However, if we stand in the history of a people who repeated to themselves "A wandering Aramean was my father..." before they offered sacrifice to their God, we know ourselves to be a species that is constantly moving. Jesus would have repeated those words mindful of his forebears who had been herders and wanders in the vast wilderness of the Middle Eastern Fertile Crescent for millennia. He would have known himself to be of the lineage of kings yet still a "country bumpkin" from Galilee. He wandered from town to town reminding people that life as they knew it needed to change to know God's pleasure, to know the goodness of God and to know their own goodness before God.

How does this DNA research connect us to the Incarnation—the God who dwells among us? I am not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I am heartened by this DNA information. For me it tells me that God has had God’s finger on the ‘pulse’ (or perhaps on the chromosomes) of humanity since before time. And while I am fascinated by the science and even more fascinated by the history, I am comforted by the care that God has taken in placing intelligent humans (homo sapiens sapiens) in Africa to give us our roots.  No more can we claim superiority or special privilege because of exterior physical trait.

The Incarnation of God in humanity in Jesus the Christ is the sign that God has been present to Creation from the first moment of atomic fusion that created us. It reminds us that we can always turn to that Goodness, that Essence of love, Beauty and Truth that is at the center of the creation. That God chose to dwell among us (the Greek word in the first chapter of John translates “he tented among us) is the sign of God’s intentional and continuing intimacy in the continued Journey that humanity makes. And more importantly I find comfort in the fidelity of God to Creation that is written in the DNA of every living thing.

My family can trace its roots to the western movement that began in 16th century England and Scotland as can many in the western hemisphere. But this ‘wandering Aramean’ mentality is as much of the history of our faith as it is the history of our genes. God ‘tents’ god self among us reminding us of our touch with goodness and Godliness that is imprinted in us. Many genes in the physical body are not used unless ‘activated’ by some chemical process, scientists tell us. The same holds true with our ‘faith gene’. The call to be faithful to God, to return the faith that God has had in us as the created beings that we are, can only be activated if we choose. It is not a chemical reaction. It is an act of the will to respond to the goodness that was implanted in us. It is the call to live into that Imago Dei ( Image of God) that we were created to be. This does NOT mean we are to be gods. But it does mean that we are to act in living out the goodness of God that is imprinted deeply within us.

It is this Incarnation that I find the most compelling part of Christianity.  Not the Cross, not the Crucifixion or even the Resurrection holds the image of God's intimacy with humanity as does the Incarnation.  The Incarnation--God's enfleshment shows for all time that God is faithful to use down to the molecular level that God is with us, not only in the Christ, but in each one of us.  Is this the Divine Spark of ancient theology?  I am not sure.  But I do know that it is within in those who choose to find it. 

Monday, December 12, 2011


What Perry gets wrong about religion in America

By Bishop Gene Robinson

GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry talks about his faith and America in a new political ad Rick Perry would be pathetic, if he weren’t so infuriating. In an effort to revive a sinking political campaign, Gov. Perry has reached a new low in promoting himself in a recent commercial.

The governor begins this 30 second spot with “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian.” He goes on to say things that Christians should be ashamed of him for.

“You don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

It is breathtaking (and not in a good way) when someone who aspires to be the Commander in Chief denigrates the soldiers he means to command. Just like all the other soldiers in our military, our gay and lesbian soldiers are dodging bullets and IED’s to preserve our rights as Americans. The right of all Americans to represent their country in our military is now the law of the land, a law that Gov. Perry apparently disagrees with and presumably would work to change if elected president.

The blood of gay and lesbian soldiers flows as readily and as redly as that of other young Americans fighting in Afghanistan, yet Gov. Perry feels free to use them as political cannon fodder for his campaign. In an attempt to garner conservative Christian votes, he would stigmatize these brave young men and women who are, as we speak, risking their lives on our behalf. If this is patriotism, count me out!

Gov. Perry also apparently disagrees with the separation of church and state, a constitutional separation which not only creates freedom of religion, but freedom from religion. He’s also got his facts wrong. No child is precluded from praying in school. Any American, young or old, can pray anywhere he or she wants to. What numerous rulings by the Supreme Court prohibit, based on the Constitution, is the establishment of religion. No teacher can pray to a Christian God and force their students to participate in or listen to such a prayer, as if the Christian understanding of God is the good and only “right” way to think of God.

Christians - or at least many of us - value the separation of church and state and see no harm in drawing these careful lines of separation for the good of a diverse nation. We don’t need the enforcement of the state in making our case for a loving God. We offer numerous and ample opportunities for public prayer in our churches and religious gatherings. We don’t need them or want them in school. Besides, we learned long ago that allegiance to God can’t be a forced march.

Christians everywhere should be alarmed that a candidate for our nation’s highest office would play fast and loose with both the Constitution and our men and women in uniform. It would be simply pathetic that Gov. Perry would do so in an effort to entice conservative voters, if it weren’t such an abuse of religion and a violation of the Constitution.

Gov. Perry is right about one thing. There is something wrong in America. But surely it begins with disloyalty to our brave troops in the field and violation of the hard-won separation between church and state which protects all Americans.

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, is the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC. He was the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church in America.

From the UK

No Anglican Covenant Coalition

Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity


DECEMBER 6, 2011



LONDON – After slightly more than a year, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition can point to several

successes, according to Coalition Moderator, the Revd Dr Lesley Crawley.

 Four dioceses of the Church of England have rejected the Covenant (Birmingham; St.

Edmundsbury and Ipswich; Truro; Wakefield). Where synod members were provided with

balanced background material (i.e., material that presented both the case for and the case

against the Covenant), the synods have voted it down. Four dioceses, where little or no material

was presented other than officially sanctioned pro-Covenant material, have approved the

Covenant (Lichfield; Durham; Europe; Bristol). A total of 23 diocesan synods must approve the

Covenant for the matter to return to the General Synod.

 The Tikanga Maori defeated the Covenant at their biennial runanganui, virtually ensuring the

defeat of the Covenant in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

 The Philippine House of Bishops has indicated they will not support the Anglican Covenant, likely

ensuring the defeat of the Covenant in the Episcopal Church in the Philippines.

 Individual dioceses in the Anglican Church of Australia (Newcastle; Sydney) and The Episcopal

Church (California; Eastern Oregon; Michigan; East Carolina; and others) have indicated their

opposition to adoption of the Covenant.

“In November 2010, we launched the Coalition to ensure that the case against the proposed

Anglican Covenant would be given a fair hearing,” said Dr. Crawley. “Today we are seeing our efforts

bear fruit. When fair debate has been allowed, the results have been gratifying.”

Critical to the success of the campaign, especially in the Church of England, has been the support of

the Coalition’s Episcopal Patrons, Bishops John Saxbee and Peter Selby, who have encouraged

diocesan bishops to allow for a full and open debate. In the coming months, 37 more English

dioceses will vote on the Anglican Covenant. Only 18 additional no votes are needed for the Church

of England to reject the Covenant.

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition continues to provide assistance to those researching the

proposed Covenant. The Resources section of the Coalition website ( is

regularly updated with new material and analysis.

In the coming year:

 The Episcopal Church will consider the Covenant at its General Convention in July in Indianapolis,

Indiana. The Executive Council of the church has circulated a draft resolution to reject the

Anglican Covenant.

 The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia will consider the Covenant in July

at its General Synod/Te HinotaWhanui in Fiji. Given the rejection of the Anglican Covenant by

Tikanga Maori, rejection of the Covenant by that church seems assured.

 The General Synod of the Church of England is scheduled to consider the Covenant at its July

session. However, unless 19 more diocesan synods have approved the Anglican Covenant by

that date, the matter will not return to General Synod.

“Anglican Communion Office officials have repeatedly responded to criticism of the Anglican

Covenant by suggesting that critics have not read the document,” said the Coalition’s Canadian

Convenor, the Revd Malcolm French. “Ironically, we find that the more familiar people are with the

document, the more likely they are to reject it. The Coalition is committed to ensuring a proper and

balanced debate in churches throughout the Anglican Communion.”


The No Anglican Covenant Coalition is an international group of Anglicans dedicated to protecting

the Anglican Communion from the dramatic changes that would be effected by the Anglican


The Revd Dr Lesley Crawley (England) +44 1252 820537

Dr Lionel Deimel (USA) +1-412-512-9087

The Revd Malcolm French (Canada) +1-306-550-2277

The Ven Lawrence Kimberley (New Zealand) +64 3 981 7384

The Revd Canon Hugh Magee (Scotland) +44 1334 47

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Five: Random

Revkjarla has posted a 'random' Friday Five:

I don't know about you, but my life seems to have a lot of random surprises lately. Just little things,

like the doggy in the picture, who was rescued by a Good Samaritan from running into traffic, who then brought him to the police, who brought him to my neighbor's house. I took the doggy, now named Scout, to the vet on Monday, and the woman behind the desk said, "This dog looks so familiar. Were you here last week?" I told her no, that this particular dog is a stray, and she looked at me, and said (use your best Boston accent here), "Oh my GAWD! I rescued that dog on Satuhday! I took him to the police!" and then she proceeded to tell me the story. She was Scout's angel.

Random, right?

So, for our Friday Five, I invite you share five random things about you, or five random thoughts, or five random surprises in your life.

  1. I am not Christmasy.  We seldom decorate and we don't do much shopping.  But I do enjoy driving around at night with Christmas music on the radio looking at the lights.  I usually like doing this alone so that all my childhood aversions to Christmas don't disturb others.  But it often surfaces good Christmas memories that are good to hold on to.
  2. I notice that I have not been blogging.  When last week's Friday Five is my last post it annoys me and I get off my duff and put my thinking cap on.  I may have a more recent blog article by the time you get here.
  3. I am fed up with paper!  I thought computers were supposed to diminish paper--why do I now have more paper every day?  And my printer isn't even working!
  4. Tomorrow is the ordination of a colleague and Revgal Amy.  I pray for her to have as holy an experience of her priesthood as I have been given.
  5. I hate being old and out of the loop.  In my head I am still in my 30's--at least until I try to stand up!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Five: Being Intentional

Kathrynzj has come up with today's FF.  She is having a tough time remembering to do things with all the Christmas stuff and new baby.

So for today, if you are still there, the Friday Five is this:

It's a busy season and our minds get caught up in lots of different things (a shiny new baby, in my case). We all know that especially during this time of year we have to be intentional about the things that are important or we can lose them. What are five things you try to be intentional about, whether it be for this season specifically or in general?
  1. Getting up--this is one part of being retired that I sort of like.  I can generally decide when I am going to get up.  There is a temptation to loll around in bed, but that gets really old after a while.  Now, I am demanding of myself that I be up and dressed by 9.  It allows me to watch the late shows on tv at night and listen to NPR if I want and still have a bit of the morning to do what else I have planned.
  2. Meds--If I do not establish a routine I often forget to take my medications which can get me into BIG trouble. 
  3. Staying in contact--There is a temptation to get isolated in retirement.  I try to keep up with my contacts online and stay up with what is happening in the world and the Church.  Wading through all the hulabaloo is a pain in the butt but being totally unaware is worse.
  4. Recycling--I hate it but I need to do it.  Washing out all the plastic and metal things ---grrrr.
  5. Buying healthy and imprint conscious.