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.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent IB: Sermon: What are we waiting for?

Advent IB
 (Is. 64:1-9, Ps. 80, I Cor. 1:3-9, Mk 13: 24-37)

We come to this weekend still stuffed with Thanksgiving turkey, filled with the presence of friends and family or suffering from travel lag. We may even be battered by Black Friday insanity. But rather than bask in that feeling of well-being, the Church heaps upon us a whole new liturgical year. We begin today the season of Advent—one of those ‘purple’ seasons not with visions of baby Jesus, but of the apocalypse—the Second Coming. Our readings plead that God may come down with that terrible power to straighten out this sinful world.

Advent is filled with expectation, waiting, hope, vigilance and anticipation. This year we change Gospels. We will be hearing the words of Mark and John this year and how those gospel writers understand how Jesus touched the people they knew. And today’s gospel reading is an important text—Jesus tells his disciples this piece of apocalyptic literature as he and his disciples sit before the Temple in Jerusalem shortly before his crucifixion. The apostles are basically bumpkins from the sticks and they are marveling at the grandness of the Temple buildings and the bustle of the city. And Jesus is telling them that these buildings will fall: the temple will be razed to the ground --that the preeminence of God is not in the building. The grandeur of God can only be seen in the relationship that the people of Israel has with the Holy One. The greatness of God was only to be seen in their devotion and their alertness to their part of the Covenant.

For at least 700 years the people of Israel had waited for God to come and be their king. But God had not come down to remove evil from the earth. Instead God had sent his Son to teach humanity how to live lives worthy of the covenant Abraham had made with the people.  But this covenanted people had not cared for the poor, lived justly and walked humbly with their God. The people of God were waiting for God to come down and fix everything.

So today on this First Advent Sunday, in keeping with what Fr. Jim asked last week when he asked “Why are you still here?”---asking us after all the schism and all the fuss in our diocese.   I am going to ask another question. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?  What does this season of Advent mean?

• Are you, too, waiting for God to come down and make the world right? For over 4 thousand years humanity has waited for God to come down and fix it. And for some reason, I don’t think it is going to happen that way. 

• Are you waiting for us to blow ourselves up just to prove the Scripture right? Then the Christian Zionists are right and we should try to bring about Armageddon. But I don't think that is the answer either.

• Are you waiting for the Rapture to take us out of this miserable world? Do we subscribe to the idea of ‘No Episcopalian left behind?’

These are some of the expectations that Christianity holds for this time of waiting. And I would suggest that we are going to get what we expect—what we envision for the future for us personally, congregationally, diocesan-wise, Church and Communion-wide and even for the whole of the world.

A few years ago when Newt Gingrich was at the center of government, I heard an interview when he said “ he truly believed humanity was evil and that it was only grace that made for good in the world.” Now this is a theology that comes out of the Reformation that is part Lutheran and part Calvinism but it was also deeply held by medieval catholicism.  Anglicanism has always held that creation and thus humanity is intrinsically good. Yes, there was the separation from God that is allegorized for us in the Fall in Genesis, but on the whole we believe that God created the world as good and humanity as good. It is us—we mere mortals who have messed things up.

I recently saw one of those ‘God billboards’, you know, the black ones that have white letters? This one said, “Do I have to come down there?---God”. And that is how we often think of the end times—at least in this part of the Bible belt. We drop into our childhood transactions and think God is going to come and punish us like a parent because we have messed up.

But that is not what I hear when I read Scripture. I hear of a God who wants to be in relationship with humanity. I hear that God wants to be in conversation so that we can know the goodness of God’s Creation—the Army picked up that “Be all you can be” slogan. But I really think that is what God invites us to—to be that compassionate, truthful, loving, kind and peaceful people that God covenanted with Abraham to be. We were created in God’s image and we are invited to be a part of God’s goodness by our baptism.

Our Advent is a time of preparation. It is a time of visioning and calling ourselves into relationship with the Holy One so that God’s goodness will take root in us—will continue to grow and transform us into that holy people that God wants us to be. This is not about individual salvation, for it is hard to be saved if our neighbor is not also saved. This isn’t about waiting for God to come down and save us. It is about using the tremendous gifts that the Holy One of Israel has given us—using our talents collectively for the salvation of the world. That is what 'incarnation' means. 

Jesus came to "show us the Father", to teach us how to live with one another—how to live in communion with one another to serve one another with generosity, faith and commitment. The waiting that is Advent is not a passive waiting for judgment. It is a call to action; a call to transformation not just for ourselves, but for us collectively as a nation, a Church, a species. We are called to change the world—we are called to let humanity know that we are good and that in relationship with God we can become better each moment if we are willing to respond to that call. Will it ever be perfect? No.  We are not to become gods. We are to become godlike—full of compassion and mercy, just, and steadfast not only individually but as a community—a holy people welcoming all to know the invitation of God to live in harmony in this world.

We, like Jesus, are to incarnate God’s life to the world. We are to live through this new church year hearing and living out Jesus’ life so that others might know that the God-incarnate is not only possible, but absolutely necessary if we are going to protect the gift of Creation that we have been given. We need not worry about judgment—we must only worry that we have not responded to God’s question of us: “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011Free Gifts- Friday Five

Sally, who is a Brit and therefore not doing Thanksgiving when we do on our side of the Pond has posted a thought-provoking Black Friday Five:

Following on from Thanksgiving, and picking up the "Black Friday" theme of boycotting the Christmas rush for bargains I thought it would be good to set a simple Friday Five yet one to get you thinking. I am sure that you'll agree that some of the best gifts we receive do not come in fancy wrapping paper but might be the gift of an unexpected afternoon with a friend or coming across a long forgotten photograph, or- well the list is endless...

So take a bit of time to think back over the last year and ponder the gifts it has offered to you, then list five of those gifts, in no particular order- there is only one rule- all of these gifts must have been free, neither you nor anyone else should have spent money on them!

1. This year has been a tough one with J’s cancer taking over both our lives. Finances have been very difficult, but a friend offered to pick up some of our expenses and then put us in touch with agencies that could help.

2. A 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that was in the waiting room of the cancer therapy hospital. It was there each day as I waited for her. Each day I could do a bit more. It kept me sane.

3. I volunteered to join the staff of my local parish and I began teaching Bible Study again and celebrating and preaching about once a month. It keeps me focused on helping others in the midst. After the first of the year they are going to give a small stipend which will help us recover financially.

4. We had Diocesan Convention last weekend. It was a sign of real recovery of a bunch of people who love their church and love Christ. I believe our diocese is on the way to becoming a healthy statement of what it means to be God’s people in this area. The clergy were having fun and so were the laity. Our keynote speaker was +Barbara Anderson from the Church of Canada who told of what it was like to be a part of a group of parishes in a diocese that had ceased to be because of the abuse of First Nation children in their schools years ago. The compassion of that diocese and the compassion of their bishop was awesome and pure gift to us as we struggle to regain what it means to be Christ’s own here in our diocese that has been so torn with schism. A true gift.

5. A J’ who is beginning to return to her pre-chemo self. She became so ‘chemo-brained’ during the therapy since last Easter, that she was almost like living with a stranger. She was incredibly withdrawn and not with her usual verbally astute humor. ( at least I was saved from puns for a short while) I was so worried that she would not be able to return from that. But she is on her way back. She isn’t 100% yet but perhaps by B5

Thanks, Sally.  Good idea. I REFUSE to go anywhere on Black Friday.  J' used to work retail and she would come home after it and swear off Christmas!  We often don't even give each other gifts on Christmas, and long ago I quit trying to keep up with family gifts. You can do this if you don't have children. 

 I love Christmas in Church but I try not to even go to the malls during the month of Dec.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I am doing the Thanksgiving meditation today. It is presently quiet, sunny and with that chill in the air that makes me think of Thanksgiving. Tomorrow we are going to a local parish since my family doesn’t celebrate the day until Sunday. Some years ago, Thanksgiving became a movable feast when there were just too many in-laws and too many trips that interfered with gathering the whole clan at one house. Now, brother, nieces and nephew party at their in-laws on Thursday and we gather Sunday afternoon.

There are many things to be thankful for and I generally remember them each time I celebrate the Eucharist. In some ways, Thanksgiving Day is anti-climactic. But it still is somewhat of a harvest festival.

When I lived in upstate NY we would often celebrate Ember Days—those underused agricultural festivals that are part of the Church calendar. On several occasions we met at a local farm and went from pen and field blessing the crops and animals. The farming families appreciated such festivities and all those who had grown up on farms felt reassured that all was ‘right with the world.’

Our foundational celebrations in our faith were pilgrimage gatherings. The Hebrew Scripture notes three such celebrations: Unleavened Bread which developed into Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths, both agricultural celebrations. They were ‘national’ fetes in which all traveled to Jerusalem to present themselves before God, to sacrifice and give thanks for all they had been given and then to feast on the animal that they brought for sacrifice. These feasts were generally the only time they ate meat all year.

Today, we generally do not think of Thanksgiving as a sacrifice unless our family is hard to be around. But we generally do offer gifts of whatever we can make. We seldom go to dinner without a gift even if it is just a bottle of wine or sack of dinner rolls.

In the UK there are still harvest festivals in the various communities. They are celebrated in church but also in the larger communities. There is much attention paid to the decorations with gourds and pumpkins and cornucopia. But there isn’t the family feast that we have. In Canada Thanksgiving is celebrated but on a different day.

These days Thanksgiving is just the feast day before Christmas shopping begins in earnest. We seldom think about how our feast got to the table and agribusiness so outstrips the intimacy between the people and the land that it is easy to forget how dependent we are on Mother Earth.

I am beginning to get rather grumpy about grocery-store produce all plastic wrapped tending to buy from the local farmer’s market which is a year ‘round store. It is a wee bit more expensive, but it is fresher produce and often locally grown. There is also more variety. I also can talk to the store owner about the conditions for the farmers in the area. I learn when certain vegetables are at their peak. It keeps me closer to the land even when I no longer garden or turn the soil with my hands.

Thanksgiving is at the heart of our faith. It is a primeval celebration of what it means to be human on this earth—to be grateful for all that sustains us. The Creation is made to be fruitful and we are made to give thanks to the One who created all.  May your Thanksgiving be a time to reunite you with the soil (adamah Heb.) and mud from which we were created.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Is Capitalism Moral? Wrong Question...

Bishop Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Episcopal Churches in Europe has written a remarkable article in the Huffington Post. It is a great piece.

Is this capitalism moral? Wrong question, because this ain't capitalism. This is oligarchy, a few very rich and powerful firms not only selling for their clients but also buying for themselves in the financial markets. And that IS immoral. It excludes most of us, until we end up having to inject our tax dollars -- or more exactly, until we borrow those dollars -- in order to avoid a complete financial collapse. You and I can't play their game, but we must certainly keep the people who cause the disaster in business so as to avoid abject poverty, roughly on the order of the Bronze Age. That is profoundly immoral.

It is time to get real. In fact, it's long past time. America needs to create new capital to invest in productive enterprises that will employ people, growing food, inventing new commodities and services, and improving the classic ones. We are not going to do that by selling each other our houses, or opening more fast-food outlets. We need a diversified economy based on market capitalism, not on oligarchs enriching themselves in gigantic shell games played with trillions of dollars.

We need to rebuild the intellectual and physical infrastructures that undergird such an economy. That requires taxation. And it also requires regulation of markets. Any politician who will not level with the people about this daunting task has to be voted out. Bring capitalism back! should be our slogan.

That is a tall order, because the so-called Masters of the Universe can threaten to destroy the banking system the world depends upon if we touch the source of their strength, namely, the so-called shadow banking system. If you remember Frank Herbert's novel Dune, you will recall its salient point: the ability to destroy something is in fact to control it. The mountain of money spent to influence governments around the world, starting with the United States, is also a giant obstacle.

If we continue down the primrose path of tax reduction, deficit increases, and oligarchical manipulation of capital markets, there will be a much greater depression. The Arab Spring should be teaching a lesson: "tipping points" happen, and suddenly the game changes, taking everyone by surprise. The scales will fall from the people's eyes. A strongman will arise to "save" us, at the cost of our republic. History does repeat itself -- Ave Caesar, Heil Hitler, Stalin Save Us... sound familiar?

Finally, we need an economy that allows each person to be not only a consumer but an actor in it. The source of America's wealth has never been finance, but in those goods and services that entrepreneurs make available to the widest possible audience, er, market. Anyone remember Charles Ives? Yes, the Charles Ives, considered to be America's greatest composer of music. What does he have to do with this?

In his lifetime, Ives was known not for his music but for his knack for taking something and making a lot of people wealthy by making it available to the masses. Life insurance for everyone was one of his dreams. If you have such a policy, it is because Ives felt that they were not just for rich people. When President Wilson wanted to raise money for World War I, he asked Ives to take it on. Ives promptly created bonds denominated so that the most ordinary patriot -- economically speaking -- could own at least one. It was a howling success.

There have been huge numbers of examples since. There can be plenty more. But only if we break up the oligarchies and start practicing real capitalism again. A place to start: if you want to buy a stock, make sure your broker doesn't have shareholders to answer to. Better yet, make sure she's invested too.

This didn't answer the question I started with, I know. I think a morality of capitalism can be defined and defended, and that capitalist immorality therefore can be described in principle. It has to do with the notion of the common good.

But that is for another day. Meanwhile, bring back capitalism!

Friday, November 18, 2011Friday Five: Giving Thanks (Thanksgiving)

Jan has given us a thanksgiving Friday Five:
I've been home from Russia for less than a week, and in less than a week it is Thanksgiving Day in the USA (Nov. 24). So for this Friday Five, answer these questions (and if they don't apply to you, list five things you are grateful for):

1. Where will you be on Thanksgiving Day? With whom?

My family will not be celebrating T’giving until Sunday due to the zany schedules we keep so J and I may go to one of the parish dinners that are held.

2. Are there any family traditions or memories associated with Thanksgiving?

Many. My mother used to host T’giving and the whole family would come—often 20 people in our small house. As a kid, I would try to get out of the house and play with the other kids if I could because there were just too many people. As I got older, I was expected to help in the kitchen which I hated. It was the only day out of the year that we ate fowl in our house. My mother didn’t eat chicken or turkey so I would feast on the turkey with great joy.

3. What will be on your Thanksgiving menu?

I haven’t even thought about it. Since I am not cooking, I will eat what is put before me.

4. What are you thankful for?

a. J. is through chemo and beginning to feel better.

b. I now have a part-time job that will help with finances.

c. For a comfortable home, 2 kitties who don’t get along but are hungry for attention and a church family.

d. A computer and my revgal friends.

5. What is the weather forecast for this day (next Thursday)?

It is supposed to be sunny and in the high 60’s

Bonus: Prayer, poem, song, or whatever you choose to exemplify your image of Thanksgiving (giving thanks

I have been reading Bruggemann’s Ancient Hebrew Worship for a class I have been teaching on Lev. and Deut. And the earliest images we have in Scripture of worship required 3 things: A. Showing up. B. bearing a gift. C. no work. For me then, Thanksgiving Day is a type of worship:  I show up; I bring my dish and there is no work. However, the venue is quite different—my family is not my worshipping community. We do not present ourselves before God.  But it is a time to feast and gather and enjoy one another’s company. Of course we watch a football game instead of study Scripture but you can’t have everything!  Most likely I will spend Thursday morning working on my class studying Scripture which will be wonderful.  I just wish I could study scripture with my family as I do with the church family.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why We Can't Stand Idly By as the Church of England Newspaper Calls Us Nazis

 by Patrick Strudwick. from Huffington Post

Journalist and columnist

Last month the Church of England Newspaper called me a Nazi. I thought, as my eyelids splayed in disbelief, that the oceanic depths to which homophobic rhetoric was prepared to sink could not be lowered. Perhaps, I reasoned, they would reacquaint themselves with rational thought and retract the article. I was wrong.

Colin Blakely, the editor of the newspaper, defended the columnist who likened me to the Gestapo. "[Alan Craig] has got views that are pertinent on this issue," said Blakely, referring to the thrust of the thesis: gay rights activists are behaving like those who slaughtered 7 million Jews. The writer, who is also the leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance -- a political party -- stood firm. His self-defense comprised what he thought was an important distinction: "I've nothing against ordinary gay people but the leadership, well I stick by my word Gaystapo. It is bullying."

Ah, yes, the leadership. In his column he urged his Anglican readership to "rise up" and "forcefully confront" the "leaders" of the gay rights movement. Because, he argued, they behave like the Gestapo. And because he is a writer, he decided to invent a nifty portmanteau: Gaystapo. Thus, any bigot who is dissatisfied with the Aladdin's cave of existing homophobic epithets now has a new one!

It is, of course, tempting to laugh at such an article, so unhinged, so ludicrously offensive is it. Clearly the relationship between the author and reality is most charitably described as on/off. After all, we must ask, how many gay rights activists have committed ethnic cleansing?

But it is partly the prolonged nature of such an attack that must alert and alarm us. His Nazi simile was not a comparison en passant. This was a detailed analogy. Gay marriage, he wrote, "could be the invasion of Poland. The catalyst for war."

He continued: "The UK's victorious Gaystapo are now on a roll. Their gay-rights storm troopers take no prisoners as they annex our wider culture." Here, he detailed a range of recent cases where gay people have stood up for their rights, one of which was my landmark case against a conversion therapist. After going undercover to investigate therapists who attempt to "cure" gay clients, the therapist who "treated" me was found guilty of professional malpratice. But, says Craig, she, along with all the other homophobes, have found themselves "crushed under the pink jack boot."

And on he goes: "The gay Wehrmacht is on its long march through the institutions..."

And on: "[The Gaystapo] want to change our language, manipulate our culture and thereby impose their world-view on us all. Cultural domination is their aim and fascist-type intolerance of politically-incorrect dissent is their weapon."

As much of an extremist as Craig might sound, shrieking from a one-man raft on the river Styx, his is not a vox sola. His hate speech, endorsed by a national British newspaper, is the nadir of a recent narrative so persistent and viciously homophobic as to constitute a recognizable, sizeable backlash against gay rights.

Americans may think Britain has rid herself of such voices. Many peer over the pond to see us enjoying civil partnerships, adoption rights, employment protection and a slew of other equality measures and think that there must be a pink Waterloo sunset forever glowing over the U.K. There is not.

You may have a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination describing the discussion of homosexuality in schools as "child abuse." But we have a bulldog, right-wing press and a hefty Christian lobby routinely spraying Britons with anti-gay spittle.

The totem of this backlash is Melanie Phillips, a columnist for the Daily Mail, Britain's second most-read newspaper. She describes those who, like me, campaign for the protection of gay people as "bullies," as "totalitarian" and as "McCarthyites." When we dare to suggest that perhaps homosexuality should be discussed in schools, to help combat bullying, she opines that we are guilty of "bigotry in reverse."

When a gay couple took the owners of a hotel to court for turning them away (it wasn't that there was no room at the inn), Phillips referred to them -- and all those who uphold our existing equality laws -- as the "gay inquisition." Perhaps she is unaware -- as perhaps Alan Craig is -- of the irony of her allusion. The Spanish inquisition burned gay men at the stake. The Nazis sent thousands of gays to the gas chambers.

Others have waded in supporting those who advocate the death penalty for gay people. Stephen Green, the leader of Christian Voice, a pressure group, defended David Bahati, the Ugandan MP who is trying to introduce a death penalty for homosexuality, thus: "Bahati was trying to protect his nation's children from predatory western homosexuals."

Elsewhere in Britain, we have seen a rise in homophobic hate crime. In London's West End -- arguably the most liberal area of the country -- gay bashings increased by 20.9 percent last year.

So it is against this backdrop of drip-dripping, face-slashing prejudice that I suggest we do not simply laugh at paranoid rants like Alan Craig's. His might be the most extended and unhinged metaphor to ever disgrace a newspaper column, but delusion is no reason to disregard. Indeed, we do so at our peril.

Remember when you were in high school and you pretended not to hear the word "queer" shouted at you by the bullies? Did it work? Did it protect your face from the punch that followed?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street? Occupy Bank of America?

Occupy Wall Street?  Occupy Bank of America? 

J and I have been having trouble with our bank accounts. Not only is there not enough in them--a normal phenomenon for folk on fixed incomes, but someone else has been using our bank accounts to pay their credit cards off that shouldn’t be. We do not use credit cards because we will not pay the usurious interest rates offered to people who have limited incomes. This has meant several trips to our local branch of BofA.

The young banker there has been quite solicitous and nice. But that still doesn’t seem to take care of the problem of how thieves have gotten access to our accounts. We have closed accounts and gotten new debit cards. We have talked unto we are blue in the face with customer service—when we finally can find a person to talk to. I sort of expect this kind of service from ATT but not my bank. They are using MY money after all!

We may have to move to a local credit union to do our banking business. But the big international bank has always been so handy. Our relocating our banking will not affect BofA. We don’t have enough for them to notice. But I do hope that with all those who are exiting from big banks because of OWS, it may say something.

I grew up with parents who had lived through the Great Depression. They had seen their parents lose it all—not that they had much. We were of working class heritage and never really trusted those who speculated on the Stock Market. We were sober mid-west folk. You put your money in a checking account or a savings account and you were careful with how you used it. You allowed the bank to hold your money so it was safe. For the privilege of holding your money the bank paid you interest. Now, the interest is negligible and going into the pockets of CEO’s rather than back to the depositors. Something is WRONG with this picture.

After yesterday’s Gospel reading of the 3 servants, I am totally convinced that what is wrong is the FEAR that unregulated capitalism perpetuates in the world. Capitalism is based on the idea that there is not enough in the world for everyone to have a bit. In order for unregulated capitalism to work, you have to believe that there isn’t enough of whatever so that you can mark up the price.

If there is anything I am sure of is that this world, if allowed to, can produce enough for every living thing to have a sufficiency to live at least comfortably. We have just been told that it isn’t to our “personal” or “national” (or these days “corporate”) interest for everyone to have enough. Not only is that bunk, it is immoral. There is enough food for everyone on this planet. And there is enough gas or oil to heat or cook if we are willing to share. We as a human race must come to the place where we have the will to make sure that all have enough. We have to put away the fear that comes with the economics of our age and trust in the One from whom all things come.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11.11.11 Friday Five

Friday, November 11, 2011 11.11.11 Friday Five

Songbird is doing one of her weird things today. 11/11/11 is on her mind:

It's 11/11/11, a date you can read forwards and backwards, American-style and European-style.It's Veteran's Day/Armistice Day, which seems to be celebrated more someplace than others. The kids here are out of school and some communities have ceremonies of remembrance scheduled.

My denomination (UCC) is finishing up a drive called Mission 1, which ran from 11.1.11 to 11.11.11.

It's a popular date for getting married, or so I'm told, just like other memorable dates (for instance 09/08/07).

But mostly, it's a big day for Nigel Tufnel, in celebration of "maximum elevenness."

For today's Friday Five, share five ways you or someone you know likes to turn it up to 11. How have you gone beyond the usual expected limits? Feel free to interpret this as eccentrically as possible.

I am not one for numerology. I am dyscalculate as well as dyslexic.

1. The only thing that 11/11/11 brings to mind is my mother. My mother was born on 11/12/12. Next year I will celebrate her 100th birthday. She just died 2 years ago so I had her for a long time, but it is now a bittersweet time.

2. I always remembered the birthday of the Girl Scouts because that was 1912.

3. I always remember Armistice Day (Veterans Day) because my mother remembered “the parade in her home town inn which they “dragged an effigy of Kaiser William down the street on the day before my birthday”.

4. My niece got married on 6/6/06. And it has been a good marriage for both of them.  This year he turns 60, she turns 50, and her daughters turn 30 and 20 respectively.  Numbers mean something to her.

5. I am not sure what ‘turning it up to 11”really means. If it means “living large”, I think I have always lived large. It hasn’t occurred to me to turn it down. But now with my financial options fairly curtailed, I can’t live as large as I would like. Retirement has a tendency to dampen one’s enthusiasm.  Now if we can get Superwoman to be silverhaired, I know what I am going to wear NEXT Halloween!