Monday, August 29, 2011


The formation of the Diocese of Fort Worth in 1983 was conceived to maintain a balance in the houses of General Convention. When the Diocese of El Camino Real wanted to be admitted, it was reckoned that it would upset the balance of power by conservatives. Bishop Davies, then bishop of Dallas, proposed that his diocese be partitioned and the Fort Worth diocese formed. The plan was for Bishop Davies was to be made bishop of Ft. Worth and then suffragan Bishop Terwilliger be made diocesan of Dallas. Bishop Davies already had a home in Grandbury so it was done deal. But the Diocese of Dallas did not elect Terwilliger the diocesan.

There was no election by the people of Fort Worth except the kind a rubber stamp process that became de rigure for the diocese. Thereafter slates of hand-picked candidates were provided by the administration of the diocese. It wasn’t clear how those people were nominated but it was clear that no alternatives would be welcomed. Nominations from the floor of Convention were discouraged and no clear mechanisms were established for any opposition to the proposed candidates. This practice established a type of cleric-controlled administration that still raises its ugly head in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

The governance of The Episcopal Church was set up to allow for good people of all orders to have equal influence in the running of the church. Yes, we did have bishops, but that power was limited by the clergy and laity. Yes, we have priests, but their power is limited by bishops and laity. And most of all, we had laity who were to have an equal say in the church but their power too is limited by bishops and clergy. We are not a congregational denomination in which each congregation can call their own shots. Each order has an important contribution and power in the church but the main job was for them to work together as equals. But this balance of power was not evident in the founding of the Diocese of Fort Worth and until its reorganization 2 years ago, the role of the laity was perceived by many as ‘pay and pray.’

So in our reorganization of the diocese it is incumbent upon us to provide ways of all members being involved in the governance of the diocese--both clergy and lay. The process for nomination must be clear and visible, not done behind closed doors of ‘confidentiality’. All proposed names for diocesan office who are members in good standing should appear on the ballots of our convention. There should be no vetting by a nominations committee or the like otherwise it will have the mark of previous administrations on the diocesan process of governance. Transparency is absolutely necessary to shake us from previous practices to insure the Church that the Diocese has righted itself from its past.

The job of a nominations committee is to provide the candidates’ biographical information to the convention and to check their eligibility. It is also incumbent for that committee to provide descriptions of the positions that are to be filled. That is all. No discussion as to the candidates’ viability or their abilities or personality should take place. It is the purview of the convention to determine the viability and appropriateness of candidates for the positions. No one should have to  step down from the Nominating Committee in order to run for office; no one is refused nomination for any reason other than ineligibility.

Righting past wrongs is more than just giving previously disenfranchised persons voice. It requires a vigilance to put in place structures that provide for different ways of calling forth from us good governance and demanding from us all adherence to principles of transparency and openness. Ideally the governance of The Episcopal Church is one in which each order can trust the other because we have our unique gifts and charisms. We, as a diocese are getting there.  But we must continue to demand from all our committees and organizations the kind of processes that speak clarity and openness.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Five: Rainy Days

Sally, who lives in jolly old Yorkshire, UK has posted this Rainy Day Friday Five. Since we have not seen rain for two months, save for a slight sprinkle and lots of Texas thunder and lightning, I am not really sure what to do. But I do remember a very rainy month I had in the UK in 1987. That was when the ‘hurricane’ went through southern England. Also many of my friends are waiting out Irene on the ‘right’ coast of the US today so I will try to remember a rainy day for their sakes.

Sally, I remember a very chilly rainy October birthday on the Yorkshire Dales in a Bainbridge/Askrigg pub that was warm and friendly. I had my first ‘Snakebite’ bought for me by a fellow in that pub to honor my day. I couldn’t find my feet when I stood up to leave! It was good we only had to walk across the street to our B&B.  If we had pubs here, that is one of the places I would go on a rainy afternoon.

Sally said: “It is Friday which is my day off and it is raining, which means that an outing to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park has been cancelled. So what to do, I am currently scanning the internet for possibilities. I think we will head into York to visit the Art Gallery.”

How about you, what do you do on a rainy summer’s day?

1. At home? Rain on a Texas summer’s day usually comes with much thunder and lightning. It either comes with a heavy downpour for a very short time or it signifies nothing. Since lightning accounts for many deaths here, it is not a time I would like to walk in the rain or watch the TV, I generally read. But often it is just refreshing to be able to open the doors to the cooler air.

2. In your local area? When I we lived in NY state, it was generally a good day to go to the mall for a bit of shopping. Here in Fort Worth we have some splendid museums.

3. If you are away on holiday? Put on our slickers and go! Holidays are too precious to just sit around and stay dry. I always have a pair of shoes that allow rainy day excursions. I am generally not a ‘brawlie’ person—umbrellas do not fare well in TX wind. But I always have a rain jacket and don’t mind getting a bit damp in order to see the sights. It is often the time when others stay home and the crowded places are often more accessible.

4. Name a rainy day read. Almost anything but Dostoevsky or Camus, they are depressing on a sunny day! Harry Potter would be a good rainy day read. But any good mystery. Right now I am reading a British novel that takes place on Holy Island.

5. Is there a piece of music/ a poem/ story that cheers you up? Rain, for the most part, is not depressing for me. Having grown up in TX rain was nearly always greeted with great joy because we get so little of it. But with all the ‘sturm und drang’ that rainstorms bring here, I would listen to some of the big pieces of Richard Strauss—Die Rosenkavilier or Mahlers’ Seventh Symphony or Die Valkurie by Wagner to enliven my day. Or if J is home, perhaps some Paul Simon—Kodachrome or Bridge over Troubled Waters.

Bonus: post a rainy day photo

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Five: Road Trips

Jan once more has posted another good Friday Five:

My husband and I just returned (on Wednesday night) from a long road trip up the middle USA to Canada, going through various national parks, and on to the Puget Sound of Washington State. This brought back memories of family road trips with my children and when I was a child, so the idea of today's Friday Five arose.

Tell us about five road trips--in your childhood, in your family, in your recent past, with friends, and/or hoped-for-places-to-drive-to. Don't forget the one that stands out as the BEST or as the worst time

1. One of the first long trips I remember taking in the car was to Rocky Mountain National Park. I must have been in my early teens. We were camping in an old tent that was difficult to put up and it rained almost the whole time we were there. It was cold and our equipment old. It was not a good time for a 13 year old.  But it was my first encounter of snow capped mountains and clear streams.

2. Most of the trips I made as a child were to visit grandmothers. My father worked for the railroad so we were able to ride the train for free. Both grandmothers lived on the railroad lines. It would be hours of looking out the window. By the time I was 8 or 10 I knew all the stops between Ft. Worth and northern MO and Chicago. I was a seasoned traveler by the time I was 6, able to keep my balance walking down the aisle and hustleing bags between stations. Mom would always make boxed lunches (liverwurst and green grapes) and sometimes we would go to the dining car for bran muffins.

3. In 1995 I took sabbatical and was able to make the pilgrimage from Canterbury in England to the ancient shrine of Santiago de Compostella in Spain. Many years before I had read James Michener’s Espana and wanted to make this medieval pilgrimage. I went with a group and I guess it was more like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales than I would have liked, but I saw parts of England, France and Spain that I would never have been able to see. We saw many of the cathedral sites of the 10th and 11th centuries rather than the 12th century gothic places. We even visited an 8th century church in France with its Byzantine apse and mosaics. The history of the Church really became alive. But when we arrived in Santiago I was moved not by the buildings or the completion of the journey, but by noting that the steps to the crypt of Saint James were so dished by the trod of centuries of faithful pilgrims. I stood there flooded with the awe of being a part of something so much larger than my personal faith.  On my return I road the train from Madrid to Paris arriving on a Sunday morning in time to go to church at the American Cathedral in Parish.  I arrived early and the priest asked me to assist at the altar that morning because he was short handed.  It was a remarkable conclusion to the pilgrimage.

4. About 3 years ago J and I took the Canadian Railway from Ontario to Vancouver. I had heard about this trip as one of the classic railway journeys in the world. I knew I would never get to take the Orient Express to Istanbul so as a way to return to my railway roots, we decided to go to Canada. It was both an awesome trip and BORING. The equipment on the railroad was vintage—was the same equipment as was running when I was a child. But by this time I had experienced the trains of Europe which put the western hemisphere railroads to shame. The meals were awesome. So we ate, slept and sat. The scenery was spectacular through Ontario and even Saskatchewan’s mighty plains were beautiful. The only problem was that we went through the Rockies at night so we couldn’t see the mountains. The only real set back to the trip was that the trains were so late.

5. In 1985 J and I traveled from Ft. Worth to Anaheim for General Convention. We allowed ourselves some time to play tourist. We borrowed my brother’s camper van and camped in various state and national parks. We were able to visit family and friends along the way. We were living in Syracuse, NY at the time and met our neighbors on the streets of Santa Fe by happenstance. We spent an incredible 2 days at the Grand Canyon with a huge harvest moon coming up over the canyon. I fished some of the streams of the High Sierra and drove across the Mohave without air conditioning. It was a part of the southwest I had not seen before.

Once J has gotten through all her treatments we are hoping to take a cruise. We aren’t sure to where yet—most likely to Mexico but we need to get out of Dodge just to celebrate life.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Five: Gratitude

The Place I Want To Get Back To

is where

in the pinewoods

in the moments between

the darkness

and first light

two deer

came walking down the hill

and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,

this one is okay,

let's see who she is

and why she is sitting

on the ground, like that,

so quiet, as if

asleep, or in a dream,

but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came

on their slender legs

and gazed upon me

not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look

and look and look

into the faces of flowers;

and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life

bring to me that could exceed

that brief moment?

For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,

not waiting, exactly, just lingering.

Such gifts bestowed,

can't be repeated.

If you want to talk about this

come to visit. I live in the house

near the corner, which I have named


(Mary Oliver, "Thirst", Beacon Press, 2006)

For this Friday Five I invite you to offer five gratitudes you recognize in your life.

Reading: the ability and the desire to read. I didn’t really enjoy reading until I was introduced to the great British mystery writers Dorothy Sayers and Josephine Tey. And it was off to the races. I was well into my thirties by then and I have been trying to catch up ever since. While my favorite genre is still mystery, I enjoy fiction and non-fiction alike. Historical novels as well as history; theology as well as spiritual reading. And I am getting the time to read in retirement. I am thankful for a near-by public library.

Cats—I have never had a dog but I have had cats since I was small. They are indifferent companions. They can entertain themselves when I can’t pay attention to them. But they know when I am not well and attend to my needs for cuddling and care. The pair we have now do not get along very well. Bit, the kitten has become the dominant one and the 6 yr old male, Tyke is a wuss. She pounces on the old man wanting to play rough and tumble and he hisses and yowls as if he were being killed. J and I laugh at their antics. But when it is time to settle down they crawl next to us and keep us company.

Church—Ever since I was in my twenties, church has become my home. It was the place where I was known and where I knew others. It became the family that accepted me when my blood kin did not. With ordination came different responsibilities in that family but it did not change my desire to be in that family. Now that I am retired, I still look to the church, parish, diocese, national church and communion as my extended family. It is the community in which I will live and find my friends and it will be the one from which I am buried. It will be different by then, but no matter. It is my family.

My Chair—I bought this chair for my mom when she was in a nursing home. It is a small recliner that makes my knees the right height for the lap top. It is where I do all of my correspondence and write my blog. Needless to say, I spend a good bit of time in this chair. Bit likes this chair too, but it is stick her claws into and no matter how many times I squirt her with the water bottle, she comes back to claw at the upholstery.

• J. – my dearest friend. Wed. J had her final chemo treatment for breast cancer. She has done remarkably well, all things considering. She sleeps a lot and is not too enthusiastic about eating (my idea of being taken care of). She will begin radiation treatments in a few weeks, but we are hoping now her hair will start to grow. Thanks for all the prayers. Keep them up. She will need them for the next 7 years, I am told.

The Anglican Communion—normally I would have included this in Church above, but I have been a part of an Anglican Communion group on-line over the past year that has so expanded my horizons. It has also humbled me because what I thought was universal about my faith isn’t at all. It has challenged me to listen much more closely to people that I corresponded with and is giving me insight into this third form of catholicity that I profess.

Bonus: New Barbeque Grill—I finally broke down and bought a gas grill this summer. It has been so dry here that we couldn’t afford the sparks from a charcoal fire. Being a Texan, I have always poo-pooed the gas grill as an interloper into the REAL barbeque world of smoked meat that is de rigure in the life of Texans. But this summer because of the heat, the gas grill has been a real life-saver. It keeps the heat out of the kitchen and outside where it belongs! It is so easy just to turn on and grill a bit of chicken or veggies. I am especially fond of grilled tomatoes, zucchini and onions. I have also learned how to make beer-butt chicken—so easy and soooo good and moist. Last night we had fajitas. And J could eat them. We just didn’t add any hot stuff. Maybe our lives will return to normal!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Of Trains and History, of Wanderlust and Home

My father worked for the railroad as did his father before him. Grandfather came to the US from the UK in the late 19th century. He was on his way to Australia to be with cousins because there were no jobs for him in England. The future for him was only in the Empire. But Grandpa’s trip over was traumatic and he refused to get on another ship. Even a small boat on the lake would make him ‘white-knuckled’. So he wound up in Iowa working for the Burlington-Quincy Railroad. He was a surveyor. He met his wife who was the daughter of the owner of a boarding house for railroad workers.

About 100 years ago he joined the Santa Fe Railroad centered in Chicago. My dad grew up in suburban Chicago and when he graduated in 1927 he too went to work for the Santa Fe as a surveyor. Dad worked for the Santa Fe most of his life. During the Great Depression he was laid off for about 6 years but as soon as the economics began to recover, he returned to the Santa Fe. My mother’s mother too ran a boarding house for railroaders. My parents were married in Topeka, KS. Both my brother and I were born in Santa Fe railheads. Our lives revolved around the movements of passengers and freight. As with younger families, Bob moved many times in his childhood. Dad had moved up in the office by the time I came along. But we did move to Ft. Worth when I was young as a result of a Santa Fe new position.

I watched throughout my youth the decline of the railroads and the end of passenger service. I was well into my twenties before I ever flew. When we visited grandmothers, it was always by rail. But by the 1970’s I was no longer on my dad’s pass and Amtrack never held the thrill that riding the Texas Chief had had.

So it was with great delight to find when I move back to Ft. Worth that the new offices of the combined Burlington, Northern and Santa Fe were just down the street from where I live and many BNSF employees attended the church where I go. Last week an officer of the company and a docent of the building took my family on a tour. What a delight and a joy to relive those childhood memories with Bob (who had also worked for the Santa Fe during his college years). We saw not only the beautifully constructed building that is secure from takeover by terrorists, is designed like the old car barns of the early years of train travel, and has the most complete collection of western art of the 19th and 20th centuries that is one place.

My friends shared their own enthusiasm for the company in its new configuration and with pride showed us how the operations were carried out, shared some of the ways that they were looking toward the future and most of all shared with us the history of the various organizations that had made the US. We toured through walls that were hung with huge renditions of the calendar art that were the tour posters of the 19th and early 20th century. For us Santa Fe folks it meant wonderful painting of the Grand Canyon, First Nations peoples in folk dress, and in some cases actual paintings of the trains in great detail. I grew up with those calendars and longed to go to those places in Arizona and California. I am sure it conjured up the wanderlust that I know to this day.

Since this tour I have been caught up with how much my family was a part of the Western Movement that has marked the history of our nation. My mother’s people were part that began in the 17th century when farming Scots began to branch out from the enclosures of Scotland and spread into New England and Virginia and finally migrated to Missouri by way of the Erie Canal and the Appalachian Trail. They came by railroad and packet boats. They came first to farm but also to bring the newness of the railroad. I remember just how sleepy Texas towns were when we moved here following WWII and just how different and yet how the same they are a half a century later.

I am thankful for the kind of dream that the railroad provided for me. That calendar art said I did not ever have to be stuck in a place where I could not breathe or be creative. Yes, my family has stayed in specific places for generations, but we have never stayed in a place just because it was our home. We had the ability and the vision to branch out if we needed to.

Ft. Worth is experiencing a boom like it never has. I believe we are growing faster than any city in the South. I am surprised at how many of my high school classmates have returned to Ft. Worth after having spent most of their lives, like me, elsewhere. It isn’t as if Ft. Worth is the nirvana of TX. It may just be that all the mobility of my contemporaries’ adulthood has said it is time for the idea of ‘home’ to predominate. I certainly find it so.

I am so glad to find that the corporation that gave me the wanderlust is headquartered here in my hometown. I can go and look at those great pictures that sent me on a life-time of moving and can still come home. They are great memories. I feel as though I have been a part of a great picture and part of a history that has made this nation what it is. There is a certain sense of pride that that is not about a single individual but about families that slogged through hardship to make this nation great. This is about as ‘red, white and blue’ that I ever get, but it is tinged with the Orange and Red of the Santa Fe and the Green and Blue of the Burlington. The sounds of train whistles in the night are still the music of comfort, security and home.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Theology 101: Creation

Last night I caught Richard Dawkins’ commentary on the existence of God on the Green Channel. He was showing how with the ‘Big Bang Theory’ there is no room for God. He has proven with math and logics that it didn’t take God to be creator of the Universe.

Now, I am no physicist. I do not know the mechanics of how the natural world works. I am so math-challenged that I can’t balance my check book. But I do know that natural law is not the only thing that makes the world go round.  I do know that there is something that somehow not only caused the Big Bang that led to billions of years of evolving and transformation and it continues to be a part of that ever-expanding creation.

I have no way of even beginning to describe that Presence, that element that is not matter or time that I know in the depths of my being as the dimension of holiness. I conveniently call that presence God simply because I have no other word for it—he, she or they. It is just an awareness that beyond the parameters of time and space there is something or someone who touches my soul—that part of me that cannot be described but where I am most fully alive. It is not a figment of my imagination because I cannot even imagine that Presence in whole.  But only in part, as Paul says..

What I call God or the Holy is not something that I can even begin to describe. I can only point to the effects in life. Professor Hawkings is an amazing scientist. And I am sure he is sure of his facts. But the Holy is not about facts. The Holy includes all of that which cannot be explained in natural law. I am sure the good professor would say that there IS nothing outside natural law. But I have experienced that Holy and it is not something I have manufactured. I am not smart enough to manufacture that presence that goes beyond time, matter and space.

Yes, I am sure that I am not too scientific about my theology, but then again just how scientific should we mortals be when trying to describe that which is beyond matter, space and time? It is an experience that moves me beyond the confines of that which can be quantified. Is this ‘fuzzy thinking?’ Of course it is! But all theology is ‘fuzzy thinking.’ To even talk about the Holy ultimately limits the Unlimited because to name puts limits on that which is named.

I have been preaching about the Indefinable for 40 years now and I am no closer to describing the Holy than before I went to seminary. I can only speak in metaphors and use words allegorically to explain that Presence that has been there all my life even though I may have not known it. I use the metaphoric language that those who have gone before me and who have known that Presence too. I use technical terms such salvation, redemption, belief, faith and even God the way my predecessors used them, but I am beginning to find that those words do not convey the awe, the kinship, the call to be in that Presence.

Marcus Borg has tried to reclaim some of those words in his “Speaking Christianity”. And I too believe it is time to redefine some of those words that have become ‘definitions’ of how that Holy acts in creation. It will require a willingness to unhinge ourselves from those nice neat compartments that we can put God so that we do not have to be present to that Presence.

In Psalm 8, the composer says: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;  what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?  Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.” The psalmist understood the quandary of trying to describe God. The only thing he could do was comment on creation and the awe that the beauty of the heavens and earth seemed to express the awe for the Creator. Does the God I know have to even be the Creator? The Presence I know most surely could have initiated the Big Bang. It really doesn’t matter if God was the Creator. It matters only that I acknowledge that Presence and honor it.

I choose to call it God. I choose to personalize it because it is easier for me to understand how this Presence functions in my life if I do. But that too is not necessary. God does not demand it of me. That Holy Presence is just part of my life. It is in me and around me. I claim it and hold it for all to see. But that Holy One is the beginning for me. It is the Big Bang of my life if not creation.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It’s so hot ….

It is now almost 2 months since we had rain. For about the 4th day in a row it has been 109+ F at our house. And yes, we do have air conditioning, but you do have to go out sometimes. Today I just went up to church for a while. Just walking from the front door to the car was an ordeal. And then getting into the car was reminiscent of Shaddrach, Mishach and Abendigo. Yes, my car has a/c too. But one has to wait until it gets up and running before it cools anything.

I listen to my friend Elizabeth talk about sitting on the beach in Lower Slower Delaware. Even with her lovely Portuguese skin she would be jerky here in 15 mins. My color tone ranges somewhere between buttermilk and old creamed cheese and would mock a lobster if I exposed it to this sun. The afternoon breeze has picked up but it more like a blast furnace than relief.

It is a summer like this that reminds me that I am back in TX. Watering the grass is like steaming vegetables. But it is times like this that folks have to water the foundations of their homes to keep the slabs from cracking. We have already had a water pipe break due to the heat. (I cringe at the thought of our water bill next month.) But we do have a green lawn! However now the news warns of water rationing. Some ranchers are sending their cattle off to slaughter rather than try to water them. And produce farmers have watched their crops wither and die.

Today most people are complaining of gritty eyes, runny noses as the dust takes its toll on those who just have to commute more than 10 mins. And while we are not like the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, I feel like those West Texas farmers at the beginning of the Depression—Sere, parched and leathery.

When I lived in upstate NY, the winters had the same effect as do the summers here. When it was -20 folks stayed indoors the same way we stay inside during the hot summer spells. And though the streets were filled with snow, the asphalt never melted under foot as it does here. But cabin fever sets in just as surely as when snowed in.

I met someone who used to live in MN who told me that when he retired he drove south far enough to have someone ask him what that electric cord was hanging out of his engine was. He said he had found his retirement home! And that is sort of how I feel even in this heat.

Even the cats don’t want to go out. They sit in front of the patio door and watch the birds with some interest but not enough energy to wiggle a whisker. Naps or a glass of lemonade and a good book are the remedies for this weather. Reminds me of snow days up North.