Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The church as portal

There is story being carried by the secular press about a Roman Catholic priest in Milwaukee who has begun an “experiment,” he says, to increase attendance at Mass.

Parents who have their children enrolled as students in the parish school must sign an agreement to attend seven out of ten church services or be “fined” 10% of their total tuition for their absence. If the covenant is kept, there is a 10% reduction in tuition as a reward.

The reporter said that a recent survey reveals that 40% of those who do not attend church on a regular basis report the reason for this is that the church service was “irrelevant” to the rest of their lives. Another 15% said they found the service “boring.”

As I listened to this middle-aged, kind-looking cleric, speaking confidently and calmly from the front pew of the church, he gently added that his real concern is to influence a new generation of Roman Catholics, the children of these adult members, about the importance of weekly church attendance. The camera then panned to an elderly member of the church who laughed and said, “When we were kids, we were told that if we didn’t go to weekly mass, we were going straight to hell. I think this is a great improvement.”

The report ended with the note that the good Father has made allowances for summer vacation: the church bulletin of the church they visited may be brought in as evidence of attendance.

Okay, everybody, you can take a deep breath. I’m not going to repeat that kind of experiment at St. Paul's.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t share the good Father’s concern.

To be honest, I don’t know another priest or ordained minister in almost every religious denomination – Christian, Jew and Muslim – who hasn’t spent some part of their summer vacation scratching their head and asking, “Well, attendance hasn’t been that bad, but how can I make it even better? What incentive will entice even more people to attend? How can I make the service/sermon/music more relevant to the increasing complex realities of life in the third millennium and yet retain the timeless inspirational beauty and heritage of our religious tradition?”

To be honest, I, too, am deeply concerned about influencing a new generation of Christians, the children of our adult members, about the importance of weekly church attendance.

Let me explain. I’m really not interested in securing the next generation of church members because I want the church to continue to exist – although, that is important to me as well. To use a metaphor from computer technology, I have come to see what we do together in Sunday worship as a “portal” of sorts.

For those few of you who don’t use a computer in this way, a portal is just what you think it might be – it’s an entrance or a gateway. In cyberspace, this means that you begin on one website. From there, you then are able to click on a link to another website. Once there, you can click on another link which becomes yet another portal into more information and other realities. Once you are at a portal in cyberspace, you have unlimited access on what has been referred to as “the information super highway” – the contents of which are only a mouse click away.

I’d like to think that church is a portal of another sort – one that leads to the portal of community. From there, you can link or “click” with other members, who become for you (and you for them) other portals into more information and other realities.

Once you are at a portal into the realities of the community of Christ – both pragmatic and spiritual – the relationships you have with others in community will lead you to places of service – mission/outreach and ministry – which places you on a path toward reconciliation with ourselves, each other and God – what our Catechism reminds us is the mission of the church.

And all of it – each and every one of us – is a portal into the deepest and most mysterious reality of all: God as we know God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and incarnate in Christ Jesus. ff

I don’t know a better incentive to make the effort to come to church each Sunday. No one here is going to fine you if you don’t attend seven out of ten times. Neither is anyone going to give you a financial incentive to lead by example for your children.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert, in her enormously popular book, ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ puts it this way, “Life’s metaphors are God’s instructions.

As we begin this new program year 2007 – 2008, I urge you to consider this image of the portal. How are you a doorway for others? How are others an entrance that leads you into a deeper awareness of God’s presence in your life? How is the church a gateway into the path of reconciliation and renewal, that we might all find our way back to Eden?

See you in church!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Choices in Chicago: A Trinity of Women

I am overwhelmed by the announcement of the nominees for Bishop of the Diocese of Chicago. The statement from the Rev'd Susan Russell, national president of IntegrityUSA, follows below.

This is Jane Gould, seminary classmate and dear friend. Rector of St. Stephen's Church, in the old Mill Girl town of Lynn, MA. She is more than competent. Smart. Articulate. Passionate. Deeply committed to the justice of the gospel of Jesus Christ. She'll make an amazing, wonderful bishop. She'll do Jimmy Montgomery's old diocese proud.

(For those of you who are new on the scene, Bishop Montgomery would not allow the ordination of women on condition of his Anglo-Catholic conscience, but allowed his suffragan, Quintin E. Primo, to ordain in his stead). .

This is Tracey Lind, a former colleague in the diocese of Newark, a partner in ministry, and also a dear friend. Presently, dean of Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, OH, she was in the running in the Diocese of Newark, but removed her name just before General Convention in Columbus in 2006. She is a priest who knows about and lives the challenges and joys of leadership, a pastor with a tender and caring heart, and a visionary on fire with the gospel of Christ Jesus. She'll be a bishop who will challenge the church even as she tends her flock with great care.

And this . . . this . . . is Margaret Rose. One of my oldest friends and accidental mentor. The first woman to be an unsuspecting role model for me to be woman who is also priest when she worked first, as Cox Fellow at the Cathedral in Boston, MA and then as Assistant at The Church of St. John the Evangelist, Bowdoin St., Boston, MA when I was seminarian and then newly ordained deacon in that place. She is presently Director of Women's Ministries at the National Episcopal Church at 815 Second Ave in NYC. She is more than well qualified to be bishop and will bring both excitement and competence to the task.

There are two men who are also nominees: The Rev'd Jeffrey D. Lee, Rector, St. Thomas Church, Medina, Wash. I regret to say that I do not know him, but he must be specular to be in such esteemed company.

The other is The Rev. Timothy B. Stafford, Rector, Christ Church, Philadelphia. I know Tim from his time at All Saint's, Pasadena. If you want to have your socks blown off, check out his
sermon last Sunday at All Saints.

(Again, that link is:

Clearly, they are amazing men.

Obviously, I'm rooting for the women.

No surprise, my heart is "strangely warmed" by the appearance of the name of Tracey Lind on the ballot.

Never mind B033. It not only has no canonical standing, it is, at this point, nothing more than a bad memory.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in urging the House of Deputies to pass this heinous resolution, said that B033 was, "the best we can do at this time."

That was then.

This is now.

We can do better.

As evidenced by the Lind nomination, we've moved light years in the time since Columbus.

The neo-Puritan, conservative, so-called orthodox, "fundgelicals" have, time and time and time again, shot themselves in the foot and blamed everyone else for their limp so often that they have lost any credibility they once might have had.

That's pretty evident from everything, of late, out of Canterbury and York.

So, allow me to do what is the high calling of all religious leaders who have, even more than the rest of the church, a firm grasp on the obvious.

Allow me, please, to make the following proclamation:

This is a remarkable slate.

I rejoice to be alive at this time in the life of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

I fervently pray for the people of the Diocese of Chicago, and the House of Bishops which meets with the Archbishop of Canterbury in three weeks and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as their deadline either "approaches" or "looms," depending on your particular perspective.

I also pray for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Mostly, I pray for each and every one of the candidates. I hope you will, too.

This episcopal race is like being eligible for the Olympics. Just being nominated in the presence of the other candidates is worthy of a gold medal.

God be with each and every one of them.

August 28, 2007

Integrity Responds to List of Candidates for Bishop of Chicago

"The big news today is that discernment has trumped discrimination in the Diocese of Chicago," said Integrity President Susan Russell. "The inclusion of the Very Rev. Tracey Lind on the list of five extraordinarily qualified candidates for Bishop of Chicago is a bold step forward and a sign of hope and encouragement not only to LGBT Episcopalians but to the whole church. Her experience and leadership make her an excellent candidate and Integrity applauds the Diocese of Chicago for not allowing the forces advocating bigotry over ability to dominate their nomination process.

It is long past time for the Episcopal Church to acknowledge that B033 -- the 2006 resolution designed to prevent the election of a gay or lesbian bishop -- has failed in its attempt to balance the unity of the Anglican Communion on the backs of the LGBT faithful. There is no turning back on the full inclusion of the baptized into the Body of Christ -- only moving forward into God's future as an Episcopal Church committed to mission and ministry, to unity in diversity.

Integrity extends congratulations to all the candidates, any one of whom will make a fine bishop for the Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Chicago's diverse list of qualified candidates is a sign of the end the 'season of fasting' at the expense of the vocations of gays and lesbians in the Episcopal Church and the whole church should rejoice and be glad in that!

(The Reverend) Susan Russell, President
714-356-5718 (mobile)
626-583-2741 (office)

The Great Book of Common Prayer Give-Away

Note: The following article appears in the September issue of THE EPISTLE, the monthly newsletter of The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, where I am privileged to be rector and pastor. If YOU want/need a copy of the BCP, give me a call and come on down to Chatham, New Jersey. We'll have a nice, hot cup of tea and a chat and I'll give you your very own free copy.

If you can't come to Chatham, well, I hope this little excursion into Reformation History will inspire you to get your very own copy of the Book of Common Prayer.

Rector proclaims October “The Great Book of Common Prayer Give-away Month”

Don’t have a personal copy of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP)?

Want one?

During the month of October, I will be giving away copies of the BCP to anyone who asks for it. These are small, black books (so no one could ever accuse you of taking “the red book” from the pews), small enough to keep on your nightstand or on the end table near your favorite reading chair.

You'll need to come into my office, and we'll have a nice, hot cup of tea and chat. We'll pray together and I'll even inscribe your copy for you.

I believe the BCP – in all of its incarnations, from the first in 1549, (and yes, including the 1929 version) to be among the most beautifully written of all books of prayer. I also believe the 1979 version of The Episcopal Church, returning as it does the primacy of the two great Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, and reinstating the Great Vigil of Easter, to be our best legacy of centuries of beautiful prayers in the Anglican Communion.

Does it have some flaws? Does it need to be updated? Of course!

Does that mean we won’t be using, from time to time, our own creative adaptation? By no means!

That being said, there are some wonderful prayers for all sort and manner of conditions of the enterprise of being human. I’d love to think it is one of the first resources you reach for in the midst of a difficult time in your life. When words fail, when you do not know how to pray, the BCP can be a source of solace and hope, a vehicle into a deeper relationship with God.

Why October? A few reasons:

The “official” date of the Reformation is October 31, 1517. On this day Luther reputedly pinned his famous Ninety-Five Theses criticizing the Roman Catholic Church to the door of the chapel at Wittenberg Castle in modern Germany. Little did he know this simple act, meant only to draw attention to his theses for academic debate, would be the first in a chain of events that would begin The Protestant Reformation.

It may be hard for us to believe today, but many were martyred for their faith during the Reformation – especially during the reign of “Bloody” Queen Mary I (1533 – 1558). In October, there are four ‘saints’ on the Calendar of Saints of the church (which you can find in the BCP), who died for the crime of bringing the Words of God to the people of God, and for the audacity of attempting to unite the people in common prayer, in their own language, under the spiritual authority of their own (and not a foreign) curia.

On October 6th, the Calendar observes the martyrdom of William Tyndale, the first to translate and put to print the New Testament in English, making the Words of God in Christ widely accessible to the people for the first time in history.

For his troubles, Tyndale was tried as a heretic, strangled and then burned at the stake in 1536. His last words reportedly were, “O Lord, open the eyes of the King of England.” Apparently, God did hear that prayer as most of Tyndale’s work found its way into the “King James Version” of the Bible.

On October 16th the Calendar observes three martyrs of the Reformation of the Church of England: Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, Bishops (1555) and Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, (1556).

After the death of Henry XVIII, his son with Jane Seymore, Edward VII (1547 – 1553), a staunch Protestant (or, at least, his advisors), continued the Reformation begun by his father. He ascended the throne at age nine. When he died of consumption at age 16, his sister Mary, a devout Roman Catholic, came to the throne and immediately sought reunification with the Pope

During Mary’s reign, over three hundred of her subjects were sent to be burned at the stake, Bishops Latimer of Worcester and Ridley of Rochester among the most notable. As the wood was being lit under their feet, Bishop Latimer is quoted as saying, "Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man, for we shall this day light such a candle in England as I trust by God's grace shall never be put out."

Thomas Cranmer was the Archbishop of Canterbury who fully supported King Henry’s divorce and was a leader in the movement to reform the church catholic. He was one of the major architects of the Book of Common Prayer. Many of the beautiful prayers and collects we say together every Sunday were first penned by Cranmer.

The story goes that five times, at the request of Queen Mary, Cranmer wrote a letter of submission to the Pope. Four times, he ripped up the letter. The fifth letter was reportedly sent but ultimately rejected as fraudulent by Queen Mary, who ordered him to be burned at the stake.

At the very end, he repudiated his final letter of submission, and announced that he died a Protestant. He said, "I have sinned, in that I signed with my hand what I did not believe with my heart. When the flames are lit, this hand shall be the first to burn." The story is told that when the fire was lit around his feet, he leaned forward and held his right hand in the fire until it was charred to a stump. Aside from this, he did not speak or move, except that once he raised his left hand to wipe the sweat from his forehead.

Pretty amazing, right? The more you know about the people we have in our baptismal family tree, the more meaningful becomes our religious heritage as Episcopalians, which is embodied most passionately in the Book of Common Prayer.

To get your free copy of this most glorious book, or to make a donation so that even more will have their own copy, please see Rev’d Elizabeth.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Power of Language

Well, this picture will just have to do.

I tried to post a video I shot of our grand daughter Abby when she was just six weeks old. Instead, this is a picture of her trying very, very hard to talk.

She was then and remains now, at just one year old, a very expressive child (must be genetic, ya think?). Her actual language skills, while age appropriate, don't come anywhere near her aptitude for personality and expression.
Abby and her six year old sister, Mackie were here for what Mackie excitedly describes as "a double Nana sleep over." That means she got to sleep over two nights in a row at Nana and Grammy's house.

Woo hoo!

Their parents moved this weekend, and, as we all know, move is a four-letter word. It may well be the most obscene of all four-letter words.

So, "the grandmothers" did what they could, God knows. We took both girls for the week end so their parents could have some semblance of order in the midst of chaos.

Complicating the matter is that, earlier this week, Abby picked up a stomach virus at Day Care. She passed it on to her mother. Who passed it on to Mackie. Who passed it on to her father. They've all been stricken with vomiting and diarrhea which stopped just the other day.

We've taken to calling Abby, "Typhoid Mary."

Gallows humor. It's the only way to cope in these situations.

To make matters worse, Mackie has developed MRSA - Meth Resistant Staphlococcys Aureus. It's been awful for her, poor kid.

We took her to the doctor on Saturday, who asked her to describe what was wrong.

In her best pouty voice, Mackie said, "Well, I have diarrhea and I have Mersula."

The doctor looked at her and said, "Well, you may be sick but I don't think you could possibly be any cuter."

For whatever medical skills she might possess, the doctor is, without a doubt, a fine judge of character.

It was Abby, however, whose language skills completely impressed. Mind you, she turned a year old on August 2nd. And, of course, I am completely stupid with love over these children.

But, Ms. Abby. . . well, she's quite something.

She came for her visit with three words in her portfolio:



And, "AhhhAHHHHH"

It sounds as if she's saying "Up." (Ahhhh . . .. UUUUPPPP). At least, that's what I first thought. Then she said it while I was holding her when she was, well, already "up."

I have come to understand that "AhhhAHHHH" is Abby's way of saying, "Up." AND: "See." "Look." "Light." "Bottle." "That." And, "Doggie."

But, about 12 hours before she left, she said something that absolutely melted my heart.

She had taken out a book, "Good night, Moon," for me to read.

"AhhhAHHHHHH, " she said.

Clearly, "AhhhAHHHH," meant, "Read this book."

And then she said, "AhhhAHHHHH, Nana."

"Nana," she said, clear as a bell.

"Nana," she said, forming the "n" by placing her tongue between her lips.


There is only one meaning to that word.

And, Abby said it.


It sure sounded like "Love" to me.

"You hypocrites!" (Luke 13:10-17)

A sermon for XIII Pentecost
Proper 16
August 25, 2007
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

This is the second time in as many Sundays that Jesus uses the word, “Hypocrite.”

Maybe it was just the effect of the summer’s heat this week, but I found that fact curious if not, at least, mildly interesting.

My old seminary copy of Strong’s biblical concordance reports that the word hypocrite or hypocrisy is used less than a handful of times in Hebrew scripture, but Jesus employs its use with great frequency.

Indeed, “hypocrite” is used three times in Luke, once in Mark, and no less than 13 times in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus often has harsh words for his disciples, but he saves the application of that particular word for leaders of the synagogue – specifically, the Pharisees and Scribes.

So, I decided to look it up in Webster’s.

(Before I report on my findings, allow me to seize the opportunity to make a shameless pitch for someone to donate a copy of the OED – the Old English Dictionary – to the church library. I used to use the one at the Convent of St. Helena where I take my monthly retreat, but the convent is closed in the summer. I often use the OED at the Chatham Public Library, but between vacation and these hot, muggy days of summer, I have not had the incentive to get my sorry self over there. It would be great to have our very own edition here, available whenever the Spirit moves. End of shameless pitch.)

Webster reports that the word hypocrite is derived from the Greek hypodrites meaning “a stage actor”; hence, the definition: “one who pretends to have moral and religious beliefs and principles he does not profess; one who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude.”

I don’t know about you, but I find myself in a smug state of satisfaction, listening to Jesus berate the religious leaders of his day as hypocrites. I mean, really!

They have so much in common with the hypocrites of our modern day – like some of those televangelists who hold themselves morally superior, harshly judging everyone else’s behavior until (some would say, eventually), like Jim Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart, it is reported that they are having an affair with a church secretary or employing the services of a prostitute.

Or, there’s David Vitters, the Senator from Louisiana, ardent spokesman for Christian ‘family values’ and outspoken opponent of reproductive rights and same sex marriage, whose name just happened to appear on the call list of the D.C. Madam. Oops!

Don’t even get me started on the “Fundgelicals” in our own Anglican / Episcopal church.

Jesus is calling these guys for what they are: actors – shamelessly feigning some desirable or publicly approved attitude. Two-bit actors, fallen from the high stage of religious drama.

Except, what I have learned about myself over the years is this: smugness is a red flag on the playing field of my soul. The very minute I begin to feel smug, my soul is sending up a danger sign that I need to explore a bit more fully. As Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s is the parts that I do understand.”

So, I ventured forth to wade more deeply into the gospel story and here’s what I found: Surprise! I discovered the place of my own hypocrisy! Come with me and see if you don’t find a wee bit of your own.

We all have this place within us, I’m convinced. It’s just that we don’t like to look into the dark corners of our own soul. It’s ever so much more fun to look at the flaws of others.

Jesus has just healed a woman whose back has been so bent over, she has been crippled for 18 years. I’m thinking it was probably scoliosis, a condition we now easily diagnosed in elementary school. Or, perhaps, it was the effects of osteoporosis. OA slipped disc, perhaps. No matter. None of these conditions were known or diagnosable, much less treatable, in antiquity.

Jesus sees her and, moved with compassion, calls her over, lays hands on her, and heals her. Just like that. He didn’t ask her if she wanted to be healed. Neither did he check the calendar to see what day it was. He was simply moved with compassion and healed her.

This angered the religious leaders because it was the Sabbath and, according to temple law and tradition, nothing – not even healing – was to happen on the Sabbath. “You hypocrites,” Jesus yells at them! Good grief, he says. You give common beasts of burden like the donkey and oxen their freedom to get water on the Sabbath, and would you not free this woman from the bondage of her condition because it is the Sabbath?

Jesus is calling the religious leaders on keeping the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. Now, none of us would know anything about that, would we? Would we? Who among us might break the WORD of the law in order to be faithful to the SPIRIT of the law? Okay, I’ll go first. It’s probably because I’m a ‘religious leader’ of our day, but I confess that I am as guilty as the religious leaders of antiquity – especially about the Sabbath.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty good about a disciplined prayer life on vacation. I even go to church when I’m on vacation. Indeed, it’s my very favorite time of all to go to church. It’s easy to find the time for prayer when I’m observing the Sabbath. It’s not so easy when I’m busy – when my schedule is frenetically filled with appointments and projects and visits.

The rich irony, which has not been at all lost on me, is that this is precisely what the Sabbath is designed for – not for the luxury of vacation, but to take time apart and away from the business and frenzy of life and clear the deck of any extraneous, unnecessary activity. To bring the focus back to the center. To reconnect with our Spirit. To be in communication with God.

It’s easy to be smug and criticize the Pharisees of religious myopia and hypocrisy, but that smugness is always a signal that something in my soul recognizes it only because the possibility exists in me. To my chagrin, more often than not, I don’t have to look too far to find it.

As we begin to count down the last two weekends of summer – this one and then, next week, Labor Day, the “official end” of the summer season – I wonder how you will plan to observe the Sabbath in your life once life returns to. . . . “normal”?

How will you balance the demands of the fall season – the return to school, football games and soccer practice, music lessons, etc. – with the need to stay spiritually centered and grounded? In your need to be connected to your Spirit, and be in communication with God?

More to the point, this morning’s gospel asks us to look at what it is we say we believe, and how we put those beliefs into action in our lives. This morning’s gospel asks us if we are willing to break the WORD of the law in order to be faithful to the SPIRIT of the law.

Actions still speak louder than words. The net worth of the picture of our lives still remains at a million words. On the stage of your life, are you acting from a place of truth in you, or in a way that you only want others to believe?

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” My gospel prayer today is that, by the true observation of the Sabbath, the tree of your life may reveal the true nature of your character. May these last few days of summer lead you out from the shadows to brightness of that truth.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

The 'Dog Days' of Summer

Well, we had been warned.

Janice Huff, the crack meteorologist on Chanel 4, our local New York television station, had reported on the 11 o'clock News last night that it would be like this.

In her relentlessly affable and highly confident way (think female Al Roker), she said that, because of the heat and humidity index, "it will be 90 degrees, but it will feel like 100 degrees."

She was right.

Except, at the worst of it, it was 97 degrees today.

So, it felt more like 107.

My beloved Ms. Conroy has been on duty as an EMT all day. She's been called out more times because of heat exhaustion in the elderly than I've been able to keep count.

The last call was to the apartment of a 58 year old woman with Trisomy-21 (more commonly known as "Down's Syndrome") who had "bilateral four plus pitting edema."

Translation: she had dangerous swelling in both of her legs due, no doubt to the normally poor circulation of her heart condition, made even worse by dehydration.

"When was the last time you drank some water?" asked Nurse Jane Fuzzy-Wuzzy.

"Don't drink water," grunted the woman. "Tastes bad."

Her 71 year old sister, with whom she lives and who is her legal guardian, had made the call to the EMTs. She had become concerned because her sister was "not making much sense."

She was, in fact, becoming disoriented - also due to dehydration. It had taken them over an hour to convince her to go to the hospital to be rehydrated intravenously.

Yes, the apartment had air conditioning, but it was not turned on. A few fans whirred noisly and both women insisted that it was comfortable in their apartment. More than likely, they really couldn't afford the increase in their electric bill.

Yes, even here in Chatham, people live on 'fixed incomes'. It's just that most of the rest of Chatham - not to mention the state of NJ - is blissfully unaware that "people like that" live here.

They live in Newark or Camden.

Or, perhaps Jersey City or Elizabeth.

Not Chatham or Summit, Short Hills or Madison.

The police scanner (which is also reported on the EMT scanner as a sort of 'heads up') has also had an unusually high reporting of people stopped for DUI.

We had a discussion about this and we're not sure if this is because it's hot and people are drinking more, but because it's Saturday, people are drinking more beverages with alcohol (beer, gin and tonic, etc.) - and the heat, combined with the natural dehydrating effects of alchol, make the effects of alcohol even worse.

Yes, everyone knows the warning: "Don't Drink And Drive." But, when it's this hot and you're dehydrated AND drinking, well . . .you get the picture.

No matter. Folks are getting pulled over almost literally 'left and right'.

Presently it's 88 degrees. It's about 10 PM. I've just come in from taking the dogs for their nightly walk. It felt like I was walking around in a tepid cup of tea out there.

Lenny and CoCo got to about half way up the street and CoCo started snapping at Lenny. This is highly unusual behavior. She might do that if she has stolen one of Lenny's chewies and wants him to know that she's serious about not sharing it with him. Otherwise, she's very loving to her brother.

The real surprise was that Lenny snapped and growled back. I've NEVER seen that behavior before. He's the mellow one. He never reacts. He always just walks away, even when CoCo is picking on him.

So, we turned around and came home, cutting our normal walk time by less than half. The dogs actually seemed relieved to be back in the air conditioning..

Guess this is why these are called "The Dog Days of Summer."
Wikipedia reports that the Farmer's Almanac lists the traditional timing of the Dog Days as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the ancient helical (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius.

Apparently, the ancients sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that that star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.

Wiki also reports that the term was coined by the ancient Romans, who popularly believed this to be an evil time "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies." (Brady's Clavis Calendarium 1813)

Ms. Conroy just got called out again. It promises to be just that kind of night. She hollered upstairs that she would stop after the call and bring home some ice cream.

Cold Stone Creamery for us.

PAWS (specially formulated ice cream) for the dogs.

They'll be no sacrificing of any dogs to Sirius in this house.

Just sacrificing a few calorie counts to the Dog Days of Summer.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Archbishop prays for the Princess

Williams produces prayers for Diana commemoration
Helen Saxbee
Church Times, UK
24 August, 2007

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has written prayers for use on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Dr Williams wrote the prayers at the request of Princes William and Harry, and they are to be used at the memorial service for the Princess to be held at the Guards Chapel, at Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk, in central London, on 31 August. The Princess died in Paris in a car crash on 1 September, 1997.

The prayers read:

God our Father, we remember before you Diana, Princess of Wales, and offer you our gratitude for all the memories of her that we treasure still.

Her vulnerability and her willingness to reach out to the excluded and forgotten touched us all; her generosity gave hope and joy to many.

May she rest in peace where sorrow and pain are banished, and may the everlasting light of your merciful love shine upon her; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Father eternal, unfailing source of peace to all who seek you, we entrust to your love and protection all for whom this anniversary of the tragic and untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales reawakens the pains of grief and loss.

Comfort all who mourn, that casting all their cares upon you, they may be filled with your gifts — of new life, of courage and of hope; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The prayers are available for use in churches around the country, and are available from the C of E website. Traditional language versions can also be found on the site.

Gene Robinson in Church Times (UK)

"It's painful to be treated as less than human," says Gene Robinson
Bill Bowder
Church Times
24 August 2007

THE Anglican Communion’s only openly gay bishop, the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire, will use a BBC broadcast next week to undermine the Communion’s carefully crafted compromise that distinguishes between homosexual orientation and practice. The Bishop says that the distinction is dishonest.

He will also accuse his African critics of being like old-style US racists in their attack on lesbians and gays.

Bishop Robinson was interviewed for The Choice, to be broadcast next Tuesday on Radio 4 at 9 a.m. He takes issue with “people who would say its OK to be gay as long as you don’t practise it. First, I would question the honesty of their statement that it is OK to be gay in their eyes, because their other actions do not indicate that to me.

“Second of all, very few people are called to celibacy, certainly not a whole category of people.”

Being a practising homosexual was what he did all the time. “It’s about every moment of the day. This has nothing to do with a genital sexual relationship.”

He says that it was painful for him to have people from Africa feeling that homosexuals were “bestial”.

“We in the US treated people who came out of Africa as less than human. We used scripture to justify this slavery and continued bondage.” But the US had repented of its past behaviour.

“It is very, very painful to have those people in Africa in some sense using the same thinking against gay and lesbian people and against me.”

As for his chief critic, the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, Bishop Robinson says: “I believe that Peter Akinola . . . believes he is following his call to God as best he can. I just wish he could believe that I am following my call as best I can.

“I love the Anglican Church, and I value the Communion, and I will do everything short of standing down to benefit the Communion, but I will not reject God’s call to me.”

When asked if he should have stepped aside for the sake of the unity of the Communion, as did the then Canon Jeffrey John after he had accepted the call to be Bishop of Reading, Bishop Robinson says that God had constantly called him to offer himself as bishop, and had never once gone back on that call. He had resisted because he knew it would be controversial, but God had nagged at him to act.

“I took it to God in prayer daily, sometimes hourly; as best as I could discern, this was God’s voice talking to me. Never once did I hear God saying ‘Don’t do this’. If I had, I believe with my whole heart I would have made that decision.”

He rejects the claim that God’s call to him was convenient. “There has not been a lot that has been convenient since my election — certainly not the death threats.”

He denies that choosing a date three or four weeks before the next Lambeth Conference for his civil-partnership ceremony with Mark, his partner of 18 years, was provocative. The date will be the fifth anniversary of his election, and a three-day weekend. “My critics would find any date impermissible.”

“There continues to be concern for my safety in the diocese. There are some crazy people in the world, and all it takes is one.” But church life in New Hampshire diocese was remarkably normal: “I’m just the bishop,” he said.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

If a tree falls in a forest . . .

. . . . . . . . and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Even rank neophytes to the study of philosophy know this popular question.

It echos a Zen Buddhist 'koan' - a paradoxical question whose elusive answer is of far less significance than the exercise of meditating on the question.

A fairly well-known koan is: "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?"

If one is to screw one's courage, don one's best asbestos gear and Kevlar vest and stroll through some of the Orthodox "Fundgelical" blogs - oh, and do try to avert your eyes when you see an LGBT leader being technologically stoned; it's weekly entertainment in some places - it would seem there is a fairly passionate debate raging about what it means to be a "true Anglican."

I know.

Big surprise, right?

Add this to the debate over whose interpretation of the Bible is "authentic" and which is "counterfeit." Or, whether or not God loves or hates the diversity which God has made. Or, whether or not one of the marks of a "true" church is radical inclusivity or selective membership based on rigid criteria.

The particular debate du jour asks, "If the Archbishop of Canterbury does not recognize your church or your bishop, are you still an Anglican?"

Actually, it more accurately should be asked, "If you choose not to recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury as the 'first among equals,' are you still a member of the Anglican Communion?"

Bishop Bob Duncan, Moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes started it, of course, in his
address to the Fourth Annual Council at Bedford, Texas, 30th July, A.D.2007, when he declared the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference - two of the so-called four Instruments of Communion within our tradition – to be “lost”.

Okay. I know. I don't buy into the innovation of ecclesiastical theology called "the Instruments of Communion" either, but let's just go along with them for a bit. It's become rather a bit of a lark to watch how the "fundgelicals' continually foist themselves on their own petard. Actually, they've become quite good at it, really.

Duncan has said that God is “doing a new thing” in "allowing these elements to flounder and be let go."

Yup. This is the same crowd that snears (and, almost always snarls) when it is said that "God is doing a new thing" in calling Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion.

I swear to God! You can't make this stuff up.

The "Duncan Declaration of Disassociation" caused long-time conservative theologian, the Rev'd Dr. Ephraim Radner, perhaps one of the more scholarly, reasoned and eloquent voices on the right, to disassociate himself from the Anglican Network the very next day.

He's also, unfortunately, a member of the
IRD, the Institute for Religion and Democracy, a now notoriously conservative organization which is the primary funding source for the resurgence of the fundamental evangelical movement in mainstream religious America.

No one should have been surprised by Moderator Bob's statement. In an
address to the Convocation of the stridently Anglo-Catholic (and just barely) Episcopal Seminary at Nashotah House, on October 25, 2006, he stated, “The future of Anglicanism depends on the shift of its systems and institutions from North to South, and from Anglo- to Afro-, Sino- and Latino-.”

Duncan also argued that Anglicanism has historically had a
"practical magisterium" - the Book of Common Prayer. Oh, but not just any old BCP - but most especially NOT the 1979 American version.

Get real! He means the 1662 version.

You gotta hand it to the man. He is nothing if not consistent. And, entirely predictable.

Then again, Dr. Stephen Noll has been writing about this for years. The Rev'd Professor Noll is a former Episcopal priest, retired, now active in the Ugandan Anglican Church where he runs a seminary there.

I spent a very long year one week in Edmundton, Washington with Stephen, in one of the first attempts to reconcile the schism which, even 10 years ago, seemed to be looming large on the Agnlican horizon.

This particular effort eventually gave birth to the New Commandment Task Force, an effort to which I willingly dedicated 5 years of my life, even though it came to no tangible good effect to stem the schism which is presently upon us.

When Steven steadfastly refused to participate in the closing celebration of Holy Eucharist, even after the beseeching of his conservative brothers, I knew we were in the proverbial handbasket which inevitably leads to the firey destination with which good intentions are paved.

In a letter he wrote to the Windsor Bishops on Easter Friday, 2007, but then circulated widely on
July 28th, he wrote: "Network bishops must unite behind Robert Duncan, and Common Cause partners must uphold him in his role as a “focus of unity” within the faithful remnant in North America. Let it be clear as day that our movement is directed toward true unity in the Body of Christ and not a fragmentation by personality and preference. Let our movement be truly catholic and ecumenical."

Other so-called Windsor bishops are doing just that, joining Duncan in asserting that one can be Anglican without being in communion with Canterbury.

Indeed, they are clearly heeding Noll's advice, and take it one step further, claiming to emerge the "true" Anglicans, especially if Rowan is . . . "manipulated", yes, that's the word they're using . . .by the Episcopal Bishops into swallowing their own batch of traditional "Anglican Fudge" when they meet with Rowan during the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans in September.

In that Good Friday letter, Dr. Noll wrote, "Network bishops must prepare for separation as best they can and stay united in fellowship with each other and their Common Cause partners. Don’t wait for the “Windsor bishops.” Once there were 60 Irenaeus bishops, then 40 AAC bishops, now there are 20 “Windsor Bishops” and a dozen (and counting down?) Network bishops. Unless you are prepared to act and act in concert, you and your clergy and dioceses will be picked off one by one."

The Rt. Rev'd Fitzsimons Allison, retired bishop of South Carolina, recently
wrote,"Duncan and Common Cause will be an integral part of the Anglican Communion perhaps one not centered in Canterbury and whose Primate is not the appointment of a prime minister elected by an aggressively secularized Western post-modern culture."

With all due respect, your grace, I would say that anyone who is not centered in Canterbury might claim to have her theology centered in AnglicanISM but that same person can not claim to be part of the Anglican COMMUNION.

Bishop David Bena, formerly of Albany, currently Bishop Suffragan of CANA, recently
declared, "We are at a New Reformation, brothers and sisters. This age can be compared with the times of the sixteenth century. Those of us in CANA are attempting, with a spirit of humility, to stand firm in our biblical faith, the faith of Anglicanism."


Which, I think, creates a new spiritual koan for The Episcopal / Anglican Church, one which the bishops might choose to meditate upon as they prepare to gather together with the Archbishop of Canterbury in September:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury invites and there is Anglican Communion; what is the sound of Anglicanism?"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

When will they ever learn?

"You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?" (Luke 12:56)

I've been thinking again about these words of Jesus from the gospel appointed for a recent Sunday service. I first heard them as very angry. Today, I hear them as deeply frustrated. It's a sentiment I share this morning.

Let me explain.

I recently made a decision not to attend my high school reunion. This was the first time I was actually invited. As you might imagine, there have been a few reunions since I graduated from high school. I won't say how many, but I'll just say this one began with a prime number and ended with a zero and we'll just leave it at that.

It was ultimately a matter of pragmatics. I have not yet learned how to be in two places at one time. I chose to be with my friend, the man who was my rector when I was going through the ordination process, as he marked his 40th year of ordained ministry and retired from Hawai'i to live in Thailand.

So, the choice was spending the evening with people I haven't seen since high school in Westport, MA or being in Honolulu, HI with my dear friend.

Hmm . . . Which was the better portion? As you might imagine, I didn't have to ponder that question too long to find an answer.

However, this particular anniversary caused me to go online and check out some of the local newspapers to see what's been happening in "my little town". Local newspapers are one of the best ways I know to check out the "sign of the times."

What I thought I knew about the place I grew up is that the Fall River - New Bedford area has always been (no doubt will always be) a predominantly blue-collar mill town. These towns, like so many like them across America, are always a magnet for the next wave of immigration.

In my home town, the first wave of immigrants were the English and the Irish, who worked the textile mills of Fall River and New Bedford, Lowell and Lawrence. Then, the French Canadians came, followed by the Portuguese, to work the mills and then the factories and shops.

There are now Cape Verdians and other Africans, Brazilians and Puerto Ricans as well as those from Portugal who come to live with their relatives who have "made it" - gotten their foothold in the American dream.

When I was in high school, the greatest emphasis was on education, which has always been the pathway out of oppression. When that path is followed, it ultimately places one on the road to success. Achievement and excellence, perseverance and diligence were the watchwords of my journey.

We were also almost literally carried along on the hopes and prayers of our grandparents, as well as some of our aunts and uncles. The memories of the sacrifices they made in order to be in this country were never far from our minds and our hearts. We had an unspoken obligation and a debt to pay, and education not only repaid that debt, but it also came as its own reward.

The American Dream has never been an easy one to achieve, but if newspapers provide an accurate read of the "sign of the times" then the American Dream has never been more illusive in this country for the next wave of immigrants as it is, presently, in my little town.

The Fall River Herald News did not disappoint in that regard. I was stunned to read of the increase in violent crimes - petty theft to grand larceny as well as more than a fair share of domestic violence - the overwhelming majority of which were drug related.

The really shocking news, however, was to read the front page headline of the latest referendum for the town of Fall River, my birth plance and one of two cities which sandwitch my home town of Westport, the other being New Bedford.

The mandate was that B.M.C. Durfee High School be required to provide each student with their own complete set of text books so that homework could actually be done at home.

Wait! Just hang on one millisecond and read that again.

The referendum is to provide a mandate that the school be REQUIRED to provide EACH student with their own set of text books.

Okay. Here's my question:

Since WHEN was that NOT a requirement of a public school?

There are larger questions: Can no one see the connection between the rise in violent crimes and drug use and the fact that students don't have books to do homework at night?

Can no one see that when you obscure the path to the achievement of dreams, you take away the hope of the poor?

Can no one see that when you take away the hope of the poor, one of the inevitable results is the increased incidence of violence?

Here I am, all these many years after graduation from high school, an Episcopal priest in the affluent suburb of Chatham, NJ. I could never have imagined, in my wildest high school dreams, that I would be where I am today. It is only because I dared to dream audacious dreams and ask bold questions that, by the grace of God, I am who I am and where I am today.

The Rabbi I follow, one Jesus of Nazarath, also dreams bold dreams and asks bold questions: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat'; and it happens."

I think I'm glad I didn't go "home" for my high school reunion. I think it might have broken my heart to see what has happened in my little town since I graduated from Westport High School - a time when I, like many of my classmates, was full of hope and ambition and excitement about my future.

It makes me wonder how God's heart must ache that we do not use the gift of our intelligence and read the signs of the times. The relationship between hope and peace and despair and violence has never been more clear. What will it take for us to open our eyes and see what is right in front of our eyes?

We, in my generation were called "the flower children" - mostly because we rebelled against an unjust war and worked for peace. Lo, these many years later, it seems history is repeating itself. I understand it often does, especially for those who dare not learn its lessons. At least, that's what I was taught at dear WHS.

Pete Seeger, one of the psalmists of my generation asked, "Where have all the flowers gone?"

One of the answers was, "Young girls have picked them every one."

Another question was, "Where have all the graveyards gone?"

And the answer was, "Covered with flowers every one."

The question still is asked, "When will they ever learn?"

Indeed, when will we ever learn?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Life's metaphors are God's instructions

“ . . . .why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"

Luke 12:49-56
XII Pentecost
August 19, 2007
Proper 15
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

Listening to this gospel, if I didn’t know better, I’d say that Jesus has just returned from a summer family reunion, and it didn’t go so well.

“From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three they will be divided.” Then, not to belabor the point, “father against son and son against father . . .” and so on, yeah, verily even unto the in-laws, they will be divided.

Must have been quite a family feud, I imagine.

I jest. Of course, I jest. I usually do when I’m uncomfortable – especially when I’m trying to explain the hard sayings of Jesus. This is the 'fire and brimstone' Jesus. The 'no frills' Jesus.

Or, as the kids might say, 'Jesus Unplugged.'

I’d love to tell you that these really aren’t the words of Jesus. That there is yet another way to translate these words. That, there is an historical context which would soften the meaning of these words – make them nicer, easier to digest. The truth of it is that these are difficult words from the lips of Jesus, words that fall hard on the ears of those of us who would like to languish a bit longer, if you please, in these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer (Well, okay, I would.).

Actually, this passage from Luke’s gospel comes, as it does, in the midst of the end of chapter 11 through chapter 13, filled with enough dire warnings and predictions about the coming of the end of the world to earn this section the unofficial NY Times headline: “Jesus Is Peeved” with the subtitle being, “Gets really crabby when crowds press upon him and Pharisees question him.”

I have a renewed appreciation for that situation, this being my first Sunday back after my vacation. I can attest to the fact that it is good to get away from the madding crowd to the peace and quiet of time away. Even those who, like Jesus, are called to the work God gives them to do, and have clarity and focus about it and, indeed, love the work they do, can become overwhelmed and . . .well. . .crabby. You can ask anyone about my disposition before I left for vacation. If they described me as “crabby,” they were being kind. Very kind, indeed.

Actually, I’ve stated the point of this gospel passage a bit backward. I got to the last part first, which is that doing the hard work of vocation can make you crabby. In fact, it DOES make you crabby. But, the point is that vocational work, no matter what it is, is hard work.

Vocational work – be it in the venerable fields of medicine, law, political or social science, finance or religion; or in technical or skilled labor (whether the collar you wear is blue or white), or in the noble work of family life (being a parent or child or a sibling) – the work you are called to do, the work you love to do, if it’s worth doing at all, requires sacrifice. And, that sacrifice is usually worth it – except, when it can sometimes begin to feel as if others do not value the work you do, much less the sacrifices you have made – indeed, continue to make – in order to do the work you are called to do.

Jesus is reminding us that the work of discipleship is not for the faint of heart. Indeed, the work of discerning vocation is some of the hardest work I know in life. In his book, Let Your Life Speak, Quaker teacher and author Parker Palmer talks about the spiritual path taken by his soul when, in a vocational crisis in his mid-thirties, he ran across those words, from an old Quaker saying, which were to become the title of his book. He writes,

“Let your life speak. I found those words encouraging, and I though I understood what they meant: ‘Let the highest truths and values guide you. Live up to those demanding standards in everything you do.’ Because I had heroes at the time who seemed to be doing exactly that, this exhortation had incarnate meaning for me – it meant living a life like that of Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks or Mahatma Gandhi or Dorothy Day, a life of high purpose.”

Palmer’s words resonated deeply with my own experience. I, like Palmer and many, many others, I suspect, who lived through the 60’s and 70’s, awoke one day to discover that I was living a life that was, indeed, noble, but it was not my own.

There were times when the results of living these high standards were, as Palmer describes, “rarely admirable, often laughable, and sometimes grotesque.” The problem, of course, was that I was spending my life trying to imitate my heroes instead of listening to my heart.

Palmer says this: “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”

At first blush, that may sound so logical – such a no-brainer – as to be easy. I can assure you that it is decidedly not. When you fashion your life around the values of others, and then, one day, begin to listen to your own life and follow that call, your own vocation, your own values from within, well . . .. . If you listen closely, you can hear the words of Jesus with greater clarity:

"I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”

You may find that your family members will be aghast at the new direction your life begins to take. Before you know it, your life will begin to look just as Jesus has described: “Father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother . . . five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided.”

The good news – and, there is good news in the midst of all of these hard, difficult words – is that, in the work of the gospel, things always seem to have to be put upside down before they can be put right.

Some things need to come apart before they get put back together. We eat Eucharistic bread that is broken in order to be made whole. We sip Eucharistic wine that has been poured out before we can be filled.

We see this in the life of Jesus in his time in the Wilderness. We see it in the lives of his disciples, who left home and family, jobs and the relative security of their lives, to follow Jesus. We see it in the lives of saints – ancient and modern, secular and religious – who entered into the chaos often brought by living with authenticity and integrity into their true identity, their true vocation.

We see it in our own lives when we go about our daily routine and one day at the breakfast table we look up and the kids are all grown and gone and we think, "Who is that person sitting across from me?" Or, "Who am I, and what am I doing sitting here? My life was so full and now it seems so empty. What am I supposed to do now?"

The vocational process of authenticity and integrity is life-long and on-going. It’s a process of being broken open and poured out – and that can make us feel depleted. But, the journey with Christ is always toward wholeness. And the journey toward wholeness places us on the pathway toward holiness of life. In the mystery that is our God, we must often be broken open before we can be made whole.

As Jesus points out, it’s a matter of discernment – of paying attention to the signs in your life.

He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"

Well, that’s Jesus being crabby again. I’ll share with you another little gem from another wonderful book which was also part of my summer reading. It puts this in a more positive frame. It’s from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love in which she learns this:

"Life’s metaphors are God’s instructions.”

What is your life saying to you? What are the metaphors of your life? What is God trying to teach you through them? Have you taken the time to listen for your vocation? If not, or if it has been a while since you’ve listened to you life, I urge you, with what’s left of these last, few, lingering days of summer, to spend some time beginning that process.

But, fair warning – the journey toward wholeness can make you feel empty, at times. And that can make you fairly crabby - until you begin to read the signs, the metaphors of your life, as God’s instructions.

It can happen to the best of us, from time to time.

Don’t believe me?

Ask Jesus. Just mind the fire and brimstone.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Lessons learned on vacation

I recently met up with a friend of mine I hadn't seen in a few years. She's the kind of person who, when you finally re-connect, your conversation seems to pick up effortlessly where you left off.

I'm not sure how, but at one point in our conversation, we started talking about "things left undone." We talked about those things we wanted to do - places we wanted to visit. Mostly, they were the grandiose kind of plans known to those who are limited - and strangely inspired - by the bottom line of their budget.

She looked pensive and said, "You know, for as long as I've known you, you've always said that you want to learn how to play the piano. Have you done that?"

"Um, no. No."

She frowned a bit and then said, "You've also talked about taking drumming lessons as a spiritual discipline. How's that going?"

"Um, not so much, but . . .

" . . .or going back to the spiritual discipline of Akido. Doing that?"

"Hey!" I said, "Why am I feeling judged here?"

"Not judgement. Just a friend checking-in with another friend," she smiled, adding, "When you check in with me, you'll find that I haven't done any better. Why is that, you think? Why do we make time for the big things, but we don't seem to have the time for the little things we really want to do?"

"Because we don't have the time?" I offered sheepishly.

She raised an eyebrow and said, "Well, I think it's easy to set aside a week or a day, but it's much, much more difficult to find an hour in the course of a day or in the midst of a busy week to do things like practice the piano or work on your Akido."

You know, I think she's absolutely right.

I've always been intrigued by the quote from Albert Einstein, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

This past week, I've been re-examining my schedule, looking at ways I use - and abuse - my time, asking, "Where's the insanity?" Where are those places where I've been investing my time, hoping for change, and finding none?

The good news is that, all in all, I'm not doing so bad. I not only make time for daily meditation/prayer, but I've gotten smart enough to change my routine so it doesn't get, well, routine - and thereby boring.

I write for 35-55 minutes every day - not including what I post to this blog. The summer has not been helpful to this, but I'm normally in the gym for an hour 3 - 4 times a week. I have been power walking 30-45 minutes most every day.

I also spend about 3 - 4 hours a day reading - some for study, some for pleasure, some as part of my work. I read books, newspapers, blogs, and magazines. I read and respond to email as well as snail mail. For example, I refuse to send a sympathy card or a thank you note for a gift via email. I know. How 'old school' of me.

It wasn't hard to find the insanity in my life. I had to look no further than some of the listservs I'm on. I counted them. There are ten.

Some of them are email lists for members of organizations to communicate about important events in the life of the work of our mission. These include my Vestry, as well as groups like The Episcopal Women's Caucus and Claiming the Blessing. These listservs have become "necessary evils" of our post-modern, highly technological life, making it possible to make time-sensitive decisions without the cost of travel or long distance phone calls.

But, then there are listservs like "HOB/D" - the House of Bishops/Deputies - where bishops, elected deputies and alternates, and, occasionally, the kibitzer, can discuss issues confronting the church.

It has its place of importance, I suppose, especially for those who are considering running for election as deputy. It is decidedly not a good source of news, but then again, that's not its purpose. It can give an interesting snapshot of The Episcopal Church at the local and national level.

Unfortunately, however, HOB/D has become a place where, as one of my friends puts it, "the same twelve people say the same twelve things to each other every twelve minutes."

There are really only a very small handful of "the orthodox" left who comment with any regularity - thanks be to God. I can only take so much of what turns out to be either "theological toxic waste" or "Chicken Little Theology" ("The Anglican sky is falling!")

Some of those who consider themselves "conservatives" seem to be reading without comment - or kibitzing and occasionally getting a deputy to post for them. Truth is, there are some very good conservative blogs where their opinions can be expressed anonymously and left unchallenged. That has to be much more satisfying than posting something on HOB/D and getting clobbered.

The so-called "moderates" sometimes say such hurtful things - unintentionally and without a shred of malice - that I have learned to hit "delete" even before opening or reading their posts. Sometimes, there are lengthy theological debates between a liberal and a conservative, which have been, in the main, helpful to the discussion. It's been a long, long while since we've had any of those.

The liberal/progressives tend to be very, very long-winded - so much so that I confess I simply begin to gloss-over and nod off. Why can't we learn to make our point and then shut up? Why do we feel we have to justify everything we say? (Hmm . . . like this essay. Okay. Okay.)

The bottom line is that it has all become so predictable and sad. One of my fellow deputies from Newark asked an important question, "How does this build up the Realm of God?" I don't find much evidence of that on some of the listservs I've been on.

So, I've decided that I need a hiatus from all that chatter. I can and will continue to subscribe to ENS (Episcopal News Service), and read my favorite blogs for news and opinion and yes, even wacky humor (no, of course that's not MadPriest).

I've also determined not to read comments left by anyone named "anonymous" or whose "tag" can't be connected to a web page or private email. No matter whether I agree with them or not, they are cowards, every last one of them.

I'm now down from ten to four listserv memberships - including HOB/D and related listservs - which seems much more reasonable.

I'm not expecting to take piano lessons tomorrow to fill in the time, but I do hope it will be better with my soul.

Or, as Einstein promises, to begin to lessen my level of insanity. Although there are some who would steadfastly deny that as a possibility for me, it can't be denied that this would be a very wise investment of time for anyone.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

If home is where the heart is . . . .

I arrived "home" from Hawai'i about 3 PM today (having left Honolulu at 7:20 PM Tuesday night). Hawai'i has become a wonderful spiritual home for me.

Tonight, I'm in Chatham, where my family warmly welcomed me home to the rectory - especially 'the four-leggeds' who were so happy to see me walk in the door they practically wagged themselves into a stupor.

I'm home tonight and heading off to Llangollen bright and early in the morning - the place where I feel most "at home."

If this doesn't make too much sense, that's because home is less a matter of location and more a matter of the heart.

Also understand, please, that I'm working on about 4 hours sleep - sitting at an ever-so-slight tilt in a very small, poorly padded airplane seat which was located right in front of one of the lavatories (so, about every 10 minutes or so, I awakened to hear: "WOOSH!" - whether I needed to hear it or not).

Here are pictures of my beloved Lenny and CoCo.

I'm home wherever they - and Ms. Conroy - are.

Lenny, the Surfer Dude with an attitude

CoCo, the Surfer Dudette, with our daughter, Julie

Monday, August 13, 2007

Scenes from a Retirement Party

Well, Rob's REALLY, REALLY big retirement party was a great success.

We had much more fun than was absolutely necessary. We laughed and laughed and then we laughed some more when we weren't eating Yankee Pot Roast (what else would you serve to honor someone born in Burlington, Vermont?) or dipping slices of banana, mango and papaya into a fountain of chocolate for dessert?

True to the Hawai'ian tradition of "talk story," members of the congregation put together a "Power Point slide show" during which tributes - parts of Rob's life story - were read.

Many of the tributes were deeply moving - especially the one from his son, Tom which was read by his daughter, Bekah. There were also tributes from Mac and Mary Adelia Rosamond MacLeod, the 9th Bishop of Vermont, now retired, as well as former parishioners from Maine.

When we all stood at the end of the celebration and held hands as we sang, "Aloha, 'Oe" . . . well, I'll just say that there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

I've a TON of pictures, but these will give you a sense of the festivities.

I leave for home tomorrow. When I next return to Hawai'i, it will be as a stop over on my way to visit Rob in Bangkok.

The wonderful thing about "Aloha" is that it means "hello" AND "goodbye" AND "love" -which is right, because, when you love someone, there is neither hello nor goodbye. Whether you are together or apart, there is only love.

You know. It's what Jesus taught.

Here - enjoy the pictures before I start to cry again.

The entrance to The Parish of St. Clement's, Honolulu

Liz Zivanov, rector, starts things off.

Good food. Wonderful people. Great stories. Can heaven be far from sight?

"This is your life, Rob DeWolfe."

A fond 'farewell hula', just for Rob.

Aloha 'oe (Farewell to thee),
Aloha 'oe (farewell to thee)
E ke onaona hoho i ka lipo
(Thou charming one who dwells in shaded bowers.)
A fond embrace a ho'i a'e au
(A fond embrace 'ere I depart)
Until we meet again.

Aloha, Rob.

Aloha, Hawai'i.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Robert Hayden DeWolfe

Note: My dear friend, Rob DeWolfe, is retiring today. I'm off to a special celebration in his honor at The Parish of St. Clement's, Honolulu, where he has been assisting clergy on staff for the past several years. A huge parish celebration will follow. I plan to read this tribute to him during the festivities.

On “Being There”

A Tribute to my friend, Robert Hayden De Wolfe

The first time I met Rob De Wolfe, he protected me with a baseball bat. That incident was to launch the first wonderful episode in the amazing 26 year series of “high drama” which has been our friendship.

Let me set the scene: It was a simple enough visit. At that time, we were living in Portland, Maine. Rob was the rector of Trinity, Saco, a lovely, quaint New England church, one town over. One of his parishioners, a dear friend of ours, had asked him to come and visit our family.

It was the summer of 1981, our “baby,” Mia, was just two months old and, between summer visitation of our children and the arrival of our foster kids, we had eleven children living in an old eleven room Victorian house.

Imention, only as a footnote in my memory, that this house had no central heating system and took seven cords of wood a year to heat – which we cut and stacked ourselves and hand-carried into the house as needed.

Yes. It was 1981. It was Maine. We were young. Could we have been that strong? Or, foolish?

My beloved partner, Ms. Conroy, had just broken her back in three places and was recovering slowly, coordinating the summer chaos from her station on the brown coach in the living room with the impeccable effectiveness that had earned her the title “Mother Superior” from the children.

Just to add to the intensity of the drama, we were also in the middle of “Stage II” of a fierce five-year custody battle with my former husband who was furious that the children were choosing to live with us. He would often drive up from Boston and park his car at the end of our street, menacing us with his presence and his camera. That day was such a day.

I swear this is all true. You can’t make this stuff up.

Enter Rob, the dashingly handsome Vicar of Saco, come to pay a call about baptizing our baby. He wasn’t in the house 15 minutes when, from her station on the couch, Barbara noticed my ex-husband getting out of the car. She reached very calmly under the pillow and pulled out a baseball bat.

Handing it to Rob she said, in very measured tones, “Excuse me, sir, but would you mind holding this?”

“This?” said Rob, eyes wide and in his best stage voice. “This . . . baseball bat? Whatever for?”

Never one to be flummoxed – or ever denied – Ms. Conroy continued, “ . . .and stand in front of that window there. That’s it. That’s a good man. Just take the baseball bat, stand in front of the window, and, if you can, try to look menacing.”

“Menacing?” stuttered Rob, as he dutifully took the baseball bat, got up from his chair and began to move toward the window. “Me? I mean, I was in Viet Nam, but that was a while ago.”

“Good,” declared Ms. Conroy. “Good. That time in Nam will serve you well. You see that man there? That’s Elizabeth’s ex-husband and he’s probably madder than hell that you’re here. God only knows what he’s thinking. Just don’t let him in the house, okay?”

“SWEETBABYJESUSCHRIST!” yelled Rob, as he clutched the baseball bat tightly in his hands, looking somehow taller and convincingly strong. “Are you ****** kidding me? You’re not, are you? Kidding me? Are you?”

He turned and fixed his gaze out the window, saying, “HOLYMARYMOTHEROFGOD!!”

There were other words, sacred and profane – “mystical incantations”, we came to call them – which Rob uttered in his successful attempt to intimidate my former husband and save the two lesbian mother damsels and their eleven children in their time of distress.

Oh, he and Brooke Alexander, the first woman to be ordained in the Diocese of Maine, also baptized our baby – about five months later, after we had joined the church – together with all of our eleven children, thereby distinguishing his congregation as the fastest growing church in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine that year.

How could a friendship thusly begun not last more than 25 years later?

No matter where we are, no matter where we were, no matter that that paths of our individual lives have, from time to time, led us apart, we have always “been there” for each other.

We were there for each other during Rob’s painful divorce, coming out and leave-taking from his church. His absolute devotion to his children led him to work out a joint custody situation which called for him to stay in the same town where he had previously been a prominent pastor. His apartment was only a few blocks from the apartment of his ex-wife. The children spent part of their week with both parents, alternating weekends.

He didn’t care what others might have thought of him or how that limited his career choices – which it most certainly did. The stability and security of his children came first, come what may, cost what it might.

Greater love hath no children than a parent who lays his life down for them.

We were there for each other during the “great diocesan controversy” that was my ordination process. Rob was, at the time, not only the rector of the congregation that initially sponsored me, but also the Chair of the Commission on Ministry. I could not have asked for a more loyal, devoted friend and pastor.

Through it all, he was a reflection of the rock and strength of which the Psalmists sing.

We were there for each other when we had no money and our credit cards bounced in a discount children’s clothing store.

We were there for each other, buying lobsters on a sale for one of our kid’s birthday celebrations with his pocket change and my food stamps.

We were there for each other on cheap camping vacations, sharing tents, sleeping blankets and cooking equipment. We also shared the unfolding stories of our lives, drinking “bug juice” as we sat around the campfire long into the cool Maine summer nights.

God willing, we will continue to be there for each other – me in the Northeast corridor of America and he in the Southeast corner of the world.

If one’s true treasure lies in the heart, Rob’s friendship has made me a woman of great wealth.

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The still Hawai'ian night

It happens every time I'm here.

It amazes me every time.

This is my fourth visit to Hawai'i - my first in the summer. I'm surprised at the mild weather. It's actually more comfortable than some summer days in New Jersey.

Mostly, I've been here in February or March to visit my friend Rob. The airfares are much more affordable, and it's a great way to prepare for Lent.

The climate then is very much like the mild temperatures of a New England summer. There's a gentle rain in the morning and perhaps in the afternoon which appears as the sun continues to shine.

It's as if The Creator God is also The Sacred Gardner, carefully tending to the beauty of Paradise with a gentle spritz of water. A magnificent rainbow - or two - usually appears right after the rain stops.

I figure it's just Mother Nature's way of giving thanks to God. And, maybe, just maybe, showing off a little (I mean, can you blame her, really?).

It's funny, but you get used to it.

I remember the very first time I came here. Rob drove me home from the airport, and as I got out of the car and looked out from the carport, I saw the most breathtaking view of Diamond Head with two - count them, two - vibrant, beautiful rainbows.

I gasped and said, "Oh, Rob, look! It's beautiful!"

Rob looked, expressionless, at the vista before us and deadpanned, "Yeah, that's the second one today. There'll be a few more before the day is over. Don't worry. You'll get used to it."

Part of that is just Rob's sense of humor ("He's an acquired taste," someone said to me yesterday. She now loves him as much as I do.). Another part is that, unfortunately, is true.

I always get excited when I see my first rainbow on my return visit here. Two days later, I simply call out from the back seat, "Oh, look! A rainbow." Everyone looks up, smiles and renders silent approval, but no one gasps or applauds the way we all do when we first arrive.

And yet, it continues. Boundlessly. Effortlessly. Endlessly. Reminds me of the introduction to the song,
"Pennies from Heaven." ('A long time ago / A million years BC / The best things in life /Were absolutely free. . . .') Listen to it when you have a chance. The song will make much more sense to you then.

Perhaps this is the reason I am now more astounded by the Hawai'ian night.

I've never slept in air conditioning while in Hawai'i. Don't need it. Just open a few windows or a sliding glass door and the gentle trade winds will come in and caress you and cool you all through the night.

Except, there is always this time . . . this moment . . . when everything is suddenly still. I always awaken - even out of a sound sleep - to hear it.

Yes, that's right. I awaken to hear the silence.

It happens sometime between two and four AM. Suddenly, I'm aware that there is no breeze. I feel mildly uncomfortable with the heat, but certainly not enough to awaken a peaceful sleep.

It's the silence that arouses me from the depths of my sleep and interrupts my dreams. It's the fullest, loudest silence I have ever heard.

Everything is still. I can not discern even the slightest movement of air.

The silence, I have discovered, is full of expectancy. I half-wait for a sound. Dare I say it? A voice. Or, at least a very loud thought.

Sometimes, it comes. Once, I heard a gentle, loving voice say, "Go back to sleep, now." And I did. Instantly. And slept, as they say in Ghana, "Like a foolish man."

Once, I heard a segment of a sentence that didn't have any logic, rhyme or reason. At least, in that moment. Later that week, I was in a situation and found that I was using those very words as part of a sentence that was enormously helpful. I was deeply, deeply grateful for the gift that came to me that night.

Mostly, though, there is simply silence - the kind with a deep, peaceful beauty we rarely get to experience in our post-modern, chaotic lives. The only response is to sit silently, reverently.

And, when it ends, to give thanks and praise to God for the sacred gift it is.

It is the sort of stillness of which I suspect God first spoke to Moses, the prophets and the psalmist: "Be still and know that I am God."

It is, I suspect, an earthly experience of "the peace of God which passes all human understanding."

It is like that picture at the top of this post. In case you didn't recognize it, that is a sunflower, waiting to bloom. It is vibrantly green, full and ripe and ready to open to face life with new life. You can feel the energy, almost detect the movement as you look on it in this moment, and yet it is perfectly still.

We can not possibly tell the amazing beauty that is about to burst forth, except we know that it will. Perhaps this is why there is so much natural beauty here - because of this stillness - this expectant waiting - this moment to pause and give glory to God for all of creation.

I love the long, wonderful days of outrageously abundant beauty here in Hawai'i. It is the stillness of the Hawai'ian night, however, that will keep me coming back - even if only in the memories of my heart.