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

Friday, October 31, 2008

NY Local

Ghost hunters seek spirits in Staten Island's St. Andrew's Episcopal Church


Sunday, October 26th 2008, 4:00 AM
Some believe the Church of St. Andrew in Staten Island is haunted.

A Staten Island church with some weird vibes has thrown open its doors - to ghost busters.

The Eastern Paranormal Investigation Center is investigating St. Andrew's Episcopal Church for evidence of otherworldly visitors, and the results are due just in time for Halloween.

"There is definitely something going on here. It's that feeling you get when your hair stands up," said St. Andrew's pastor, the Rev. Michael Delaney.

The ghost busters, who are based in Staten Island, requested a probe last year after hearing about strange goings-on at the church and asked to do a second investigation last week, according to Delaney.

Their last findings were convincing, he said.

A DVD of what they taped during their night at the church showed heavy chimes that are difficult to move ringing on their own.

"All of a sudden the chimes were ringing. The candle over the tabernacle was dancing like there was a major wind. But there was no wind. And we heard what sounded like a tin dish hitting the floor," recalled Delaney.

The group uses high-tech equipment to measure erratic electromagnetic fluctuations and an ion emitter, which they say makes phantoms more obvious.

"Ions are like food for ghosts. They use a prevalent amount of ions to show themselves," Arthur Matos, the group's co-founder told the Staten Island Advance.

He pegged midnight to 3 a.m. as St. Andrew's "witching hour."

The most recent findings are expected to be posted on the group's Web site,, in the coming days.

They've worked on numerous homes and well-known haunts like the Bridge Cafe in lower Manhattan, a former brothel where politicians now dine.

Their probe of the eatery last year found nothing unexplained, according to its Web site.

"Contending for the Faith"

NOTE: Oh, Good Grief! This is such a 'spin job' it makes me dizzy! Then again, Iker learned it from the "Theological Spin Master," himself.

The following article appeared in the Diocese of Fort Worth's Newsletter, in preparation for their diocesan convention, November 14 & 15, which will vote for the second time to change its constitution and canons and "realign" with The Anglican Diocese of the Southern Cone.

How sad. How very, very sad.

And, insulting to the intelligence and soul of Episcopalians who are very members incorporate of the World Wide Anglican Communion.

Really! Who is he trying to kid?

“Contending for the Faith” is the theme of this year’s Diocesan Convention, and it aptly describes what lies at the heart of the controversy that surrounds us.

Others have argued that it is a matter of contending for property, or contending for the authority of The Episcopal Church over us, or contending for homosexual rights in the church.

But these are simply some of the side issues confronting us. The real issue is the faith. We are taking a stand for the historic faith and practice of the Bible, as we have received them, and against the continuing erosion of that faith by TEC. This Diocese stands for orthodox Christianity. TEC stands for a revisionist and compromised version of what the Church has always taught.

In introducing the proposed changes to our Constitution and Canons for last year’s Convention, the Standing Committee wrote: “To submit to and comply with the current direction of the General Convention would mean for us to embrace a distortion of the Christian faith that our forebears would not recognize as a continuation of ‘the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship.’…

We cannot act against our conscience and in violation of the faith once delivered to the saints.” One year later, after much debate and discussion, our resolve remains the same: to fearlessly contend for the faith.

The Remain Episcopal group that has urged the Diocese to continue in TEC as the “faithful remnant” claims, ‘It is not important what we believe. We value diverse beliefs in this church. What is important is that we remain together and worship together as Episcopalians.’

However, this same group is now urging that, beginning the day after our Convention vote, “loyal” Episcopalians must find some place else to meet and worship with a “loyal” TEC priest.

Their message is, ‘Don’t worship with those people who have aligned themselves with the Province of the Southern Cone! Let’s take them to court and seize their buildings and assets!’ Such is the cost of taking a stand for the truth and contending for the faith.

I am told that there are still some people in the pews who wonder what this is all about – what are the real issues that separate us from TEC? Allow me to provide a brief summary of just a few of them:

• Our Diocese believes in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. TEC believes there are many ways to salvation and that all religions lead to God.

• Our Diocese believes in the authority of Holy Scripture in all matters of faith and morals. TEC believes the Bible needs to be revised and adapted to meet the changing culture and that it may mean different things in different social contexts.

• Our Diocese believes that the essentials of the Christian Faith have been revealed once and for all in the teachings of Jesus Christ and are not subject to change. TEC believes in a revisionist approach that says only the votes of successive General Conventions can determine doctrinal and faith issues for Episcopalians as times change.

• Our Diocese believes that all ordained clergy are under the obligation to model in their own lives the received teaching of the Church that all its members are to abstain from sexual relations outside Holy Matrimony. TEC believes that active homosexuals and bisexuals ?should be ordained to the sacred ministry of bishops, priests and deacons.

• Our Diocese believes that marriage is the exclusive physical and spiritual union of one man and one woman for life. TEC believes same sex relationships are good and holy and should be blessed and celebrated.

• Our Diocese believes in the sacredness of human life from conception. TEC affirms abortion on demand.

• Our Diocese has endorsed from the very beginning the position of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) on sexuality, the recommendations of the Windsor Report (2004) on how to keep us together as a Communion, and the need for an Anglican Covenant that will define the limits of diversity. TEC has repudiated the Lambeth resolution on human sexuality, acted in defiance of the Windsor Report, and will only accept a future Covenant if there are no consequences for breaking it!

• Our Diocese believes that the theological issue of the ordination of women as priests and bishops is a matter of conscience and must not be forced on anyone. TEC believes this matter has been decided for Episcopalians and that acceptance of it is mandatory in every diocese.

• Our Diocese has constitutional and canonical provisions that place all church property in the name of the Corporation of this Diocese, to be held in trust for the use of each local congregation. TEC claims that all church property belongs to them, a claim first made by General Convention in 1979.

• Our Diocese believes that heretical teaching by the church causes separation and division, that unity and truth must go together. TEC believes we should tolerate heresies and false teaching for the sake of remaining together.

• Our Diocese maintains that just as we voted to come into union with the General Convention in 1982, so we have the right to dissolve that union in 2008. TEC believes our affiliation with General Convention is irrevocable.

• Our Diocese stands with the vast majority of Anglicans around the world. TEC is a declining body and very much out of the mainstream of orthodox Christianity, both here and abroad.

The list could go on and on, but I think these few examples should suffice. The choice before us is clear. Will we contend for the faith as we have received it? Or we will accept the ongoing innovations and revisions of General Convention religion?

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth
October 2008

RCRC: What's the Cost of Ignorance?

The outcome of this presidential election could not be more important to our young people. It will answer a very important question. Will we waste another $1.5 billion on abstinence-only education?

Will we allow an appalling betrayal of our young people with 750,000 teen pregnancies and 9 million teens diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections each year?

Under pressure from social extremists, our elected officials tied federal funding for schools to grossly ineffective "abstinence-only" education. The Bush administration turned its back on teenagers and young people at the time in their lives when factual sex education would have made the most difference.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice will lead the call to the next administration to provide age-appropriate sex education for our youth and end the billion-dollar "abstinence-only" ruse that uses taxpayer dollars to force the ""Religious Right's" ideology on our children.

Progressive religious activists must insist that the next administration face the facts and recognize the danger of abstinence-only education - and then act in the best interests of our children by providing accurate, age-appropriate information about their sexuality.

With my respect and thanks,

(the Rev'd) Carlton Veazey
President and CEO
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

"I have been to the mountaintop . . . ."

Crispus Attucks fell so that Rosa Parks could sit,
Rosa Parks sat so that
Dr. Martin Luther King could march,
Dr. Martin Luther King marched so that
Barack Obama could run, and
Barack Obama is running so that our
children and grandchildren can fly."

Three people sent this to me - without attribution. If anyone knows who wrote it, I will be happy to give the author credit.

It's a beautiful vision, no?

All Hallow's Eve: It's Elementary

What do you do when you are seven years old and and you have a snaggle-tooth and don't feel so very pretty?

You become the prettiest Snaggle-Toothed Fairy on All Hallow's Eve, that's what! And to this Nana's eyes, she's the prettiest Fairy ever!

Snaggle-tooth and all.

I went to Mackie's Halloween Parade today. It was too cute for words. Honestly!

So, if you have an aversion to sweetness, just move on. Or, scroll down to the last picture to see how this little one is becoming quite a poet.

It began with the littlest ones, being led by their teachers who were dressed up en costume as well, but with a State theme, like beauty queens, except their sashes were "Read Across America."

In the above picture, you can see Wisconsin (with the Cheese on her head) and Hawai'i. I must admit, I had to look twice at some of the teachers. They looked - and acted and sounded - EXACTLY like the teachers I had in Elementary School.

Do they freeze-dry them and then recycle them or do they all come from "Central Casting"? Amazing!

Here's Mackie with her teacher, representing the First Nation people. "We don't call them "Indians" any more, Nana," she said sternly. "My friend, Nola, is from India," she exclaimed, "so SHE'S Indian."

"The people we used to call 'Indians' we NOW call 'First Nation People' or, you can just say, 'First People'. You know why?"

"No," I fibbed.

"Because, Nana," she said, she gasped in that seven-year-old way of being dramatic to underscore the point, "They were here FIRST. See?"

"Ah, yes," I said thoughtfully, "I do see," adding, "How very smart."

"Yes," she said, adding with no small amount of modesty, "My generation is going to change the world, you know."

I have no doubt, absolutely no doubt at all.

When I walked her back to her classroom, I found this hanging on the wall. You should know that Mackie recently started ballet lessons, which, she tells me she, "Loves, loves, LOVES!"

It's called "Dancing Leaves." I think it's quite brilliant, don't you?

Dancing Leaves

As the wind blew softly
fell down like a rainbow storm
twirling across the storm like ballerinas
spinning across the floor.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jesus: Home at last!

There He is - in a place of prominence on one of the end tables in my office.

You'll notice a few personal flourishes: The rosary bead necklace. A frog figurine with peppermint candy, in case He needs to freshen His breath. A small Jesus birthday candle for His birthday cake which we'll give Him on December 25.

There's a picture of one of the baptisms I've done so he'll know I'm working in His name and a clock to know what earth time it is. There are also a few votive candles so He won't have to be alone in the dark.

There's a prayer book (He only knew one prayer, after all, and the disciples named it after him which I'll bet gets embarrassing, after a while, to have to say a prayer with your name on it. Sort of like being Lou Gehrig and dying of your own disease. What's the likelihood of that?) and a little meditation abacus of the Sorrowful and Joyful mysteries (it's quite a little gem - given to me years ago by a nun who told me it would be helpful at the Dentist Office, saying, "Think about all He suffered for you and any dental pain or discomfort you might have will not be so bad.")

Oh, and a little clay storage pot for any guilt He may still be carrying around.

I know. He still doesn't look very happy, but really, I think He's settling right in. Things will be much better when I finally (if I ever) get my mother's statue of St. Teresa, which, of course, will go right next to Him.

One of my parishioners came by the office after yesterday's Confirmation Class and, after we giggled wickedly, asked, "So, what's up with you and all this?"

Well, I had to think about it for a minute.

You know, one part of it is a nostalgia for my beloved Grandmother who had little shrines in almost every corner of the house. Her bedroom bureau was an altar to her favorite saints, and she kept a Votive Prayer light in front of each one of them.

Above her kitchen table hung two portraits, one of what I call "Jesus' High School Graduation Picture" - you know the one - the 3/4 profile to accentuate his long, flowing hair and the back lighting halo. Right next to it was a picture of John F. Kennedy. Before she ate her breakfast, she would always bless herself by making the sign of the cross with the crucifix of her rosary beads, which she always kept at the ready in the pocket of her apron. Because, you never know when you might have to break out the beads and say a round of prayer.

I never knew to which portrait she was addressing her prayers: Jesus or JFK. I don't think it made much difference to her. She loved them both and saw them both as martyrs to their faith.

So, one part of me is clearly nostalgic for the simplicity of my Grandmother's faith.

I will admit, however, that another part of me is just flat-out uncomfortable with that kind of piety. The Jesus I imagine bears absolutely no resemblance to that bust. I'm not knocking anyone who does think of Jesus in that way, but I just don't understand that kind of spiritual devotion which, in my estimation, comes pretty darn close to idolatry.

That's not an accusation. It's a personal observation. What works for me in my relationship with God is not to spend hours in prayer in front of religious schlock - which, I hasten to add, is very, very different from Religious Icons or stained glass windows or other visual expressions of faith.

Rather, it is important to me to spend time in my own creative religious imagination with God, and then to put any insights I've gained into the work of ministry.

So, I suppose part of why I keep statues around is the same dynamic inherent in the observation of Halloween. Frankly, there's a part of me that's horrified by religious schlock, and the best way I've found to work out one's horror - on any level - is to keep my sense of humor.

I'm laughing at my own discomfort when I giggle at a schlocky religious statue. It reminds me not to take my own religion too seriously, lest I miss the whole point of spiritual devotion and adoration - which is not to become frozen solid in one part of my walk with Jesus, but to embrace the entirety of His Life.

So, there you have it - two reasons why I collect all this stuff. Well, let me amend that statement. Jesus is staying with me for the year - until the next Clergy Retreat when I'll bring him back to be auctioned off again. The bidding will begin at $35 and I hope it will go up - WAY up - from there and make LOTS of money for the Episcopal Relief and Development's participation in the MDGs.

That will not change the permanently pained look on the bust of Jesus, but I'm thinking that Jesus is smiling broadly, even now, at the thought.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I bought Jesus at an Auction and slept with him last night: A Clergy Retreat Update

Last night was more fun than was absolutely necessary.

We had dinner together and then reconvened upstairs for the Talent Show/Auction segment of the evening's festivities. I must admit, I went only half-heartedly. I mean, clergy? In a Talent Show? I had visions of really bad guitar playing accompanying a Camp Song sing-a-long.

Then again, in the Diocese of Newark, "camp song" means something entirely different.

So, I went.

However, our clergy sister Megan did eat her vegetables, which is documented evidence of something akin to a miracle. I'll be writing the authorization letter to the Vatican later on this week.

The Auction didn't hold much more promise. We had all been encouraged to donate our 'Christian tchotchke' - some of which was part of the silent auction at dinner, and the others, like the Bust of Jesus above, were auctioned off before the Talent Show.

I'm still not over the fact that my clergy sister Stephanie outbid me on the plastic tote bag with crosses all over it. It came with a small purse attached - just right for carrying a Home Communion kit. It was perfect! Communion wafers could easily be stored in the small attached purse. And, it was water resistant. I mean, really! They just don't make things like that anymore.

Deep sigh. Steph said I could come and visit it once in a while. Maybe I'll have another chance at it next year.

I did have my eye on the Jesus Bust all through dinner. I don't know why. I just couldn't stop looking at Him. There was something about His eyes. So sad. Pathetic, really, especially with that 'holly and ivy' crown of thorns.

Some of the clergy boys had kept Him company for a while, but, beer-drinking-boys being clergy boys, they left Him there, all alone, with empty beer bottles.

I couldn't stand it one minute longer. I, like Veronica, went to wipe the tears from His eyes. He was crying blood, you know. He even had this annoying yellow goober near His nose. I tried to tell Him all about the Resurrection, but He just seemed to be stuck in a permanent Good Friday kinda funk.

Megan even left her vegetables and had a little "sit-down-come-to-Jesus" chat with Him, but alas, to no avail. As you can see, even she started to get a case of the Good Friday kinda funk.

I knew, right then and there, that I had to have Him. Because I love Him, I love Him, I love Him, and where He goes I'll follow, I'll follow . . .

Erm . . . Sorry. That was part of the Talent Show. I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Bishop and his staff opened the program by singing a rousing and inspiring rendition of "There's a hole in the budget, dear bishop, dear bishop."

The props were a bit lame, but well . . . there's a hole in the budget.

I don't know about anybody else, but I know I went home with much more confidence about our Stewardship Program at St. Paul's.

However, the Programmatic "Reese's Pieces" (pardon my French), came when a group that called themselves 'The Jersey Girls' took the floor with a choreographed rendition of The Jersey Boy's "Big Girls Don't Cry"

They absolutely ROCKED DA HOUSE! Which is why the picture is a bit blurry. Those girls can really shake a tail feather, if you know what I mean!

Ah, me of little faith! I had no idea what a talented group of lip-syncing clergy we have in this diocese! See what I mean about 'camp songs'?

Well, once you are on the slippery slope of "Clergy Talent", there's no where else to go but further down.

The Auction was an unmitigated hoot 'n a half. The Jesus Bust was up first and, after some sluggish bidding, I got him for $35.

I know, right? You can't get that on E-Bay. No way, no how!

I did miss out on one of my clergy brother's generous offering of himself to come into your home and read you a Bed Time Story. I started the bidding at fifty-five cents, but was amazed that someone actually paid $50 for it.

I also missed out on dinner for four in one of the finer rectories in the diocese, which included being serenaded by one of our clergy brothers with a very fine voice. That went for $200.

When the final tally came in, we had raised close to $2,000 for the Millennium Development Goals. We also raised the roof. I don't think that Resort will ever be the same (Thanks be to God!).

But I, I came home with Jesus. Brought Him right up to my room and tucked Him into the twin bed next to mine. Did you know that He snores? I didn't either. Loud. REALLY loud. And, he sleeps with his eyes open. I must admit, that creeped me out.

But He's mine now. All mine.

I love Him, I love Him, I love Him, and where He goes I'll follow, I'll follow, I'll follow, , , , , Oh, wait. You, too, can sing (or lip-sync) along with the pro's.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rainy Days and Tuesdays

It has rained so hard, and the wind gusts have been so strong for the past almost 20 hours or so, that not only was the World Series game canceled last night, but many area schools in the Poconos were closed this morning.

I just got a call from home. Ms. "I-Love-Bad-Weather" Conroy reports that it's snowing in Chatham. Says they've already gotten two inches. Parts of Rt. 80 West and East are absolutely closed, along with parts of Rt. 17 and 10. Tractor-trailer trucks have been slip-sliding away on the mix of snow/slush/sleet/rain that is part of the reality in the Northeast Corridor of God's Realm.

You should know that Ms. Conroy reports this with no small amount of glee. Not that some of the major and minor commuter routs are closed and people are inconvenienced. She suffers fools even less gladly than I, but she is a kind and deeply compassionate person. Indeed, I've often said I want to be more like Ms. Conroy when I grow up.

God knows, she's no 'drama queen' - solid as a rock, is she - but when it comes to The Weather, the poor child just can't help herself.

Besides, she never drinks milk or eats bread, and as for toilet paper, well, that's why she'll never tear an old month off the calendar. You just never know when there'll be a snow emergency.

I just think it's that she loves it when something Greater than our imagined Great Selves and Super-sized Egos has the upper hand, even in the most mundane of human activities, like trying to get from Somewhere to Somewhere Else.

I'm quite certain that the local supermarkets in Chatham are out of toilet paper, bread and milk as well as ice melt and shovels.

I don't know why that is, but you can 'take it to the bank' (Remember when THAT meant something?) that people in Northern New Jersey will absolutely, positively, have to have toilet paper, bread and milk, along with ice melt and snow shovels.

Tonight. Risking life and limb in the traffic for the 'essential' of life. That's just the way it is in my little town.

As for this part of God's Realm, tucked into one of the beautiful folds of one of the deep wrinkles in the chain of the Pocono Mountains, well, it has been blustery and wet, but there's no snow on the ground. At one point this afternoon, there were big, fat white flakes in the air, but so were there orange and read and brown leaves, swirling around in the mix.

Seems odd, doesn't it? That up here in the mountains there's no snow, but back home the beautifully manicured lawns of "Mayberry USA" are white.

Yet one more piece of prima facia evidence that God has a sense of humor.

I had a lovely full body massage today - "The Eagle's Glory", it was called - which included being massaged with warmed golf balls.

I know.

The only thing less expensive on the Spa Menu was the 60 minute Swedish massage and I simply can not abide that kind of deep-tissue work. Never could. Even less so, now.

I was considering the "Here Comes the Bride" Massage Package which included a French Clay Body Mask and Hydrotherapy, but you know, at some point, it all gets a little silly. Ultimately (and, thanks be to the Blessed Mother of Sweet Baby Jesus) pragmatics - if not finances - kicks in.

Besides, I really didn't want to show up for dinner tonight with "that radiant glow that lets everyone know you are loved."

Right. I am and have been for the past 32 years. I don't need to broadcast it.

I must say that this Clergy Retreat is much, much better than ones I've "experienced" (read: "suffered through") in the past. The speaker did not set any fires, but neither did he put anyone asleep. It was good. Solid. Not exactly compelling, but neither was it completely boring. Occasionally, it was even entertaining.

Methodist. They are some of the nicest people in the whole of Western Christendom. Sincere. Earnest. Clean. Polite. It's like there's an unwritten Methodist doctrine of "Salvation by sweet sentimentality."

It's all quite endearing, but after a while, I get to worrying about them, you know? Like, what might they consider Really Bad Behavior? What do they do to 'really cut loose'? And, might they ever wear a pair of shoes that aren't sensible but take a real 'fashion risk'?

Nah! That would be Pope Benni-Ha-Ha of the Red Leather Designer Shoes.

Okay, okay. Don't send letters. I know when I've crossed the line.

There's something about the Cold, Rainy Weather that brings out a different side of our human nature. I think we're kinder and gentler with each other. Our conversations tend to linger a little longer before we head out the door and into the rain. We hold doors open for each other. We smile warmly at each other. The sound of our laughter is more authentic, less forced and frenetic. Our conversational "body language" is more relaxed, more open.

Why, it's actually quite agreeable. A complete opposite to the foul weather outdoors.

Then again, it could just be the leadership. No, I haven't been drinking the episcopal kool aid. I just happen to think that we've elected us a first-rate bishop. Not without his faults, God knows he's human, and still on a learning curve, but he is, as they say downstairs at the bar, top-shelf stuff.

Was it The Carpenter's who sang, "Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down?"

Someone needs to write a song about "Rainy Days and Tuesdays."

I suspect it would soon become the anthem at most Annual Newark Clergy Retreats.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Brava, Mimi!

Well, Mimi has hit the big time! She's got a write-up in nothing less than the Huffington Post.

A star has been born! Or, perhaps, reincarnated.

Read "Gumbo Granny Blogs From the Bayou for Obama" here.

'Gumbo Granny' indeed!

And to think, it all started when I sent her over to Jon's Blog, 'The Ultimate Word'.

Just goes to prove that you're never too old to have a happy childhood.

And to think that I kissed her before she was famous.

Annual Clergy Retreat

I'm off later this afternoon to the Pocono's for Annual Diocese of Newark Clergy Retreat. We'll be staying at the Shawnee Resort in Shawnee, PA until Wednesday.

The theme is "God Brings Us To Our Senses" and the speaker is Don Saliers, the Wm. R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Theology and Worship, Emeritus, at Emory University's Candler School of Theology. His daughter, Emily, is one half of the Grammy Award Winning duo, The Indigo Girls.

We're going to be talking about Worship, one of the Four Gates of Hope which have been identified as the vision of this diocese by our bishop, Mark Beckwith.

The other three are: Spiritual Formation, Justice/Non-violence, and Radical Hospitality. It's a good vision which begins with where we are as a diocese and calls us to where we might be.

I remember being an aspirant for Holy Orders, way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and hearing my rector talk about the Annual Clergy Retreat. I so wanted to go with him and hang out with the Clergy and sit at the feet of the Bishop and just soak up all that wisdom and prayer.

My rector looked at me, sighed deeply and said, "The only time I ever question my vocation is when I with a bunch of other clergy - especially when we're all in the presence of the bishop."

Well, the polish is off the apple, and, all these many years later, I have often found myself agreeing with him. Something squirrely happens to some clergy in the presence of the bishop - something that's probably a part of the normal growth and development cycle of priestly formation, but something that some clergy never seem to outgrow.

Not that this bishop elicits that response. He's about as down-to-earth-just-call-me-Mark as you can get. I really appreciate that about him. It's natural and effortless, then, to give him the respect someone in that thankless office deserves.

It will be good to sit and hang out with many of my colleagues, to catch up with them on where they've been and what they're doing, and their take on all things diocesan.

There will also be opportunities for some real, honest sharing - like, our concerns about how the economy might affect our Stewardship Campaigns. Like, some of the 'parishioners from hell' who continue to give us the blues, sorting through all the transference / counter-transference stuff. Like, listening to how some have fashioned their sabbaticals or are planning for retirement, or a vocational move.

But, much of it will be those horrible conversations which try Very Hard to be Meaningful, but are Very Painful.

Me: Hi, how are you? (Gee, he looks weary.)
He: Great! (I'm lying through my teeth) You look fabulous! (How many clothes closets does she have anyway?)

Me: Thank you. That's good to know, because I'm feeling a bit weary (a gentle attempt to go for a modicum of honesty).
He: (I see where this might lead and I ain't going there) Well you look great. How is the family?

Me: Oh, we're all doing fine (He doesn't really want to hear the details, so be succinct, and anyway, we ARE all doing fine).
He: (Looking over his shoulder and spotting another clergy person) And the church? Everything going well at the church?

Me: Oh, it's the same this time of year for us all, isn't it? Programs are in full swing, we got the Stewardship Season Anxieties and Budget Blues. . . .
He: Oh, you have nothing to worry about in Chatham . . . now, if you were where I am . . . that would be another story . . . (laughs nervously, waves at another clergy person.)

Me: Well, many of my people may work on Wall Street, but, believe it or not, there IS a Main Street in Chatham (I'd really like to talk with you about all this).
He: Yeah, well, it's nothing like the Main Street where I live (now smiles broadly at the next clergy person to walk by and calls out his name).

Me: Maybe we can talk about that later. I'm guessing we could help each other with creative strategies and . . . .
He: (Now greeting the clergy person). Yeah, great. I'll catch up with you later. It's so good to see you. You really look good.

Me: Great to see you, too.. . . .

And then, it's off to hail another fellow well met.

Deep sigh.

I drew a picture last year in my Journal of my impression of Clergy Retreat. It was on the Great Meadow at Shawnee. There were lots of rabbits in clergy collars, all nervously hopping around each other. It makes me giggle a sad giggle to look at it.

I just thank God for the clergy colleagues I'll meet there with whom I can actually have some intelligent, honest conversation. And, the opportunity to work on my writing. Oh, and, of course, a full body, 90 minute massage.

We've been praying this prayer At The Gates of Hope, which I think is a good way to stay focused during retreat.

A prayer for the Gates of Hope

O God, help us to claim our mission: to stand with the living Christ at the gates of hope. Not the prudent gates of optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges; but a very different, sometimes very lonely place. It is the place of truth-telling, about our own souls first of all and its condition; the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which we see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which we glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle – with the Christ who sets us free; and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we see, asking people what they see. In Christ’s name we pray.
- Adapted from a prayer by Victoria Safford

Or, then again, maybe this from the Indigo Girls would help to remind us that if we continue to look the other way, we will miss the vocation we all have: to be the ripple in the water. May God 'bring us to our senses', indeed!

"Perfect World"

We get to be a ripple in the water
We get to be a rock that's thrown
We get to be a boy on the bridge
Standing over the reservoir

I see the water lapping on the shoreline
Buried forest of a man made lake
Cemeteries are laying underneath it
Your heart like a dam when it breaks

We're floating we're swimming
And at this moment we are forgetting
What we caused what it takes
The one perfect world when we look the other way

I'm OK if I don't look a little closer
I'm OK I if don't see beyond the shore
I'm OK I don't have to do the killing or
Know what the killing is for

We're talking we're driving
And in this moment we are denying
What we caused what it takes
The one perfect world when we look the other way

One perfect world...when we look the other way

You can see beyond the middle isolation
And the miracle of daybreak doesn't move you anymore
Connect the points and then see the constellations
As the night comes down on the reservoir

We're swimming we're floating
And in this moment we are beholden
To what we've caused to what it takes
The one perfect world
Can we learn to live another way

Perfect world...can we learn to live another way

One...perfect world
Get to be a ripple in the water

Sunday, October 26, 2008

SNL: Solid as Barack

A Baptismal Love Letter: Beckett H.

“. . . and love your neighbor as your self.” Matthew 22:34-46
A Baptismal Love Letter to Beckett H.
Pentecost XXIV (25A) October 26, 2008
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham

(the Rev’d Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

Dear Beckett,

I know you’re too young to ask for advice, but, given that today is the day of your baptism, and given today’s Gospel lesson, I simply can’t resist.

I realize that you won’t be reading this for yourself until it comes time to prepare for the Sacramental Rite of Confirmation, but I’m hoping your parents tuck this Baptismal Love Letter into your Baby Book and that someone remembers it 10 or 12 years from now.

This gospel passage is a classic, revealing Jesus at his Rabbinical best. For the past couple of weeks that we’ve been reading Matthew’s gospel, the Sadducees and the Pharisees have been putting him to the test, asking him trick questions, and thus far he’s been ‘Ace-ing’ the test.

Today, he hits a home run right out of the theological ballpark.

The first thing to know is that the Sadducees, who had been stunned into silence by the responses of Jesus, were a very conservative group of Rabbis. In fact, they were pretty rigid and didn’t adapt very well to change. They had 613 laws, based on the 10 Commandments which God gave to Moses, and they wouldn’t even consider the words of prophets like Amos and Isaiah.

If you asked asked a Sadducee, “What do I need to know to be a good Jew?” They would say, “Here, take these 613 laws and memorize them.”

The Pharisees, on the other hand, took a different approach. They were constantly trying to interpret and re-interpret the laws and the prophets, so that their understanding of God and what it meant to be a good Jew was even more complicated than the Sadducees.

If you were to ask a Pharisee “What do I need to know to be a good Jew?” They would say, “Here, take these 613 laws and these books which explain what some of us think they mean, and then read these books by the prophets, and when you’ve read all of that, come talk to us.”

And you think studying for Confirmation is hard!

So, here’s the set up, Beckett. The Pharisees have heard that Jesus absolutely stumped the Sadducees, so it’s really important to them to be able to stump Jesus.

They get a lawyer to ask Jesus, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Remember – there are 613 laws, plus the 10 Commandments. Everyone has memorized those 613 laws, and, no doubt, everyone has a favorite.

You can almost hear the Pharisees snickering in the background saying, “We’ve got him now. He’ll never get out of this one.”

In just two sentences, Jesus responded to the concerns of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and in the process, got to the heart of what one must do to be a person of God.

Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

It’s really quite brilliant, actually!

Jesus has taken out all the extraneous stuff, gotten to the heart of the matter, and, in just two sentences, given all that is important about obedience to God.

Everything you need to know about being a good person, to be in relationship with God, you can learn in these two sentences. And, just for good measure, Jesus has also stumped two squabbling schools of theological thought.

Okay. I’ll admit. Watching Jesus put the Sadducees and the Pharisees into their place is NOT as exciting as watching a play off between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees – or, for that matter, even this year, watching Tampa Bay play the Phillies. (You’ll have to ask your parents how that happened. God sometimes works in mysterious ways that are even beyond the ability of an Episcopal Priest to explain.)

So, I’ll get right to the part about unsolicited advice.

The whole point of Religion is not to complicate your life, but to help you pay attention to your life.

That may sound like a contradiction, but it’s not. As a matter of fact, when religion works really well, it simplifies, not complicates your life. Let me explain.

Take that first part of the summary of the law: “Love your God with your whole heart and soul and mind.” If you put God first in your life, Beckett, everything else will fall into order. If you love God with your whole heart, soul and mind, it makes it easier to love your neighbor as yourself.

If you want there to be peace in the world, if you would like to see a sense of justice as we read in the first lesson this morning from Leviticus (19:1-2, 15-18), or live in a community of faith as St. Paul describes in his first letter to the Thessalonians (2:1-8), you have to have your priorities in the right order: Love God, love neighbor as yourself.

Religion should help you pay attention to that order so that you might celebrate and care for the gift of your life, this one life on this one planet. It’s all we get, Beckett, and your job is to pay attention to it and tend after it, in St. Paul’s words, “like a nurse tenderly caring for her children.”

Religion helps you get your priorities in the right order so that you are freed up to pay attention to your life and the world around you, so that by being a person who is in relationship with God, you might help to create a more just and moral society, a more peaceful world, and a safer, cleaner planet.

That’s a tall order, I know, Beckett, and, believe it or not, religion can help you do that. But here’s the thing – here’s the piece of advice that I’ve been wanting to give you. It’s the lesson that’s buried in these stories of all the ways Jesus was tested by the Pharisees and Sadducees which we’ve been reading in Matthew’s gospel the past few weeks.

It’s this: Any religion which cares more about its rules than its people is not a religion that will help you with the priorities of Jesus and become a good Christian. Any religion which puts more of an emphasis on complicating God’s laws will not help you simplify your life.

If you go to a priest or minister and say, “What do I need to do to be a good Christian?” and that priest or minister hands you the 10 Commandments, the Creeds and the 39 Articles of Faith and says, “Memorize these things,” well, that person is someone who is more concerned with building up religion than edifying your soul. Any religion which concerns itself more with testing your knowledge of the law does not understand that it is God who will “test your heart”.

So, as you prepare to recommit your baptismal vows in your Confirmation, Beckett, be mindful of these things. The spirit in which you were baptized is the Spirit of God who loved you into being and tenderly watched over you those long months when you were in the hospital. The spirit in which you were baptized is best known to you in the Spirit of God who gently tends to you through your parents love of you.

If you want to know who you are, and whose you are, just remember your Baptismal Covenant and the Five Promises you make to God in them.

More than anything else, these things - the Baptismal Covenant and the Five Promises - are what will shape your identity as a Christian who is an Episcopalian.

Remember that Jesus is the Word of God and that Scripture contains the words of God. The Bible is a guidebook, not a rule book, despite what some will lead you to believe.

You don’t need to memorize 39 Articles of faith to have faith – you only need a Baptismal Covenant, the words of God, and these words of Jesus: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'


Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Eucharistic Heart of Stewardship

Note: I'm guessing that there isn't a clergy person who is a rector who, this time of year, isn't sweating out what to say - or what s/he has said - in the Annual Stewardship Letter.

You know. The one that is Very Important To Write, something that will fit on ONE PAGE ONLY, something that simultaneously awakens the intellect and inspires the heart, and, of course, something that less than 5% of the recipients will read.

So, since I sweat at least half a pint of blood over this one, I thought I'd post it for ya'll to read. You don't have to comment. I just needed to know that more than 12-15 people would actually read it.

Stewardship Season starts tomorrow at 9 AM with The Training of the Canvassers for the Every Member Canvass. So far, 25 people have signed up for the training. I'm hopeful for a Good Harvest.

Ora pro nobis.

The Anatomy of the Christian Heart

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The Eucharist is at the heart of our common lives of faith as Christians. There are two chambers in the heart of the Eucharist – radical hospitality and gracious generosity.

Radical hospitality is the welcome which Jesus gave to absolutely everyone – saints and scoundrels alike – to come and follow The Way, the Truth and the Life of His saving and redemptive grace. Gracious generosity moves us beyond the virtue of charity, into the habit of giving from the heart – without coercion of a sense of duty or guilt.

This year, more than ever, it is important to remember this lesson in The Anatomy of The Christian Heart. These are fiscally uncertain times. Anxiety hangs in the air like a toxic cloud which, if inhaled in large enough quantities, has been known to close off and shrink the heart, resulting in behavior that is anything but hospitable, gracious or generous.

The good news is that Christianity has always flourished in times of uncertainty. You only need to look no further than 200 Main Street to find evidence of this.

Our church school and youth group programs are thriving. There are another eleven young people who are preparing for Confirmation this Spring.

This year, our own Grace Oakley will be “rector” of “Happening,” the diocesan youth event which will be held here at St. Paul’s. Our Royal School of Cathedral Music program has been launched, and there are now eight members of the fledgling group, “The St. Paul Singers,” comprised of children from our church and some who are not, who are learning how to glorify God with their hearts, minds and voices.

This past summer, we were able to open our doors and provide a temporary home for the Madison Day Care of Grace Church, which had been displaced due to construction at their facility. Our Food Pantry drives have provided food for our neighbors in need in Morris County and your generous contribution to the Rector’s discretionary fund also provides the dignity of Shop Rite gift certificates for those in need.

The sacraments have been brought to those who are too frail or otherwise unable to be with us on Sunday, who are also mailed weekly communication packets of announcements, copies of sermons, and our occasional news letter, “Celebration Times.”

And, through it all, St. Paul’s is here to celebrate the “new millennium’ of baptisms, as well as to minister at the hour of death and in the time of bereavement.

These are mere highlights of all that is the lifeblood of a church whose Eucharistic heart is set on radical hospitality and gracious generosity.

Sunday after Sunday, we are nourished and fed in a ‘sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving’ for God’s hospitality and generosity. Stewardship is the way we take care and make sure that the Body of Christ, the Church, functions in health and wholeness and holiness of life.

This Stewardship Season, now more than ever, I ask you to consider the question: What do you do with all that you have, after you say, ‘I believe’?

I ask you to answer that question from within the chambers of the heart of radical hospitality and gracious generosity as you have known them at St. Paul’s.

I have every confidence that, at the end of this Stewardship Season, we will discover that we are more and more of a reflection of the very heart of God, who loved us first and loves us best.


(the Rev'd Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton

Friday, October 24, 2008

If Jesus Ran for Public Office

If you can't join the Religious Wackadoodles,
laugh at them.

Religious Wackadoodles

The heat is on - and getting hotter.

Three things happened this week which are not unconnected to what is happening on the national level.

First: Drew University has been sponsoring "The Clothesline Project" - a very powerful display where women 'air their dirty laundry' about the 'dirty little secret' of domestic violence.

They have been encouraging women to sign their name or the name of someone they know who has been a victim of domestic violence on a T-shirt (in other places, the article of clothing has been women's underwear - bra's, undies and nightgowns). The T-shirt is then hung on a clothesline which has been strung in The Commons.

Fifteen of the T-shirts were stolen this week. A note was left which read, "Where does God fit in?"

Second and Third: I have a bumper sticker on my car which reads: "The Religous Majority in NJ is prayerfully Pro-Choice."

On Wednesday and again today, Friday, while my car was parked in front of the Shop Rite in the Chatham Township, notes were left on my car. Wednesday's note read, "Shame on you! Baby Killer!"

On Wednesday, I looked at the note and laughed out loud, crumpled up the note, threw it away, got in my car and drove off.

Today the note read, "Does God want dead babies?"

Today, after I took the note off my car, I looked around and spotted a woman coming out of the CVS with a particularly sinister smile on her face.

My body started to move before my mind clicked into gear and I approached her with the note in my hand. I looked her in the eye and said, "Does this belong to you?"

She looked at me, smirked and said with great conviction and an undeniable amount of joy, "You are going to burn in hell, you know."

I was quiet for a long time - and found myself suddenly in prayer.

That seemed to unnerve her. When I looked at her again, her face was grotesquely contorted and she said, just a decibel or two under a scream, "You don't believe me? You are going to burn in hell for killing babies, you know."

I found myself continuing to pray - for guidance and strength.

I was startled into paying attention to her as she screamed, full throat, "Are you a clergy? If you are, that doesn't protect you. If you are clergy, there is a special place in hell for you!"

At this point, I was aware that there was a 'gathering' around us - not exactly a 'crowd' but it was, after all, shortly after noon on a Friday. I was also aware that a man had joined her side - I'm assuming her husband, but it could have been her 'significant other.' It's not for me to judge.

I continued to be in silent prayer, continuing to ask God for the right words to say, and if there were none, to have the courage to be silent.

Someone in the 'gathering' said, "C'mon, lady. It's 2008. Women have the right to say what happens to their bodies."

Someone else said, "Life is not lived in black and white. It's shades of gray."

Yet another voice said, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Or, words close to that effect.

At this point, the woman collapsed into tears. Her husband/significant other put his arm around her and tried to lead her away. She raised her fist at me and screamed, "You will burn in hell! You will burn in hell".

In a matter of seconds, I caught her eye and got her attention. I heard myself say, quietly, "I just want to say this." She and her man stopped dead in their tracks, attentive to every word I was about to say."

"God doesn't want dead babies. God wants babies to be wanted and loved."

She looked at me for a few long seconds, then collapsed into her man's arms as he lead her away in tears, he shooting looks of apology over his shoulder.

I report all of that to say this:

As we move closer and closer to the election of the first President of the United States to be of African-American descent, more and more of the 'Religious Wackadoodles' - at every point on the religious spectrum - will be out in force.

It's really, really, really important to not feed into the hysteria. As repugnant as some of the things they will say and as reprehensible as it is to take down T-shirts of those who have had the courage to tell the truth about their experience (even if second-hand) of domestic violence, nothing is to be gained by meeting repugnancy with repugnancy, hatred with hatred.

Nothing is to be gained by attempts to silence the truth, in whatever form it takes, from whatever end of the spectrum it comes.

Pray for the religious tolerance on which this country was founded.

Pray for the courage to say the things which will not incite anger, the silence which will allow for the variety of expressions of truth, and the wisdom to know the difference.

NCR: 'Don't Let the Bishops Swing the Election - Again!'

October 23, 2008
National Catholic Reporter

I really resent the few U.S. bishops who are now engaged in a campaign to swing the election for John McCain -- as they did for George W. Bush in 2004.

Four years ago, Archbishops Charles Chaput of Denver and Raymond Burke, then of St. Louis, Mo., (Burke has just left St. Louis to take a post in the Vatican) succeeded in bringing Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) into the media mix. They requested, then disseminated, a letter from the prefect of the Vatican's Holy Office which, Vatican nuances aside, told Catholics not to vote for the dubiously Catholic Senator John Kerry, because he was "pro-abortion." (Kerry wasn't pro-abortion; he was pro-choice. There is a difference, as I will explain in a moment.)

As a result, Catholics in Ohio (for example) who voted overwhelmingly for another Catholic JFK in 1960, voted almost as overwhelmingly against another Catholic JFK in 2004. Ohio's electoral votes alone were enough to put Bush over the top. In effect, Ratzinger, a man who would soon be pope, swung an American election for a Republican who said he was "pro-life."

Ratzinger might have cited ample Catholic social teaching to point out that good Catholics in a pluralistic society need not and should not attempt to make secular civil law a carbon copy of Catholic moral law. Good Catholics can oppose abortion (as I do) and resist those who want to make it a crime (as I do) because we fear the likely consequences.

In Phoenix, where I live now, I would not like to see Sheriff Joe Arpaio's men camping out in our county's hospital hallways looking for doctors to arrest and charge with murder.

As Justice Antonin Scalia has admitted, if Roe v. Wade were overruled tomorrow, there would be no significant change in the U.S. abortion rate. Even President Bush realized this. After the 2004 election, he told The New York Times, "I fully understand our society is divided on this issue and that there will be abortions. It seems like to me that my job is to convince people to make right choices in life." He wisely made no efforts to criminalize abortion.

Readers of the NCR know all of this, I am sure. But if they need some ammunition to give their friends who might be worried about the warnings of Burke (and a few others), I'd like to pass on the opinion of a highly regarded Australian Jesuit, Frank Brennan, a law professor with the kind of national standing that Jeusity Fr. John Courtney Murray once enjoyed in the United States.

Brennan wrote in his book, Acting On Conscience (University of Queensland Press, 2007) that the debate in the U.S. election campaign of 2004 was "largely symbolic." He said, "The relation between religion and politics is badly out of kilter when bishops announce publicly that they would deny communion to John Kerry, and even suggest that those who vote for him should examine their consciences. All voters should examine their consciences all the time." But shaming Catholic voters to vote against Kerry on moral grounds –- that, he said, looked very much like a partisan political act.

Right now, we think we've caught the same U.S. bishops engaged in the same kind of partisanship. Or do they think we do not notice them stepping up their so-called pro-life campaign every four years at election time? This time, I hope Catholic voters will see through the bishops' simplistic theologizing.

Brennan found Burke writing this nonsense during the 2004 election campaign: "Of course," Burke wrote, "the end in view for the Catholic must always be the total conformity of the civil law with the moral law." Brennan called this "a theocratic hope," and he said the U.S. bishops should abandon it.

Brennan even came up with a new take on all this from Benedict XVI, who seemed to have a change in heart when he insisted in his first encyclical that it is not the church's responsibility to make its social teaching prevail in political life.

Brennan said the U.S. bishops "need to abandon the simplistic hierarchy of political wrongs, giving a preference to politicians who favour the criminalization of acts judged to be intrinsically evil while (ignoring) the direct action of those same politicians who themselves commit criminal acts, such as ... committing the nation to war without just cause."

Robert Blair Kaiser started out as a Vatican watcher in 1962 when he was covering Vatican II for Time magazine. He is the author of Cardinal Mahony: A Novel (Humble-bee Press, 2008).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Wonder of Women

It's amazing what you can read in your doctor's office.

Well, actually, it was my chiropractor's office where I was waiting for more (wonderfully effective) electro-stim and (blessedly amazing) hydroculator pack therapy for the (slowly recovering) pinched nerve in my neck.

But, there it was. In black and white. In Forbes Magazine (of all places).

Forbes actually listed the 100 Most Powerful Women in their September 15, 2008 issue.

Can I just say, "WOW!"???

My mother wasn't exactly the best role model to break any glass window - stained glass or otherwise - but she was strong and bold in her own way, as were all the women in my family, given the times. Feisty is in my DNA.

You have to understand that, in 1975, I couldn't get my own line of credit without my (then) husband's co-signature. Heck, I couldn't even legally change my own name in 1980 without the "written permission" of my (then) ex-husband of 5 years.

So, to read that there are 100 Most Powerful Women IN THE WORLD!!!!! Well, I was, all at once, amazed and delighted and stunned and overjoyed.

Here are the top 10. Go read the article to learn the other 90. And, be amazed!

1. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

2. Sheila C. Blair, Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

3. Indra K. Nooyi, Chief Executive, Pepsico

4. Angela Braly, Chief Executive Wellpoint, USA

5. Cynthia Carroll, Chief Executive, Anglo American, UK

6. Irene Rosenfield, Chief Executive, Kraft Foods, US

7. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, US

8. Ho Ching, Chief Executive, Temasek, Singapore

9. Anne Lauvergeon, Chief Executive, Areva, France

10. Anne M. Culcahy, Chief Executive, Xerox, US.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oui, on peut! (Yes We Can!)

Well, I've posted campaign songs from a variety of people.

I'm pleased to post this one from Jon Richardson, a native if not deservedly proud Louisiana boy, great dancer and dear friend of my heart.

He's got it posted at his site, "The Ultimate Word," and I sent it over to Mimi over at "Wounded Bird" who was quite pleased with it, but I just couldn't resist putting it here myself.

So sit back and enjoy yo'sef un petite "Zydego Obama"

Oui, on peut!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Prossy Can Stay!

News Source: Metropolitan Community Church, Manchester, UK

Prossy Kakooza is a 26-year-old woman seeking asylum in the UK. She fled Uganda after suffering vicious sexual, physical and verbal attacks due to her sexual orientation.

Prossy had been forced into an engagement when her family discovered her relationship with the girlfriend she met at university. Both women were marched two miles naked to the police station, where they were locked up.

Prossy’s inmates subjected her to gross acts of humiliation. She was violently raped by police officers who taunted her with derogatory comments like ‘’we’ll show you what you’re missing’’ and ‘’you’re only this way because you haven’t met a real man’’. She was also scalded on her thighs with hot meat skewers.

Prossy was eventually taken out of prison after her father bribed the guards. Her family had decided they would sacrifice her instead, believing this would ‘’take the curse away from the family’’.

Whilst her family were making arrangements to slaughter her, Prossy managed to flee to the United Kingdom to seek asylum.

When Prossy went for treatment to her local GP’s surgery in the UK they were so shocked by the extent of her injuries they called the police.

She was taken to the St. Mary’s Centre in Manchester, and she is still receiving counselling there for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Prossy was granted asylum in the UK on Friday 17th October, 15 long months and 3 court cases after first applying. She is now able to live, work, and study in the United Kingdom on the same basis as any UK National for the next 5 years. After this, she will be allowed to apply for permanent residence and then citizenship.

Prossy has been amazed at the level of support from people including:

* 5200 people from countries, and church congregations, from all over the world who have signed her petition to the Home Office asking that she be allowed to stay.
* 100s of people who have written or emailed the Immigration Minister.
* The 80 members and friends of MCC Manchester who have supported her with their love, prayers, money and concern.
* The 19 friends who went to court with her and helped her collect signatures on her petition at Pride festivals all over the country.
* The 10 friends who gave evidence in court on her behalf.
* The 3 amazing lawyers who drafted and prepared her cases (Ruth Heatley from the Immigration Aid Unit and barristers Mark Schwenk and Mel Plimmer)

But most of all the one person who has seen through this ordeal with quiet dignity, humour even in the darkest moments, and faith that all would be well - Prossy herself.

She writes:

Dear friends: I get to stay!! Am still in shock, and am so sure it's going to take days to sink in. But I have not stopped smiling since 12:00pm today, and won't stop for a while.

I went with my friend Gwen and am so glad I did because when we left I was in a sort of daze! When this woman handed me the paper and said, "You have been granted leave to remain" my jaw nearly hit the floor. Always the pessimist, I thought this was where she told me "but the Home Office is appealing". So Iasked if they were and she said no they were not. I had a bit of a hooray shout when we got out - couldn't contain it.

You have held me together, you have held me upright when all I wanted to do was roll up in a heap and give up. You gave me the motivation to go on and fight! Going with me to places to collect signatures, encouraging people to sign online, coming to meetings, writing statements, going to court with me, and most importantly - all the prayers. And I don't think you have any idea how the phone calls, texts and emails help. They kept me sane.

There are no appropriate words I can use to say thank you. All I can do is pray to my God to bless you all. You have changed my life and for that I will forever be grateful. THANK YOU!

Lots and lots of love, hugs and kisses,


Here is a video of Prossy telling her own story.

Please join me in prayers of thanksgiving for Prossy's asylum and pray that she may yet be strengthened and supported to help get her girlfriend out of Uganda.

Pray for the Anglican Church in Uganda, that they may raise up strong leaders to speak a bold word of the truth of Christ's love for all God's children, and be led to stop the persecution and torture of LGBT people.

Talk about a 'Climate Changer'!

That's what I'm talkin' 'bout! (See 'Changing the Climate of the Church just below this post.)

If ever there was a 'self-differentiated' leader and a 'non-anxious' presence, here she is folks. Step up and watch one of the best leaders in the World Wide Anglican Communion (Note to Canterbury: Take noteS. Lots and lots of notes).

General Convention should not consider Anglican covenant, Presiding Bishop tells Executive Council
Budgets for 2009, 2010-2012 triennium getting Council attention

By Mary Frances Schjonberg October 21, 2008
[Episcopal News Service] [Helena, Montana]

If a proposed Anglican covenant is released in mid-May for adoption by the Anglican Communion's provinces, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will "strongly discourage" any effort to bring that request to the 76th General Convention in July.

Jefferts Schori briefly discussed the covenant process during her remarks to the opening plenary session October 21 on the second of the Executive Council's four-day meeting in Helena, the seat of the Diocese of Montana.

Anglican Communion provinces have until the end of March 2009 to respond to the current version of the proposed covenant, known as the St. Andrew's Draft. The Covenant Design Group meets in London in April 2009 and may issue another draft of a covenant. That draft is expected to be reviewed by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) during its May 1-12, 2009 meeting. The ACC could decide to release that version to the provinces for their adoption.

If the ACC decides to do that, "my sense is that the time is far too short before our General Convention for us to have a thorough discussion of it as a church and I'm therefore going to strongly discourage any move to bring it to General Convention," Jefferts Schori told the Executive Council. "I just think it's inappropriate to make a decision that weighty" that quickly, she added.

The 76th General Convention meets July 8-17 in Anaheim, California.

Council also heard October 21 that it will be asked during its January 30-February 2, 2009, meeting in Stockton, California, to officially respond to the St. Andrew's Draft. The covenant drafters have asked provinces to say if they believe in principle that they can commit to the covenant, what provincial process is required for that commitment and what changes to the St. Andrew’s Draft would give them the greatest chance of being able to make the commitment.

Council's Covenant Response Group is reviewing comments from diocesan General Convention deputations as it considers a proposed response, Council member and response group member Ian Douglas told the council. Deputations have been asked to send their comments to the General Convention office by the end of October. Thirty responses have been received so far, Douglas said. The group earlier drafted the Council's October 2007 response to the first covenant draft, which is available here.

The shape of the Helena meeting

The Executive Council began its four-day meeting October 20 with a full day of meetings of its four standing committees: Administration & Finance (A&F), Congregations in Ministry (CIM), National Concerns (NAC) and International Concerns (INC). The committees met for a short time on the 21st and will have their final meetings of this council session during the morning of October 22. The committees, especially A&F, have spent much of their time discussing the 2009 budget and the formulation of the 2010-2012 proposed budget that it will make to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F). That committee will eventually propose the 2010-2012 budget for the 76th General Convention's approval.

Council, Episcopal Church Center staff and visitors celebrated Eucharist at midday on October 21. The congregation prayed the Litany of Offence and Apology from the recent Service of Repentance at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The litany acknowledges the Episcopal Church's complicity in and benefit from slavery, and prays that that Church may "by acknowledging manifold sinfulness in the support of slavery and its associated evils, hereby pledge to adopt a new spirit and application of freedom and respect, leading to redemption and reconciliation."

Beginning on the afternoon of the 22nd, Council will spend the remainder of this meeting in plenary sessions. During that time, members will consider approving a revised 2009 budget for the Episcopal Church. They are also due to discuss, among other items, a requested survey by former General Convention Secretary Rosemari Sullivan of Council's roles and responsibilities, and their reactions to those duties.

Council will have dinner on the 22nd with representatives of the Diocese of Montana and Province VI.

In other business on October 21, Council:

* Heard President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson outline her activities since the last Council meeting. She also reported that 40 percent of the House of Deputies will be new when the General Convention convenes in Anaheim. That percentage "is not unusual," Anderson noted. She said that she has set up a moderated online forum for deputies to discuss General Convention issues and procedures. Those discussions, she said, will not include consideration of legislation. Anderson also presented some video examples of the use of a public-narrative process to have an intentional conversation about mission during the General Convention.

* Heard Chief Operating Officer Linda Watt describe progress on the Episcopal Church Center's reorganization. Watt summarized the intention of the center's staff to be program managers, network builders, matchmakers between resources and people who need them, a repository of knowledge and champions of best practices. The Church Center staff ought to only do things that cannot be done better or more efficiently elsewhere, such as at the diocesan level, Watt said. She told Council that regional offices in Omaha and Los Angeles are fully operational, an office in Seattle is due to open soon and that "we're still hoping for an office in the South." Watt also outlined a new performance evaluation process for Church Center employees, describing it as one that will help monitor and improve performance as well as provide a way to report to the wider church about the employees' "concrete achievements."

* Heard a presentation by Robert Johansen of the Menlo Park, California-based Institute of the Future on the Episcopal Mapping Project, which the institute and the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes have begun as a way for Episcopal Church parishes to predict where they will be in 10 years. That knowledge, he said, can help parishes have constructive conversations as well as make decisions in the present based on their sense of that 10-year forecast. Ten-year forecasts are also meant, Johansen said, "to sense what's important beyond the polarities of the present." Johansen told Council members that such exercises work well with Episcopalians because they have "the kind of faith that can engage with uncertainty" and are comfortable posing "discerning questions" that give people a framework for making decisions. Seventy TEC parishes are testing the institute's tools at the moment, according to Johansen, and there are plans to eventually expand its use to an interfaith audience.

* Ratified the election or re-election of four people to the board of directors of Episcopal Relief and Development. They are Steven W. Duff (re-elected, president and chief executive officer, Reich & Tang Funds), C. Jill Oettinger (re-elected, chief operating officer of Good Samaritan Community Services, Diocese of West Texas), Texas Bishop Suffragan Dena Harrison (elected), the Rev. Jay Sidebotham (elected, rector of Church of the Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, Illinois) and Flo McAfee (elected, manager of a strategic communications firm).

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1)(a). The Council is composed of 38 members, 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by provincial synods, plus the Presiding Bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.

Changing the Climate of the Church

I'm just back from a two day conference at Seabury-Western Seminary in Evanston, Illinois (just outside of the great Windy City) for a gathering of leaders of justice organizations and progressive deputies to General Convention which was called together by the Chicago Consultation to prepare for General Convention 2009.

The Chicago Consultation is a group of some 50 bishops, clergy and lay people which supports the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

While you're visiting their web page, please do read the essay by Marilyn McCord Adams, "Shaking The Foundations", and the commentary by Jim Naughton, "The Archbishop of Canterbury's Hands are Tied, Not Ours."

You will not be disappointed.

We worked very hard and stayed very focused on formulating our goals and developing strategies to achieve them. Even more importantly, we prayed together in that glorious chapel, heard The Word broken open for us by two stellar preachers, and were nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.

We also deepened and expanded our relationships with one another in Christ, which made us bold to continue to claim an audacious hope for "most this amazing" church of ours.

I grow more and more convinced that our unique identity as Episcopalians who are members of the World Wide Anglican Communion flows directly from the Five Promises we make as part of our Baptismal Covenant (Book of Common Prayer page 304), as well as the way in which we organize our life together in Christ in the Constitution and Canons of our Church.

When the 1979 Book of Common Prayer restored the Great Vigil of Easter to our liturgical life, it also restored the primacy of the Sacrament of Baptism and Holy Eucharist and clarified the role of the five sacramental rites in our lives of faith.

These two things - Baptism and Eucharist - have, more than anything else, given us the unique identity and vocation that is The Episcopal Church today.

I have returned emboldened to help us claim this unique identity, to proclaim and celebrate it, and to help the rest of the church in the important developmental task of self-differentiation.

If you don't know about 'self-differentiation', I suggest you read "Generation to Generation" by Rabbi Edwin Freidman. I also highly recommend this excerpt from his essay, "A Failure of Nerve."

Here's a wee bit of a taste from that essay:

"I will describe a similar "failure of nerve" affecting American civilization today. But, I will add, when anxiety reaches certain thresholds, "reasonableness and honesty" no longer defend against illusion, and then even the most learned ideas can begin to function as superstitions.

I believe there exists throughout America today a rampant sabotaging of leaders who try to stand tall amidst the raging anxiety-storms of our time. It is a highly reactive atmosphere pervading all the institutions of our society—a regressive mood that contaminates the decision-making processes of government and corporations at the highest level, and, on the local level, seeps down into the deliberations of neighborhood church, synagogue, hospital, library, and school boards. It is "something in the air" that affects the most ordinary family no matter what its ethnic background. And its frustrating effect on leaders is the same no matter what their gender, race, or age."

It is my perception that this leadership-toxic climate runs the danger of squandering a natural resource far more vital to the continued evolution of our civilization than any part of the environment. We are polluting our own species. The more immediate threat to the regeneration, and perhaps even the survival, of American Civilization is internal, not external. It is our tendency to adapt to its immaturity. To come full circle, this kind of emotional climate can only be dissipated by clear, decisive, well-defined leadership. For whenever a "family" is driven by demand-feeding, what will also always be present is a failure of nerve among its leaders."

I believe that the critically important work leading up to General Convention is about nothing less than beginning to change the climate of our church. We must stop polluting our faith environment with the toxins of anxiety which cripples us by the resultant spiritual immaturity which insists on simple answers to complex questions, and uniformity of belief in a strict adherence to 39 Articles or Anglican Covenants as the solution to all of the "troubles" in the church.

A mighty wind is beginning to blow, shaking us at our foundations, to quote Dr. McCord Adams, and separating the wheat from the chaff. We must raise up and continue to support "clear, decisive, well-defined leadership", to quote Dr. Freidman - in our church (oh, and BTW, in our country - but that's another essay for another time).

I am excited and energized by the possibilities that await us.

All that being said, I am, at this very red hot second, weary from travel and exhausted from the intensity of the work of the past two days.

There is much more to say, and you can count on hearing more from me. Just not tonight. But soon. Very soon. The work is important and we all - every last one of us, and not just those who were privileged to be in Chicago or who are called to serve as leaders - have a critically important part to play.

So, I want you to start thinking about how you can begin to change the climate where you are. How can you begin to impact the emotional and spiritual environment where you live and move and have your being?

How are you contributing to the demand-feeding of anxiety where you live? How can you turn off a few emotional switches to conserve precious leadership energy? What faucets of emotional energy do you need to more carefully regulate so as not to be wasteful of natural resources? How can you reduce your own dependency on the spiritual 'fossil fuel' of riding on the ecclesiastical bus named, 'Peace At Any Price'?

If I'm not careful, I'll start singing something from Bob Dylan. In fact, you know what?

Consider this the hymn for tonight's Compline.

"Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace."