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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oh, the things we do for Jesus!

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm already in Holy Week overdrive and The Sunday of Passion is 5.5 days away.

I've been working on liturgies since last Thursday. I've written a Stations of the Cross for Children and Families that is almost . . . almost . . .done.

So far, I'm liking it a whole lot. Just have to add the scriptural citations and a versicle and response and we're set to print.

We usually have a noon day Stations of the Cross for Families, but this year, I made all of the Holy Week services mandatory for the Confirmation Class.

Holy Week also happens to be Spring Break here in Outer Whitetopia, in the central part of Upper Status Symbol Land.

This is not sitting well with those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of suburban life and all the various 'enrichment programs' that are here and 'get out of Dodge' for a little vacation.

The push back has been, at times, pretty wicked. Mostly passive aggressive, with emphasis on the aggressive. It's not like I didn't expect it. Folks here are not used to hearing "mandatory" and "church attendance" in the same sentence.

Oh, the things we do for Jesus!

So, we decided to cancel the noon day service and incorporate it into the 7:30 Service. Instead of doing yet another reading of the Passion on Good Friday, we are replacing it with the Stations of the Cross I've written. It totally works. Well, on paper anyway. I'll let you know how it goes.

Today, I was working with a colleague and dear friend on the liturgy for the Eucharistic Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of The Oasis. I think it's going to be just slightly more than fabulous.

Well be having it at the "birthplace" of The Oasis - All Saints', Hoboken. We'll start with a procession down Washington Street and into the church with a jazz band.

The theme is "Let the circle be unbroken." I've found some really wonderful lyrics that keep the theme but say them a little differently. We'll be singing that as we process down Washington Street. Woo hoo!

I adapted this from a prayer I found which was written by someone named Howard Moody. The first two lines are his, the last two are mine. I'm using them for the invitation to Communion:

May you love God so much that you love nothing else too much;
May you fear God enough that you need fear nothing else at all.
Come, all you who hunger and thirst for the living God.
Come to the table to eat and drink.

So now it's off to the last of the Lenten Series. When I get home, I'll work a bit more on the Stations of the Cross. I'll try to get them posted here so you can see them.

Is it Holy Week yet?

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Tale of Two Brains

This is so wrong on so many levels which is why, no doubt, it is hysterical.

Well, it was to me.

Or, perhaps it's because I really need to laugh as March makes an exit, stage left, and not one minute too soon.

I am really, really ready to have me some Spring.

Aren't you?

Ragsdale appointed 6th President and Dean of Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge

March 30, 2009

Dear Friends in Christ,

It is with great pleasure that I announce the appointment of The Rev. Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale ‘97, as Episcopal Divinity School’s sixth president and dean. An EDS graduate whose life work and ministry exemplify EDS’ mission, Katherine’s gifts, skills, and experience closely match the criteria established by the Search Committee, both in terms of the current challenges and opportunities at EDS and the personal attributes we are looking for in a new leader.

The Search Committee and the Trustees see in Katherine the right combination of a person of immense faith, demonstrated organizational and team leadership ability, a passion for academic excellence and quality theological education, formidable development skills, and the ability to be a strong, articulate, and inspiring voice for the mission of EDS, both within the Episcopal Church and beyond. From among the many gifted candidates interviewed, Katherine Ragsdale overwhelmingly stood out as the one best equipped and called to lead EDS into this next exciting and promising chapter of our life and mission. The Trustees commend the Search Committee for their work in bringing this candidate forward.

Katherine currently serves as president and executive director of Political Research Associates and vicar of St. David’s Episcopal Church, in Pepperell, Massachusetts. Political Research Associates is a progressive think tank devoted to supporting movements that are building a more just and inclusive democratic society. She facilitated PRA’s successful transition from a founder led organization to one that has grown and thrived following the founder’s retirement in 2004. During her tenure, PRA has both broadened its donor base and worked with foundations to launch several new programs.

With her service as part time vicar of a small parish, Katherine exemplifies the bi-vocational model of leadership that, for many, is the future of the church. Today, approximately 19% of Episcopal parishes are served by part time clergy and there is every indication this number will grow. Her experience will guide us as we continue to evaluate and shape our curriculum and our approach to formation and worship so that we can continue to train and form transformational leaders for the growth of progressive parishes across the country.

Please join me in welcoming Katherine to EDS. She begins work July 1 and hopes to meet many of you at our seminary dinner on July 11 in Anaheim.


Brett Donham, Chair
Board of Trustees

Sent by:

Nancy Davidge
Director of Communications and Marketing
Episcopal Divinity School
99 Brattle Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138

617.682.1502 (office)

617.901.4200 (cell)

A fox in the hen house

"Multimillionaire Howard Ahmanson, one of the nation’s top evangelical Christian philanthropists and one of three funders of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, recently joined the Democratic Party.

Although Ahmanson’s support for Prop 8 earned him critics on the left, his many philanthropic interests funded through his Fieldstead Institute are most often nonpartisan and nonpolitical, from AIDS prevention to public transportation.

In an exclusive interview with columnist Kathleen Parker, he explains why he switched political affiliations and what he thinks of President Obama, and he speaks frankly about gays."

Read it all here at "The Daily Beast".

YIKES! Well, that woke me up this Monday morning!

Here's what he said about LGBT people:

During a 1985 interview with the Orange County Register, you said your political agenda was “total integration of biblical law into our lives.” Is that still the case?

That’s a bit compromised. We have considerable biblical law in the law now. We’ve already succeeded in outlawing murder and robbery and perjury. I don’t think there’s anything wrong or unconstitutional about that.

Well, I think your critics would be talking about things such as biblical treatment of gays.

I certainly don’t mean that now. Maybe in my wild youth.

What changed?

I guess just living and aging or something.

Have you mellowed with age?

I suppose so.

Do you have any gay friends?

I don’t think so, but I would stand with them on my opinions. And I would be willing to tell them what I think they should do.

Which is?

First come to Christ and then recover.

So you think homosexuality is something from which one can recover?

Yes, I think we can recover from a lot of other things, too. But I think we’re all equal as individuals.

Ahmanson also has some interesting things to say about Evangelicals.

Well, there's an old Arabic saying, "Trust in God and tie your camel tight."

I think we would do well to watch this one like a hawk.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sir, we wish to see Jesus

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” John 12:20-33
V Lent – March 29, 2009
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham
(the Rev’d Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

I remember when one of my kids was very young. Some of you know only too well that it’s very hard to keep a young child occupied in church. Their short little attention spans are not designed for long liturgies – or especially long sermons.

One Sunday, just as the preacher was coming to the end of a particularly long sermon, our youngest started to get squirmy. I shushed her, but she put her hand on her hip, stomped her little foot and said, “When are we going to see Jesus?”

Indeed. Trinity Church in Copley Square in Boston has these words from John’s gospel carved into the hard wood of that magnificent pulpit: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

Those words were spoken by some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover because they had heard that Jesus would be there. They came not to take part in a religious festival but rather, to observe it, as if it were some quaint religious oddity. They came not to worship but rather, to be formally introduced to Jesus, as if he were some foreign, visiting dignitary.

I’ve been working with the Confirmation Class on an instructed Eucharist, so that they will know what it is we do here on Sunday. I’ve told them that, as Episcopalians, we are a people of Word and Sacrament.

The role of the priest is to open up the Word of God so that people might see Jesus, in the same way that the bread is broken and the wine is poured out so that we might find in them the True Presence of our Risen Lord. The sermon is a sacramental moment that prepares us for the Sacrament of Eucharist.

They have also written their own Creed. 'The Credo Formamentum 2009’, as they have come to call it. You will be very proud of their work when you hear it during the special service we will have for them on their Confirmation day. Here’s a sneak peek – what they said about how they know Jesus:

"We believe Jesus is the human messenger of God; mortal yet divine. Jesus is a healer: A white light of hope. A friend when there is trouble. A helper when there is need. He gave himself for us, a gift for our safe keeping." And, they said: “God gives us the gift of eternal life in Jesus.”

I know. Pretty smart kids, right? I think they know a little something about Jesus. Of that I have no question.

So, here’s my question: Do you know Jesus? Yes, I know you do, but how would you describe Jesus? In your own words? Who is Jesus for you and why does he make a difference in your life of faith?

The Vestry is taking these questions very seriously. In fact, they have signed up to give a brief meditation on one of the three persons of the Trinity as a way to open our Vestry meetings. We’ve only had one so far, but it has been excellent. I have no doubt the others will be as well.

I encourage you, as Holy Week fast approaches, to focus your attention on the person of Jesus. I urge you, like the Vestry and members of the Confirmation Class, to consider or reconsider how and where and when you see Jesus in your lives of faith.

I am always surprised to find Jesus in the most unlikely places and most unusual people. I saw Jesus yesterday at the Spring Craft Fair (He said to say 'hello'). As I went from table to table and spoke with the vendors, I introduced myself as the pastor of the church. And, each and every vendor, without fail, said to me, “Oh, we are so happy to be doing this for the church.”

Imagine! They are not members of the church. And yet, they all came together to sell their wares and to give a little something to the church because one of their friends was being helped by this church. Whether they know it or not, they know a little something about the person of Jesus – at least, they know something about the nature of church, which we proclaim as ‘the Body of Christ.’

I saw Jesus just last week when I went to visit a 92 year old woman who still considers herself a member of this church, even though she’s probably not stepped foot in this sanctuary in the last 40 years or so.

I wish you could have seen the joy on her face and in her eyes when I introduced myself as being from St. Paul's. She may not have remembered the names of her children, but she remembered being a member of St. Paul's.

She was so thrilled to have someone from St. Paul’s come to visit her that she talked herself into exhaustion. Indeed, the nursing staff gathered around outside the door to her room, amazed that she had so much to say. She has what is known as ‘senile dementia’ so the move from the home she has made with her daughter for the past 10 years has been nothing if a little disorienting - to say nothing of depressing.

I saw Jesus in the joy in the eyes of her caretakers as they saw her animated and happy. I saw Jesus in their midst as they gathered in a circle outside her room, held hands and joined us in reciting The Lord’s Prayer together.

I heard Jesus whisper in the voice of one of the personal care attendants who assured me that she would say that prayer with her at the end of her shift. “It’s good for her mind,” she said, adding sheepishly, “and for both of our souls.”

I saw Jesus the week before on a locked psychiatric unit where one of our elders had been placed after having an adverse reaction to some of the medication she had been taking. One of the medical doctors came in during our visit. As her patient began to get anxious, she gently took the person’s face in her hands and spoke softly, tenderly.

“Focus on the familiar,” she kept saying. “Don’t worry about what you have no control over, or what you don't recognize. Focus on the familiar.” “Do you remember your prayers? Can you say the Lord’s Prayer? Let’s say it together, now, with your priest.”

And so we did. It was a holy, sacramental moment when I knew that Jesus himself was there, praying with us, behind the locked doors of that psychiatric unit where she didn’t belong.

“Jesus is a healer, a white light of hope, a friend where there is trouble, a helper when there is need.” That’s how our Confirmation kids described Jesus.

If some visitors who weren’t Christian came in today because they wanted to meet Jesus, who would they find? How would you describe Jesus to them?

I believe it was Annie Dillard who once said that if we really believed the prayers we said every Sunday, we’d leave the church with crash helmet on our heads.

I’m also remembering the bumper sticker my kids gave me years ago says, “Going to church will not make you a Christian any more than going to the garage will make you a car.” They gave me that bumper sticker as a way to try to weasel out of going to church. Perhaps they understood what Annie Dillard was trying to say.

“The days are surely coming,” the Lord said to Jeremiah.

Next Sunday is The Sunday of the Passion of our Lord, also known as Palm Sunday. We will be asked to walk the Way of Jesus all week. On Maundy Thursday, we will be asked to wash each other’s feet, as Jesus asked his disciples to wash his and each other’s feet as a sign of servant leadership.

On Good Friday, we will be asked to walk the Stations of the Cross, and put our feet in the path Jesus walked. The Great Vigil of Easter will walk us through the history of our salvation, from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Revelation.

And, on Easter Day, we will meet our Risen Lord with glory as Christ who was lifted high draws us all to himself for eternity.

What do these words and images say to you about your relationship with Jesus? How are the stories of his life and the words of his commandment written in your heart? How has that made a difference in your life?

Can you let the old familiar words about Jesus and his love die like a grain of wheat in the rich soil of your souls to be reborn into images and words that make sense to you today, right now, in your life?

Here’s the important question of faith: How would you tell others about who his is and where to find him? And, would they know that any of that is true by how you live your life? One of my favorite images of the church is that of one hungry beggar telling another hungry beggar how and from whom to get bread.

Here’s the thing: If you want to meet Jesus, you don’t need a formal introduction. All you have to do is walk with him, and let him walk with you. Put your body and your mind and your soul with him and open yourself to his presence.

And, believe. Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sex is bad . . . .

. . . save it for someone you love.

That's pretty much the message I got as a young Roman Catholic kid.

How times have changed - and, haven't.

National Catholic Reporter (NCR Online) has an interview with educator Coco McAftee, entitled, "Tools for teaching healthy sexuality."

It is refreshingly open and honest, which talks about human sexuality as a gift from God and not always about genital sex.

Ms. McAtte says things like,

"I say that our bodies are designed by God, touched by God, created by God, and they are a truly wonderful thing. Every single body part. I go on to say that Jesus came into the world with a body. He didn't come solely as spirit. He came with a body. This is a blessing to us all. Jesus' bodily presence is saying that our bodies are so valuable he took on this form. So my approach to talking to parents and children is to stress, or in some cases, reclaim, the beauty and sacredness of their bodies. That's the starting point."

She is also quoted as saying:

"One story that always struck me was when he was with his disciples and the crowds are pushing upon him and a woman who had been bleeding for years comes to find him. In that culture, any woman bleeding, whether it's hemorrhaging or her normal cycle, was to stay away from people. But Jesus was touched by her. The fact that he would let a supposedly "unclean" woman touch him speaks volumes to me about the fact that Jesus did not regard this as a negative. She was not unclean. All women have suffered from this lie about a woman's body."

Which made me nervous. How long will it take before this woman is silenced like Ruth Kolpack?

If none of the above gets her in trouble with the RC bureaucracy, then surely this will:

"Sexuality, then, is a fundamental part of what makes us human. So spirituality and sexuality are linked intimately. What we need to ponder is the way the whole notion of body and spirit are entwined. Some people even say we're spiritual beings having a human, or bodily, experience."

I'm holding my breath here.

There are some amazing women in the Roman Church, including our own FranIAm who are holding the line against the ever-encroaching insanity of a male-dominated bureaucracy who take their orders from a foreign curia.

Like the RC nuns of my youth before them, they are my s/heroes. Yes, there are some good guys - some who wear black shirts and tab collars, too. I just wish they had the ovaries of some of these women.

At the end of the article, you'll see some 'recommended books to read'. Not surprisingly, the best one - well, at least in my estimation - is the series, "Our Whole Lives."

I use large pieces of it in my Confirmation Class - the stuff on 'date rape' and the messages sent by the clothing we wear is just really great. I can't recommend it highly enough.

The resources are based on the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education produced by the National Guidelines Task Force, a group of leading health, education and sexuality professionals assembled by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

For example: This is from their Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education:

Life Behaviors of a Sexually Healthy Adult

A sexually healthy adult will:

• Appreciate one’s own body.
• Seek further information about reproduction as needed.
• Affirm that human development includes sexual development, which may or may not include reproduction or sexual experience.
• Interact with all genders in respectful and appropriate ways.
• Affirm one’s own sexual orientation and respect the sexual orientations of others.
• Affirm one’s own gender identities and respect the gender identities of others.
• Express love and intimacy in appropriate ways.
• Develop and maintain meaningful relationships.
• Avoid exploitative or manipulative relationships.
• Make informed choices about family options and relationships.
• Exhibit skills that enhance personal relationships.
• Identify and live according to one’s own values.
• Take responsibility for one’s own behavior.
• Practice effective decision-making.
• Develop critical-thinking skills.
• Communicate effectively with family, peers, and romantic partners.
• Enjoy and express one’s sexuality throughout life.
• Express one’s sexuality in ways that are congruent with one’s values.
• Enjoy sexual feelings without necessarily acting on them.

There is also an "Advocacy Manual for Human Sexuality and Justice," which is also co-produced by the United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist Association to help provide education that enables young people and their families to obtain accurate information, articulate their values, develop relationship skills, and exercise responsibility in sexual relationships..

Now, if The Episcopal Church could adopt statements and resources like these, I think we might actually be able to move off the dime in terms of our obsession with sexuality as genital expression in general and homosexuality in particular.

Because, truth be told, when you get right down to it, the message we're all getting from many of our mainline churches - catholic and protestant - these days is not so very different from the one I got as a RC child.

Is it any wonder our kids are confused?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wild Air

Sometimes, when strange things happen, they are just strange things that happen sometimes. Other times, there is some significance that needs to be discerned.

I visited my therapist the other day, as I always do, twice a month - as we always joke - whether I need it or not.

This had been a particularly intense visit. Lots of truths told. Things I had been afraid to say out loud to another person. There's something happening in my soul. Something moving and shifting 'round. A 'disturbance in The Force', as it were.

But, it's not just me. It's happening to lots of folk I know.

When my appointment was done, I came out the side walkway to the parking lot to fetch my car. It was a drizzly, overcast day, and I was entertaining myself with the sound of my shoes 'crunch-crunching' on the gravel driveway, musing about how it sounded like boots on snow and thanking God for the cold Spring rain instead of snow.

That's when I heard it. A ruffle of feathers and clacking of branches overhead. I looked up and there s/he was - a magnificent hawk.

I heard myself gasp as s/he stopped on a branch just above my car and peered at me intently. We were both sort of frozen in place - both startled at the sight of each other. Both intensely curious about the other.

Once my composure returned, I remembered that I had my camera in my purse. I carefully rummaged around for it, taking it out to get the snap above.

When I got home later that day, I looked up the Native American folklore about the hawk. This is what it said, in part:

"Hawk is akin to Mercury, the messenger of the gods. Hawk teaches you to be observant, to look at your surroundings. Observe the obvious in everything that you do. Life is sending you signals."

"If a hawk appears to you, then right now a clue about the magic of life is being brought to you. This magic can imbue you with the power to overcome a currently stressful or difficult situation. This test is your ability to observe the nuances of power lurking nearby."

"You are only as powerful as your ability to perceive, receive and use your abilities. . .What is called for here is an intuitive ability to discern the message carried within the cry of the Hawk. The shrillness of Hawk's call pierces the state of unawareness, and asks you to seek the truth."

Or, it could simply be coincidence. The Hawk was simply flying from one area to another, looking for lunch. I just happened to be coming out of my therapist's office at that time. The Native American Folklore is not science. It's simply folklore.

Except, I don't believe in coincidence.

I don't think it's a coincidence that there is a media frenzy over Michele Obama's arms and, at the same time, an increase in mico-sexism that I and many of my sisters are feeling. I experienced it just this week on two separate occasions of blatant sexism from people in my church - people who should know better.

Just this week, one of my dear friends and colleagues came into my office, closed the door, slumped in my chair, raised her hands over her head in a distress signal and said, "Help! I'm drowning in patriarchy."

I don't think that this is not connected to the fact that there is a Black man in the White House and suddenly, there is a Black Man on TV, assuring us that in times of trouble or disaster, "You're in good hands with Allstate."

Or, that in a commercial for FIOS there is a Black man who comes to the door of his modern home to get the best deal from two White white men who are Cable Guys.

That those 'good hands' are Black hands would be nothing short of astonishing to my parent's generation. Neither is it insignificant that one White Cable Guy is clearly scamming and one is not and the Black man is able to tell the difference between them and get the best deal.

And, none of this is at all pleasing so some folk who silently steam about the shifting racial and gender paradigms of power and authority. People who subconsciously or unconsciously allow words or acts of sexism to invade reality.

I'm thinking there's a connection between all this shifting paradigm of male power and the increase in sexism I'm noticing. Over and over and over again, women are reporting being passed over for appointments to positions or promotions, or even praise.

There is something in the air. "WILD air, world-mothering air /Nestling me everywhere," as Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote of The Blessed Virgin.

It falls to the wise - the Hawk - to pay attention. To beware so that we might be aware.

These days require a keen eye and a bold heart.

Hopkins ends his poem about Mary with these words:

Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.

My mantra for the rest of Lent and Holy Week, which fast approaches, is this:

"You are only as powerful as your ability to perceive, receive and use your abilities."

"And Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart."

I just got notice that the Committee on Church Structure has submitted a resolution to eliminate the Committee on the Status of Women, saying that it is a committee with “a particular purpose for a particular time” and that the “policy issues relating to women in the world will fit more clearly” within other commissions.

You can read the latest report from the CSW here.

Kim Robey, Program Officer for Women's Ministries and Leadership at the National Church Center ("815") writes:

"At a time in the world under our new administration when we are finally waking up to the disparity between women and men, in all areas of social justice and pure numbers on decision making bodies as shown by the President creating several new bodies solely devoted to women’s issues, this is NOT the time to be eliminating this important committee. Also, at a time within the church where we see women Bishops retiring and not being replaced, this is NOT the time to be eliminating this committee. When the rest of the provinces within the Anglican Communion are desperately trying to establish women’s desks and women’s work in their church structures, this is NOT the time to be eliminating ours."

Wild air is everywhere.

A Litany for Healing Homophobia

Note: This litany was written by a clergy colleague of mine, Joseph Harmon, one of the few African-American clergy I know to be gay who is also able to be out and open about his sexuality.

Joseph is also an attorney. He has been enormously helpful in the Diocese of Newark regarding civil unions. Indeed, he now chairs the Task Force on Civil Unions. He's also the rector of Church of the Incarnation, Jersey City.

Louie Crew posted this on HOB/D as well as our diocesan listserv. I wasn't going to post it here, but the Trolls on Viagra picked it up, of course, and hung it up on their web site for target practice. Can you imagine mocking someone's prayer? How low do you have to go, exactly, to do that?

Never mind. Joseph has given permission to reproduce the litany freely, with attribution. So, here you go . . .

A Litany for Healing Homophobia

: Sometimes it is too easy for us to forget the oppression that we create when we fail to recognize those who may be different from us as our sisters and brothers. Today, let us pray that each of us individually, our church, our community and our world, may be healed of homophobia's oppression so that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people may live with dignity and respect, in safety and wholeness. May we remember and not forget God's call to reconciliation.

Leader: O God, when we pray, help us to remember. Help us to remember those we would rather not remember, those we would rather not see, those we would rather not love, and those we would rather not accept.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

Leader: That you created us in your image and that all that you created is good.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

Leader: That you call us to be sisters and brothers of Christ and of one another.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

: That we have not readily welcomed all our sisters and brothers, especially
those who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

Leader: When we hear our Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender sisters and brothers called foul names that we should speak up to stop such abuse.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

: When we hear of people brutalized and murdered because others perceive them to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender that they are children of God, worthy of dignity and respect.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

Leader: That there are still countries around the globe where Gay and Lesbian people
receive the death penalty just for being Gay and Lesbian.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

Leader: That millions of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people are still closeted within faith communities that do not treat them with value, respect and acceptance.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

Leader: That every year, Lesbian and Gay-friendly churches are still targets of vandalism and hate crimes based on homophobia.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

Leader: That homophobia contributes to higher rates of suicide in Lesbian and Gay teens, higher rates of Lesbian and Gay homelessness, lower wages for Lesbians, and employment and housing difficulties for Lesbian and Gay people.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

: That homophobia distorts the spiritual message of God's love for all people.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

Leader: That we can do something to end homophobia by opening our hearts and minds to see Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people as our sisters and brothers.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

Leader: That we can participate in healing our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities and churches of homophobia by creating a space where Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people may find safety, respect and acceptance.
People: Help us to remember, O God.

Leader: And now, aloud or silently in our hearts, let us name our own needs and concerns and those needs and concerns, those individuals and groups, who have asked our prayers (the congregation is encouraged to speak their prayers and intentions at this time).

Celebrant: Gracious and loving God, who hates nothing that you create and desires that all should come to know your love: help us to remember the things that we have heard this day, the things that your Holy Spirit teaches us, and those things that we know to be right and just. Make us ambassadors of your reconciling goodness as we work to heal the oppression of homophobia and the scars it has inflicted upon so many individuals and families, institutions and communities. Empower us to reach out in love to all people, including our sisters and brothers that are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. We ask this through Jesus the Christ, who himself wasdespised and rejected and by whose wounds we are healed.


Copyright © 2009 by the Rev'd Joseph A. Harmon,
Pastor, Church of the Incarnation, Jersey City, NJ.
Permission freely granted for liturgical use, with attribution.

Creative Puns for Educated Minds

1. The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was --
--Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, --
--but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian .

3. She was only a whisky maker, --
--but he loved her still.

4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class --
--because it was a weapon of math disruption.

5. The butcher backed into the meat grinder --
--and got a little behind in his work.

6. No matter how much you push the envelope, --
--it'll still be stationery.

7. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road --
--and was cited for littering.

8. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France --
--would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

9. Two silk worms had a race. --
--They ended up in a tie.

10. Time flies like an arrow. --
--Fruit flies like a banana.

11. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. --
--The police are looking into it.

12. Atheism --
--is a non-prophet organization.

13. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. --
--One hat said to the other, 'You stay here, I'll go on a head.'

14. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger.--
-- Then, it hit me.

15. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said, --
--'Keep off the Grass.'

16. A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital.--
-- His grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, 'No change yet.'

17. A chicken crossing the road --
--is poultry in motion.

18. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison --
--was a small medium at large.

19. The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray --
--is now a seasoned veteran.

20. A backward poet --
--writes inverse.

21. In democracy, it's your vote that counts. --
--In feudalism, it's your count that votes.

22. When cannibals ate a missionary, --
--they got a taste of religion.

23. Don't join dangerous cults: --
--Practice safe sects !

(Hat tip to Doug.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Just in case you needed to know . . .

This madness about Michele Obama's arms has become a national obsession. I mean, this was an actual news report on a fairly well known DC television station.

There have been others. Many others. Doug sent me one just this evening. I suppose we'll know the obsession is out of control if Brian Williams starts to take it seriously and does a story on NBC Nightly News.

I'm hoping Rachel Maddow does something as an 'anti-toxin' right quick.

It's very curious to me and I'm trying not to read too much into it, but you know, it's very hard not to.

Anybody want to register an opinion? Voice a concern?

I have this feeling that it won't go away if we ignore it.

What does leather do for you?

Like I said, there's something about women . . . .

Hat tip to Riley, who is one of the smartest women I know.

How to drive in Jersey

Seriously, there are only two things needed to drive effectively in NJ:

A horn and a middle finger.

Everything else is superfluous, including knowing where you are going. For those of you who live in Jersey or have lived there, these things may come as no surprise.

For those who haven't traveled there before:

Beware, Be Prepared and Be Very, Very Afraid.

1. You must first learn to pronounce the city names. It's Nork - rhymes with Fork, not New-ark. Also, Trenton is not pronounced Tren-ton, it is Trent-in.

2. The morning rush hour is from 5 AM to NOON. The evening rush hour is from NOON to 7 PM. Friday's rush hour starts on Thursday morning.

3. The minimum acceptable speed on the turnpike is 85 mph. On the parkway it's 105 or 110. Anything less is considered "Sissy." (Just ask the Governor)

4. Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere. Jersey has its own version of traffic rules. For example, cars/trucks with the loudest muffler go first at a four-way stop; the trucks with the biggest tires go second; However, in Monmouth and Burlington counties, SUV-driving, cell phone-talking moms ALWAYS have the right of way.

5. If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear ended, cussed out, and possibly shot.

6. Never honk at anyone. EVER! Seriously. It's another offense that can get you shot.

7. Road construction is permanent and continuous in all of Jersey . Detour barrels are moved around for your entertainment pleasure during the middle of the night to
make the next day's driving a bit more exciting.

8. Watch carefully for road hazards such as drunks, skunks, dogs, cats, barrels, cones, celebs , rubber-neckers, shredded tires, cell-phoners, deer and other road kill, and folks with paper cups at intersections.

9. Map Quest does NOT work here -- none of the roads are where they say they are or go where they say they do and all the Turnpike EZ Pass lanes are moved each night once again to make your ride more exciting.

10. If someone actually has their Turn Signal ON, wave them to the shoulder immediately to let them know it has been "accidentally activated."

11. If you are in the left lane and only driving 70 in a 55-65mph zone, you are considered a road hazard and will be "flipped off" accordingly. If you return the flip, you'll be shot.

12. Do not try to estimate travel time -- just leave Monday afternoon for Tuesday appointments, by noon Thursday for Friday appointments, and right after church on Sunday for anything on Monday morning.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

There's something about the women . . .

Today is the Feast of The Annunciation. Which never, ever fails to make me giggle.

I mean, really! The old, probably celibate, boys who put the liturgical calendar together clearly knew nothin' 'bout birthin' babies, Ms. Charlotte.

After it was determined that the Nativity of Our Lord would be December 25th (but more recent scholarship has put it sometime in March, interestingly enough), why then, the date the Angel appeared before Mary to tell her she was "with child" had to have been 9 months prior.

I get that. What makes me giggle is that it is 9 months to the exact day. March 25th. Any woman can tell you that it simply doesn't work that way.

Then again, no one really listens to women anyway.

Or, when they do, there's hell to pay.

To wit: Ruth Kolpack, the Roman Catholic scholar who was fired by her bishop because of her 'feminist views'. Her's is a most recent case, but she's got a great cloud of witnesses that surround her.

I was taken by this interview over on NCR.

The Pope is in Africa and, much to everyone's surprise, has been talking a lot about the role and status, the "rights and dignity" of women in Africa in general and the RC church in Africa in particular.

NCR reports: "In a speech on March 18th to the bishops of Cameroon, Benedict called upon African Catholics to defend “the dignity of women and their particular vocation in the ecclesial community and in society.” In Angola, the pope denounced “the special yoke of discrimination that women and girls often endure.” The working paper for the upcoming Synod for Africa also highlights the dignity of women."

The nun pictured here,Sr. Anastasie Bekono, of the Religious Order of Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary, Cameroon. She and a novice, Grace Atem, were interviewed for the article, which reports an interesting tension:

". . . .religious life in Africa is often more ‘conservative’ than in the West. Bekono, for example, expressed shock that a religious sister might defend a woman’s right to choose abortion, and neither African supported the idea of women priests. Yet both expressed frustration that women are under-represented in leadership positions in the church, a sentiment they often share with sisters elsewhere, and Bekono voiced deep admiration for the foreign sisters she knows. Regarding women’s communities in Europe and the United States, she refused to join the critics: “They may have changed their lifestyle, but not their faith.”

In her Blog "El Rio Debajo El Rio" Clarissa Pinkola Estes has written an interesting article about RC nuns entitled, "The Consecrated life: The Rock Pile."

This, she says, is in response to an earlier essay entitled "Nuns: The civilizing force of the church."

It's a wonderful piece, a great addition to this article, "If they really mean it, it's about time," written by Sr. Joan Chittister in her blog, "From where I stand."

She writes: "From where I stand, if the church really wants to support women religious, it's about time for a statement that says again, "These are great women living a great spiritual life and doing great things." Let's hear it: loud and clear. After all, if religious life for women disappears -- or, conceivably, begins to function outside the boundaries of the institutional church -- it will not only affect religious women -- it will also definitely affect the church in the modern world."

So, this day is to celebrate women - women like Mary and Ruth and Anastasie and Clarissa and Joan - who have the impossible vocation of staying and leading where they are not wanted. Of not only being "smart enough" but are, indeed, smarter than some of their ordained male leaders. Of speaking truth to power when their voices would be silenced. Of being wise enough to know when to say 'yes' - and, if necessary, 'no'.

No wonder God chose a woman to be the vehicle through which salvation would come into the world. That makes perfect sense to me.

But, the date . . . not so much.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"We're coming home!"

Well, there are so many pending acts of litigation, one almost needs a dance card, but this one at Grace and St. Stephen's Colorado is BIG. HUGE. There are tears and cheers on one side and harumph's and bluster on the other. Those who claim the high, holy, pure ground of 'orthodoxy' know that they won't / can't win. The only 'pure' thing they posses is a mean spirit. Their intention is simply to make TEC spend money, wear down membership, and inhibit evangelism, mission and ministry.

And, in the heavens, I am sure, Jesus weeps over 'New Jerusalem'.

*March 24, 2009*

*For Immediate Release*
*Statement Regarding March 24 El Paso County District Court Ruling*

The Bishop and Diocese of Colorado, and the more than 500 members of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church rejoice today that the members of the Episcopal parish will be returning to their church home as a result of a decision issued by District Court Judge Larry Schwartz. In that ruling, Judge Schwartz found that the historic property is held in trust for the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church and ordered the breakaway congregation that wrongfully took possession of the property two years ago to leave.

The Bishop of Colorado, the Rt. Rev. Robert J. O’Neill expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision, saying, “This outcome honors the history of Grace and St. Stephen’s as an Episcopal parish, and of the Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs. We are extremely pleased that present and future generations of Episcopalians in the Colorado Springs community will continue to worship on Tejon Street.”

"We're coming home!” said Lynn L. Olney, senior warden of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, "and we invite all our friends to come home with us. During the past two years of exile, our parish congregation has shown the meaning of a faith community. Now, we're coming home!”

“We are very pleased that the judge was persuaded by the significant legal precedent that, while individual members and even clergy may leave a church, they may not take church property with them,” said Larry Hitt. “Today’s ruling is consistent with the outcome of similar cases throughout the country, almost all of which have held that breakaway groups do not have the right to take away church property,” Hitt added.

Martin Nussbaum, lead attorney for the Episcopal Diocese and Parish said, "We are very pleased. The District Court's decision affirms the First Amendment freedom of churches to define their own governance and property relationships. It is difficult to imagine a much more important constitutional freedom for people of faith in this country.”

"These past two years have been a time of challenge for the people of Grace Episcopal, and we have grown in faith, in love and in service to the community. We are thankful that the court has returned our property to us, and we are eager to resume our worship and ministry at our historic facility,” said The Rev. Martin Pearsall, priest at Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. “There are no winners here, just lots of wounded faithful people. It will be our task and responsibility in the months ahead to strive for healing and to reach out into the community.”

The 500 members of the Episcopal congregation have been worshipping at nearby First Christian Church for nearly two years, while the case has worked its way through the court. “We cannot express enough gratitude to our brothers and sisters at Faith Christian for their continued hospitality and genuine fellowship,” Olney said.

The Episcopal Diocese of Colorado comprises 115 congregations and diocesan institutions all over the state, and is part of The Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church continues to be one of the largest congregations in the diocese.

*Contact: Beckett Stokes, The Episcopal Diocese of Colorado*


Lynn L. Olney, Esq., Senior Warden,
Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church*


Emily Hewitt named Chief Judge

President Obama also made the following announcement today:

Judge Emily C. Hewitt, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims

Judge Hewitt has served on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims since her confirmation by the Senate in 1998. At the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Judge Hewitt has handled cases in all areas of the Court´s jurisdiction, chaired the court´s Rules and Building and Space Committees and served on its Management Committee.

In 2006, she was appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States to serve on the
Financial Disclosure Committee of the United States Judicial Conference. Prior to her appointment to the Court of Claims, Judge Hewitt was appointed general counsel to the General Services Administration during the Clinton Administration.

Judge Hewitt, born May 26, 1944, in Baltimore, is a graduate of Cornell University (A.B. 1966), Union Theological Seminary (M. Phil 1975) and Harvard Law School (J.D. 1978).

Before entering government service, Judge Hewitt practiced from 1978 to 1993 with the Boston law firm Hill & Barlow, where she chaired the firm´s real estate department from 1987-1993.

A leader of the effort to open Episcopal ordination to women, Judge Hewitt was one of the first eleven women ordained to the Episcopal priesthood on July 29, 1974.

Lent IV: What are you saved for?

Note: Our seminarian preached this really wonderful sermon on Sunday. Her name is Susan Ironside. Remember that name and don't say I didn't tell you so. EMK+

What are you saved for?
Lent IV - March 22, 2009
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham
Susan Ironside, Seminarian

A few days ago while eating dinner with my best friend Jane, a talented singer, she told me a fascinating story. She is the soprano soloist at a large Roman Catholic parish here in New Jersey. She sings weddings and funerals and tells me magnificent stories about her view from the organ loft.

A wedding is coming up in a week or so, and the bride and groom have hired Jane to sing at their wedding. No big deal. Jane does this all the time. Here is the thing that made this interesting: It’s a wedding in Lent, so that is a little weird.

Plus, the happy couple requested “Hallelujah” Not Handel. The one from Shrek.

It’s a Leonard Cohen song, which was made popular when it was covered by Rufus Wainwright and used in the Shrek soundtrack. It’s a fantastic song. But, my God is it depressing. It references King David from the Bible and his little Bathsheba problem. I will let you Google the lyrics on your own, but take my word for it.

This is not your typical wedding song. The song goes, “love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.” (Before I proceed, I swear I am going to put money in the Sunday school box for all of my flagrant abuses of the Lenten Alleluia policy.)

Love is not a victory march. Well, that’s true. Anyone who has ever loved anyone can tell you that. Love is not a victory march. But a cold and broken Hallelujah? It hardly seems like an appropriate wedding song in any season, but seems particularly out of place in Lent.

Before I leave the story of my dear friend Jane, I should tell you that Jane, an observant Roman Catholic, agonized about what to do. She is very fond of the happy couple, and knows the priest very well, and thought, well if he doesn’t care about that being sung in church, why should I?

But then she began to fear that she would be haunted by every nun who had ever taught her in Catholic School. So she did what I think was the only reasonable choice: She rewrote the lyrics, in order to salvage the song choice and quiet her own conscience. I am sure the happy couple will be delighted next week, when they hear Jane’s rewrite on their wedding day.

I wonder if she kept the part about Love not being a victory march but a cold a broken halleluiah. I will have to ask her when I see her next.

Love is not a victory march. In today’s gospel we hear such familiar words about God and love: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

That’s John 3:16. Some people say it is the most famous verse in the bible. When I watch baseball games, I occasionally see people holding signs that say simply “John 3:16” which is, I would imagine, some kind of tool for evangelism, but it strikes me as a weird kind of modern day Gnosticism. But never mind, it’s a famous verse.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Martin Luther said that it was the whole gospel summed up in one verse, and he had a point, I think. The verse comes out of an middle of the night exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus was wondering what Jesus was up to.

What was Jesus teaching? What did it all mean?

Jesus explains what he is up to by talking about God being so in love with humanity, that God gave Jesus to us. To save us. 
But what does that mean?
 What do we mean when we say that we are saved?

It’s hard for us, to use this language without quickly becoming unintelligible. Things like altar calls and referring to Jesus as our Personal Savior seem just as strange to us as singing Shrek songs at weddings seems to my friend Jane. But there it is, staring us in the face this morning. Right here in the middle of Lent, we hear from the Bible that we are saved.

By grace you have been saved—Paul insists in today’s Epistle reading.

"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” Jesus insists in today’s gospel

But what does that mean?

Here in Lent we are in the midst of the cold and broken hallelujah. Our Alleluias are safely buried until Easter, and our worship space looks spare, like we have battened down the hatches. Why? So that we contemplate our salvation?

Yes. So that we can practice disciplines which, as Elizabeth reminds us, train us for discipleship? Absolutely. We have set apart these forty days deliberately. With great care and intention we section this portion of the year and say: here is something different. Here in these days we do things differently, we eat differently, we pray differently. They are, in every way, set apart for us.

In the same way, when we talk about the salvation we have in Jesus, we are talking about something different and separate. And it is difficult to say exactly what it means, so we do run the risk of sounding unintelligible.

We are not talking about being rescued in the same way that the stimulus package promises to salvage the economy, with lists of factors to determine eligibility, and restrictions for qualifying.

Neither is the salvation offered by Jesus likely to save us from many things that we would most like to be spared. Jesus does not seem to save his people from injury, cancer, bankruptcy, job-loss, the stress of raising children, the difficulties of living in community. Jesus does not save people from dying, for the most part, I don’t think.

But then again, Jesus didn’t save himself from dying, did he? The people taunting at the foot of the cross got that much right: he saved others, they noticed, why can’t he save himself?

Here in these days of our cold and broken hallelujah- we are confronted with what it means to be saved by Jesus, what is at stake by our claims that these days mark the retelling of our salvation history. We are confronted with the fact that we follow a Savior who could not or would not save himself.

And yet we continue to hold fast to the truth of today’s gospel: For God loved us so much that he gave Jesus to save us.

Perhaps we need to consider the possibility that Jesus did not save us from something, but for something. We have been, and are being saved for some purpose. We have been set aside for something.

Clearly we are not saved from the hardships of this life, but we are still saved, I think, for something. You were saved, out of great love, by a God. And out of God’s great and vast love, a plan for you was made, to be set aside for something.

St. Paul was utterly convinced of this, and he wrote the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- not the result of works.”

And I am convinced of this too, that I have saved, each and every one of you has been saved, perhaps not from anything, but most defiantly for something. I don’t know what you have been saved for, just as most days I am uncertain as to what I have been saved for, but I know that you and I have been saved, have been saved for something.

A nurse who had worked in an emergency room in Baghdad was interviewed on the radio a few years ago. She spoke about a day when an IED explored a few blocks from where she was working. Several Americans were killed, and many Iraqi insurgents were injured in the event.

Some of the injured were brought to her unit, and one of the Iraqi insurgents had grave, almost fatal injuries, and is was quickly determined that he had a rare blood type.

The blood bank was low anyway, but there was only one unit of blood available of the appropriate type. It had been donated a week before by a solder who was part of the squadron who had been attacked.

As the injured man regained consciousness, the blood donation having saved his life, the nurse found a translator and went to his bedside.

“Look there,” she said, urgently pointing at the now empty bag of blood which was still hanging on the IV pole. “That was the blood of your enemy, and it saved you. We were saving it. So that we could save you.”

And you know, it occurs to me this morning, as I hear this gospel and this epistle, that it makes all the difference in the world, being saved for something.

That is the essence of my identity and yours, and it is no small thing. It is the fundamental truth of who we are.


Credo Formamentum 2009

It's that time of year again.

As some of you may know, every year my Confirmation Class studies the Creeds - the history and theology of the Nicene, Apostles, and Athanasisus, as well as those of other faiths.

After this time of study, they write their own Creed as an exercise of an experience in a community of faith; that is, how a group of people with diverse opinions and world views can come together to make a statement of belief that they can all say together without crossing their fingers too many times.

As some of you know, I believe my kids are positively brilliant. All of them. Every class. Every year. Because, well, they are.

To wit: We had a discussion about what to name our 'Creed'. We used to call it "The Creed of the Council of The Chathams" but of late, that ain't necessarily so. Our congregation now includes kids from the surrounding towns of Madison, Green Village, Florham Park, New Providence, Summit and even as far away as Gillette.

So, we've settled, in past years, for "The Creed of the Confirmation Class ___"

Not so with this class. They wanted something more . . . well, creative. So, one of them "googled" (I love how we make a verb out of a noun) and found that one of Latin terms used for confirmation is "formamentum." (I have no idea if that's correct. Sounds close enough for me. As I said, they wanted to be creative . . . BTW, how do you say "google" in Latin, I wonder?)

And so, ladies and gentlemen of faith, Christians near and far, I give you:

Credo Formamentum 2009

We believe in God who is watching over us, protecting us,
guiding us in our lives,
helping us to balance good and bad,
light and dark.

We believe God can be found in everything:
in the earth and sky,
the wind and rain.

We believe that God’s love for us is never ending.

We believe Jesus is the human messenger of God;
mortal yet divine,
Jesus is a healer –
A white light of hope
A friend when there is trouble
A helper when there is need.
He gave himself for us, a gift for our safe keeping.

We believe in the Holy Spirit
whom we experience in
ocean mist
clouds and fog
creativity and community
The Holy Spirit gives us inspiration.

We believe that anyone who is truly sorry
and seeks forgiveness
will be forgiven.

We believe that the church is a
House of God,
a base of worship
an Apostolic sanctuary which
unites us in community.

We believe that our souls live forever
even though the body dies.

God gives us the gift of eternal life
in Jesus.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tweety Bird Turns Sixty This Week.

Doug sent this to me.

In so many ways and on so many levels, this is just so wrong.

Playing for Change

My good friend Alicia first told me about this new movement. It's called "Playing for Change: Peace Through Music.

Their website says that they are a group of "artists and inspired people who have come together to connect the world through music."

They have started the Ntonga Music School in South Africa, the Tibetan Refugee Center in India and Napal, and the Mehlo Arts Center in Johannesburg.

Click here for Bill Moyer's interview with Mark Johnson who produced a documentary about this movement.

Alicia likes "Stand By Me." I do, too, but I must say I like this one best.

Start your Monday morning off right and visit their website.

You'll be inspired. Which, of course, is what they hope to accomplish.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Quote of the Month (for Refreshment Sunday)

God created March
for people who don't drink
so they'll know what it's like to have a hangover.

Heard last night on "A Prairie Home Companion"
Garrison Keillor

How would YOU fix the economy?

There was an article in the St. Petersburg Times Newspaper on Sunday.

The Business Section asked readers for ideas on "How Would You Fix the Economy?"

Here is the BEST idea submitted thus far:

Dear Mr.President:

Patriotic retirement:

There's about 40 million people over 50 in the work force. Pay them $1 million a piece severance with three stipulations:

1) They leave their jobs. Forty million job openings - Unemployment fixed.

2) They buy NEW American cars. Forty million cars ordered - Auto
Industry fixed.

3) They either buy a house or pay off their mortgage - Housing Crisis fixed.

Done, done and done. Now, let's fix our health care and educational systems, then deal with immigration and the environment, then get out of Iraq and Afghanistan so we can finally deal with the Israeli-Palestinian . . . ahem . . . "peace process".

(Hat tip to Doug)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

EWC stands in solidarity with Ruth Kolpack

For immediate release:

Episcopal Women’s Caucus stands in solidarity with Ruth Kolpack

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus joins with our sisters and brothers of faith around the world who stand in solidarity with Ruth Kolpack, pastoral associate since 1995 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Beloit, Wisconsin, who was fired earlier this month for what Madison Bishop Robert Morlino called Kolpack's "feminist views" after a 10-minute meeting with her. During the meeting, Kolpack was allowed no opportunity to defend herself, nor did she have a chance to face or respond to those who had accused her.

Kolpack was fired after she came under criticism for her thesis “Inclusive Language for Naming God: Challenge for the Church,” which was undertaken in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Divinity Degree at St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee, Wis., 2003.

Bishop Morlino, who has admitted to reading ‘bits and pieces” of the 51 page document, asked Kolpack to denounce the thesis, make a profession of faith, and take an oath of loyalty in order to remain as a pastoral associate at the parish.

She said she could profess her faith and take an oath, but could not refute the thesis in good conscience, that to do so would risk her reputation as a scholar.

We agree wholeheartedly with Kolpack’s assessment that, “no language is adequate for naming or describing God,” adding that, “We can use only metaphors based on what we know about God and yet all the metaphors we employ will not exhaust the description of God. When we limit the metaphors used for God, we make the metaphors our idols.”

We encourage everyone to join us in solidarity with Ruth Kolpack and write to Bishop Morlino at:

Diocese of Madison
Catholic Pastoral Center
702 South High Point Road
P.O. Box 44983
Madison, Wisconsin 53719

National Catholic Reporter stories:

Wisconsin parish worker fired for feminist views:

Kolpack’s letter to her parishioners explaining her dismissal

Madison’s Morlino noted for orthodoxy, controversy

‘Free God language’: fired parish worker’s thesis


(the Rev’d Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton
President, Episcopal Women’s Caucus
973 464 8018 (cell)

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus is a justice organization dedicated to Gospel values of equality and liberation and committed to the incarnation of God’s unconditional love.



Friday, March 20, 2009

OMG! Jersey Girls Don't Pump Gas.

It's happened. It's official. I'm a "Jersey Girl."

So, as you read, "OMG", please hear: Oh. My. GAWWWD!

I don't know how or when it happened, exactly, but I just realized it last night.

I mean, I've been aware that, from time to time, my response after listening to a friend's tale of woe is to shrug my shoulders, place my hands in a semi "orans position" and say "Eh, whatchagonnado, ya know?"

Or, "Eh, it is what it is, ya know?"

And then there is, of course, "Eh, fuggeddaboutit."

Or, "Eh, don't get yourself all exercized."

It's the prefix of "eh" and the suffix of "ya know?" and the hands in mid-air, palms- up motion of chagrin, followed by a shrug of the shoulders, that is always the telltale giveaway of someone from Jersey.

But tonight . . . tonight was the "Reese's pieces. . . the Finally . . .the Penultimate Ending" of the beginning of the debut of the transformation of the girl from 'Dirty Water' to "The Jersey Girl".

I stole away to Rehoboth Beach for a wee retreat this weekend. I went to bed at 9:30 Thursday night and woke up at 7:45 Friday morning. Honest. I was THAT tired.

I had a lovely day on Friday. I walked the Boardwalk on the ocean (it was COLD!), and then went window shopping, trying my best to add my energy to the 'stimulus package' (Got a GREAT pair of slacks and a sweater at the Chico's Discount place for $19.99 total. No tax, of course, which makes Delaware retail therapy the BEST.).

Before I met some friends for dinner, I found a gas station with gas below $2.00 a gallon and decided to stop in for a fill up.

That's when it started to hit me.

First, I realized that I was sitting in my car, waiting for the attendant to come out of the convenience store. Just as I was starting to get annoyed, I remembered where I was.

Delaware. Definitely NOT New Jersey.

For the uninitiated, it is against NJ law for anyone but the gas station attendant to pump gas. Don't ask me. I have no idea why. Maybe we've been way ahead of the 'stimulus package' curve for a long time. Maybe it's the Mafia.

You know what? I really don't care. I like it that way.

Besides, our gas prices are still the lowest in this part of the Northeast Corridor - especially on the Jersey Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway.

Come to think of it, the Mafia has got to be involved somehow.

Anyway, I got over that fairly quickly and got out my credit card to swipe the little automatic charge thingy, but it wouldn't accept the pass code to my debit card.


So, I locked the car and went inside the store. I approached the woman at the counter with a sheepish grin and said, "Can you tell I'm from Jersey?"

"OOOOOOOOOwwwwweeeee" she said as she lifted her hands and did a little happy-happy-joy-joy dance and said, "Lawd a mercy, I LOVE this time of year."

She clapped her hands with obvious glee and said, "Y'all from Jersey are sooo entertaining."

"Okay, okay," I said, "You're bustin' my chops because I'm from Jersey, right?"

'Bustin' my chops'. The evidence was now overwhelming that I have really become a 'Jersey Girl'. Now, a 'Jersey Boy' would have said, 'Bustin' my balls' but that's another story for another time.

She was a rather large Sistah who had me pegged the minute I walked in the door. "Girl, you jus' leave your credit card with me and go gas up," she said.

I paused for a few seconds which instantly registered my hesitation and caution. Okay, I probably had attitude. I've already admitted to being a 'Jersey Girl'.

"What?" she said, putting her hands defiantly on her hips and meeting my attitude with a bit of attitude of her own. "You think I'm gonna take your card?"

"No," I said, and then tried to justify myself by adding, "but you could write down the numbers."

"Ooooohh, right," she said, "Good idea. I wuddah thought of that myself, but I'm not smart like you white Jersey Girls."

"Okay, okay. I deserved that," I said. "But you know, with identity theft and all . . . ."

"No prob, sugar" she laughed, then nodding her head toward the gas pumps, ordered, "Go get gassed up."

I returned to my car and watched the monitor on the gas pump jump around from "Please swipe card" to "Please wait."

I waited. Then I tried to push the yellow pad in front of the nozzle to select the type of gas I wanted.


From out of nowhere, an intercom crackled loudly before a voice said, "Lift the cradle."

Lift the cradle? What the what?????

The voice laughed, "The cradle. The cradle," she laughed.

"Not that kind of cradle. You see a baby? They ain't no baby 'round here."

She laughed again. "Look at the pump." She waited as I obeyed. "See where the nozzle is? It's in the cradle. It's called a 'cradle', see? Pick up the nozzle and then lift the cradle."

Right. I followed her instructions and voila! Gas for my car.

I could still hear her laughing as the intercom crackled and then clicked off.

I finished my task and then returned to the store to find her still laughing. "Oh, this is such a great time of year. Y'all from Jersey are the BEST entertainment."

She then regaled me with stories of Jersey kids who attend Delaware State University, or are stationed the Air Base in Dover who come to the Ocean for the weekend. She figured they had never in their lives EVER pumped a drop of gas.

"Poor Babies," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. She said she sometimes had to actually leave her place behind the counter and go to the pump to teach them.

She was laughing so hard as she told the stories that she coughed and chortled and then said, "Oh Lawd, now I've got to go to the bathroom."

To my surprise, she actually left for a few minutes, leaving my credit card right there on the counter. When she returned, she looked at me and then at the card and said, "Yup, a Jersey Girl. Y'all can't pump your own gas, but you be honest. And, you got attitude. I like that in a white girl."

"You're not so bad yourself," I said.

"Yeah, well you are white, but you're not THAT white," she said, "You know what I'm sayin'?"

"Well, how do you mean?" I asked.

"Look," she said, "You came in here and didn't assume that just because you couldn't get the pump to work that I had messed it up. I think that pisses me off more than anything. Not only do they think that the pump doesn't work, but that I messed it up."

"Ya know what I'm talkin' about?" she asked. "They don't come right out and say it, but they say it with their eyes and by yellin' at me all up in my face. Damn! Some folk are always blamin' the blacks for everything that goes wrong. You see what I'm sayin'?

I nodded sadly. Micro-oppression strikes again.

We detoured into conversation about Obama and Dubya and the economy and what's up with all the buzz about Michele Obama's arms and laughed and laughed and talked a few more minutes about this and that and then I left.

I don't know what will happen when, one day, I eventually retire and move to this place permanently. I don't know, exactly, what it means to be a "Delaware Girl." I suppose, when the time comes, I'll figure it out.

If my friend at the convenience store gas pump is any indication, I've got some practicing to do, learning how to fill my own tank of gas.

Until then, I'll do the best I can.

Eh, whatchagonna do, ya know? It is what it is, right?

Fuggeddaboutit, okay? I'm just not going to get myself all 'exercized', ya know?

(Puts hands up in the air, shrugs shoulders, and leaves for another walk on the Boardwalk before heading back to Jersey.)

Ruth Kolpack's Theology and Michele Obama's Arms

This is an image I lifted from the latest report from NCR (National Catholic Reporter).

It's the story of Ruth M. Kolpack, the pastoral associate who was recently fired by Madison, Wis., Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino.

Why? What heinous thing did she do? Did she have sex with a choir girl or boy? Has she been having an illicit affair with a parishioner? Has she been engaging in slander, raising questions and "doubt" that "Father" might be doing bad things in the rectory with little boys?

No, none of these things. She was fired for writing these words in an academic paper six years ago:

"In the same way that God acted to save the Israelites from captivity, God is 'acting now to free women from their captivity' and to free 'God language from the captivity of patriarchy'.”

Yup. That is, 'yup' to your heads nodding 'no' in disbelief. And, 'yup' to her assessment of God's activity in our worshiping communities of faith.

You can read it all here.

NCR reports: "The document in question actually comprises three papers totaling 51 pages of text and footnotes that investigate a comprehensive examination topic under the heading, “Inclusive Language for Naming God: Challenge for the Church.”

The papers, dated January through March, deal with the subject, respectively, from the perspectives of scripture, systematic theology and moral theology. The papers were written to fulfill requirements for a master of divinity degree at St. Francis Seminary."

In a previous article, NCR also reports that Kolpack was fired after a 10 minute meeting with the not-so-good Bishop who asked her to "denounce the thesis, make a profession of faith, and take an oath of loyalty in order to remain as a pastoral associate at the parish.

She said she could profess her faith and take an oath, but could not refute the thesis in good conscience, that to do so would risk her reputation as a scholar."

And, for that, she was fired.

Oh, the Bishop admitted to "reading bits and pieces" of her paper. Why read the whole thing when you are secure in the knowledge that, in terms of God, you have "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

Normally, I would dismiss this whole thing with a deep sigh and a very sad shrug of my shoulders, placing articles like this and the recent reports of Pope Benny's pronouncements about condoms and AIDS in Cameroon into the "circular file" with a prayer of thanksgiving that I long ago left Rome for Canterbury, adding a wee prayer for all my RC friends who have chosen to stay and fight the good fight.

"Only in the church," I sigh.

Except, lately, I've been thinking about Michele Obama's arms.

Is it just me, or has the whole world gone 'gaga' over the upper extremities of our new First Lady?

Okay, they are toned. If I'm honest, I admit to being envious of them. More importantly, she inspires me to take my own physical fitness more seriously.

But, what is it about her arms that produce such mania in the media?

I want to suggest that this is a thinly-veiled but nonetheless obvious example of the co-mingling of racism and sexism.

It's more of the same, in darker shades, as it were, of what is happening to Ruth Kolpack.

It's nothing new. The media has always been atwitter with the fashion of women in power. Recently, fashionsita journalism is completely obsessed with Hillary Rodham Clinton's trench coat. I loved it when she turned the table on her critics with her reference to "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits".

Her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice, was not immune. When she wore high-heeled boots a few years ago, she was instantly and shamefully dubbed a "dominatrix".

When Madeline Albright wore broaches on her colorful business suits, it did not escape the view of the fashionistas at People Magazine who said, as I recall, that she brought "a new panache to power suits for women."

I know I'm not alone among my sisters of the cloth who have not escaped scrutiny about the way I dress, which has been called everything from "interesting" to "crunchy granola-earth-mother-social-worker".

Sorry. I love basic black as much as anybody in the Northeast Corridor, but I'm really not interested in emulating the 'black is the rejection of the world' deeply flawed theology which is behind many of my clerical sisters' and brothers' sense of fashion.

Mostly, on a good day, I just laugh. Other times, it makes my already hot Portuguese blood boil.

There's a new term for it, I'm told. Micro-oppression. It's sort of an oppressive-death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts.

They build up and build up and build up and end up in things like the firing of Ruth Kolpack.

The battle for equality is far from over, my sisters and brothers.

It may well be time to join our sisters and brothers in Wisconsin and take our protest to the streets.

Or, at least to join in solidarity with our sister, Ruth Kolpack, who wrote a letter to Morlino in which she wrote, “My ministry is my life's work,” concluding by asking him to reconsider her dismissal.

Perhaps we should, too. You can write him here:

Diocese of Madison
Catholic Pastoral Center
702 South High Point Road
P.O. Box 44983
Madison, Wisconsin 53719

I have. Please join me.