Come in! Come in!

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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Smooth Mountains

More years ago than I'd care to remember, I was a Vicar at The Episcopal Church of St. Barnabas in the inner city of Newark, NJ.

It was a small, struggling congregation. No money. Lots of problems with the building. High un/under employment rate. High immigrant population. Grinding poverty. Not a lot of resources.  In a neighborhood with a sky high rate of violent crimes and domestic abuse. 

Ah, but there was a Very Big Spirit in that Little Church.

One of the very big spirits in the congregation was Ms. Eula Jefferson, now numbered among the saints. Eula was a feisty African American woman who had lived in the neighborhood most of her life. She had been "a domestic" - cleaning the once lovely but now rundown old Victorian houses in the neighborhood which had been the exclusive address in the then affluent "Roseville" section of Newark.

Ms. Jefferson used to love to tell the story of how she used to pass by St. Barnabas whenever she was on her way to catch a bus into The City.  One day, at the the end of a long day, she found herself especially weary. "Past the bone and into the soul weary," she said. She thought she'd stop by for a little rest and some quiet time in prayer with Jesus. It was the early to mid 1960s.

As she walked into the church, she realized that some sort of service was going on. She was Baptist in those days, she said, and had no nevermind about joining the service. She just wanted a place to rest her weary bones for a few minutes before continuing her travels and say some things to Jesus that were on her heart.

You know how the rest of this story goes - or, at least, you can hazard a good guess.

She was, of course, stopped at the door by a member of the church - "a fellow who was a long drink of white milk" she said - and very politely told that the service was "for members only."

She said she smiled at the man, said she understood, and asked if she might just sit in the back pew for a bit, just to catch her breath and say a few prayers.

"This church," she was told, "is for members only."

Mind you, this was The Episcopal Church. In the early to mid 1960s.

"What did you do?" I asked, marveling at her calm, at least in the retelling of the story.

"Well," she said, "I just looked right past that man in front of me and looked at the man hanging from the cross that was over the altar."

"I said - right out loud - 'Mr. Jesus, sir, you'll excuse me if I can't visit with you here right now. This gentleman here says you'll only hear the prayers of people who are members of this church. Now, you and I know that ain't right, but I ain't gonna mess with him. You know where that will get me. So, we'll just have to wait until I get into The City and find a church where we can continue this conversation.'"

"'But, one day, Mr. Jesus, sir, I'll be talking to you from inside this church. You know that's right. I ain't never made a promise to you I knew I couldn't keep, and I ain't making one I can't keep now. And, I'm making it to you now, in front of this man who tells me I can't. Thank you.'"

And then, she said, she turned around and left "my head held high, on my own steam and with Jesus in my heart."

And that, she said, was both part of the cause of the 1967 Newark Riots - coming up right quick on the 42nd anniversary in about two weeks - and the reason she eventually became a member of St. Barnabas, Newark.

The priest at St. Barnabas at the time of The Riots opened the church doors as a 'sanctuary' (imagine that!) of safety against the dangers of walking the streets of that neighborhood. Provided them with food. A place to gather to organize the community. A place to rest from the weariness of the world. A place to have a few words with "Mr. Jesus."

I asked her how she managed against the adversity, the violence, the poverty.

She smiled and said something I'll never forget:

"Child, if the mountain was smooth, you couldn't climb it."

I've held onto that brilliant piece of philosophical wisdom and take it out from time to time to be inspired by it all over again.

The things that look like obstacles may actually be the very thing you need to put your foot or your hand on so you can lift yourself higher.

Sometimes, you have to look beyond what is standing in your way to see straight through to "Mr. Jesus" who will come into your heart, help you raise your head and move forward on your own steam.

I know. I get tired of climbing metaphorical mountains in my life, too.  Sometimes, I just wish Jesus would come so "every mountain would be made low, every valley lifted up, every crooked place made straight, every rough place made smooth." 

Then I begin to realize how quickly that would become boring.  And I'm grateful for the life I have.  And the rough mountains that sometimes appear in my path.

You'll excuse me now. I've got a few mountains to climb.

And, I don't make promises to Jesus I know I can't keep.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Service of Lessons and Hymns for Independence Day

I don't know about you, but celebrating national holidays in church really grates on my theo-political nerves.

Even on a good day, I have difficulty with flags in church - The Episcopal Flag, the Anglican Communion Flag and the United States Flag.

That probably speaks more to the power of symbolism than it does to anything in particular about any one of those flags.

Then again, given the mess in the World Wide Anglican Communion, especially with "Mitregate", I'm not too overly fond of having an Anglican flag in church.

I've never been comfortable with the American Flag in the sanctuary - separation of church and state and all that.

Given the messes in Afghanistan and Iran, it's especially uncomfortable to have "Old Glory" in the place where we're supposed to be about God's glory.

Then again, the men and women who are on the front lines need our support and prayer.

A few years ago, I put together this "Service of Lessons and Hymns for Independence Day" as a way to deal with my own discomfort about celebrating this national holiday in church.

I wanted something that would help us put the gift of our freedom into historical context while still providing the message that our country was founded on the principle of "liberty and justice for all" - not "some".

We have come a long way, but we still have a long, long way to go.

I also wanted to put some of the hymns in our Hymnal into context. I rather like the way "We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing" fits nicely after the reading of the Mayflower Compact.

All the prayers come directly from the Book of Common Prayer.

So, here it is, friends. Feel free to copy, adapt and use (with proper attribution, of course). Let me know what you think.


Organ Voluntary

Entrance Hymn: 718 "God of Our Fathers"

Blessed be God, who Creates, Redeems and Sanctifies.
And blessed be the Realm of God, now and forever.

BIDDING PRAYER: Hear the words of The Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As Christians who are Americans, we gather this day to thank God for the gifts of our freedom and liberty, to honor those whose vision, wisdom and sacrifice secured these ‘unalienable Rights’ for us and every generation, to confess that while we believe that all are created equal, we have not always allowed others to enjoy that freedom or those rights; we ask God’s forgiveness and call upon God’s unconditional love and boundless mercy to grant that we may be given the strength and courage to live more fully into our faith and beliefs. Let us pray:

O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.
Lord, keep this nation under your care.

To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.
For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Amen.

Hymn 720 (verse 1) "National Anthem"

Let us now remember our history, that our past may inform our future.


"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620."

Hymn 433 "We Gather Together to ask the Lord's blessing"


We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Hymn 720 "National Anthem" (verse 2)

MARCH 31, 1776

"I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation. That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up -- the harsh tide of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend. Why, then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity? Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the (servants) of your sex; regard us then as being placed by Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness."

Hymn 716 "God Bless or Native Land”


We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you know. But should we accept it, I here and now make this condition that we will not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children.

Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.

Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy hearted maidens, and even the little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits.

And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude.

At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone.

Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds.

Hymn 385 "Many great, O Lord, are thy works"

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. April 16, 1963

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained.

Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place.

The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history.

So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.

Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ."

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified.

We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

Hymn: "We Shall Overcome" (insert)


With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Hymn 597 "Oh Day of Peace that Dimly Shines" (vs. 1)

The Holy Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ, according to Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

"But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn. 'For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will."

"All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Hymn 597 “Oh Day of Peace that Dimly Shines” (vs. 2)

Let us pray: Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there maybe justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy laws, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of the People – Form III Book of Common Prayer, page 387

The Exchange of Peace

The Announcements

Offertory Anthem: "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (insert)

The Prayer of Great Thanksgiving Prayer C Book of Common Prayer, page 369

Sanctus: Holy, holy, holy Lord Hymnal, S-125

The Lord’s Prayer Book of Common Prayer, page 364

The Fraction and Invitation Book of Common Prayer, page 364

Post-communion Hymn 607 "O God of every nation" (kneeling as you are able)

Let us pray: O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred with infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Final Blessing

Closing Hymn: 719 "O Beautiful for Spacious Skies"


Organ Voluntary

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Princess Bride-To-Be

Well, it was a pretty amazing bridal shower.

The decorations on the theme of the movie "The Princess Bride" were absolutely spectacular. Her bridesmaids really outdid themselves.
We came in through the "Pit of Despair".

And there encountered . . . .
. . . . Rodents of Unusual Size.
Here is Princess Buttercup (aka "Mia") with "The Dread Pirate Roberts" (aka "Bob")

I learned at the festivities that their first date consisted of watching "The Princess Bride" together, where they discovered that they both knew the dialogue.
Aren't they just the most lovely couple you've seen in a long while?

I tell you, it's "True Blave".

Oh, but I didn't tell you about the "theme" lunch:

I mean, really!

Can you STAND it?
Before the opening of the Royal Gifts, we did play "Princess Bride Jeopardy".

We were split into three teams: Red, Blue and Green.

Ms. Conroy and I ended up on the Green team (I know, go figure), and, of course, we won. I don't think there's a line in the film I don't know.

It is not easy, however, to move quickly from a memorized line to presenting the information - in the form of a question, of course - while the Jeopardy theme is playing.

That was, of course, part of the fun.
Could there be a happier couple in all of Western Christendom?

I think not.

This is true love - you think this happens every day?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

True Blave!

Our youngest daughter is getting married in August.

This afternoon, her bridesmaids are giving her a Bridal Shower.

The theme is - you guessed it - "The Princess Bride."

It's our family's all-time favorite movie. We can recite long passages of dialogue from it. Our youngest, however, is the Queen of Dialogue.

Here are some favorites.  Enjoy while I get ready for the Grand Party.

Me? One of the Mothers of the Bride who is our youngest child?

Inconceivable! (And, thoroughly, absolutely delightful!)

Grandpa: She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time
The Grandson: What?
Grandpa: The eel doesn't get her. I'm explaining to you because you look nervous.
The Grandson: I wasn't nervous. Maybe I was a little bit "concerned" but that's not the same thing.

Inigo Montoya: Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
Count Rugen: Stop saying that!

Man in Black: [as he is unsuccessfully fighting Fezzik] Look, are you just fiddling around with me or what?
Fezzik: I just want you to feel you're doing well.

Vizzini: A word, my lady. We are but poor, lost circus performers. Is there a village nearby?
Buttercup: There is nothing nearby... Not for miles.
Vizzini: Then there will be no one to hear you scream.

Inigo Montoya: That Vizzini, he can *fuss*.
Fezzik: Fuss, fuss... I think he like to scream at *us*.
Inigo Montoya: Probably he means no *harm*.
Fezzik: He's really very short on *charm*.
Inigo Montoya: You have a great gift for rhyme.
Fezzik: Yes, yes, some of the time.
Vizzini: Enough of that.
Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?
Fezzik: If there are, we all be dead.
Vizzini: No more rhymes now, I mean it.
Fezzik: Anybody want a peanut?

[Vizzini has just cut the rope The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up]
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Vizzini: I can't compete with you physically, and you're no match for my brains.
Man in Black: You're that smart?
Vizzini: Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?
Man in Black: Yes.
Vizzini: Morons.

Inigo Montoya: I do not mean to pry, but you don't by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?
Man in Black: Do you always begin conversations this way?

Inigo Montoya: You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you.
Man in Black: You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

Fezzik: [to Inigo regarding the man in black] You be careful. People in masks cannot be trusted.

Inigo Montoya: I just work for Vizzini to pay the bills. There's not a lot of money in revenge.

Westley: You warthog-faced buffoon.

Inigo Montoya: You are wonderful.
Man in Black: Thank you; I've worked hard to become so.
Inigo Montoya: I admit it, you are better than I am.
Man in Black: Then why are you smiling?
Inigo Montoya: Because I know something you don't know.
Man in Black: And what is that?
Inigo Montoya: I... am not left-handed.
[Moves his sword to his right hand and gains an advantage]
Man in Black: You are amazing.
Inigo Montoya: I ought to be, after 20 years.
Man in Black: Oh, there's something I ought to tell you.
Inigo Montoya: Tell me.
Man in Black: I'm not left-handed either.
[Moves his sword to his right hand and regains his advantage]

Inigo Montoya: Who are you?
Man in Black: No one of consequence.
Inigo Montoya: I must know...
Man in Black: Get used to disappointment.
Inigo Montoya: 'kay.

[hearing the scream of Westley as he is being tortured]
Inigo Montoya: Do you hear that Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when the six-fingered man killed my father. The Man in Black makes it now.

Miracle Max: He probably owes you money huh? I'll ask him.
Inigo Montoya: He's dead. He can't talk.
Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do.
Inigo Montoya: What's that?
Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

Inigo Montoya: That's a miracle pill?
Valerie: The chocolate coating makes it go down easier. But you have to wait fifteen minutes for full potency. And you shouldn't go in swimming after, for at least, what? Fifteen minutes? An hour?

Westley: Give us the gate key.
Yellin: I have no gate key.
Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, tear his arms off.
Yellin: Oh, you mean *this* gate key.

The Ancient Booer: Boo. Boo. Boo.
Buttercup: Why do you do this?
The Ancient Booer: Because you had love in your hands, and you gave it up.
Buttercup: But they would have killed Westley if I hadn't done it.
The Ancient Booer: Your true love lives. And you marry another. True Love saved her in the Fire Swamp, and she treated it like garbage. And that's what she is, the Queen of Refuse. So bow down to her if you want, bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo. Boo. Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo. Boo. Boo.

Buttercup: You can't hurt me. Westley and I are joined by the bonds of love. And you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords.

Buttercup: You mock my pain.
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Buttercup: We'll never survive.
Westley: Nonsense. You're only saying that because no one ever has.

[as Buttercup prepares to commit suicide with a dagger]
Westley: There's a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours.

Westley: Hear this now: I will always come for you.
Buttercup: But how can you be sure?
Westley: This is true love - you think this happens every day?

Westley: I told you I would always come for you. Why didn't you wait for me?
Buttercup: Well... you were dead.
Westley: Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.
Buttercup: I will never doubt again.
Westley: There will never be a need.

Grandpa: Since the invention of the kiss there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind. The End.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Heavenly Hosts

In their spare time, when they are not engaged in "Mitregate" or otherwise making a mess of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are apparently watching reruns of The Vicar of Dibly.

Apparently, Dr. Rowan Williams and Dr. John Sentamu, have written new guidelines: "Seven Heavenly Ways to Welcome Wedding Guests," in which they direct clergy that they must "learn to smile" when they meet the happy couple.

Besides learning to smile, Vicars are being ordered to offer the bride and groom and members of their wedding parties ample opportunity to have a "paparazzi moment" with cameras flashing and videos rolling to their heart's content.

Clergy are apparently told to give guests guidance on how to behave in a “permissive” fashion. This could include saying: “Make sure you turn your mobile back on after the service.”

Worshippers, who might rarely, if ever, have been in a church before, must be encouraged to “make themselves at home," say the guidelines. “Let people know where they are free to move about, let children come forward or stand on a pew for a good view.”

"Their Ruthie" - that would be, of course, Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent for The (London) Times - reports that
"marriages in the Church of England have slumped from 110,000 in 1982 to 54,000 in 2006 — less than a quarter of all marriages. To encourage couples to return, the Church has taken a number of measures, including running stands at wedding shows, and promoting itself as a cost-effective but spiritual venue. It is too soon to judge if the moves are having any effect on church wedding statistics."
Oh, dear. Oh, my. Wherever to begin?

Alright then, straight away, allow me to say the first word that comes to my mind.


There, now that I have that out of my system, please do allow me to continue. You'll notice, please, that I am smiling. Yes, yes. My teeth are grit together, but it's a smile, see? Look, bishops. I'm smiling here. As ordered.


Where was I?

Oh, yes: Clergy as "heavenly hosts".

It seems to me (and, it could be - indeed, would no doubt be - asked by these two fine doctors of theology "What do you know?" I mean, being a mere woman and of a 'certain orientation', this is 'none of my business' as it were) that they have embarked on a course of treatment before making a thorough assessment and accurate diagnosis.

Then again, that's probably not fair, is it? I'm not sure about the Sentamu, but I know Williams has never been a parish priest or vicar.

So really, how would they know?

Besides, they are not Americans (poor lambs), so who could expect them to understand the principle of 'separation of church and state'?

Put the two together and what you have is the business of marriage. Not the spirituality of marriage. Not the sanctity of marriage. Not marriage as a sacred covenant between two people in the sight of God and blessed by the Body of Christ.

No. Rather, what we have here is a business.

It's not a "theology of marriage". Rather, it's a business plan for marriage.

"Consumer religion" at its best - or worst, depending on your point of view.

All form, no substance.

Mind you - it is "teh gays" who are a real and present danger to the institution of marriage, all that is sacred and holy about family life, and are, in fact, singularly responsible for the downfall of Western Civilization.

I mean, how cheeky of us to want a sacramental rite of the church when everyone knows that what every happy couple wants is for the Vicar to look a little less dour for the wedding pictures, allow little cousin Roddy to run wherever he wants to in the church, give the ladies an opportunity to continue the great British tradition of wearing their marvelous hats, and then never darken the door of the church ever again - after they write that generous check.

How very rude of us to remind the church that marriage should not be entered into "unadvisedly or lightly but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God."

No, no, no. Bad form. Bad homosexuals.

Everyone knows that you are promiscuous.  Never mind that we can say that because we deny you the civil right and sacramental rite of marriage.  The world is a complicated place.  Buck up, you beggars.  No whining. Stiff upper lip, and all that.

But we would be ever so pleased if you would smile while we oppress you.  There you are. Well done.

Perhaps someone should press upon these two fine Doctors of Theology that, rather than superficial guidelines for the ceremony of marriage, they need to write a definitive Anglican Theology of Marriage.

You know. A wee bookie that could be given to Vicars to teach prospective brides and grooms and handed to them as part of a "Pre-Cana" course of instruction.

It seems to me that if we helped people understand the Grace of God as we know it through the administration of the sacraments and sacramental rites of the church that no one would need to be ordered to smile. It would come quite naturally.

If we understood that Jesus is always a guest at every wedding, transforming the waters of baptism into the wine in the cup of salvation and feeding us from His very body, we'd want lots and lots of pictures to capture this miraculous moment.

If we understood the joy that being part of sacramental grace brings, everyone - not just little children - would want to stand up on their pews to see the newly married couple seal their vows with a holy kiss.

Instead, what we have here is the Body of Christ being sold, once again, for thirty pieces of silver.

This is another sad bit of evidence that the Anglican Communion is being led by incompetence, fueled by anxiety, and driven by ignorance dressed up as theology and 'catholic' spirituality.

Jonathan Hagger, a priest in the Church of England known as 'Mad Priest' on his blog, "Of Course, I Could Be Wrong" illustrates this quite well with his little spoof on the Archbishop of Canterbury.

We need to be certain to order one for the Archbishop of York as well.

Jonathan's spoof makes me giggle, but I think Jesus weeps.

The world is facing serious problems, none the least of which are environmental dangers due to global warming and human arrogance (see also: The Oil Disaster in the Gulf), economic crisis, Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the escalation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, human trafficking, AIDS and malaria, genocide, rape as a weapon of war, poverty, the oppression of and proposed death sentence for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, interreligious tensions and warfare - and all the Archbishops of Canterbury and York can concern themselves with is whether or not Vicars smile at weddings?

Begging your pardons, sirs. I don't mean to be rude, but I would like to suggest that this is why people are rejecting Christianity in general and the Anglican Church in particular.

It isn't because people are questioning both the authority of scripture and the authority of the church hierarchy; rather it is because the church is absolutely out of touch with the reality of the very people it has taken sacred vows to serve.

Let's worry about our own sacred vows taken at baptism and renewed at confirmation to engage in the mission of the church to "restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ."

Not adding more sheckles to the collection plate and a few more bums in the pews.

Even the Vicar of Dibly understood that.

And, you may have noticed, her smile is quite naturally lovely.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

FGM in the USA

I've tried not to write about this, but it just won't go away.

Warning: This will not be an easy read.

FGM is 'female genital mutilation'. It's also know as 'cutting' and 'female circumcision'.

The World Health Organization estimates that 100 to 140 million women world wide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.

If you've heard anything about FGM, you've probably associated it with Africa and parts of Asia.

In July, 2003 at its second summit, the African Union adopted the Maputo Protocol promoting women's rights including an end to female genital mutilation.

Having been ratified by fifteen members, it went into force in November, 2005. By December 2008, 25 member countries had ratified and deposited the Maputo Protocol.

And yet, the U.S. State Department estimates that the practice of FGM continues unabated. At the time of the ratification of the Maputo Protocol, a study revealed the prevalence in the following countries:
Egypt: 78 - 90% Type I, II and III

Ethiopia: 69.7%-94.5% Type I, II, III, and IV

Guinea: 98.6% Type I, II and III

Sudan: 91% Type I,II and III
There are more, but these countries are among the worst offenders.

A quick google check did not reveal a more recent study (although, I'm sure there are), but numerous recent articles and films on the subject which I found continue to claim that the laws have had little effect on curbing the incidence, claiming strong, ancient ties to cultural and religious tradition. 

I don't mean to shock you or disturb you - no, wait, I do want to disturb you - but just so we know what we're all talking about here, this is a graphic that shows the three different types of Female Genital Mutilation.

If you choose, you may click on the picture, to see the graphic in greater detail.

Type IV - as practiced in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa - consists of "other mutilation" such as pricking, piercing, incising, ripping, tearing, burning, scraping and cauterization. 

I don't know how anyone can look at this and 'soften' the term by calling it 'cutting'. And, let's not dignify it by calling it 'circumcision', please.

It's mutilation. Full stop.

In the United States, federal law prohibiting FGC was enacted in 1996. 17 states enacted similar laws between 1994 and 2006.

So, we can rest assured that no young girl or young woman is having her genitals mutilated in these United States, right?

Think again.

Just this past May, we came perilously close to allowing a form of FGM called "Nicking".
After suggesting that American doctors should be allowed to “nick” girls’ genitals if it would save them from being sent overseas to have a full female genital cutting procedure done, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has reversed its decision. Human rights group Equality Now decried the original announcement.
So, we can rest assured that no young girl or young woman is having her genitals mutilated in these United States, right?

Think again.

All we need do is look over to New York City - specifically, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Yes, in the heart of the city that is known as "The Capitol of the World," FGM is being conducted in the name of "research".

Can anyone say, "Tuskegee Syphilis Project"?

Alice Dreger and Ellen K. Feder recently (06/16/10) wrote an article in the online Bioethics Forum in which they compare the dehumanizing language of the Tuskegee Syphilis Project with the paper published in the 2007 Journal of Urology, “Nerve Sparing Ventral Clitoroplasty: Analysis of Clitoral Sensitivity and Viability” by Jennifer Yang, Diane Felsen, and Dix P. Poppas.
"Writing in the typically dry, quantifying language of modern medicine, the authors report why they believe Poppas, a pediatric urologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, has left a group of girls still able to have sexual sensation after he has removed parts of the girls’ clitorises. With parental consent, these girls’ clitorises have been cut down in size after the physician deemed these clitorises too big."
As I dug deeper into the story, it seemed that some of these . . . "procedures". . . were being performed on children classified as 'intersex': "a group of conditions where there is a discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals (the testes and ovaries). The older term for this condition is hermaphroditism."

However, the preponderance of evidence suggests that this surgical procedure is being done primarily on girls, some as young as three years old - with full approval of the parents - for "cosmetic" reasons, because of their concern that their clitorises were too large.

As shocking as this is, there is another, shocking post operative aspect to this horrible "medical procedure" - all in the name of "research".

Here's what Dreger and Feder report:
"At annual visits after the surgery, while a parent watches, Poppas touches the daughter’s surgically shortened clitoris with a cotton-tip applicator and/or with a “vibratory device,” and the girl is asked to report to Poppas how strongly she feels him touching her clitoris. Using the vibrator, he also touches her on her inner thigh, her labia minora, and the introitus of her vagina, asking her to report, on a scale of 0 (no sensation) to 5 (maximum), how strongly she feels the touch. Yang, Felsen, and Poppas also report a “capillary perfusion testing,” which means a physician or nurse pushes a finger nail on the girl’s clitoris to see if the blood goes away and comes back, a sign of healthy tissue. Poppas has indicated in this article and elsewhere that ideally he seeks to conduct annual exams with these girls. He intends to chart the development of their sexual sensation over time."
While there are obviously many, many problems with this, one of the Very Big problems has to do with institutional oversight in the form of an IRB or Institutional Review Board, which approves and monitors all research done at the facility.

Dreger and Feder reveal that:
"Yang, Felsen, and Poppas report IRB approval for retrospective chart review (Are you kidding me????), but apparently have no IRB approval for the post-op “sensory testing.”
I don't know about you, but this makes me sick to my stomach. It boggles my mind that, in the year of our Lord, 2010, well-educated men and women who have taken an oath to "do no harm" could entertain such an idea, much less look the other way while human rights violations are happening in the name of 'research'.

I am a fervent supporter of cultural diversity. I have learned so much from my sisters and brothers around the world which has opened my Western mind to different perspectives of the human enterprise. I am an avid supporter of many Eastern medicine practices and find many of the medicinal, herbal practices in the Global South to be nothing short of genius. I continue to be in awe of the resilience of the human body.

I am, however, sick unto death of the accommodation of cultural and religious differences which violate the rights of women and children.

Polygamy in the Global South, sadly understood and tolerated as a way to counter the effects of poverty on women.

Foot binding in China as an "intensely erotic" experience for men.

Breast Ironing in Cameroon as a way for mothers to protect their pre-pubescent daughters from rape.

My worst fear is that these "good doctors" are operating out of an ethic of doing "less harm" to these girls who, I suspect, are the children of parents from countries where FGM is widely practiced.

Like "nicking", I suspect these "good doctors" believe that they are sparing these young children from a return to their home countries to be mutilated in a village hut by women for whom this is their only source of income.

Or, perhaps it is all a part of our insane obsession with plastic surgery to 'perfect' what God has created.

Someone is saying, "Hang on! We circumcise infant boys all the time in the name of cultural and religious diversity. Isn't that wrong, as well?"

You will get absolutely no argument from me on that issue.

A quick check into google reveals that "The American Medical Association report of 1999, which was "…confined to circumcisions that are not performed for ritualistic or religious purposes," states that
"Virtually all current policy statements from specialty societies and medical organizations do not recommend routine neonatal circumcision, and support the provision of accurate and unbiased information to parents to inform their choice."

And yet, the World Health Organization estimates the prevalence of male circumcision in the United States and Canada at 75% and 30%, respectively. Prevalence in Africa varies from less than 20% in some southern African countries to near universal in North and West Africa.

Clearly, there is much work to be done - in this country and around the world.

As for me, I'm starting across the Hudson.

I have written a letter to New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Medical College of Cornell University at 525 East 68th Street New York, NY 10065 (their telephone number is (212) 746-5454), expressing my outrage at these blatant violations of human rights..

I encourage you to do the same thing.

The best way to fight poverty, prejudice, bigotry, oppression, cruel abuse and extremism is to educate and empower girls and women, who will teach and equip the next generations of women and men to live fully into the enterprise of being full, whole, complete human beings.

The horrors of FGM and other human rights abuses to women will not go away just because we don't want - or refuse - to think about them.

"Women," the old Chinese saying goes, "hold up half the sky."

May that become our passionate and persuasive cry to end the sexism and misogyny which results in the mutilation and oppression of some of God's most beautiful creatures.

Lest half the sky fall.

UPDATE:  Sign the petition to stop FGM at Cornell.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Something About Sally

I rarely watch commercial television.

Every now and again, I tune in to watch "America's Got Talent". I find it endlessly fascinating what some people can do and what some people consider "talent." Some contestants look like they should be on "The Biggest Loser" - and not for their weight loss.

Besides, some of my favorite memories from childhood are the talent shoes we put on as kids. We'd hold neighborhood Talent Shows in the backyard, under my grandfather's Grape Arbor. Our church had an Annual Talent Show in the Parish Hall. Even our High School had them once a year.

Our Talent Shows looked very much like the ones on television. Dog tricks. Jugglers. Accordion players. Washboard, pot and bottle bands.

It was GREAT fun! I loved them.

I was sort of mindlessly watching the television last night as I was ironing some clothes. I had it on mostly for the noise. I was really paying more attention to ironing creases in my shorts and pants than what was on "America's Got Talent."

And then came Sally.

Sally Cohn, the Hand Whistler.

There was something about Sally I just couldn't put my finger on.

She said she was 75 years old and a retired school teacher from Portland Oregon.

She was a bit quirky - coming out with her walker and taking time to put her foot on a piece of wood. And then she licked her hands before she started to play, which completely flipped out the judges - especially "germaphobic" Howie Mandel.

I suppose that should have been a clue.

Sally played "America the Beautiful". On her hands. She was surprisingly good.

She had more surprises.

She's written a book on hand whistling. She had a few copies with her - tucked into the back of her walker.

Howie purchased a copy. Payed $20 when the price was only, as Sally said, "twelve bucks." When he wanted to read a portion of it, she cautioned him to be careful which passage he was going to read.

"It isn't entirely about hand whistling," she said.

And the crowd went wild. I suppose they thought it had something to do with hand licking. Little did they know.

Then came the Really Big surprise. As the crowd settled down, she said - in her best schoolmarm voice: "Among other things, this is a coming out story."

And, she got a standing ovation.


It was a GREAT moment.

You know what? It's really true: We ARE everywhere. In schools and shops. In the trenches in the Armed Forces and behind the register at the supermarkets. In hospitals and nursing homes.

And, we got talent.

You can catch Sally's performance in the video below. She "comes out" about 4 minutes and 45 seconds into this seven minute clip.

Oh, Sally is going to Las Vegas. Sharon was first on her feet to applaud her coming out but said she had to say 'no'. However, both Howie and Piers voted for her, so off she goes, then.

I can hardly wait to see what she does for her next act!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Go and see!"

The "lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer" are here. Full force.

I think something about that causes something in our brains to switch to 'off' position.

Which is not a bad thing, really.

Personally, I'm on information overload. The ongoing tragedy of the Oil Spill in the Gulf. The war continues in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mitregate as the run up to meetings in UK about the "appointment" and consecration of women to the episcopacy.

The shocking, controversial revelation of female genital mutilation at Cornell (yes, here in the USA).

My own personal stuff.

In the midst of all of this, the 'business' of the church goes on. Food supplies at the food pantry are low. People having accidents and in hospital. Visiting the sick and fragile, homebound elderly. Kids graduating from high school. End of the year appreciation for those who minister in the church. Trying to get a quorum for Vestry.

I'm having a hard time keeping everything 'straight', as it were, in my head.

No wonder I'm suffering, a bit, from 'writer's block'.

I just came back from a long walk, just to clear my head.

As I walked, I found myself meditating on the story of the feeding of the five thousand - or four thousand, depending on whether or not you read the different versions in Matthew (15:32-39) or Mark (8:1-9)or the stories in Luke or John.

The versions in Luke (9:10-17) and Matthew (14:13-21) relate that the disciples reported to Jesus after they had apparently taken an inventory.
"When it was almost evening, the disciples came to him. "There is nothing here," they said. "It's already getting late. Send the crowds away. They can go and buy some food in the villages."

Jesus replied, "They don't need to go away. You give them something to eat."

"We have only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered. (Mt. vs. 15-16)
John (6:5-15) notes the source of the bounty:
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" (vs.8-9)
Only Mark (6:31-44) reports:
"And He said to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see!" And when they found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." (vs. 38)
I love that Jesus never said, "Hang on! I did a miracle at Cana, I can do one here. Let me wave my hands and - "Poof!" - enough food will appear for everyone!"

Neither did he say, "Wait a minute! I've got an idea! I'll write a grant, we'll start a CDC (Community Development Corporation), which will give us government money to buy food at low cost for us to distribute to everyone."

And, and, and . . . we should also be able to get some government money to expand our kitchen and put in an elevator and renovate our bathrooms so the Temple conforms with government regulations for accessibility for the disabled."

"It will be an independent 501C3, so we can hire a staff and get all this work done and no one from the Temple will have to lift a finger unless they really want to."

No, he said, "Go and see!" 

Okay, okay. I'll turn down the volume on my 'snark meter'.

But, you catch my drift, right?

I don't know whether or not I am - we are - dealing the slowness of summer, or apathy or information overload or burnout or, perhaps, "compassion fatigue" of which my 'writer's block' is just one manifestation.

Or, perhaps it is the arrogance of self-reliance, which is the Great American Illusion. (Although, arrogance seems to have infected some parts of the Church of England, of late. And British Petroleum. And, apparently, Cornell.).

I only know that I hope to use some of these days to take some inventory on what I have and what I can use.

I guess I'm learning this from spending some wonderful (albeit occasionally difficult) time with my kid brother who was diagnosed last year - at the age of 56 - with Alzheimer's Disease.

We went to the Mall the other day. I was in desperate need of a mani/pedi (hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do). We agreed to separate - he to go off to the record store (now, that dates us, eh?) while I went to the Salon. We would meet in 45 minutes at the clock near the center of the Mall.

I was there at the agreed upon time. Fifteen minutes went by. No brother. I called him on his cell. No answer.

Fighting a strong, rising wave of panic, I called his wife on her cell phone. She had warned me that sometimes, he "wanders".

"You've got to call him a few times," she said. She reminded me that, in addition to having lost half his eye sight in both eyes (due to the "plaque" from the Alzheimer's occluding the optic nerve), he's also lost some of his hearing, so he can't always hear his phone ringing.

So, I called him. Again. And, again. And, yet again. Another 15 minutes went by before he finally answered.

"Hello?" I said, trying to sound calm.

"Hey," he said, adding slyly, "Did you forget me?" And then, he giggled at his own little joke.

I am awed by his ability to keep his sense of humor. And, his humility.

I asked him, later, over lunch, how he copes. I mean, this is a man who always worked a gazillion hours of overtime and then came home and did "projects" around the house.

"Well, look," he said, "I got out a year ago. They shut down the plant where I worked a few months ago. All those guys have nothing but unemployment. I got full disability and I can access my pension in a few years. And, I got the best medical coverage in the world. In a way, you know, I'm really lucky."

My brother has always been the pragmatist. I have always been the dreamer.

He spends most of his days walking. He walks miles and miles and MILES. Seriously. He does it for the exercise and to keep himself busy, but he also does it to keep his mind active and alert. Much to my relief, my sister-in-law tells me that the town police and neighbors keep an eye on him.

It's what he can do. He can't read. He can't drive. He finds watching hours of daytime television boring. He does play some games with his almost four year old grand daughter which he sometimes finds challenging.

He and his wife did buy a used swing set for her, which he and his sons set up in the back yard. He spent hours painting it, which brings him great satisfaction, every time he sees it when looks out the kitchen window.

He does what he can with what he has. And, he is an inspiration.

For me, he's that little boy in John's version of this gospel story. The one with the five (or seven) loaves and two (or some number of) fishes that fed everyone.

I asked him, once, what the most important thing he's learned since he was diagnosed. "Ask for help when you need it. Take it graciously when it comes. Try not to be disappointed when it doesn't. Be thankful for something every day. Do something for someone else as a way of saying thank you for your life."

I made an excuse to get up and get us something to drink so he wouldn't see me cry.

My brother will never do anything great like feeding 5,000 people. Or, even 4,000. He won't start a CDC to get that done.

He won't perform any miracles, even though his life could use one right now. Instead, he'll just live the miracle that is his life.

Miraculously, miracles will happen around him.

Like, a big sister rediscovering the power of laughter and the inspiration of humility.

I can't think of two more powerful forces to deal with the evil of apathy - or the reality of overload, burnout or compassion fatigue. Or, the arrogance of self-importance.

I'm thinking that the church - especially the Anglican Church, or British Petroleum, or Cornell - would do well to learn a few things from my brother.

Never mind. Right now, I'm just trying to "go and see" for myself.

And then, expect a miracle.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sailing in Camelot

As part of the "perk" of presiding at the wedding of some parishioners who chose to be married near their summer home on Cape Cod, I got to go sailing yesterday with Ted Kennedy, Jr., and his sixteen year old daughter, Kylie.

No, really.  I did.  Hand to Jesus. 

It's not what you know, it's who you know.

Kennedy and the prospective bride had been classmates since grade school and have remained friends over the years. Ted graciously offered to take some of the wedding guests out for a sail on his boat, the Mya.

Well, it's his boat now - a 50 ft., three sail Concordia Schooner - but it once belonged to his father, Ted Kennedy, Sr..

Before that, it belonged to his Grandfather, Joe Kennedy.

I must say that the boat is every bit as gracious as its captain.

Ted  took us first through some backyards as a short cut to a private beach so he could give us the 'lay of the ocean' as it were, that we'd be traveling.

"Some" backyards, indeed.  I hadn't realized that we were in the midst of what is euphemistically called "The Kennedy Compound".

On our way back from the beach, we came upon "Aunt Ethel" who was just leaving in her convertible - with the top down - and looking fabulous at 83.   She graciously invited us into her home "to have a look around."

We soon found ourselves standing in this room as seen here in this famous photo of the Kennedy Clan gathered around the television set, watching the returns of the Presidential race.

That's Jack, of course, seated in the chair, with Ethel and Bobby standing behind him.

The picture is hung on the wall under the stairs.

This room flows into the living room.  I was immediately struck by the two pictures on the end tables on either side of the couch:  One framed pencil drawing of Bobby.  The other, a framed pencil drawing of Jack.

I wondered how "Aunt Ethel" lives with those sad memories and tragic losses, but the answer came soon enough in the form of two very friendly, energetic golden retrievers who bounded up to greet us.  'Trievers are pure, unadulterated joy and even though these two were no longer pups, you couldn't be around them for too long without breaking into a great smile. 

When we returned to Teddy's house, we learned that it had originally belonged to Jack and Jackie.  I was just blown away when I heard that.

I grew up in Massachusetts and spent a great deal of time on the Cape as a kid, working summers as a waitress in restaurants in Falmouth, Hyannisport, and Osterville.

To stand in those homes, however, caused me to be overcome by the knowledge that I was standing in a piece of what was known as 'Camelot'.

For whatever you may think of the Kennedy's - and, they are certainly no strangers to controversy and scandal - I have to tell you that I can't even begin to describe the feeling of being there.

Soon enough, our party of about 10 walked to the dock where we were taken by boat out to The Mya.  We were greeted by "Brad," a summer intern from the Maritime Academy, who serves as part of Kennedy's crew.

There were about half dozen seasoned sailors among us, which was a good thing.  It took about four people to hoist the sails, do whatever one does to the 'boom', and get us out to sea.

When we were out to sea, Ted graciously invited two of our younger mates to have a turn at the wheel.

He gave them minimal instructions and then nodded to one of the more experienced men among us to sit by them as he went to the bow of the schooner to visit with some of the other guests.

He also instructed Brad to bring out lunch - sandwiches and soft drinks, all nicely boxed - for us to eat.

It was a perfectly beautiful day.  Temperatures in the high 80's.  Not a cloud in the sky.  The term "smooth sailing" was certainly created for this trip.

This is eight year old William who was thrilled beyond the telling to have a chance to captain the schooner.

He kept his eye on the compass (well, that's probably not the appropriate nautical term, but that's as good as you're gonna get from this landlubber) the whole time.

He was sooOOOooo excited, and who could blame him?

There were also moments that made this mother's heart skip a few beats.

Here, Kylie Kennedy is joined by a friend who perched themselves on the boom as we sailed along the ocean.

Everyone else seemed quite relaxed about this.  I, on the other hand, tried not to look and, instead, engaged others on the boat in conversation.  It seemed the only sensible thing to do, as carrying on like a panicy mother of children who were not my own was clearly not 'meet and proper' behavior for an Episcopalian.

We returned to land in plenty of time for me to wash the sea salt out of my hair and get ready to preside at the wedding, which took place out on the lawn in front of the ocean.

It was simply lovely.  Part traditional for the groom, part contemporary for the bride.  The assembled guests seemed to be enchanted by the setting and inspired by the service.

Ted came back for the wedding, complimenting me with "you did good up there."

He is a gracious, very down-to earth man with a generous heart and a wonderful, charming smile.  He has known more tragedy and loss in his young life than most - including the loss of his leg as a young child to bone cancer.

I must say, however, that he moves along that boat as easily as he does on land.  If he hadn't had shorts on, one would never know he had an artificial limb.

Ted Kennedy, Jr. is also the part of the legacy of Camelot - the dream that shaped and formed so much of my life and, in fact, my world view.

I am a hopeless dreamer and forever will be a grateful debtor for the gift of that dream of creating a place "where once it never rained till after sundown, by eight a.m. the morning fog had flown". . .. . for everyone who lived in Camelot.

It was wonderful to be so close to it again.
Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
As Camelot.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Doin' the Lambeth Rag

Cartoon by Texas Bishop

I've been a bit out of the loop of "All Anglican Drama All The Time", but not enough not to be alternately amused and annoyed by "Mitregate" - including the recent visit of Canon Kenneth Kearon with the members of the Executive Council which recently met in Baltimore.

In case you didn't know, the ABC asked the Presiding Bishop of TEC not to wear her mitre when she was a recent guest preacher at Southwark Cathedral in UK.

The kerfuffle has led to assurances by Lambeth Palace that this is standard operational procedure. Except, of course, there's this.

And, this.

Inspired by ++Katharine Jefferts Schori, who called the whole thing off by calling it "beyond bizarre," I've been inspired to make a little journey of my own into the Theater of the Absurd.

I learned a long time ago that laughter, in the face of evil, is proof positive of your belief in God.

I mean, if you didn't believe that there is a God, where would you get the courage to laugh at Evil?

'Mitregate' is nothing less than a manifestation of the Evil of misogyny. Laughing at it won't make it go away. But it sure does make the burden of oppression seem just a wee bit lighter.

So, without further ado, here's the Vatican Rag. For those of you unfamiliar with my parody, I've included a clip of the original below.

Enjoy. And, do pray for +++Rowan. Poor man. He can't help it. He's just a tad insecure. You see, his mitre is smaller than ++Katharine's mitre.

It's just "mitre envy".
The Lambeth Rag
(with apologies to Tom Lehrer)

First you get down on your knees
Fiddle with your rosaries
Bow your head with great respect and
Obfuscate, obfuscate, obfuscate.

Wear a miter if you can
If it’s cool with Rowan, The Man.
‘Primus inter pares’
Means I’m in charge. (Sorry.)
Doin’ the Lambeth Rag.

Women need to know their place
Lesbians and gays – hide your face
We don’t like to cause a stir
So we’ll make the gospel blur
We will know that we are blessed
When you learn that Father knows best
Two, four, six, eight
Diversity just ain’t that great.

So get down upon your knees
Fiddle with your rosaries
Bow your head with great respect and
Obfuscate, obfuscate, obfuscate.

Make a cross on your abdomen
When with +++Rowan, do like a Roman
Ave Maria, gee it’s good to see ya
Diversity’s a problem an’
Authority’s in crisis an’
Doin' the Lambeth Rag!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Clam Boil!

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't know anywhere else on God's green earth (or deep blue ocean) where you can get a Clam Boil except Southeastern New England.

A "proper" Clam Boil (which hardly falls into the class of 'proper') consists of clams, potatoes, onions, hot dogs, a few sausages (in South Eastern Massachusetts, a large hunk of cherico, a spicy Portuguese sausage, is included), all steamed together and served with a cup of clam broth and a cup of drawn butter.

Oh. My. God.

I haven't had one of these in YEARS. Decades, maybe.
So, my brother and sister in law took me here last night for supper.

It's a bar, really, with some really, really good food.

The booths were obviously made by someone who had a couple of high school shop classes and knew his way around a can of stain and could swing a mean brush heavy with varnish.

I LOVE that it's the "liberal' club.  No, I have no idea of the origin of the name.  But, I'll ask.  You can bet I'll ask.  And, I'm thinking it doesn't have much to do with politics.

Nothing fancy here - including the clientele - but OMG, the food is amazing!

I loved it that our waitress, a very attractive young woman named Lisa, asked, "Okay, let me see, how many 'boils' here? I lost track."

You know, there are only so many places in the world where a waitress would actually have need to ask that question - and, no one got repulsed because everyone knew exactly what she was asking.
We picked up my 82 year old aunt (my mother's sister) who lives right around the corner.

We laughed and talked and laughed and talked and then, we laughed and talked some more.

It's important to do that when you are eating food with your fingers.

Just real people. Real food. Real conversation.

Life is good.

It may get hard from time to time but mostly, life is good.

It's especially good in moments like these,  in the midst of those times when life is very hard.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My little town

Small towns are peculiar in that their uniformity often belies their uniqueness.

Main Street USA is so iconic that even Disney has made it the centerpiece of their Theme Park.

Yesterday, I posted a piece on the shocking appearance of hate in our community in the form of anti-Semitic "litter" that appeared on our streets.

It is shocking precisely because it is so out of context with the rest of the town. I mean, look at that picture above. It's the view of Main Street from the intersection of Center Ave. The second door down is 'Angie's' - my favorite place where you can eat breakfast while you get the latest on the 'buzz' in the town.

Sweet, right?

Perhaps that's what makes places like Chatham the preferred target of bigots and other hostile, anxious, angry people.

Didn't Jesus tell us something about the Light and how Darkness tries to destroy it? The metaphor has its power in the truth.

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had this article, however, which speaks volumes about the goodness that is here.

Some of you may remember the story about "Fr. Ed" - my Roman Catholic colleague who was murdered, allegedly by the sexton, "Mr. Jose" - while he was in the rectory.

Mr. Jose's children continue to attend the church's elementary and middle schools. His eldest daughter just graduated from the eighth grade.

The WSJ post is a reflection from the father of one of her classmates about the tragedy and the community which is trying to live out the Gospel.

Here's a bit of it:
And so the people of St. Pat's rallied. There were the staff and teachers who worked hard to keep things normal and see Mr. Jose's daughter graduate. The school parents who opened their homes. The basketball coaches who looked out for her, without ever making it obvious. The local police who made quiet drive-bys, to ensure no kook showed up to disturb the peace.

Even so, of course, awkward moments were inevitable. So early on, at a meeting of parents, the principal was asked what we should tell our kids lest they inadvertently say something hurtful. This good woman replied, "Tell them, 'when you speak, let Christ fill your hearts.'"

The principal's trust was well founded. In the days following the killing I mentioned to my daughter that her classmate might not return, with her mom maybe fearing someone might say something unkind. "They'd better not," responded my eldest. Thus would she and her fellow eighth-graders wrap their classmate in their love.
This is the real stuff and the real people behind the perfect facade of Main Street USA.

Yes, there will always be an "undercurrent of hostility" in small towns that is often unseen to the untrained eye.

Some people do live 'lives of quiet desperation'. Suburbia is filled with them. Sometimes, the desperation of those lives erupts in sudden, shocking ways. To try to ignore or deny it is only to fuel the desperation.

And yes, the "Main Street USA" in all small towns will continue to be the target of the angry hostility and violence of bigots.

Meanwhile, good people, decent, regular people, like those at St. Pat's, are living lives of quiet faith that speak to the hearts that long for a world where love and peace may grow and flourish.

Yes, this is an article about the community of St. Pat's, but there are people like this in churches and synagogues in this town and in this area.

As the author says, let us be grateful when any child anywhere can "come of age in a place where the commandment to love was deemed most precious when it was most difficult."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Hate Hate

I don't understand hate.

Oh, not the kind of hate that makes your stomach lurch when you look at a plate of lima beans and you hate your mother for making you eat them (With apologies for those of you who actually like lima beans. Please don't hate me.).

Or, the kind of hate you feel in your heart when you really, really need some sleep and your neighbors are having a party in their back yard and it's 2 AM and you actually contemplate committing an act of violence.

I'm talking about the kind of hate that makes people hate other people so much that they want to kill them. Or worse, eliminate a whole class or group of people from the face of the earth.

I have read and studied the psychology of hate and I "know" that a piece of it can come from a primal fear - a Xenophobia - of others who are "different" and therefore perceived as a threat.

Indeed, I've been the object of such hate myself.

I still don't understand it.

So, yesterday, this article appeared in the local newspaper.
CHATHAM - Police are looking for the people responsible for scattering pieces of paper with the words "kill Jews'' scrawled on them in the area of Main Street and Tallmadge Avenue last Wednesday, police said.

At about 8:20 a.m., police walked the street from 1 Main St. to Passaic Avenue and collected a total of 35 pieces of paper with the same writing, scribbled in black marker.

Police were unable to locate any suspects and it is unknown how long the pieces of paper were on the sidewalk.

The following day, more pieces of paper were found on Fairmount Avenue with the same writing on them.

The Morris County Prosecutor's Office was notified and is assisting in this investigation.

Summit and Millburn police departments have reported similar incidents in the past.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Chatham Borough Police Department.
This is Chatham, NJ. Affluent, suburban Chatham. A community of about 8,500 people, 96.7% of whom are Caucasian. The average home costs around $600,000. More than half the town self-identifies as being Republican and "religious" with 38% claiming to be Roman Catholic, 8% Protestant and 7% Jewish.

Summit and Millburn are nearby affluent suburban communities in the "serious suburbs" of Northern New Jersey.

These are, for the most part, sleepy little "bedroom communities" filled with highly educated people who insist on excellent education for their children. And, for the most part, they get it.

Summit and Millburn have way more diversity than does Chatham, but with the NFL Training Camp located in the next town, we are getting more and more people of color living in town - mostly because of the school system.

We're also seeing more women in full length dresses and head scarfs around town whose husbands work at the nearby Pharmaceutical Companies. We do have some apartment complexes that rent at standard market rate that are conveniently located near the train station. And then, there is the school system.

Who could have done this? Theories abound:

Restless adolescents at the end of the school year on a hot summer night (an easy place to start)?

"Visiting" Tea Baggers? (I have no doubt there are some "Tea Party" members in Republicanville but I would be shocked to find actual "Tea Baggers" living in our midst).

The recent Gaza Flotilla Crisis ?

The state of the economy, the rise of anxiety and the need to "shame and blame" someone?

I have a very clear memory from my childhood. It was a beautiful summer day and I was skipping rope on the sidewalk in front of our tenement house with some of my friends. A group of adolescent boys from another neighborhood came by and started taunting us for being "dirty Greenhorns".

The taunts soon escalated to the boys taking our jump rope. Just as my anxiety began to rise, my grandmother appeared from the front of the house. She had a garden hose in her hand and turned it on full blast, taking direct aim at the boys.

They whooped and hollered and yelled at her, "You crazy old woman!" But, they soon walked away - soaking wet.

My grandmother looked at us and said, "That's the way you handle mad dogs."

They don't make them like my grandmother anymore. Perhaps they should. Perhaps what we really need is someone like my beloved VaVoa to come and lower the temperature of hate with a cold splash of reality.

There is, of course, no excuse for the behavior of hate fueled by prejudice. No matter the age of the person or persons who littered the town with the hateful message to 'kill Jews', it's still stupid, adolescent behavior.

And, it's behavior that is filled with hate - and rage.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Prejudice kills brain cells.

Which is why the work of justice requires persistence and vigilance.

It's easy to 'tsk tsk' this away as an aberration. An unseemly and impolite public 'burp' in an upscale, polite town.

Parents have been trying to do that with the increase in teen drinking, drunk driving and under-age 'house parties' that have also been in the news. Thankfully, we have other parents in town who have been putting up signs all over their lawns that warn about the consequences for lack of parental supervision: "Under age drinking? Parents lose the most."

It's meant to be a sobering message. A cold slap of reality like my grandmother's water hose.

I think members of religious communities have a special responsibility to speak out against hate and the fear that fuels it.

Perhaps we need another "lawn sign" campaign to get out the message that "hate is not a family value". Not in this town. Not if you live here. Not if you are 'just visiting'. Not no-how. Not nowhere.

We've apparently got some work to do in Chatham this summer.

It's just a long shot, but I have a sense that you do, in your town, too.

What did you do on your 'summer vacation'?

I worked for zero-tolerance of hate!

Sounds like a great essay for the Fall.

Or, for that matter, any time. Any where.

But, especially right now. Right here.

Because, if it can happen in Chatham, it can happen anywhere.