Come in! Come in!

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

Friday, September 16, 2016

In Memory of Her

I'm remembering and giving thanks that forty years ago today, on September 16, 1976, The Episcopal Church voted to change the canons to allow for the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopacy, effective January 1, 1977.

Many events led up to the making of this history.

I'm remembering and giving thanks for the eleven women who were ordained in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974 and the four women who were ordained in Washington, DC on September 7, 1975, as well as their courageous ordaining bishops and congregations that supported the ordinations.

I'm remembering and giving thanks for Charles Willie, who resigned as PHOD in protest of the Aug 15, 1974 decision of the HoB to decry the four ordaining bishops' "violation of collegiality," refuse to talk with women, and assert the ordinations were not valid.

I'm remembering and giving thanks for the Rev Peter Beebe who was charged with violating the canons for allowing two of the Philadelphia 11 (Cheek and Heyward) to preside at Eucharist and the Rev William Wendt who was charged, tried and disciplined for violating the canons when he invited Alison Cheek to preside at St. Stephen and the Incarnation in DC. (1974)

I'm remembering and giving thanks for all those men and women who declared that the theological sky was falling and that the world as we knew it would come to an end; who flew the Episcopal flag in front of their churches at half mast (signalling death) or upside down (signalling distress). They, too, made a public witness of their faith.

They, too, are part of our history and played their part faithfully, moving the ambivalent or undecided to take an uncomfortable stand for what they believed about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

I'm remembering and giving thanks for all the women and men around the Anglican Communion whose faith and witness preceded and laid the foundation for this historic event in the life of our church; especially Florence Li Tim-Oi, ordained in Hong Kong in 1944, Deaconess Phyllis Edwards recognized as deacon in 1965, for the Anglican Provinces of Hong Kong, Kenya, Korea and Canada which begin ordaining women to diaconate in 1968, for the Anglican Church of Canada which changed their canons in 1975 and began ordaining women on November 30, 1976.

I'm giving thanks and praise for all the untold and unnamed numbers of saints whose witness and sacrifice allowed this historical change which we remember today. Without them, so many of us who are women and ordained in The Episcopal Church as deacons and priests and bishops would not have been able to be faithful to our vocational call.

Is it a coincidence that, in less than a decade the Union of Black Clergy and Laity (UBCL, now, UBE - Union of Black Episcopalians) was founded in 1968, the Episcopal Women's Caucus was founded in 1971 and Integrity was founded in 1975?

No, I don't think so.

Institutional change does not come without cost. It is always preceded by transformational change at the personal level. Please read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the history of this historical event.

And, when you do, do it in memory of her.

Click here for a full timeline of the ordination of women in the Anglican Communion. 

Many thanks to Mary Frances Schjonberg  for this interactive timeline

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Fit to print?

Dear American Journalists,

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you have all, individually and collectively, 
Lost. Your. Minds.

I'd like to be able to blame "social media" as the source and circulation of conspiracy theories. but, baby, it's you. 


It's the once noble, admired and respected "Fourth Estate". 

You've all become 4th graders on a playground of information. "Mine, mine, mine!" You practically squeal. "I got the information first." "This is my news scoop. My take. My smart response. My snark. My snappy comeback. My QOTD. My wit. My personality."

It's suddenly not about the news.  It's the various news reporters and "TV personalities" who have become the news. It's a weird kind of narcissism, this writing about and reporting on yourselves and what you think about "the news" - which you have made "the news". Because you are, apparently, a "personality" and are allowed to do that. 

"The news" for days after The Commander In Chief Forum was less about what either of the candidates said, even though one may have overstated her case and made a promise she couldn't keep and the other did what that other candidate always does: lies. Bold face. Tight screen. 

No, the news story was all about how the moderator, the venerable daily television host, the mild and gentile Matt Lauer, totally blew it. That was the story. Not the forum. The story about the forum was the story about the journalist who was suppose to moderate the story of the forum. but, instead, had an epic fail - blatant, ugly sexism being only one of his many flaws.

Andrea Mitchell - Andrea Mitchell, for God's sake! - was actually reduced to playing five (5!!!) Very Long seconds of Hillary coughing on her MSNBC show yesterday. 

Coughing! Which was to prove... what? That Hillary has a cough??? That Hillary has not been - gasp! - "transparent"? About a cough???? 


I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your standards have slipped. And they are showing. 
You now practice a kind of "tabloid journalism" which isn't concerned about facts and information, much less uncovering the truth. It's all about chasing whispers and rumor. 

You don't report facts, you repeat innuendo and conjecture. 

You practically salivate over it. 

And, you don't hold your colleagues accountable when they are blatantly prejudiced in their reporting (but, don't get me started on the whole Rachel Maddow, Matt Lauer thing). 

Here's a news flash: There's nothing in Hillary's damn emails. There's no "there" there. Stop talking like a first year law student in litigation class. It doesn't "go to the issue of transparency". Neither does it reveal "a pattern of behavior".  

That's not the news. The news is the content of her emails and whether or not she is involved in a "pay for play" scam or broke security. 

She isn't. She didn't. Report that. Move on.

And, stop with the "false equivalency" reporting. You don't justify the lies of one candidate by trying to find something wrong with the other. You don't repeat the lies and misinformation from quacks about one topic like climate change and then report what "other scientists" (who are the Real Scientists, the others being people who barely graduated 8th Grade Science Class but were the president of their Debate Team) say about what's really going on in the world. 

You're a JOURNALIST. Act like one. Report the news.  

This is basic stuff, people. Journalism 101.

Has anyone asked why we need to know that Hillary has pneumonia? Well, only because the "conspiracy theorists" over at Breitbart ... um... "news"  have been saying she has much worse. 

"Syphilis," I heard one man say authoritatively, "she got it from Bill."

Ah, see! That's a great 'twofer" Stick it to Bill AND Hillary in a one sentence, all purpose, handy-dandy conspiracy theory that provides evidence of her not being fit for public office by reason of association with a man who - unlike you - was only caught with his pants down. 

Hey, maybe what if there's some truth to that. I mean, he was such a philanderer, right? Could it be? Roll that film of Monica and Bill again, would you? The one of her in that beret and them hugging in a crowd? Hmmm.... maybe there's something to these conspiracy theories????

Hey, people of the media! Here's a news flash: No. There. Isn't. The only "something" to conspiracy theories is what you already know: Conspiracy. Oh, and Theory.

We used to have a word for that when I was in school. We called it GOSSIP. Indeed, we were encouraged not to engage in it. "Shows weakness of character," I remember Sr. Mary Aloysius saying, adding "which is a sin you'll have to confess. And, repent. Father will give you at least five 'Hail Mary's and one Our Father' which, if you ask The Virgin to help you, will remove the stain of gossip on your weak souls."

Oh, and it's also about this: Money. "If it bleeds, it leads". Isn't that what some of your editors say? 
But, this is not even about money. It's more than that. It's about greed. Which is an addiction, all on its own. You are all binging and purging on information and mis-information which passes for news which keeps the cash register humming. And, your bosses happy. 

Say, didn't your bosses used to be called "editors"? Now they're called "news executives," right? Hmm . . . wonder what that's all about ....... 

Here's another question: What about 'right to privacy'? Where are the lines for "public officials"? If we have a right to ask if men if they wear 'boxers or briefs' do we have a right to ask Hillary if she wears panties or thongs? Do the American people really need to know?

Can Hillary - or any candidate for - or holder of - public office - be allowed a few shreds of privacy about her own damn health? Without having her integrity questioned?  

Unless, of course, you are Donald J. Trump and have no integrity. Then again, like so many other men, he also has "magical testicles" which apparently prevents him from getting tired or getting sick or having any real criticism against him stick and have any effect.

I mean, did you even READ your colleague David Fahrenthold's article in the Washington Post about the FACTUAL, DOCUMENTED CORRUPTION in the Donald Trump Foundation? 

Apparently, when some of your colleagues in print journalism actually do the work of journalism, you don't even have respect for that. 

What is wrong with you????

Men and women of the Fourth Estate, PLEASE, get a grip!!!

Snap out of it!!

We deserve more.

We demand more.

We want more than "All the news that's fit to print."

We want "ONLY the news that's FIT to report."

Thank you. Now, back to work, the lot of you. This is serious. We've got a President of the United States of America to elect.

The whole rest of the world is watching.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Never forget.

I have my own private memories of the horrors of 9/11.

I've shared them on this blog before. Several times. No need to rehash them.

No, seriously. There is no need to rehash those images. Again. And, again. And, again.  Like some addiction that can never seem to be satisfied because it's never acknowledged.

And then, there's the rehearsal of the timeline of that day. Some folks need to rehearse and cling to every second, every event that happened every minute, every story and every image associated with what happened and then, what happened next.

And, after that. And, after that. Again and again and again.

Interestingly enough, the people who seem to have the greatest need to do this are not the people who lost anyone they knew or loved on that day 15 years ago.

Some folks in this country seem to be on a continuous loop of those images and those facts, not just today but every day. We just don't televise it every day. Except, we do, in more subtle ways.

It's like a slow IV drip which feeds the human need for revenge.

Drip: USA! Drip: USA! Drip: USA!

Almost 3,000 people (2,996) from many races, ethnicities, creeds and "walks of life," were killed in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania that day.

As of August 2013, medical authorities concluded that 1,140 people who worked, lived, or studied in Lower Manhattan at the time of the attack have been diagnosed with cancer as a result of "exposure to toxins at Ground Zero".

An unofficial count is that least eleven pregnancies were abruptly terminated (miscarried or stillborn) on 9/11.

So it just stands to reason, then - Right? - that we have killed more than 300,000 of "them" - innocent men, women and children - in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Right?

Of the 775 initial prisoners suspected in the planning of the 9/11 attacks, 61 continue to be detained in a military prison known as GTMO (pronounced "gitmo"), part of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Although most of these have been released without charge, the United States government continues to classify many of these released detainees as "enemy combatants". 

God only knows how many of those prisoners were subjected to torture, like waterboarding and force feeding (well, we know 106 prisoners on a hunger strike were ordered to be force fed), deprived of sleep, forced to listen to rock music at deafening levels of sound, forced to defy their religious beliefs (to view images of naked women and touch women who they were later told were menstruating), suffered sexual abuse and torture, and other things described in a report by Amnesty International as "brutal and un-American".    

Ali Shallal al-Qaisi, tortured at Abu Ghraib
That was GTMO. You might also remember an American prison camp in Iraq called Abu Ghraib


And then, there are the more than 8,000 American soldiers who came home in body bags.

And, there are the more than 27,000 American soldiers left seriously wounded with visible, disfiguring, disabling losses of arms, legs, eyes, ears, and parts of the skull, as well as the not-so-visible emotional scars like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), addiction to drugs and alcohol. And, let's not forget those women and men who were raped by their fellow soldiers.

And then there is the staggering figure of twenty - 20 - military veterans who commit suicide every day. That's one every 65 minutes, but, who's counting?

But, we killed Bin Laden, right?  The old man's bullet-ridden body is rotting somewhere out on the floor of the ocean right now, deprived of a proper religious or state funeral to honor his life and remember his deeds. 

Got him! Vengeance at last! The US nailed the bastard!


Have we gotten our revenge yet? How will we know? Will someone tell us when it's finally over? 

It seems to me that the only thing the images and stories of 9/11 are useful for these days is the political gain of those who want to keep us angry and afraid.

That there is a "them" and an "us" and "they" only mean to do us harm.  And we know that because "they" are not like "us".

That the only way we can tell "them" from "us" - despite the color of their skin or texture of their hair or the language they speak - is to develop "extreme vetting" of those immigrants whom we first kick out and then only let back in to our country if they pass an as yet unknown but decidedly "extreme" ("And, I mean EXTREME") test of loyalty and allegiance and citizenship. 

There are those who are so angry and afraid, they actually believe there ought to be "extreme vetting" even though they don't really know what that means and even though they probably wouldn't pass the test themselves. 

As long as we are angry and afraid, we can be paralyzed into believing in heroes.

That there is only one person ("I, alone") who can save us from the terror manufactured by pathetically weak men (and women) not strong enough to lead any other way.

That, despite all historical and contemporary evidence to the contrary, a wall - "a great, big YUGE, beautiful wall" that we get someone else to pay for - is the way to keep us safe from our perceived enemies who take our business and bring in drugs and rape our women, even though some of them, we suppose are also good people.  (Except, of course, a certain judge who is American but of Mexican heritage).

That this super rich (we think but don't really know because we haven't yet seen his tax returns) self-proclaimed super hero "knows more than the military generals about ISIS" and actually has a "secret plan to end ISIS".

But, see? Here's the deal: He's going to fire all the existing generals the first hour in office (I guess he missed that 6th grade civics class and doesn't quite understand the separation of powers in the US government), hire his own and charge them with coming up with their own "secret plan" in 30 days.

But, no, that's not his "secret plan" which has to remain secret because - you scared, stupid little fool! - you can't talk about a secret plan because then - DUH! - it wouldn't be secret.

So, he'll just keep his secret plan hidden in his secret decoder ring. Or, wherever it is that super heroes hide things from the poor, stupid, scared, little people they're trying to save.

No, see? His Really Secret, "secret plan" is to keep his plan a secret then take some of the things the new generals came up with in 30 days - or not, unless maybe he'll like that plan even better and he'll use all of their plan - and that will be his secret plan.

People who are angry and afraid and filled with the need for revenge really believe stuff like that.

As long as we are angry and afraid, we will destroy enough brain cells to believe the unbelievable pronouncement of a certain mayor of New York City - who was most certainly present on that fateful day in September - who recently claimed that there had not been "any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States" in the eight years before President Barack Obama took office.

Even though that was almost 8 years BEFORE President Obama took office. 


Yes, we should never forget the lives of those who were killed and died that day, 15 years ago.  But, that's different from allowing the images of that day to feed anger and hatred and revenge.

That's different from allowing those images to fuel the nationalism and populism and jingoism which, (okay, I'll say it) has allowed the rise of trumpism - which is more than just a nonsensical, untrue (or, in his words, "truthful exaggeration") statement made by Donald, J. Trump - but a potent, toxic, most deadly political cocktail of celebrity, nativism, "the outsider" and populism.

Want to know what really gave rise to ISIS/ISIL? 

Want to know how we got here, in the present political climate of half-truths and outright lies, suspicion and distrust, muckraking and mudslinging, hatred, prejudice and bigotry?

Look no more than to the events that happened 15 years ago. Then, look again at the images you have seen all day today - and, in some way,  every day for the last 15 years -  which have exhorted you to remember and never forget what happened on this date.

We have - quite literally - made ourselves sick over never forgetting 9/11.

Here's what I've learned to do, 15 years later.

I've let go of the images of burning buildings and planes. I've let go of the images of dust and ashes.

I choose to see, instead, people.  Dead people. All the 2, 996 people who died on this day 15 years ago. And, 1,400 residents and first responders who died of complications from the toxins in the air that day. And the 11 pregnancies that never made it to term.

And, all the 8,000 American soldiers who came home from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in body bags. And, all the 300,000 innocent men, women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan who lost their lives to revenge.

I remember people. Ordinary dead people who once lived ordinary lives and loved other ordinary people with ordinary hopes and dreams.

I will never forget them.

And, I will never forget the ordinary people who did extraordinary, amazing acts of kindness and generosity.

People who rose above the ashes and dust and chaos and brought food and water and clothing and boots and mopped brows and washed feet and clipped toenails and gave out hugs like the lifelines they are to the human heart and soul.

All these are the people I remember on this day. I try to remember them every day, but I remember them most this day.

They remind me of being human. And that life is too short. And that there is no time for hate.

War is an evil bird. It feeds upon anger and fear and vomits our hatred and revenge. It destroys the minds and hearts of good men and women. It lusts after the blood of the young and steals the hopes and dreams of children.

I will not let it do that. Not to me. Not to the nation I love. Not to the world God created and in which I am fortunate enough to live.

On this day, you have before you life and death.

Choose life.

As President Obama said, "Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11."

There's still time left in the day.  Even if it's not now 9/11 when you read this.

Go out and do something good.  Be kind. Err on the side of generosity.

Dare to hope. Be bold enough to dream.

Build bridges, not walls.

Choose love, not hate.

Never forget. 

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Will the real Christian please stand up?

A sermon preached at St. Philip's, Laurel, DE
September 4, 2016

Are you a ‘real Christian’? Are you a ‘true believer’?

Believe it or not, I often get these questions. Sometimes, it happens in the grocery store when I’ve got my collar on. Other times, it’s a test of whether a patient will accept me as their Hospice Chaplain.

Interestingly enough, the question is often answered for me in one of two ways. 

First, I obviously can’t be a ‘true believer’ because I’m clearly a woman who doesn’t know her ‘biblical place’.  No woman can be ordained because a man is the head of the household, which means that only a man can be head of the household of God.  

Says so, right there in the “Bye-ble”.

The second piece of evidence that I can’t possibly be either a true believer or a real Christian is because I’m an Episcopalian. When some hear that, they don’t need another word. It’s “Case closed”. 

They won’t even let me pray my way out the door.

Have you noticed that some folks these days want to develop an ‘acid test’ for identity? 

That test can range from the ridiculous to the sublime. Like “You may be a redneck if you were shooting pool when any of your kids were born.”

Or, “Real men don’t eat quiche. They eat red meat.”

Or, “Real women don’t wear pantsuits. They wear dresses or skirts.”

Some folks have certain, set ideas about what it means to be a “Real American” – and you might be very surprised to learn that you and I probably don’t meet their standards.

I’ve actually had Hospice patients on their deathbed who want to confess that they once smoked or drank whiskey or – Gasp! – danced. They honestly believe that they won’t get into heaven because they did these things.  Once. When they were very young. Or, away at camp. Or, in the Army.

What’s that saying? “You have to be carefully taught.”

This black and white, either/or thinking gets reinforced by passages like the one we just read from Luke’s Gospel (14:25-33).  It’s part of a collection of “hard sayings” of Jesus.

"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

Yes, Jesus said “hate”. (There's an explanation for this that we'll have to discuss some time in a Bible study or Christian Ed class.) Yes, he said, anyone who does not “hate” your family – even life, itself - Can. NOT. Be. My Disciple.

Not only that, he said, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” 

Not a metaphorical or symbolic “cross”. “THE” cross.  As in, “Follow me to the cross and get yourself crucified as well.”

So, that thins the crowd a bit, right?

Hate your family and love only Jesus and follow him to your own crucifixion. 

That’s certainly a higher bar to reach than whether or not you’ve not smoked or sipped whiskey or danced or been able to memorize and recite specific pieces of scripture. Scriptural gymnastics, is what I call it.

Why did Jesus say these things? To whom was Jesus talking?

We don’t know exactly where Jesus was, but it’s a safe bet that he was continuing his journey to Jerusalem.  As this 14thchapter in Luke’s gospel opens, Jesus had been having a Sabbath dinner at the home of the “leading Pharisee” and, we are told, “the people had been watching him carefully.” 

Jesus had been asked a question about healing on the Sabbath and responded with questions about the Levitical codes that none of the Pharisees seemed able – or willing – to answer.

He also told them a parable about a Great Dinner and how the Master of the house invited the rich and wealthy and well dressed but they all had excuses about why they couldn’t come. So, the Master instructed his servants to go out and invite the “poor and the crippled, the lame and the blind,” those who lived in the “streets and alleys ....  the highways and the hedges” saying that those who accept the invitation, no matter their status in life, will be fed.

After he left the home of the “leading Pharisee,” large crowds followed Jesus as he traveled. I imagine Jesus walking along from one town to the next, encircled by his closest followers and then, trailing along for a great distance, an endless stream of curious people. 

Jesus turned around to address this great multitude and I imagine he literally stopped them in their tracks with these harsh words about hating your mother and father.

I imagine the crowd vaporizing after Jesus finished, perhaps discussing among themselves on their way back home just what he meant.

It’s just pure conjecture on my part – Hebrew scholars call this ‘midrash’ – but I’m thinking that Jesus was saying something like:

“You think all these Levitical codes are what’s important to God? You think this stuff about keeping the Sabbath will get you into heaven? You think THAT’s the ‘acid test’ of what it means to be a religious or holy person? You’re going to have to leave behind everything you once thought was sacred. You’re going to have to sacrifice everything you thought had worth. Come, follow me into a new way of thinking about God. Come, follow me and have a new relationship with God.”

Here’s what I think. (This is midrash, again, filling in the gaps) I think what Jesus really meant by these words is just what happened in this morning’s story from Luke’s gospel. 

I think Jesus meant to thin the crowd. 

I think he hoped people would stop following him around and go back home and THINK about all they had seen Jesus do and all they had heard Jesus say.

Jesus didn’t want people to FOLLOW HIM AROUND.

He wanted people to FOLLOW HIS TEACHINGS. 

Big difference. 

Jesus doesn’t want ‘groupies’. He’s not a rock star. It’s not about just being a “follower”. 

Jesus wants disciples.  Disciplined students of a worthy teacher.

He doesn’t expect us all to live like monks and nuns – unless that’s what you feel you really want to do in order to be faithful. 

However you live your life, Jesus wants people to consider and follow his teachings, so we might have a better relationship with God and each other and make this world a better place for all of God’s creatures and creation.. 

After he said those harsh words, the crowd turned around and left, probably scratching their heads. I’m thinking they were talking about this Jesus and what he meant by some of his teachings and what it would mean for their lives to follow his teachings.

And, that’s the point, I think. That’s the point of the gospel story. That’s the point of sermons and coming to church. To get people talking about Jesus and what his teachings mean for us in our own lives of faith.  

My midrash understanding is that’s exactly what Jesus meant by these harsh words.  I think it's what he means for those of us who hear his words today.

I think he means to stop us dead in our tracks. I think he means to jolt our thoughts about our spiritual journey. I think he intends to send us back home to think – THINK, not simply memorize and recite – the teachings of Jesus – who, BTW, never said that anyone shouldn’t smoke or drink or dance.

I mean, I’m just sayin’.

I think Jesus is saying that WE are NOT the ones to set the standards by which we will be judged righteous or holy or religious, much less Christian. 

Only Jesus can do that.  

Or, as author Anne Lamott says, “You can be quite certain that you have created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

I think Jesus is saying “Just stop judging each other or trying to determine what it means to be holy or righteous or identified with me. That’s a zero-sum game. I did not come here to have you judge each other in my name. I came here to turn all of your expectations and assumptions about God upside down and right side up. I came so that you might have life and have it abundantly. So stop being so miserly with each other. Love God. Love one another as I love you. And, I love you. Unconditionally.”

And, you know, if we love God and love one another, we can change the world. 

I really believe that.

It’s really that simple. And, it’s really that hard.

Are you a ‘real Christian’? Are you a ‘true believer’?

I have come to believe that those are questions that ought not be asked by any one person of another.

These are questions that can only be asked by one person.

And, I believe, these questions are best asked and answered when that one person is standing in front of a mirror.