Saturday, April 4, 2020

On the Meyers-Briggs scale

Whenever I've taken Meyers Briggs Personality Inventory I come out ENFP,. Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceiving.

N, F and P are off the charts in those directions.

But I am nearly 50/50 between Extroverted and Introverted.

I like to say that I use up all my Extroversion as a priest dealing with people and after that, I am privately quite the Introvert.

And that is true. My E is for my job. My I is for my personal time.

Well, this virus has taken away my time with people. So, I'm missing it.

Bern is an Introvert and I can't do too much Extroversion with her.

So here I am, wishing I could be in a crowd and be hugging and talking and laughing and joking and listening to whatever people want to tell me. All of that.

And I'm not able to do that because of the virus.

So my extroversion self is really annoying my introversion self.

I'm usually able to sit and read a book for a couple of hours. Now it is 20 minutes then I wander around the house, wanting to talk....

Friday, April 3, 2020

because it is Holy week...

...I won't do any political diatribes. So, let me get it out of my system.

The president Who Will Never Be Named here has messed this pandemic up ever worse than he has messed up everything else.

We needed and FDR in this moment and we got a Johnny two left hands.

Earlier in his presidency, he disbanded the pandemic committee.

For weeks and weeks and weeks, he understated what he was being told about how serious the virus was. ("It will go away when it gets's no worse than will stop soon...we have done great things...let's start the economy on Easter....on and on and on....")

Then, his son in law said the federal stockpile of medical equipment 'is for us, not the states'. Who is US in the U.S., if not the states?

We are so much worse off than we should have been had not He Who Will Not Be Named had not been in charge.

Fact check his press conferences during all this.

Lie after lie after horrible, damaging lie.

Deep breath.

OK, I can ignore all this during Holy Week now.

Palm Sunday Sermon

(My Bishops, Ian and Laura, wrote to clergy and wardens that it was a 'civic and moral imperative' to slow the spread of the virus and urged us not to gather in any way. So, the Facebook live services I've been doing have been, sadly, cancelled. I'll be emailing sermons and reflections during Holy Week to the Members of the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry. Here is my humble offering for Palm Sunday.)

          It probably wasn’t as big a deal as we make it out to be.
          It was probably more like sneaking in the back door.
          Who was it, after all? A country bumpkin of a rabbi (what good can come from Nazareth?) along with his equally provincial followers—ragged and dusty from three years of traveling—and the riff-raff hanging around the gates of the Holy City, looking for some entertainment.

          Oh, it caused a stir—Jesus arriving and going immediately to the Temple. The Pharisees were nervous because the rabble seemed to love him and the rabble could never be trusted to toe the line. The ones who welcomed the strange prophet from the sticks were uncontrollable by the authorities of the Temple. So the Sanhedrin—the equivalent of the Bishops in our church—watched and waited and bided their time. This troublesome Teacher was a problem that could be dealt with successfully.

          Oh, it caused a stir….The Zealots, those “freedom fighters” of the Jews—the ones the Romans saw as “terrorists”—had a breath of hope. Perhaps Jesus was the figure around which a popular rebellion could be mounted. Perhaps he could be the one to restore the Throne of David and return the land of Israel to the Israelites.

          Oh, it caused a stir….Pilate was troubled because his wife was having nightmares about this Prophet Jesus and when Pilate was troubled the Roman Legion was troubled. It was almost Passover and the city was full of pilgrims who were full of religious fervor. And religious fervor is always a threat to the “status quo” and the rule of the occupying army.

          Oh, it caused a stir….The common folk were mesmerized by the wisdom and the miracles of Jesus. He brought them something that touched them deep in their souls, something so long missing from their lives, dashed by oppression and almost extinguished: he brought the faint, almost bitter sweet hope that God still loved them.
          But it was probably still much less spectacular than we make it out to be. A little band of people—dispossessed, powerless, mostly poor…outsiders of all the political and religious intrigue of the day—laying palm branches and, yes, their own cloaks, on the path up to the city for this strange, eccentric, inscrutable rabbi who had “rocked” their marginal lives with the possibility of love.

          In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul wrote that Jesus “emptied himself out”. The Greek word is lovely. Kenosis: “to empty out”.
          It seems to me that Jesus was practicing “kenosis” all the way up to Jerusalem.
          He was emptying himself of pride and ego and whatever ambitions he might have had.
          He was emptying himself of anger and resentment and petty disagreements.
          He was emptying himself of power and influence and the ability to “change the world” in some profound way.
          He was emptying himself of the hope that clings to life against all odds, of the longing to “make a difference”, of the glitter and attraction of worldly things.
          He was making himself completely empty—cleaned out, purged—creating a vacuum within his heart that could hold LOVE for the whole world, for all of it, every single bit of it.

          It was LOVE that entered Jerusalem by some side gate, riding on a colt, listening to sounds of “Hosanna!”, being fanned by fronds of palm.

          It was LOVE—love for the Pharisees, for his close friends and companions, for Pilate and the Romans, for the Zealots who would make him King, for the common folk who ran beside him, guiding him toward the Temple Mount. Love for you. Love for me.

          It was LOVE…love and love only, always love, already love, total love, all-embracing love, love to fill his heart and break it too, love beyond imagining, love beyond pain or suffering or life or death, love “once and for all”. Simply LOVE and nothing else at all….
          Just that.
          Love on the back of a colt entering the Holy City.  
          So, I guess it was a “big deal” after all….

Thursday, April 2, 2020

An odd email

Today I got an email sent to all retired Episcopal alumni of Virginia Theological Seminary. Here it is.

Dear Retired Alumni,

These are indeed unprecedented times and we need your help.

The anticipated number of people who will die from this pandemic will be too large for our hospitals medically, and has already exceeded what the Church can respond to pastorally. Too many people are dying at the same time.

I am writing to invite you to join a new effort we are launching. We're creating a national phone hotline that will connect hospitals with the next available priest to offer the “Ministration at the Time of Death” over the phone.

We are hoping to find 100 retired clergy who can offer at least 2 hours a day. Approved volunteers will access the system from their computers or an app on their phones. These on-call priests will then log in for a scheduled period of service and log off when they are done. If you are logged in, the system will route calls to you (assuming you are not already on one).

If you are interested in serving in this capacity, please fill out THIS FORM and we will contact you for confirmation and orientation.

And of course, we ask for your continued prayers for the Church’s faithful response and leadership throughout this terrible pandemic.

This is odd to me for several reasons.
First, I believe 'last rites' are more to comfort the family gathered by the bed than they are for the dying person.
People dying from this virus DON'T have family by the bed. They are in isolation.
 Second, I believe there needs to be a personal connection by the priest to the dying person--some knowledge of the life and history of the dying person.
Doing it by phone to a total stranger seem odd to me, if not false.
Third, I don't think God cares if a dying person gets 'last rites' or not. God isn't concerned with our rites and traditions. God loves the dying person.
So, if there's no personal connection and no family present and God isn't concerned, why take a health care worker from their job to hold a phone?
I've done lots of 'last rites' (or, as the email calls it, "Ministrations at the Time of Death") and it is a moment of comfort for gathered family and a chance to say 'good-bye' to a loved one.
 But this seems really odd to me.
Bern thinks I should respond to VTS and say all these things. But she is a bit agnostic and more likely to 'strike back' than me.
 Yet, this is one of the oddest emails I've ever gotten--besides the one saying I have to pay $10,000 or they'll release a video on YouTube of me masturbating to Porn.
That was really odder that "last rites" by phone to a stranger.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Eleanor time

Every day, Bern does face time with our almost 4 year old granddaughter, Eleanor.

Tim and Mimi are working from home in their house near the Poconos--well outside Manhattan, where they normally live and work.

I go in and talk with Eleanor a little, but Bern plays dolls with her and reads her stories and they make up songs. Mimi says that Tim, who is a musician of some merit, is teaching Eleanor to make up songs. She is really good at it.

Eleanor time gives Tim and Mimi a brief break.

Eleanor gives Bern a tour of the house every other day or so.

Today, Bern showed her the flowers I gave her for her birthday tomorrow.

Bern always has to end the call. Eleanor would face time for hours and hours.

It's really incredible sweet, their time together.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

At least a month to go

...and that's optimistic.

People are staying home. I know that because the readership of my blog is up!

I talk to my neighbors from a long distance away, but not close, like we used to.

I didn't go out today at all. Talked to some people on the phone. I usually drive around for a while to see how shut down Cheshire is. But not today.

Bern has been making us masks from cloth dinner napkins because they can be washed and reused.

Mine is forest green.

I'll probably do it when I go out to the grocery store and the wine store. Maybe on Wednesday--because I have to get Bern a birthday card (April 2nd). My late father's birthday was April 1st, a standing joke in the family that Virgil was born on April Fool's day. For 15 days, I'll only be two years older than Bern. You know, I think, that we first met when she was a freshman in high school and I was a senior. Cradle robbing, I know.

I have known and loved her for all but 14 years of her life.

Amazing! And wonderful.

Staying at home is, in one way, a gigantic pain in the ass.

In other ways, it puts me in touch with my introverted, only child self.

Whenever I've taken Myers/Briggs I am on the line between introvert and extrovert. I use up all my extrovert with church. These days I am an introvert alone.

Bern is a genuine introvert. We don't spend much time together though we're both in the same house all day. Distance is glory for introverts.

All her birthday presents have arrived. I ordered them on line since no where I could have found them is open. I'll get her some flowers at Big Y since I don't think florists are operating. And a birthday card.

How blessed am I to have been in love with her for 56 years?

More blessed that I can even imagine.

Wash your hands. Stay at home. Pray for the best we can hope for.

Monday, March 30, 2020

non-Funerals in a time of pandemic

One of the most heart-breaking videos I've seen of the world wide virus was a priest in Italy sprinkling holy water on dozens and dozens of coffins.

That will be the funeral for those people.

As an Episcopal Priest, I fully know how cathartic funerals can be for family and loved ones. When I was at St. John's in Waterbury for 21 years, we had dozens of people join the church after coming to a funeral there.

Funerals are one of the most important things a minister or rabbi or Imam can do is preside over a funeral.

Yet, all the people dying from Corona 19 will not have a funeral in the traditional sense. People cannot gather the way they do for funerals in most places.

And for good reason--stop the spread of the virus.

A mega-church pastor in Florida was arrested this week for having services with hundreds of people.

Good for Florida.

We are doing church on-line.

But how can you do a funeral on-line?

No chance for family and loved ones to touch the casket or the urn.

No chance to hug each other and mourn.

No chance to stand by a grave and say 'good-bye'.

No chance to find closure.

Yet another painful and isolating part of this pandemic.

No funeral for grandma.

Imagine the wrenching pain of that....

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.