Monday, October 31, 2016


I am not a fan of Halloween.

I trace my dislike of the holiday back to childhood when I was, year after year--from ages 6 to 9--put in a hard plastic mask too small to wear my glasses under it and led out into the dark practically blind! My vision, before cataract surgery a dozen years ago, was 300/20--the kind of vision that meant I had to 'feel' for my glasses each morning! Southern West Virginia was a dark place to be nearly blind--and all the running of people around me and the shouts of  "Trick or Treat!" made me a tad manic. Well, a lot manic....

But I don't begrudge other folks their excitement and joy on this day. We live in a quiet neighborhood and mostly only get neighbor kids trick or treating. But I like to see their pre-sugar excitement and am glad I don't have to experience their post-sugar moods....

Besides, it is "All Hallows Eve"--the night before my favorite Holy Day. And the thoughts of the dead entering this 'thin time' when the barriers between this world and the next is loosed, is a joy to me.

So, dress up and go scare some folks!

Just don't eat all the candy at one sitting....

Friday, October 28, 2016

Next Tuesday

Next Tuesday is the Feast of All Saints. It is my very favorite holy day. At St. John's in Waterbury, during my 21 years serving as Rector, we developed some remarkable All Saints worship.

Here's a sermon from 2007 that might give you a flavor of all that.


          This is a joyous, wondrous, exciting, solemn and holy day.
          This is OUR Feast Day—the Feast of All Saints.
          And what we celebrate this day is like circles within circles within circles—circles never ending, swirling through eternity and into the very heart of God.
          Someone very wise once said, “Christ does not draw lines to keep people out—Christ draws circles to welcome people in….”
          The first circle, the most obvious one—the one that will take most of the time today—is baptism. Today we will welcome into the Body of Christ a   new member. Grant will be washed in the waters of God and sealed with oil as “marked as Christ’s own forever”.
          This astonishing circle encloses Grant and his family into the heart of God. God loves Grant no less right now than God will love him after the water is poured and the oil is smeared. God’s love is not bound by a little water and less oil and the words we will say. But today he will be welcomed “publicly” into the Church and proclaimed out loud as an esssential part of the Body of Christ.
          That matters. That truly matters.
          A second circle we will draw today—a second way God welcomes people “in”—is that you will be invited to receive the laying-on-of-hands and prayers for healing. God’s children are invited to seek ‘wholeness’ in the midst of the ‘brokenness’ of our world and lives. God doesn’t call us to be “good”—we are called to be “whole” and “well”—and the prayers for healing are instruments of that completeness.
          That matters. That truly matters.
          A third circle drawn on this, our Feast Day, our celebration that we are the ‘saints of God’, is that we will read the names of the members of this parish who have died since the last All Saints day, a year ago.
          You see, in the wondrous love of God, those who have died are still part of the Communion of Saints. Those we love but see no more are separate from us now but united with us in our celebration and our feast. This day holds up to God those who have died, those who journey on in this life and those yet unborn. This is a ‘thin time’ and we can draw very near to our loved ones separated by death and celebrate our connection with them.
          That’s another circle. You all have been given a candle and you are invited to light it on your way to communion and place it in some containers that aren’t out here yet. That candle is meant to be a way for you to remember those you love who have died. They are with us in the flames as we approach the altar. They are part of our celebration. This is the Feast of ALL Saints, even those who have died.
          And there, on the table in front of the bowl where we will baptize today, are the cremains—the ashes—of some of the children of God. They died and their remains were signed over to a hospital and they were cremated by a funeral home and on this day—this wondrous and solemn day—we will bury those ashes out in the Close and give our brothers and sisters a resting place for their ashes though they already rest in the heart of God.
          Some people find it a bit troubling and ironic that we baptize the living next to the remains of the dead on this day. But it is just another of the circles God draws to include us all—to remind us that in the heart of God the living and the dead are all joined together. These are thin and wondrous times. No one is left out.
          Two final circles include us and welcome us home. First, there is the bread and the wine we share—which is, I promise you, the very Body and Blood of Christ. God needs a Body in this world. God needs hands and feet and lips to speak and ears to hear—and we are it! Listen to me—WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST IN THIS WORLD. If we don’t do that—if we don’t carry forth when we are dismissed into the world the hospitality and compassion and love and grace and forgiveness and wonder of God—who will?
          It’s part of the deal. You are marked as Christ’s own forever and you are expected to be Christ to this suffering world we live in. You are the Light of the darkling world. You are the salt of the earth. And if you don’t do it, who will?
          Today’s liturgy is like a kaleidoscope of circles within circles within circles. And we are enclosed by those many circles. And we are the Saints of God—we are the Body of Christ—we are God bearers into the world.
          This is our day. Let us rejoice and be glad.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The passage of time

Friday will be a month since Dr. Shai reattached my quad muscle to my knee. I still have over two weeks to continue wearing my ankle to thigh leg immobilizing brace. All told, over 6 weeks on crutches and being pretty helpless to do many things for myself. (I thank God every moment for Bern's help....)

But we all know (I think) that time and space are relative. A minute at one time seems shorter or longer than a minute at another time. (I'm not sure that's what Albert E. meant, but it seems accurate!)

Sometimes, as I'm sure you'll agree, 'time flies...' and at other times it drags along like a wounded animal.

This morning I watched a movie on HBO called Me and Earl and a Dying Girl. I'm sure it was 90+ minutes long, but it was over in a nonce! Getting from our TV room to the bathroom (some 20 feet or less) on the other hand, takes me what seems like a quarter of an hour.

Same with this whole recovery: that it's been a month seems impossible. It couldn't be that long! But some of the days have seemed interminable.

What I've been consciously working on is being appreciative of each moment--the 'moving though amber' ones as well as those that flit away.

Each moment holds something precious (or challenging) it seems to me. The precious and the challenging each deserve to be acknowledged, experienced fully, savored.

At least it seems that way to me in my immobile, philosophical mood....

Something to ponder about the passage of time....

Monday, October 24, 2016

Two weeks to go

Two weeks from tomorrow night and it will mercifully be over!

Since I've been laid up I've watched much to much TV--mostly CNN and MSNBC. I love politics but several hours a day of it is driving me up the wall.

I can't wait for it to be over.

The other thing about day-time TV is that the commercials on all stations seem synchronized to be at the same time! Trump should talk about 'rigged commercial breaks" instead of 'rigged elections'....

I have found a station with lots of Burn Notice each day--I love Michael and Same and Fiona!

Seinfeld has aged a lot better than Friends. I guess a show about 'nothing' endures since 'nothing' stays about the same over decades.

Too much TV makes you a little loopy, it seems to me....

Saturday, October 22, 2016

out to church again

I won't be able to drive for another 3 or more weeks, but I'm getting a ride tomorrow to Emmanuel in Killingworth to preach and celebrate!

It will be so great to be in church again....

I haven't been to Eucharist since Sept.28---perhaps the longest time since the 1970's that I haven't been a part of a worshiping community.

I am, for  the most part, very left-wing and  unconventional about churchy things. But the sacrament is dear and real to me.

I really long for tomorrow and the Body and Blood of Christ....

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Being an adult

I'm still braced from ankle to thigh on my right leg, yet I'm going to Greenwich tomorrow with my friend to an all day Clergy 'safe-church' event.

I was going to Washington, CT on Oct. 1, but my surgery was Sept 28, so that wasn't possible. Greenwich is the last of a series of required 'safe church' sessions for clergy in CT. Failure to attend is considered reason to be suspended from active ministry.

I realize I've spent much of my life behaving as if 'the rules' didn't really apply to me. And though I'm sure my surgeon wouldn't want me out from 7 am to 7 pm, sitting up all day, I didn't ask him for a 'note to the teacher'. I'm going, like an adult, in spite of how tiring and uncomfortable it might be.

I realize this is nothing more than most people would do, but I've not always done what 'most people would do'. It's disingenuous, I know, to be sort of 'tooting my own horn' for doing the adult thing.

But I've not always done that, by a long shot.

So let me pat myself on the back this one time....

Monday, October 17, 2016

When Ellie smiles...

Mimi and Tim (my daughter and son-in-law) visited this weekend with baby Ellie (my fourth granddaughter) who is just over two months old.

I'm still hobbling around on crutches and wasn't a very good host, but Bern was a fabulous host--and an even more fabulous grandmother!

Ellie is (and I know I'm prejudiced!) a remarkable little baby. Tim is 41 and Mimi is 38, so they are much more mature than Bern and I were at 25 and 28 when Josh was born and three years after that when Mimi came along. They are so calm and loving that Ellie is calm and engaging herself.

She sat in a little holder that rocked much of the time they were here. She looks around and seems to be thinking thoughts beyond her 9 week old brain and smiles a lot. And when she smiles--when Ellie smiles--we all melt....

We hadn't seen her for a month and she has gained lots of weight and even more 'adorableness' in that time.

It was a wonderful two days. I love them so. And I love everything about Ellie, but when she smiles I just dissolve into wonder....

Friday, October 14, 2016

Clown apocalypse...

The Apocalypse is on us! It isn't zombie's or vampires or the Trump campaign...for goodness sake's, it's clowns!!!

Let me be honest here: I've never liked clowns very much. Too frenetic, too much makeup, silly noses, stupid shoes. And they try too hard.  Give me a stand up comic or an old episode of Seinfeld when I want a good laugh any time. Clowns have always seemed a tad creepy to me--since childhood.

But I never thought of them as malignant until the past month or so.

What is it will all the scary clown sightings these days? Isn't it enough that a scary clown is running for President? Do we really need clowns slinking around in wooden areas freaking out folks?

McDonald's has announced Ronald McDonald won't be making public appearances while the clown sightings are at such a fever pitch....

Bozo is getting a bad name.

I just don't get it. But I don't get Twitter either....

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Looking up...

I went to see Dr. Shei (Shay) yesterday and my recovery is well ahead of his expectations.

(So much for the "older people don't heal as fast..." naysayers!)

I start PT next week and though I'm still on crutches with the ankle to thigh brace, I can put weight on my right toes which makes getting around a great deal easier.

I can't drive but can travel and should have my leg back in a month--2 weeks earlier than he originally said.

Besides that, Mimi, Tim and baby Elli are coming up from NYC this weekend.

Things are looking up....(Not to mention Clinton's poll numbers!)

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Locker Room

OK, you've all seen the tape more times than you wanted to and heard Donald Trump half-ass apologize and then excuse it as 'locker room' talk, just stuff guys say to each other while naked in showers.

Well I've been in locker rooms in my day--through high school and for college PE. So, I've heard some crude stuff in my time. But in my memory most of it was evaluating the relative size of other guy's penises. There was stuff about girls, of course, and comments on breasts, but very little about sexual exploits. Of course I grew up in rural places where very little was 'private' and most guys didn't want things they said to get back to the girls they said it about. Some guys claimed to have a peep hole into the girls' shower room, but none of that panned out.

But I have searched my memory well and realize the crudest stuff was in Junior High.

And never in my life did I hear anyone talk about 'grabbing' any girl's...(you know the word by now!) That's a new one on me. All in all, we were cruder about each other than about females. Maybe I grew up in a more sedate place than Donald did.

But this I know and know fair well--'locker room banter' stopped at the locker room door. Fully dressed, no one I ever knew was as crude as Donald was on that tape.

And certainly, I've never heard anyone over 19 say anything like Donald did. If I'm correct in my math, he was 59 when that was recorded and had a pregnant wife at home!

Maybe I'm wrong about all this...or maybe Donald never grew up past 13. Who's to say...?

Friday, October 7, 2016

(something from past posts....)

 (something from past posts....)


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

wearing a collar

Several months ago I bumped into a member of St. John's, the parish I serve, in a grocery store. I gave her a hug and she said, "I don't think I've ever seen you without a clerical collar."

That's one reason for not wearing clerical garb--the black shirt and wide, circular band of white collar--you don't have to...people see you in it anyway. The truth is I haven't worn a collar for five or six years now but there was no way I could convince that devoted member of the parish. "You wear one every Sunday," she said. And I believed that's what she saw every Sunday.

I didn't stop all at once. It was more like attrition. I lost all my collar buttons at some point and being naturally abscent minded, forgot to order more. Collar buttons come in several styles--most of which don't work. I always used the ones that went through the little holes in the black shirt and opened like a toggle switch to hold the collar in place. All the other styles--in my experience--find a way to edge through the hole in the shirt on the front or back or slip out of the "Clericool" collar. That's what the kind of collar I wore was called, believe it or not, since it was made of some material that doesn't exist in nature and probably never decomposes and had little holes in it to circulate air next to your skin. I kept wearing collars after I lost all my buttons by attaching them to my shirt with small paper clips, bobby pins or twist ties I'd take from loaves of bread. The twist ties worked best, but like they do when holding bread wrappers shut, they tended to get twisted the wrong way and I'd have to seek help getting them undone.

So, a second reason not to wear a collar is how hard it is to keep up with the buttons. When dropped on the floor they were designed to be invisible until you stepped on them with your bare feet, bruising the soles of your feet and making you walk funny for a day or two. I once was holding the button I was going to attach to the back--you have to attach the front one first unless you wear a collar 4 or 5 inches too large...which some priests do, I've noticed--and swallowed it by accident. Well, it was like an accident--certainly not on purpose--I laughed at something when I had it in my mouth and down it went. Since collar buttons are not cheap, I watched for it for a few days but decided that was sick. I hope it came out and isn't discovered in my next colonoscopy. That would be really embarrassing, it seems to me.

Finally, one of the twist ties I was using broke the hole in the collar because I had worn all the paper off it and the twist tie was like a scalpel at that point. That was my last collar and since I hadn't gotten around to ordering buttons I was equally negligent in ordering collars. After that I wore black shirts without collars for a while, pretending I had on a collar, but people would say, "did you forget your collar?" a lot and I got tired of making up humorous responses.

I could, I suppose, have worn those clergy shirts that have what's called a "Roman collar" or a "tab collar"--a little piece of plastic that looks like a tongue depressor--but I've noticed most priests who wear those carry the tab in their chest pocket, like a fountain pen, rather than wearing it. The collars I always wore are called "Anglican collars" and I really didn't want to be mistaken for a Roman Catholic priest. It was bad enough being mistaken for an Episcopal priest.

Another reason for not wearing a collar is that it is a 'fun stopper'. You can walk into a really great bar at Friday happy hour in a collar and practically close the place down. Everyone is suddenly siezed by childhood infused guilt, stops cursing, takes their hands off people they aren't married to and decides they've had enough to drink. I was once at a picnic on a hot August day and an acquaintence of mine who is also an Episcopal priest, showed up in a summer weight black suit and a collar. I said to him, "did you have a funeral this morning?" He seemed confused and went on to tell me he and his family were going horseback riding after the picnic. I'd never ride a horse with someone in a collar and I really didn't enjoy the picnic with him slinking around looking clerical.

I only rode an airplane once in a collar. Airplanes and collars do not mix since whoever you are sitting with either wants to confess sins you don't want to hear or turns out to be a religious nut. A friend of mine who I suspects has PJ's with a collar on them told me that he flew from LA to Chicago in his collar and had a sensible conversation with the stranger beside him until they were landing at O'Hare. Then the man said, "what do you Do?" My friend looked down at his black shirt and felt to make sure he still had on his collar (the buttons could have slipped out over Idaho and disappeared on the floor of the plane, after all). "I'm a priest," my friend said. The man replied, "oh, I know what you Are. I want to know what you Do...."

I've used that story in several sermons at ordination services. I use it to tell the person being ordained that 'being a priest' is more about 'being' than 'doing' and you don't need a uniform.

Just last week I told the wife of a priest that I didn't own any clericals. She was somewhere between shocked and outraged. "But don't you ever want to 'be in uniform'?" she asked. I probably said I preferred being a 'plain clothes' priest, sort of an ecclesiastical detective. And the truth is, I've never much liked uniforms of any kind. People in uniform are proclaiming that they 'do' something--direct traffic, drive buses, conduct trains, fight wars, put out fires, etc. Uniforms are designed to separate out the people wearing them from everybody else. They announce for all the world to know, "I am DOING something here--give me room to do it". A priest, unless a religious service is going on--and we have these really hot 'uniforms' for those--isn't 'doing' much of anything that needs space and room to perform. So, no, I don't want to be in uniform.

Back when I was 'in uniform' I noticed that I could wander around hospitals with great impunity. I once found myself one door away from an operating theatre in what was surely a sterile area because I was lost and not one of the dozen hospital employees I'd passed since breaking through into a place I shouldn't have been had called me to account about why I didn't have on a mask and gloves and those neat little booties people wear in such places. That's really nuts, to have a guy soaked in germs wandering free in a supposedly germ free space because he had on a collar. I don't like the deference people give me when I'm 'in uniform'. I AM, after all, a priest and can inform anyone of that if they ask. But wearing the uniform forms a shield of invulnerability and provides a cloak of invisibility to a priest that I'm not sure is a good idea, especially not a step away from open heart surgery, or most anything.

(This next paragraph contains graphic language that most people thing people who wear...or could wear...collars should never write. I didn't say them, but I will write them. The faint of heart should scroll down quickly lest they be offended....)

I was coming back from lunch at a downtown restaurant a few years ago with a priest friend. He was in clericals and I had on jeans and a second-hand sports coat. I noticed how people separated to let us pass--good people, bad people, people of all shapes and sizes and colors...all except the little old Italian ladies who wanted to kiss his hand. (Not having strangers kiss my hand is another reason I don't wear a collar!) Then we met up with this crazy guy who I knew who always asked me for money. He knew I was a priest in my tee-shirt and said, drugged half-out of his mind, "Fa-der, give me two dol-lers." I said 'no', quietly and firmly and kept walking. Then he started yelling at me: "Fa-der, ya are a muther-fucker! Fad-er, Ya don't care if I go ta hell...." And kept yelling it louder and louder. I stepped a step or two away from my friend and all the people on the street looked at him like he was spitting on the cross for not helping that poor man. One of the little old Italian ladies screwed up her courage and said to my friend, "you're shameful..." I just walked along, smiling, out of uniform.

Finally, I am so liberated by not wearing a collar because of my neck. Or, more accurately, my 'no neck'. I am a man whose head rests on his shoulders. If I look up, you can see my neck, but it is really a 'no neck'. Clerical collars were designed for people with long, gazelle-like necks. They look fabulous on people with real necks. Angelina Jolee would look great in a collar. In fact she would look very seductive in clericals....Well, let's don't go there. Suffice it to say, collars were made for men and women with necks. They look like a kind of necklace on some people. On me, a collar looks like a hangman's noose and is about that comfortable.

A dear priest friend of mine had spent all morning laboriously boning the Thanksgiving turkey and was planning to come home after he did a noon Eucharist and stuff it in an elaborate way. As luck would have it, he was distracted and didn't get home until 3, after his wife had returned from work. He looked in the refrigerator and found his fully boned turkey (a feat of no mean merit!) gone. When he asked his wife where it was she told him something terrible had happened and the turkey had collapsed so she threw it out. My friend was so distraught (being naturally prone to histrionics) he began, in the good old Old Testament way, to 'rend his clothing'. He tore most all his clothes into shreds, his wife told me later, but his collar wouldn't come undone. He must have had toggle switch buttons or twist ties holding it on. So she left him writhing on the kitchen floor, choking himself with his Anglican collar.

That's a final reason not to wear one--it ruins such dramatics....

There really is no moral to this story. I wore collars faithfully for 20-some, in spite of the discomfort and how no one really 'looks' at you on the street and how collars make some people nervous and brings out the neurosis in normal folks on airplanes. It was simply fortunate for me that I swallowed that collar button (this is the first time I've revealed that event, by the way) and cut my last collar with a twist tie. I just never got around to ordering new ones and everyone who knows me knows I'm a priest and I am perfectly happy that those who don't know me don't know that about me. And I'm lots more comfortable. Besides, I don't think the woman in the super market is the only one who sees it when it's not there!

(Just so you don't believe I am ultimately frivolous about this, two stories.
Years ago I was at a meeting with a bishop from Africa who came from a nation where Christians were being horribly persecuted. When some asked, "Bishop, what can we give you to help?" he thought a moment and said, "clerical collars so that when the people are being dragged away to prison and torture they can see their priests are being dragged away as well...."
Back after 9/11, I went several times with a group from St. John's to Ground Zero to work at St. Paul's church, serving food, praying with rescue workers, just listening to people. We clergy were asked to wear collars so people could recognize that we were there for more than giving them lunch and a bottle of water. In that case I was humbled to wear a collar.
Should such needs arise, I would put a collar on even if I had to use duct tape to hold it on....)

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Hurricane Matthew has taken the Presidential race off the front burner.

As thankful as I am that it isn't Trump/Clinton all day every day, the devastation Matthew is leaving behind is so painful.

800 dead in Haiti, that much abused place. The suffering of Haiti, so near to our shores, is too often overlooked. How much pain can one country absorb?

Damage in the US is not as dire, at this point, as predicted, thank goodness. But as I write this northern Florida and coastal Georgia and South Carolina are facing great danger.

I don't remember what the TV ads were for anymore, but I remember the tag line "Don't mess with Mother Nature!" That's as true today as it has always been. The power of human beings is dwarfed by forces of nature.

Events like Matthew should humble us and remind us of our place in the scheme of things on this 'fragile Earth, our island home' (Eucharistic Prayer C, BCP).

My Mamaw Jones used to remind us cousins, "don't get above your raising...." What she meant was, I believe, don't imagine you're more important than you really are.

One of the things I regret about missing our annual journey to Oak Island, North Carolina because of my knee surgery, is sitting on the deck in the darkness, listening to the endless power of the Atlantic rolling and staring at the night sky. That always humbles me and reminds me of how relatively insignificant I am in the face of the immensity of the Universe.

A lesson we would all do well to remember always.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Outside is miles away

As I've said before about being confined to bed, crutches, wheelchair, I'm not bored. I just don't get bored....

But today, 6 days after knee surgery, I've learned anew how much I like the outside.

Stranded upstairs in our house, I can only look out the windows at the 'great outdoors' and can't go there.

Normally, I sit on our deck an hour or two each day and make a point to go for a ride each day and walk the dog three times. Plus, since we use the grill to cook until the first snow, I'd be outside every other day cooking.

Cheshire is a lovely town and even though we've lived here 27 years, there are lots of side streets and back, out of the way parts of it I haven't explored. I'd been doing that this summer, driving aimlessly down streets I'd never traveled, seeing places I've never seen. Though I'm, in many ways, a 'home-body', I've enjoyed those jaunts. They just have to wait.

The October sky is deep blue from my window and the sun is shining with the temperature around 70. But all I can do is look right now.

I watch people walk up and down Cornwall Avenue from our bedroom windows. I never remember envying people for walking before. I do now.

I miss the outdoors...and walking....

Monday, October 3, 2016

Back at desk

Well, it took me five days to get down the hall to my computer. I could have come sooner but I'm really trying not to overdue it. I spend 4 or 5 hours sitting up but the rest of the time in bed or on the couch in our TV room. All of this, including my little office, are on the second floor of our house.

I live upstairs for now and will until next Monday when I see the surgeon, Dr. Shia. Then I'll learn if I can go to a cane or have to stay with crutches. I'm terrible with crutches! I do have a friend's wheelchair, which makes things easier except a house built in 1850 isn't very good for wheel chairs--narrow doors, narrow hallway, sharp turns....

Our dog, Bela, is enjoying my time in bed. Every once in a while, while I'm up, he goes to the 'big bed' (one of the phrases like 'go out' and 'look in your bowl' that I'm convinced he understands) and barks for me to come join him!

So, I'm reading a lot and watching the Presidential Race on TV, along with "The Voice", old "Bones" episodes and stuff on PBS (saw Judgement at Neurenberg (sp) yesterday--movies may have been better back then....)

(Just watched a video on Bern's phone of Ellie grunting and smiling and pooping her pants! Too cute.)

A couple of people have asked me if I'm 'bored'. One good thing about being an only child who was sickly on and off, I don't really understand that concept!!!

Very little pain or discomfort so far. Something to rejoice about....

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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.