Sunday, November 22, 2009

nose hair

OK, what is the hair in your nose about?

I just spent about ten minutes with this little nose hair clipper buzzing away a lawn of nose hair in my right nostril. The left nostril wasn't as bad, but I had a couple of hairs in there that I could have made into a french braid. Who told hair it was alright to grow in my nose?

Once in a while I have this hair that comes out ON my nose. Somehow--it either grows very fast or I'm an idiot (take your pick)--it is about half an inch long before I notice it. And there is one hair up under my left eye that can become a relic in a few days if I don't pluck it or buzz it or shave it. What's up with hairs springing up where they don't belong? I'd like to give my nose hairs to some of my friends who are losing the hair on their head. My nose hairs seem sturdy and long and wanting to get longer.

One thing I've noticed recently is that even my nose hairs are white these days--at least the hair that sprouts from my nose and the one that flourishes beneath my eye are dark brown. I must still have some dark brown hair DNA--but it doesn't show up in my hair or beard. Go figure....

I don't yet have ear hair. I've known people who could style the hair in their ears it was so thick and luxurious. I'd hate that, plus buzzing that hair might change the tone of the ringing in my ears. It's not there right now, as I type--the ringing I mean--but I'm sure putting the little battery powered gizmo in my ear would cause a cantata in my head.

I discovered I had tinnitus one February night 5 or so years ago. I was out on the back porch smoking a cigarette and listening to the crickets. They were so loud that night I could still hear them when I went to bed. I woke up about 2 a.m. to the sound of the crickets and suddenly realized it was about 4 degrees outside and the only crickets there were were in my head.

Doctors don't know squat about tinnitus. They don't even have experimental treatments for it since it is such a friggin' mystery. I don't mind crickets in my head--most of the time I have to pause to see if they are singing--but I wouldn't want angry wasps or jack hammers. So, if I start getting ear hair I'll pluck it out rather than put the buzzing thing in my ear. (I wear my hair quiet long and one time I did find a two inch hair growing out of my left ear lobe that I hadn't noticed because I thought it was coming from my head. Pulling that out hurt like the dickins and was humiliating though I never told anyone about it...well, I guess I just did, so I am humiliated...Mr 2 inch hair on his ear lobe...what a loser....

If I won powerball I'd give a million or three to the church (I hope people from St. John's read this and know how powerball philanthropic I would be) I'd make my children rich beyond their dreams, endow someone to pick up road kill and properly bury the creatures we slaughter with our cars and set up a scientific investigation of nose hair. It's gone for now but it will be back and I'd bankroll a cure. (I'd also probably buy a low mileage Lexus and take a month long trip to Ireland--but that's just my stuff....)

Maybe we need a nose hair support group so we can talk with each other about how humiliating it is to have nose hair we haven't noticed--much like spinach in our teeth when we're trying to talk to someone we want to impress, seduce, or borrow money from. NHA--Nose Hair Anonymous we'd call it.

"Hi, I'm Jim and I have disgusting nose hair...."

By the way, in my book, all nose hair is disgusting.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Life is hard....

Someone in my family, I don't remember who, used to say, when I was whining about this or that, "I cried because I had no shoes, then I saw a man who had no feet...."

This morning, trying to call the church, I kept forgetting to add the area code, which is new for us--all calls, local or long distance, require the area code now.

I was whining to myself and the Universe and wondering why my life was so miserable..

Then I got a call from a guy who I used to know. He worked at St. John's for a while as the Sexton and then moved to North Carolina. The day he buried his wife, he sat down awkwardly in a chair and somehow broke his neck. After 6 months in the hospital he was finally out and stopped at a stop light when a kid who had stolen a car back-ended him at 70 mph, breaking my friend's back. He's back in Waterbury, living with family, getting around in a power chair, unable to walk--he's 20 years younger than me, by the way. And a few nights ago his nephew's fish tank caught on fire (I'm not even going to speculate about how a fish tank full of water could catch on fire...) and if the dog hadn't barked and waked them up, they all would have died.

2-0-3...that doesn't seem such a burden to punch in when making a call any more.

Ponder that....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What will you miss?

I once had a long talk with a friend who was going to die soon. We both knew it so there was no sense in pretending otherwise. We were standing outside in the early afternoon. It wasn't yet time for my friend to take to bed, though that was coming.

My friend and I were smoking cigarettes--don't get all moral about that, okay? it wasn't what killed my friend and we both loved to smoke.

The sky was that blue that took your breath away. The air was perfect--not too hot, not too cool. The grass was a painful green. Something magic about the afternoon, something so lovely it could make you laugh or bring tears to your eyes.

"Are you going to miss this?" I asked.

"Smoking?" my friend replied, then chuckled. We both laughed. We both knew I meant the wonder of the afternoon, but missing smoking was in there too.

After a long, companionable silence, my friend said, "I think I'll miss most all of it...."

Ever since then, from time to time, I try to notice things I will miss when it comes my time to die. Not in a sentimental or maudlin way--just clearly, so I can imprint the moments deep in my soul. Little things mostly--watching the squirrels chase each other, the sound of birds, the eternal roll of the ocean, the faces of those I love, waking up knowing my dog is beside me in bed, his back against my back, the smell of vanilla, the color of the leaves in early autumn, the taste of fresh coffee flavored with milk and sugar, the laughter of children, the tears I sometimes see sliding down the cheeks of people as they receiving communion, the scent of my wife's hair, something about the moment just before I fall to sleep and the dreams my sleep gifts me with, the day when pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the tone of a piano...a flute...a cello...the weight of my body when I sway to music, sand beneath bare feet....on and on...'most all of it....'

We could do worse, it seems to me, than notice, from time to time, what it is we will miss when it comes time to take to our bed and die.

Just notice and ponder and remember as long as we can.

People ask me often what happens when we die. I really have no clue, but after that perfect afternoon with my friend who has now passed through the magic door, I think this: the best thing would be able to remember all that I miss about being alive....

too hard on Rome? too hard on technology?

I grew up in the Pilgrim Holiness Church and as a teen, my family joined the Methodist Church and then I became an Episcopalian in college and have been ever since. (I would contend I was an Episcopalian from birth in some odd way, but how could I justify that???)

So maybe I AM too hard on Rome. I'd only known it from a distance until I married someone who was an Italian/Hungarian Roman Catholic. So, for most of my life now, I have been in contact, by marriage, to lots and lots of ethnic Roman Catholics.

Nothing in that exposure has led me to believe the RC church is the 'one true church'. (Let me add that 'the one true church' is like saying 'the perfect apple'. I've had some good apples in my time, but never one I would call 'perfect'. I've been around churches all my life and I wouldn't claim that any of them was 'one' or 'true'. ) So maybe I am too hard on Rome.

And the internet and all its manifestations as well. Maybe I'm too hard on them. I only know what I know about churches and technology and most of what I know sins and falls short of the glory of God.

But then I don't get the current rage about Vampires either, but I know I've seen young girls I'd never seen with a book coming to church and choristers with their nose stuck in one of the 'twilight' books. I believe in reading and even though I've never read one of those, I'd rather young girls be reading them than reading nothing. Reading, for its own sake is worth doing. So is religion and so is communication. So maybe I'm too hard on everything.

I don't think of myself who is too hard on things--I think of myself as laid back and non-judgemental. And, I mostly am.

But I heard on the radio a few days ago that the pork farmers are suffering because people believe, for reasons beyond all my comprehension, that 'swine flu' comes from pigs. The name 'swine flu', as I understand it, was because the virus was isolated in a pig who caught that strain of flu from human beings! So, though I'm not usually hard on things, that just seems astonishingly crazy to me--that people gave up sausage and bacon to avoid the flu....As far as I can tell, there is no ill that can't be lessened, if not cured, by a good dose of pork.

Then there is the movie that hasn't been in all theaters yet about how the world will end in 2012. I was driving through rural Maryland and heard a preacher on the radio who had already bought into the Mayan legend that the end will be on December 2o, 2012--get the numerology? 12/20 2012? He hadn't even seen the movie but was saying how gracious God was to give us all this time to repent. Good God, is that nuts or what?

Maybe what I need to ponder is how 'hard' I am on stuff. I'll think about that now....

Monday, November 16, 2009

I gave you fair warning....

I got an email from a friend about going to a Roman Catholic mass and hearing the priest declare what a great job Pope Benedict is doing in 'ecumenical relations' by welcoming Anglicans 'home' to Rome.

It was no surprise to me since I went to a funeral recently at a RC church and heard the priest speak longer about 'blessed Benedict reaching out to the Anglicans' than he did about the dead person.

By now everyone has surely hear that the Pope, waking up and having a 'Pope thought'--which is, you realize, theologically unquestionable since all Pope thoughts are--that he, in his blessedness should invite Anglicans 'home to Rome'. It plays well since it is like ET saying "ET phone home". ANGLICANS HOME TO would fit on a bumper sticker nicely.

Just to be clear: 'ecumenical' is a term that refers to dialog and co-operation between different Christian denominations. My suggesting, for example, that all gay Roman Catholic priests would be welcome to come to the Episcopal church is not 'ecumenical' a whit...and would greatly reduce the already shrinking number of RC priests. (OK, that was bad. I apologize. But me writing that to an audience of half-a-dozen or so is like a candle against the sun of the Pope trying to raid the Anglican church because we are a church that encourages disagreement and--surprise, surprise--gets it!)

I've been criticized by members of the parish I serve for being less than polite to the 'Big Firm' of the Roman Catholic Church. I've taken that criticism seriously whenever it came. No more, beloved!

The Pope went to far this time--a law until himself that he is.

I have willingly and joyfully presided at weddings of divorced Roman Catholics who told me up front that once I--through my role as a priest--blessed their marriage and gave them a second sacrament of the Eucharist, they would trudge back to Rome and become members of the parish that wouldn't bless their love. ANYONE who wants God mixed up in their relationship seems to me to deserve to have God involved. I'm more than happy to do that. But what I don't get is why they'd go back to the abusive relationship after the Episcopal Church had welcomed and affirmed them.

It is my opinion--and I'm ready for any grief this brings me--that many Roman Catholics' relationship with their church is like the battered spouse syndrome that counselors and psychologists simply can't understand. It's like the foster children I worked with as a Social Worker who wanted to 'go home' to the place where they beat them, burned them, abused them and almost killed them. I don't get it, but it is a reality.

I call Roman Catholics who become Episcopalians "recovering Romans" until I see that they have found a way to 'be' Episcopalians without looking over their shoulders in both fear and the pointless hope that things will be better 'back there'.

I often get asked by RCs, "Is this church 'catholic' or 'Christian'?" If they asked Catholic or Protestant, the answer would be the same, but what fascinates me is how many RC folks don't realize their church is, finally, 'Christian'. Anyway, whichever way the question is asked, whether it be 'catholic or Christian' or 'catholic or protestant', the answer is the same. That answer is YES.

The theological tightrope we Episcopalians walk is difficult. We are 'catholic' and, of course, Christian. We are both Catholic and Protestant. That takes some thought and pondering to get your head and heart around. Being a Roman Catholic isn't nearly that confounding, takes next to no thought and is pretty simple since blessed Benedict can wake up any morning and tell you what to do and think.

We Episcopalians ask you to think for yourself and do what God--not the church or the Pope--leads you to do. That's the difference.

Ok, I've written it down. It is eternal in the webosphere. I can't take it back. Yell at me if you wish.

Oh, just one question regarding the Pope's 'ecumenical' action--when you hear the name 'Benedict', who is the other one you immediately think of......?

to blog or not to blog?

Several people have told me they noticed I haven't posted a blog in quite a while. Two thoughts come to me out of that: first, why do people read these ponderings? and secondly, since they do, why am I so inconsistent in writing them?

I have enough ego to think that maybe, just maybe, the answer to the first question is that what I write here is of some interest and, might I hope?, some value.

The second question is easier to answer: I hate what has become of communications in this space and time. Many of the worst mistakes very good communicators have made was when they decided to write emails instead of letters or phone calls or face to face conversation. I allowed myself to be put on face book, but don't try to be my 'friend' since I've looked at my page exactly once in the six months or so it has been there. And I don't give a fig about a tweet or a twitter.

Here is the serious point to all that--other than I'm too lazy to keep up with it all and have not a little hubris about being 'unconnected' while all the world is 'connected'--all this stuff challenges and confounds my profound belief in privacy.

I read on my face book page, the time I looked at it, several notes on my 'wall'--(writing on a wall is a terribly impersonal form of communication to me)--about what people I know and love and deeply respect were up to. One of my dear friends (I mean FRIENDS, not a Face book friend) let me know she was watching Lost on TV. Another let me know they were considering having a beer or two and going to bed. A third let me know what she was in the middle of having for dinner.

I simply don't want to be responsible for keeping anyone from a beer or two for even a moment, or delaying sleep to write on my wall. Plus, I have no interest really in what anyone is watching on TV and certainly don't care about my friends eating habits enough to want them to stop eating to let me know about what it is they are eating. Now, if that sounds harsh and 'disinterested', let me tell you this: "I just spell checked this document and spell check let me correct facebook as 'face book' and 'Face book' on the same spell check." I find that mildly interesting and momentarily ironic that something called "Spell Check" agrees with (I think it was George Washington) the person who said anyone who had to be consistent in spelling has little imagination. {Plus, I just spell checked again and changed 'consistant' to consistent.}

I honestly love 'spell check' since I tend to invert letters--like, I spelled "John" Jhon until I was in high school. But the stuff people write on my wall, just me thinking and writing, seem to be things they would be better served to keep to themselves. I'll have to spell check it, but most everything people wrote on my wall was 'banal' (Hey, I just spelled 'banal' correctly!) I should go on Face book/face book and post that for all my friends...."Jim just spelled 'banal' correctly without any help!"

My tongue is in my cheek, in case you wondered, but I do ponder why we are driven to share stuff that isn't terribly interesting on Face book/face book. And tweets are eons beyond my ken. Though people tell me (I don't know if it is true) that Face book doesn't put things in third person any more, writing something that requires a limited number of letters, words, syllables--whichever--seems to defeat the reality that we all have volumes to say. Twitter would be better served to ask people to communicate in haiku (not even going to spell check that). I'd like receiving haiku from 'friends'. Maybe we could start a service where we 'hike' haiku to each other in real time. I could get into that.

All this is to explain why I haven't been blogging. I simply like having secret thoughts and pondering experiences that no one need ever know I pondered. It seems to me one of the things that make people interesting is the 'mystery' of them--how we can never know what someone else is thinking no matter how much we wish we could. I began to think that if I blogged all the time, I would lose my mystery, my private thoughts, the stuff I want to keep inside and let no one else know about.

That's an interesting question: what are the thoughts you would never, ever, not for a moment, not to anyone reveal? Every time someone says to me, "a penny for your thoughts" I reply, "oh, they're worth a lot more than that--and you can't afford them!"

I know it's not 'true', like TRUE that the Internet will suck out all our thoughts eventually, but I do believe we're leaving the barn door open by never having private thoughts. Lots of stuff on the Internet, people tell me, is cruel, ugly and untrue. People tell me, since I don't look for it, that you can find sites where people say horrible things about our President, people in the media, public figures and even their friends. I hear that blogs and stuff cause a great deal of pain (not to mention law suits) among young folks. I don't know personally, but I've been told that young people send nude pictures of themselves to each other on their smart phones. My phone is definitely not 'smart'. In fact, it is stupid--or maybe its owner is. Maybe I could be sending text messages that would be even more thoughtless than some of my emails have been if I were more adroit at the little phone I carry with me. I'm sure my phone is at least smart enough to refuse to take a picture of me naked. I hope so, though I believe, if I knew how, I could take such a picture and send it out to the world. God help us....

Any way, having gone on and on about how I think the electronic revolution has created a guillotine (I did spell check that--boy was I wrong!) many of our heads are being shoved under, I do think I will blog again.

I will seek to avoid being banal (spelled it right again!) and I will be responsible about how much I violate my privacy. And I do hope--though the writing is what gives me joy--that someone might read what I write from time to time. I don't know why, but there are things I want to share and a blog (that by the way is as unfortunate a word as 'twitter'!) is one way to do that.

So, I'm back and I have some things to say....

Monday, October 19, 2009

my attention span

I have the attention span (or is that 'spand'? I'm an English major and should know!) of a baby chipmunk. Someone told me the other day that I hadn't posted a blog for over a month. "Nonsense," I said, "it was just the other day...or last week...or the week before that...or, oh, I guess, over a month...."

Well, as I was saying....

I have a new granddaughter since I last wrote. Her name is Tegan Hoyt Bradley. She is the sister of Morgan and Emma and we'll be going to Baltimore to meet her on Sunday. Since the twins were tiny, it is a new thing for Josh and Cathy to have a 7lb plus baby. I can't wait to see her and hold her. Josh is now living with four women. Even the dog is female! Lord have mercy upon him....

Hoyt is my father's middle name. It goes well, I think, with Tegan and I'm not sure Josh and Cathy realized what they were doing. Whether they realized it or not, I am eternally grateful. My father was a melancholy and somewhat haunted man. I love him more each day, which is sad, since I didn't love him enough when he was physically with me. I was embarrassed by him much of the time--thinking I was smarter and better educated than he was. Which might be true in some respects but is a horrible reason to be embarrassed by the bone of your bone. But, as Mark Twain observed, one's parents get smarter the older we get. He, at least, met Josh and Mimi but missed his grandchildren by years. My mother missed them all. Sometime I might write about my mother. I haven't started loving her more the older I get yet. I loved her fiercely when she was alive but as the years pass I think less and less of her. She died when I was 25, so I've had a lot of years to have her memory fade. I'm not sure I can remember her voice or her smile--a sad thing since she had a beautiful smile. She was very, very smart and well educated. Mother had a master's degree and was a school teacher. Dad finished 8th grade and worked at lots of jobs from coal miner to insurance salesman. God bless him. He worked hard his whole life and worried like a wort. The worry gene jumped me to my son, I think. Seems that way, at any rate.

I spent 8 hours today in a room full of lawyers. I've spent lots of time with lawyers recently, which may be why my chipmunk brain has forgotten to write here. The church is being sued by one of our former curates. (A 'curate' is the assisting priest but since Episcopalians have to have un-understandable names for everything, we call them 'curates'. Like we call the front hall of the sanctuary the 'narthex' and the basement of the church the 'undercroft'. Go figure....) The church's lawyer would probably have a stroke if he knew I was writing about this, but since it has consumed me so long and my deposition isn't until All Souls' Day (what Episcopalians call November 2nd) I can't hold it in any longer.

It's just a mess. I will, with greater self-control than I imagined I had, withhold any details. But it is just a mess and has caused enormous pain and confusion and anger for me and many members of the parish. (By the way--the lawsuit is not about anything sexual...take a deep breath, ok?) It's a long story I'd like to tell, but being a good 'do-be' won't right now....

Lots of things have happened since I last wrote. Jack Parker's memorial service, my 'roast' after 20 years as Rector, Tegan's birth, the Yankees in the playoffs, West Virginia University's football team climbing into the top 25, the parakeets' arrival, my annual physical, the blessing of the animals...I'm still thinking...lots of stuff. I'll try to be a good chipmunk and write more often if anyone is still reading.

Right now, I have to take the dog out and go to bed. Be well and stay well....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

About the 'best' man

My dear friend Jack died while I was away. He and I both knew he was dying, so when I left I asked him to think about living until I got back. He said he would consider that. But then he got to go home and I knew once he did that, having spent all his energy on getting to the point of 'going home to die' he wouldn't waste any time moving on.
I talked to him on the phone from North Carolina the day before he died. He told me he was so joyous to be 'home' and also told me he didn't think he could keep his promise to wait for me before he went 'home' in a different way. I was in a motel in Fredricksburg VA, watching college football when Jack's daughter called me to let me know her father had died. It was 10 p.m. on a Saturday. I was back in CT by 2:30 the next day. All he needed to do was live another 16 1/2 hours and I could have seen him again. Not much to ask--think about how short a time 16 1/2 hours is in the scheme of things....
But all that is about 'me'. Jack was on a different schedule. God bless him and I know how God has blessed me by knowing him. Lordy, lordy he was about the best man ever...
Through his dying I got to mourn my father--which I never did properly over 20 years ago.
I was with my father in the hospital--St. Raphel's in New Haven--just before he died. We'd had a wonderful conversation...his dementia had lifted like the fog is burned away on winter mornings...and we spoke in hushed and profound ways. Then I told him I needed to go home and he said, I swear this is true, "I'm going home too...." I only lived about a 10 minute drive from the hospital and I was half-way home when I realized that what he said wasn't a false and mind clouded statement, but the truth. I almost turned around to go back but didn't.
When I walked in our house the phone was ringing. It was the hospital to let me know my father had died. My daughter, 8 or 9 years old, came over and hugged me and said, 'you are an orphan now....' Out of the mouths of babes...
I went back to sit with him until the funeral directors came. He had been being shaved by a black nurse when, she told me, he sat up, almost being cut by the razor and said, "I have to get out of here", and laid down dead. Not bad 'last words', I'd say.
While I sat with him a Roman priest came by to ask if I'd like last rites. I told him I would like that.
My father was a racist and a virulent anti-Catholic. When JFK was running for president, my father asked me if I knew what would happen if Kennedy was elected. I didn't know, so he told me, 'they'll freeze holy water and make Pope-cycles', he said, laughing. I didn't get the joke.
So, he died being shaved by a black woman and was given the last rites of the Roman Church. Don't tell me there's no such thing as irony.
And I never mourned him in the way he deserved--the man who raised me and gave me life and taught me many things. Jack has let me do that important work.
And I mourn Jack--my mentor and friend and ally and priestly guru. And knowing he was one of the best men ever, I have come to realize my father was that too.
God bless them both.
Orphaned again.


I love pelicans about as much as I love anything...well, probably there are a couple of dozen people I love more and oysters on the half-shell and a good Pino Grigio and dogs...most of them, but not the little ones people carry in a bag and who seem so unhappy. But pelicans are up there in my hierarchy of things I love.

Oak Island is one of the most prolific breeding grounds of Brown Pelicans on the face of the earth. There are literally hundreds of them there--flying down the beach, diving into the water, floating like ducks on the ocean. I spend a lot of time on Oak Island watching the pelicans do all that. I really love them. And I spend a lot of time on Oak Island telling the people in the house with me about my insights and speculations and imaginings about pelicans.

I happened to say out loud that I'd like to be a pelican for a day. My wife waited the kind of interval you always wait at the beach just because everything slows down there before saying, 'no, you wouldn't like that....' After about 4 minutes, the normal time for a response when you are facing south on the Atlantic, hardly thinking and drinking a little Pino Grigio and watching another couple of dozen pelicans glide down the beach, I responded, 'you're probably right....' I've sometimes thought I'd like to be my dog for a day, but I know for certain I wouldn't want to be one of our cats for a day, or even a minute. I could, I imagine, extricate myself from my dog's mind with little trouble. Dogs are not deep or profound. But being in a cat would seduce me to stay there because they are so inscrutable and complex.

Another time, when I was waxing eloquent about pelicans--how graceful and also clumsy they are and how much I love them--my friend John said, in a random thought, "they don't know how much you love them...."

Astonishingly, I realized how true--like TRUE--that was. And, since I am given to pondering stuff, I pondered it for a while. Does anyone, any creature--besides your dog, who certainly understands--really KNOW how much you love them?

While we were away, my wife, Bern, and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary. I sometimes ponder how much of that time we have truely 'been married'. That's a lot of years and stuff happens and the bond is, from time to time broken. I estimate that we have been 'truly married' for about 30 of those 39 years, give or take a year. But that's a hell of a long time to be loving someone. And I wonder if she really KNOWS how deeply and wonderously I love her.

Probably not.

We are all pelicans gliding down the beach, not aware of how deeply and profoundly we are loved.

You are welcomed to ponder that about yourself and God's love. I invite you to do that. And I would write about it except I am still, in my mind, sitting on that wondrous deck, watching pelicans that I adore and knowing they don't know. I'll leave the God's love thing for you to consider.

The island that wasn't there

So, for several days down on Oak Island--don't tell anyone about it, I don't want more people there....--I'd been looking out at the horizon at an island. I didn't quiet think it could be Bald Head Island since it was so close to Southport, but what do I know? During the day I could see parts of the island sticking up above the long away horizon--you can see for I don't know how far from Oak Island. At night I saw lights, thinking whoever was there was having a great evening--lots of seafood, good alcohol, music and mirth. The third day I pointed the island out to my friend, John, reading his Kendal...some sci-fi novel he downloaded in ways that confound me.

'It's a boat,' he said, glancing up only momentarily.

'But it has been there since we arrived,' I countered, 'it must be an island.'

'A boat,' John said.

"But there are lights at night,' I responded.

'Boats have lights at night,' he said, reading about some alien invasion of a world that doesn't exist.

'So why is it just sitting there if it's a boat?' I asked, thinking that would end the discussion and we'd both look at the island.

'Damned if I know,' he replied, giving me a look that indicated he was tired of wanting to talk about my island and his boat and wanted to read in peace about wierd stuff happening in a Sci-Fi world.

The next day, it was gone, after I'd told everybody it was Bald Head Island. Since islands don't normally simply disappear, except in science fiction, it had obviously been a ship, parked for several days off the coast of Southport for reasons no one I know could explain.

It is much like the dog that wasn't there, the island that wasn't there, except a dog is a creature and an island is a place. Creatures and places are different.

Since I have very few thoughts at the beach that aren't 'random thoughts', I had a random thought about the island. Here is what that thought was: "Damn it all, it was a boat...."

I'd lived 64 hours or so looking at an island that was a boat. What senses can I really trust? None, I'd say.

Realizing you can't trust your senses, that what you think is 'real' isn't, that the universe is more subtle and ironic than you can imagine....Well, that might be the beginning of wisdom in some subtle and ironic way....I don't know, but maybe....

the dog that wasn't there

OK, let me be frank...(actually I'm Jim, but never mind...). I think I'm posting something but the stuff that came up on my screen is different than before...I hope it works.

Sitting in the gazebo down at the end of the long walkway from the house we were in on Oak Island, I settled in beside my friend. He was reading on his Kendal--is that how to spell it? And I was looking down the beach.

A couple of hundred yards away I saw a dog that I thought was tethered in the sand near the rising tide. The dog didn't move but his ears blew out in the wind. A big dog--probably a black lab--sitting extremely still as the waves came nearer and nearer.

I said to John--my friend's name--'look at that poor dog, how can anyone do that to a dog?'

John looked for a while and said, 'maybe we should do something, that seems cruel...'

I got up and crossed the dune to the beach and started walking toward the dog, imagining myself liberating him/her and giving his/her owners a stern talking to about how to treat animal companions. I was going to be stern and threaten to call the ASPCA and make a scene on the beach and maybe even take charge of the lab and bring him back to our house.

The setting sun was in my eyes, I must confess, since Oak Island faces south and we were East of the poor dog. But I was building up my indignation, righteous I assure you, having left my dog back in CT, when I realized it was one of those short beach chairs with a towel on it. The edges of the towel were the 'ears' of the dog I saw and the chair itself was his/her body. I turned back, realizing I had become upset and discombobulated by a dog that wasn't there.

Seems to me that is a metaphor for a lot of stuff. We--you and I--become upset and angry and self-righteous, I think, about a lot of 'dogs' that 'aren't there'.

The whole nonsense about the health care reform--people screaming and whining and complaining about dogs that aren't there.

The next time you decide it is ok to yell out, "you Lie" about something, take a walk closer--this is just me talkin'--and see if the dog is really there....I'll do the same. We'll all be better off, I suspect....

Monday, August 24, 2009

more about baseball

If the bases were 89 feet apart there would be a lot more infield hits. There are lots of close calls at first base in most any game. Some of them result in arguments and even ejections by the umpires of those complaining. Just a foot difference would change the game greatly--so how did Abner Doubleday, who created the game, most agree, come up with 90 feet? Divine intervention? Go figure.

More and more, players come up to bat in body armour. They all, by rule, wear helmets, and many wear protective coverings on their shins, elbows and arms. Most everyone wears 'batting gloves'--a borrowing from golf, but on both hands--and many have 'running gloves' once they get on base which they hold in their hands while running the bases to keep them from stubbing or breaking their fingers if they have to slide. All these are accouterments over the last few decades to protect players from injury. For a sport that is 'non-contact', lots of people get hurt. "Playing through pain" is one of the most admired attributes of a baseball player, but most of them are millionaires these days and don't want to and don't want to get hurt and possibly endanger their next contract.

Jorge Posada is one of my favorite players because he is one of a few that doesn't wear batting gloves. Plus, he's a catcher, the most dangerous and physically draining of all positions. But he does wear a shin guard to protect his leg from fouled balls when batting.

Pain is part of the game. That is just one of the many ways that baseball is like life....

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Surrounded by life...

This morning I stopped at a store and when I came out, my car was surrounded by 20 or so Canada Geese! They are large creatures and a little frightening and murmured and dropped fecal matter (what they do best) as I made my way between them. When I started my engine they all took flight, finding a pattern in a matter of seconds, and flew away toward the near-by park. Amazing...

Then I came to St. John's and walked into the second day of the Music and Church School Camp who have taken over large expanses of a large, expansive building. They were in the chancel singing with Maria and Angela and her two right hand people--Courtney and Suzy--were in the library. There is a 40 foot long time line hanging in there, around the walls, tracing the time from 2000 BC (BCE for the politically/religiously correct) to the present day. The time line is clothes line rope and events are noted by clothes pins. Everyone's birthday--kids, staff, etc--are included, crowding up a part of the line. Mine is several inches behind those of the kids so I'm feeling a little old.

The 20 some kids are, like every gathering of kids at St. John's, a remarkable mix of Hispanic, African American, kids from the Caribbean, Asian and plain ol' white kids. You can't 'make up' the kind of stuff that happens at St. John's. While they were here a Narcotics Anonomous was on the third floor, the clericus (local priests) were in the Kellogg room and the soup kitchen was, as always, feeding between 250-300 people. It's like being surrounded by Canada Geese....How much life is that? Enough....

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I truly believe that baseball is the defining metaphor of life. It is as clear and true and reliable as anything you can imagine.

In the Major Leagues--which is my interest in baseball, not concerned about the minors or college ball or Little League--the pitching rubber is 66 or so feet from home plate. The bases are 90 feet apart, forming a perfect diamond. The straight line from home plate over first base and third base extends out into oblivion--or, at least until there is a wall and a 'fair pole' on either side. One variable is that no two fields have the same dimensions on the distance from home plate to the walls. But it is invariable that any ball hit over those walls, inside the 'fair poles' is a home run. (I use the term "fair poles" rather than 'foul poles'--which is what they are called--
because a ball that hits them is 'fair' not 'foul'....Go figure....)

There are many things I love about baseball--not the least of which is that, since it is almost always played outside (there are some stadiums with roofs and artificial grass--shame on them) and therefore heir to what the weather brings. The season lasts from April to October and, given that length of time, is dependant on what the weather brings. It should be possible to let the teams who play in the north--New York, Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, etc.--start the season in places where it seldom rains--Arizona, Texas, LA, etc.--or in domed stadiums (Minnesota, Toronto, Seattle, etc.). Yet the idiots who make up the schedules don't do that so you have games in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Boston played in April in the rain or snow.... It always rains someplaces--Florida and Atlanta, for example...places that don't have roofs over the field. Good! Rain delays and rain outs are part of the deal about baseball....

One thing about baseball is that there is no time limit (I'll get to that in a while) though other major team sports--football, basketball, soccer, etc.--are 'timed'. There is a 'timelessness' two baseball. It happens when the 9th inning ends (or whichever inning after that ends) and one team is ahead. How glorious, baseball is not on 'the clock'! It is over when it is over. Just like life, I might observe.

I have much more to write about baseball as the Metaphor for life--but I have to eat dinner and watch a baseball game....I'll get back to you when the timelessness is ended....OK?

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I was having a late breakfast with my friend, EE, who is helping me plan a 'day of refreshment' for people who have done the Making a Difference Workshop, at a diner in Torrington. There weren't many people that since we were past breakfast and not yet to lunch. And while EE was talking I noticed a young woman (20's or so) who was washing down the unused chairs and tables. Whatever was being said to me was lost because this young woman was washing chairs and tables and the legs of the tables with a commitment and a consentration I'm not used to seeing.

She washed almost lovingly and certainly with great consentration and commitment and attention. She was, in my mind, 'totally present' to the task she was doing. A small child--4 maybe--which must have been the woman's daughter, was dipping her hand in the bucket and taking out the soap bubbles and rubbing them on table legs and then making sure her 'mother' finished the job.

I was humbled by seeing how aware and awake that woman was to her job, not minding that she was crawling under tables to wash the underside and the legs, simply doing it because it was her role, her task, her life...perhaps her ministry.

What if we all were that centered and in touch with what was right in f ront of us instead of dwelling on the past or looking to the future? What if each of us--me too--were completely present to the moment of our lives, no matter what that moment required? What if I could live my life in the same intensity and focus as she washed those tables and chairs? What if I could crawl under the table of my life and clean it with such care, such devotion, such love?

What would the world look like if all of us could be that awake and present to the moments of our lives and had a smaller one helping and making sure we didn't short-change each moment of our lives....? What would the world look like?

Something mundane and 'profound' as well to ponder....

Monday, July 27, 2009

His eye is on the sparrow...

I haven't written for a week. I think the pressure of writing from General Convention was a bit too much and getting back to the 'right coast' threw me off a bit in terms of what time it was.

I think I need to reiterate what the name of this blog is about since I've had a few people ask me. Jonah, who traveled to Nineveh in the belly of a fish and was vomited up on that shore, proclaimed God's message to the vile folks and Nineveh and then, when they repented, was, in a word 'pissed off' at God (two words actually....) He sat up on a hill, Jonah did, in the horrible and unrelenting sun, to complain to God about God's sparing the folks of Nineveh. God caused a plant to grow up to shade him and just as soon caused a worm to kill the plant. That plant, many Biblical scholars agree, was a Castor Oil Tree. Jonah is left to ponder under that dead tree and that is where I find myself, more often than not, not a little perturbed with God and trying to ponder out God's ways....

I was just out in the Close of St. John's, watching the sparrows bathe and feed. They bathe in the little spots of dust they can find in such a rainy Summer and feed on the crumbs they find from the Soup Kitchen which serves lunch outside in good weather. There is a stick hierarchy in the Close. If the pair of hawks who live downtown are in the ancient elms, the close is free of any other creatures--all of them knowing 'what's good for them' in some instinctive way. Crows also tend to empty the Close for awhile, but squirrels and pigeons are glad to share the space with those feathered rats after a time. Mid-afternoon is the time for the sparrows and a few starlings, who have seemingly met some kind of avian understanding.

Watching a sparrow bathe in the dust is about as wonderful as anything other than watching some creature give birth. They lay down and roll in a way you wouldn't imagine birds could do, flutter and flap and cover themselves with dirt only to shake most of it off and fly away refreshed. Some are impatient and try to drive away another sparrow from the dust only to result in a wing-flapping, chirping confrontation until one backs off to wait.

One of the great gospel tunes is "His Eye is on the Sparrow" and it brings home to me the reality that if God is concerned with these tiny, fussy, fluttering birds that weigh, I would guess, 3 or 4 ounces, then it isn't inconceivable that God loves a short, pudgy white man as well.

"I know he's watching me...."

A bit terrifying to know God has me always in his/her eye, but also, a great relief. I'm not alone, no, never alone. Me and the sparrow, just like that, the apple of God's eye....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

home again, home again, jiggidy jig

I arrived at John Wayne Airport at 4:45. It is a small airport and doesn't open until 5 a.m.! But I was in line with Bp. Wilfredo Ramos Orench, formerly a suffragan in CT and recently the provisional bishop of Ecuador Centrale. Here's my first question--how can their be a diocese of Central Ecuador when the only other diocese there is the Diocese of Ecuador? To be 'central' shouldn't there be dioceses called East Ecuador and West Ecuador? He tried to explain it to me but it was too early in the morning to understand. Little things like that cause me to ponder.

Bp. Ramos is one of my favorite people. He is so kind and good and engaging. I miss him. The GC approved the consecration of his successor so in two weeks he'll be retiring and moving home to Porto Rica. He brought some bishop vestments to the convention and gave them away! He's serious about retiring....

So I flew from John Wayne (which is a small airport with long runways because huge jets land and take off there) to George H. W. Bush airport in Houston. I've flown through Houston before and, just like always, the connecting flight in invariably in another terminal. I think they do that so you have to walk by this larger than life statue of the first Bush president and a big display. Actually the statue is Kennedyesque--George the first's hair and tie are blowing in the wind. I actually liked him a lot better than his son. Then from there to Cleveland where, once more, the connecting flight to Hartford was a terminal and a half--about a mile--from where we deplaned.

I slept in my bed last night for the first time since July 4. I am so glad to be home and did some initial talking about convention in my sermon today. I want to do more with what happened when I get the stuff I shipped FedEX from the west coast. My internal clock isn't functioning well and I'm not very creative right now. More later....

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The day after tomorrow...

That's when I'll come home. We've been here so long that when people part for the night--like after dinner--we say to each other, "are you going home?"--meaning the hotel!

Day after tomorrow I can answer that--YES!!

I'll check my email tomorrow at the Con Center but won't blog since I have to have a 4 am wakeup call tomorrow night to catch a cab to the airport. I've been packing a bit so it won't all be left to do tomorrow.

Today the HofD got really moving. We covered three days of legislation in two sessions and didn't have to meet tonight. But I did go out to dinner with 4 others from CT and it was a 2 hour dinner....

Well, we got moving to a greater extent than we have been but there were times of absolute madness. Here's the best example: We elected members of the committee for the nomination of the Presiding Bishop. It is a committee no one wants to ever meet. Katherine j-s was elected in 2006 to a nine year term. So the real nomination committee will be elected in 2012 to report to the GC of 2015. But just in case she should die, be incapacitated or decide to join the circus (though what 'circus' could be more circus-like than the Episcopal Church?) the mechanism to replace her would be in place. That's hints of something that it is hard to imagine unless you've been a part of it: the Episcopal GC is so weighed down by inertia that it must be tightly administered or it would spin out into space by it's own centrifugal force. It is one of the reasons that the HofD is so hard to keep moving AND so hard to control. 800+ deputies (about a third of which are new every three years--three of CT's 8 deputies and 2 alternates had never been in that role before and a 4th was an alternate who was a 1st time deputy...and that's CT, the land of consistency...) left to their own devices would either bog down completely or run away to chaos. So the level of control and parliamentary strictness has to be intense. But even with that, things fly apart. Today for instance, we had a vote on a paper ballot (most voting has been electronic and just as we got it right, it's time to go! But a paper ballot to elect the hopefully never meeting committee for the nomination of a Presiding Bishop became a comedy not too far removed from the Keystone Kops (sorry for the ancient allusion for those who are under 50!). Vote for one lay person and one clergy from each of the 9 provinces of the EC and since it makes counting the votes easier, put all the page 1's of the ballot in one pile and all the page 2's in another for them to be collected from each deputation. Sounds like something a group of 800 people whose average IQ is probably well above the national average, right? But there was no picture or biography for Province 9, which is the
Spanish speaking Province of Central America. Lost in translation is not an idle phrase. Bear in mind that the Provincial Caucuses met last night but due to the magic of email and digital photos that can be sent by email, the pictures and biographies were ready for us this morning. (The print shop must work through the night on this stuff to produce 800 copies of that only a few hours after it was emailed!) Province 9 thought they were to elect their representatives rather than have the whole house vote on them so they did and didn't send in their information, so it wasn't printed, just the four names.

Someone rose to say they could not possibly vote for people they knew nothing about and had no picture of and who had Latino names. Another rose to ask if they failed to vote for candidates for Province 9. That was asked three times by three different folks before the Voting Secretary, a wondrous young priest names Winny (who, for those who were part of our adult forum using the LIVING THE QUESTIONS videos, was the Hispanic woman who was always sitting in a room with a fireplace and various Hindu gods/goddesses on the mantle) told them 'yes' their ballots would be invalidated if they didn't cast votes for each province. (A rule of the HofD is 'you have to vote!', there are no abstentions--which the HofB's can do). Then there were several deputies who rose to point out that if page one and page two (where province 9 was) were handed in separately, how would the elections committee know which page ones to invalidate. (Now, imagine, we are supposedly marking out simple paper ballots during all this conversation!) Finally a deputy moved that if people did not vote for Province 9 that only page two should be invalidated. There was some debate and then a vote. the motion carried. Winny said, "I cannot imagine a reason someone would not simply mark two names from Province 9." Vote for somebody, for God's sake, just because you should and the House's rules demand it. Vote for someone because you like their name. or vote 1-2 or 2-1 or 1-1 or 2-2, just mark the ballot and turn it in. This is, after all, a committee that we pray will 'never' meet!!!

Perhaps the average IQ of the HofD is a detriment. People are constantly overthinking things. It took over half-an-hour to have everyone finally mark and hand in their ballots that took 18 pen strokes....

On the same level of insanity--the Hof B DID DEFEAT the constitutional change which took the vote from retired bishops--the change the bishops have wanted for decades!!! Apparently, since the origins of this movement came when the Hof B was what someone called "the most exclusive men's club in America", to remove the retired bishops' vote would disenfranchise a disproportionate # of women and minorities. 30 years ago there were no women and only a scattering of minorities in the HofB. What did Bonhoeffer say about how the church 'moves'? We move so slowly the entire context changes....

The budget passed without amendment (not for lack of trying! there were at least a dozen proposals for changes, all of which failed). The budget was a $23million decrease from the last 3 year budget--about 13% (nearly the figure St. John's cut its budget for 2009 from 2008.) Much drama since everything cut meant a lot to some. The bishops approved it without change as well. I don't know, but $141 million seems enough to run the EC for three years....But pain is real and folks from St. John's Waterbury reading this need to know we will have to cut more from the 2010 budget unless we all suddenly decide to tithe (a minimum expectation for giving approved by several of the last GCs).

Two of the cuts that were not restored were for the Anti-Racism work of the church and the Mission Development Fund, which was poised to raise $250million. Those two I have great sympathy for. Since racism isn't eradicated from the church or our society (though we passed resolutions recommending it should be!) not funding that work seems odd. And, if we want to raise money--the EC is the only mainline church without a development office, per se--then why wouldn't we spend money to do so? You might notice that the $ the Development Fund was set to try to raise was nearly twice the 3 year budget for the whole church, it seems short sighted to cut the budget to eliminate the entire staff. I suspect it was a turf war of sorts, who would control all that money and decide where to spend it? So, rather than just raise it and figure that out later, we decided to NOT raise it! I am prejudiced since two of the staff of that project are dear friends of mine. But my prejudice not withstanding it seems a bit daft to not spend some money to make a lot of money. Call me crazy if you wish. I suspect the executive council--the EC's equivalent of the Vestry--could restore some money to that project. I hope they do.

The HofD also voted to discharge--that means simply, to remove from the agenda--a resolution approved by the Bishops and recommended by the Committee giving 'vote' to some of the Youth Presence at GC. CT has a young person, Rachels Downs 21/2 or something, in our deputation, who, by the way was the top vote getter among the lay deputies at Diocesan Convention. But there are only 20+ deputies under 25 out of 800+. The resolution would have provided vote as well as seat and voice to members of the official youth presence who sit on the floor, not far behind CT, and can speak but have no vote. By discharging the resolution we set the whole process back 3 years. It was a constitutional change which requires 2
GC's passing it in the same form. So, had we approved it, it would not have been constitutional until 2012 and no in force until 2015. Now 2018 is the earliest we can give voice to more young people. It was a sticky constitutional and parliamentary issue but by discharging it I will be 71 before it could possibly be true and all the young people in the Youth Presence will be in their mid-20s and we will have missed a whole generation of youth by not allowing them access to the decision making power of the church. God help us....

So today we pissed off the people of color and the young people. Tomorrow we'll royally piss off the Conservatives with a resolution passed overwhelmingly by the bishops that will start the process toward liturgies for same-sex unions and give wide interpretive laditude to bishops in states where same-sex marriage is legal to exert extraordinary pastoral concern. Some bishops will interpret that as letting priests officiate at same sex marriages rather than merely blessing those civil marriages and some will see as less than that. Vote by orders is certain, but I predict, feeling optimistic that the votes will be there. I predict 69-50 in the lay order and 66-54 in the clerical order. We shall see.
I read an interview on line tonight with Gene Robinson, who is the center of this firestorm over sexuality. When he was asked if he recognized the pain of the folks who are on the losing side of these issues he reflected that he had been on the losing side for decades and never left the church. Now it is the other side on the so called losing side. Gene thought it would be instructive to them.

I've been a priest since 1975. I began, in a remarkable but actually small way, with Gene Robinson's consent by the GC to be on the winning side in 2003. I was a priest for 28 years on the 'losing' side (though I never saw it that way--I saw it as being called to wait on the spirit to move. So I've been on the so called 'losing side' for 28 years vs. being on the so called 'winning side" for 6 years. And I never, in almost 3 decades considered for a moment 'leaving the EC". It is ironic for me that the 'other side' (a distinction I reject since the church moves with the Spirit and the Spirit claims all) is so quick to consider leaving. I actually feel, for the first time, that we as the EC are 'telling the truth' about 'what is'. I like that, feeling like a truth-teller and letting that stance be real and letting others react to it as they may.

The Church of England today said awful things about us. So be it. I'd rather have awful things said about me when I'm telling the truth than when I'm not. We haven't told the truth about the reality of the EC's struggle with human sexuality until now. Let the rest of the AC judge us as they may. God bless them. At least, in my mind, criticism of Who we really are is preferred to criticism of who we pretended to be.

I'll write to you from home. I am so glad to be leaving this place of eternal sunshine and endless blue skys. Bp. curry told me today that his daughter called from CT to say there was an astonishing thunder storm last night. I long for cloudy skies and thunder storms and weather that changes if you simply 'wait a while'. I will not regret flying away from southern cal. back to the unpredictable north east. I hope it rains on sunday--which, by the way for St. John's folks, I'll be preaching and celebrating at 8 a.m. For me it will be--in my body clock--5 a.m.! Does the request, 'don't expect too much" make sense???

See some of you Sunday....I'll see Bern and our creatures Saturday night. Alleluia and Amen!

The 9th day

This morning is the next to last legislative day. (Only two more sleeps until I can start home!) We will probably have a session after dinner tonight so I expect to be in the house from 9:30-11:15, go to Eucharist (Wilfredo Ramos it the celebrant today) grab lunch, be in session from 2-6, grab dinner and be in session from 7:30-10.

It's little wonder that I feel about the other deputies the way you felt about your friends from summer camp. We've been isolated in the midst of a multitude for almost two weeks. We've spent more time together than we ever spend with our families in two weeks! I really like them all a great deal. But I probably won't be too melancholy about leaving them behind!

Time is a remarkable concept. It's been around since human beings could make a mark on a cave wall to record the rhythm of dawn and darkness and since they noticed the shadow of a rock moved from one side to the other during the day. But as helpful a concept as time is, it is an elusive experience. When I arrived here, it seemed like I would be in Anaheim practically indefinitely. Yet now, with only two days to stay, those few hours seem to stretch out indefinitely still...though the days and hours have seemingly sped by.

(the weather forcast was for 'partly cloudy'. It seems that means that the morning haze hangs on a bit longer on the horizon and the blue is perhaps half a shade less blue....Lord, I miss a cloudy day...)

I'm not sure when I'll be able to write here again. But I want you to know I've enjoyed it and even if it's not until I get home, I will try to wrap it up a bit before moving on to other things to ponder under my withered castor oil tree....Be well....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The rocket's red glare...

It must be 9:30 because it sounds like a war zone outside. All the pyro-technicians must get their training as Disneyland.

About Disneyland, by the way, there have been workers from the Magic Kingdom outside the Conv. Center every day, handing out postcards and information about the labor practices of Disney. The workers--most of whom are paid just above minimum wage--are having their health care reduced if they don't take over the entire payment. Taking health care away at this time in history seems draconian to me. There was even a prayer vigil for the workers after the afternoon session yesterday. It was held among the pristine and beautiful grounds of the Hilton Hotel--a bit ironic that.

Today the budget was presented. Bishop Smith is vice-chair of the PB&F committee (Program, Budget and Funding) and helped present the budget. It is one of the very few times we hold a joint session of both houses and the bishops joined their deputations for the presentation. Not surprizingly, there is a great short fall and programs that mean a lot to some were either slashed or eliminated. Plus there will be layoffs at the Church Center in NYC. It is a painful process and PB&F is the hardest working committee in the GC. They have to deal with resolutions that ask for funding even as they are trying to finalize the budget. Both houses will debate and seek to pass the budget tomorrow and time is running low. Two more sleeps before the convention ends on Friday afternoon.

We also passed a historic resolution creating a church wide health plan. I've always wondered why we didn't have a plan for the whole church and now we do. Insurance issues though, are quite tangled and complicated. Quite a few spoke against it and against a required pension plan for lay employees. Harriet is the only lay employee we have who works enough hours and we, at St. John's, already contribute to her pension. However, there are apparently those around the church that do not. These two issues brought up a divide in the EC that is as significant, if not more so, than the progressive/orthodox divide--small churches vs. larger churches.

A recent report out of 815 that I gave to the vestry reveals some startling facts. Did you know only 10% of Episcopal Churches are in urban areas? When you think of the large number of urban areas in the country, that is a bit surprising to me. But here's what blew me away, nearly 80% of Episcopal Churches have a sunday attendance of less than 150. Just over half of them have a Sunday attendance of 70 or less. St. John's, which I don't think of as a 'large' congregation, is in the top 10% of ECs in total Sunday attendance and we are about 35 people per Sunday from being in the top 3.5% of Episcopal Churches. Those figures are stunning to me and give me much more pause about the health, indeed the existence of the EC through the next 100 years. The median Sunday attendance at an EC (line them all up and find the one dead in the middle with equal # of churches with lower attendance and higher attendance, is 69!!! Because it is an 'average', St. John's is over 300 in the three Sunday services. (We don't get that in August, obviously!) How can a church with such statistics long survive? So deputies from small churches are afraid the new required church-wide health insurance and the mandated pension payments for lay employees over 2000 hours a year (1500 hours from what was passed today!) will tip them over the edge.

Since I'm big on irony, it is ironic that this denomination of small churches holds a 10 day convention in expensiver places and spends millions of $ for it. They negotiate a real deal for housing (the room I'm in is $120 or so a night though it says on the door of my room it is $600 a night for one person. Each deputy from CT--10 of us with the first alternates--was given about $3500 for travel and expenses. $35,000 seems a lot more for small dioceses made up of small churches than it does for CT or LA or Chicago or DC or Mass and other dioceses like that. The greater Irony is that even though nearly 80% of EC have 150 or less on Sunday, more Episcopalians go to church in the other 20% than in the 80%! Even in CT with 180 parishes, there are probably at least as many people in church on Sunday in the churches of Fairfield County and New Haven as there are in the rest of the parishes combined. We are a denomination of 'small churches' that acts like a denomination of 'large churches'. The budget does cut the length of convention by 2 days in 2112, but that seems like pocket change savings to the dioceses. When I come to retire, I'd like to work part time in one of those small, family sized churches and figure out what that's about. The first church I served had about 75 on a Sunday, but at that time they could afford both a priest and a building. St. James, Charleston was over 90 years old and when I stayed 5 years I had the longest tenure of any vicar they ever had. St. John's is 276 years old and I've been there 20 years and, I think I'm still 4th or 5th in terms of longevity. I'm only the 18th Rector. St. James had had more vicars than that in less than 100 years.

Another Irony of the astonishing kind: since 1979 there have been resolutions to have only active bishops be able to vote at GC. In 2006 we passed a constitutional change (which must be passed by two consecutive conventions in the same language to take effect) which accomplished that. The move was instigated and supported by retired bishops who felt they should have seat and voice but no vote since they did not represent a constituency--they were accountable to no one. So, 30 years later, we are poised on the edge of passing what retired bishops requested. (Arthur Walmsley, one of our former bishops, was pit bull about this.) The bishops would approve and the deputies would give back the vote over and again. But last night I was talking to Jeffery Rowthorn, one of CT's retired bishops and discovered he DIDN'T favor it. And Bp Smith said most of the retired bishops were against it. It occurs to me that most of the retired bishops who have supported this over three decades are either dead or not here. So, it may be the hofb that defeats it this time! How wierd is that. 30 years to give the bishops what they wanted was time enough for them to probably not want it anymore....

I talked to a man from Ireland, a former RC priest, who is one of the people with a booth in the Exhibition hall. We were both outside having a cigarette. The conversation started when I asked him, "do you remember when we ruled the earth, when our tribe was much larger?" He laughed and introduced himself. He told me 'Bradley' is a common name in the county of Ireland where he comes from. I found out he lives in southern Cal and I asked him how he could stand the endlessness of the blue sky and the unending sunshine. He told me he played golf--'nuf said. I told him Ireland is the only place outside the US I think I could live--mostly for the fog and clouds and ubiquitous rain. People I talk to who start going on and on about the climate here are shaken and confused when I tell them I can't leave 'paradise' soon enough. I really think being in Anaheim much longer would make me long for snow and ice and the 15 hours of darkness in winter in CT. What my new Irish friend told me resonates with my psyche. I always thought Bradley was a British name, but since noone in my family has ever been able to trace us back across the Atlantic, maybe I'm a lot more Irish than I thought. I know Celtic music is my 'soul music' though
Bern--Italian and Hungarian to the core runs out of the room when I'm watching it on PBS! I kinda like thinking my half-Irish blood on my mother's side may be equaled by half-Irish DNA on my father's side. And I could live in Ireland.....

The hofd is like driving a Packard on the I-5 in Southern California. We are two days behind in our work with 2 days to go! We keep shortening debate and putting more things on the consent calendar that can be voted all at once. Everyone is a little tired and a lot crabby. And there is much more to do.

last thing: today we approved continuing in the Anglican Communion's conversation about a Covenant for the AC. I'm dead against it. The Covenant is being designed to make us a much more hierarchical church and taking privilege from the 39 churches to consentrate it in a communion wide rule of bishops and archbishops. That is antithetical to our polity and, I would suggest, totally un-Anglican. The 'four instruments of unity' under the covenant in its present form are: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the gathering of the Primates of the 39 churches, the Lambeth Conference (all bishops) and the Anglican Consultative Council made up of a bishop a priest and a lay person from each of the 39 churches. We would begin to look like the RC church with the ABC as Pope and the Primates as the College of Cardinals and the Lambeth Conference as the College of Bishops. As bad an idea as I can imagine or conceive of in my mind. I was one of a dozen or so of 814 who voted 'no', but I was proud of my vote. The key thing is this--any 'covenant' of any form must be approved by a GC and I have come to trust the GC this year. Almost all the other 38 churches could agree to it if their archbishop agreed with it. We are one of the few Anglican churches who doesn't have an Archbishop. We have a 'Presiding
Bishop" and she 'presides' rather than 'rules'.

I miss all of you back in CT. I miss Bern and Bela (our dog) and Luke (the only one of our two still living cats I like) and the staff I love at St. John's and the people there and clouds and thunderstorms and crabby people of the East Coast. I miss a familiar ocean and the cultural agreement we have back east to maintain that what you see is what you get. Lots of people at GC have told me how impressed they are with how polite and friendly all the workers in the hotels and resturants are. I could stand a little rudeness right now. Three sleeps and I'll be in Houston and Cleveland and Hartford and then home...home sweet home....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

there's a new world a'comin'....

OK, I have to repent my last blog's lack of faith in the house of bishops. I got Jerry Caroon, our alternate, to sit in for me this afternoon so I could go to the Hof B and Listen to their conversation about D025 which I gave you in the last post and lamented how the bishops wouldn't pass it.

They did!!! 99-44 with two minor and insignificant amendments. The amendments means the resolution has to come back to the hofd, but, in my mind they don't matter and we should approve the amended version in a heartbeat.

The 'debate' they had for over an hour was remarkable for how cordial and moving it was. The highlight for me was after several bishops had spoken in opposition to the resolution, pointing out how it would so, so offend the Anglican Communion, Bishop Prince Singe of Rochester (I swear that's his name) got up and said something like this: I AM the Anglican Communion. I grew up in India and the Anglican Church in India was the only church who ministered to the 'untouchable' caste. They did so, starting churches and schools in the 'untouchable' castes villages knowing they would lose the upper castes who would not come to those churches and to those schools. 80% of the Anglicans in India are 'untouchables'. It is time the EC realized our ministry is to the 'untouchables' in our culture.

He had me from the first mention of 'untouchables'. Right now I have never felt so committed and connected and involved in our church as I am right now. All three of our bishops voted 'yes' and so did Bp. Ramos, formally one of our bishops who is now in Ecuador. I haven't yet fully appreciated what has happened and I am moved to tears when I try to imagine it. D025 has made true what is so.

One of the bishops in opposition to the resolution read a quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who told us in his sermon last week to 'tell the truth'. He lamented the action of the HofD and said the HofB had the opportunity to 'block' that action. Some bishops I talked with were, to put it mildly, pissed off that the ABCanterbury would 'dis our church in such a remarkably inappropriate way.

We may 'walk separately' for a season with some of our brothers and sisters in the AC. There will be a cost to what the AC does in reaction to D025. But, for the first time in my life as an Episcopalian, we have told the TRUTH about who we are. Such truth telling allows us to enter into dialog with the rest of the AC with nothing hidden.

I also realize that there are some in the EC that will be offended and pained by this resolution. I would direct them to the last 'resolve':

"Resolved, that the 76th GC acknowlege that members of the EC as of the AC, bases on careful study of the Holy Scriptures and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters."

That is my understanding of Anglicanism. We need not agree on matters of the interpretation of Scripture or Doctrine so long as we are willing--in our disagreements--to worship as on Body.

After today I have to reassess and ponder my opinions of the House of
Bishops. A learning and transforming exercise to undertake. And, under the castor oil tree with Jonah, 'pondering is what I do...."

Talk with you tomorrow--day 7....Unlike the Creation story, the work is not done and we cannot say "it is good"....Love you all. JIM

Sunday, July 12, 2009

D025 passes house of deputies

Perhaps more important than the passage of D025 to St. John's was the passage of a resolution on Hispanic/Latino ministry. The work that went into preparing a report on H/L ministry was superb. Pending what Program and Budget Committee has to do, $3.5 million was approved for work in the H/L community. I've talked to several people who work on the national level and they have heard of what we're doing at St. John's!!! Kudos to Armando Gonzalez and Mike Carroll. People know about your minisry at GC. Two people even said, "That's where Fr. Armando is," when I told them I was St. John's. Amazing--what a gift that ministry is to St. John's and the larger church.

I wrote earlier today about D025. It passed overwhelmingly. The vote--by orders--(after several attempts to change or weaken the resolution failed)was 77 yes, 22 no and 9 divided in the Lay Order and 74 yes, 20 no and 13 divided in the clerical order.

I probably explained 'voting by orders' in an earlier post, but a quick review is in order. In a vote by orders each diocese has 2 votes--one for the clergy and one for the laity. Since there are normally 4 lay and 4 clergy deputies in each diocese, the vote must be 4-0 or 3-1 to be either a yes or no. If the deputies in the lay or clergy order vote 2-2 it is recorded as 'divided' but counts as a 'no' vote...or 'not a yes' vote. CT, for example, had a 4-0 vote of the lay members and a 3-1 vote of the clergy members for yes. So Ct's 2 votes were both 'yes'. Confused yet?

At any rate it was over 70% 'yes'. That, it seems to me, can be considered a mandate. B033 was not explicitly overturned, but the obvious implication is that the 'urging' not to consecrate gay/lesbian nominees is made moot.

Now it goes to the bishops. The fear among progressives in the HofD is that the bishops might remove the 5th resolve and cause a standoff between the bishops and the deputies. Nobody I've talked to will dare 'give odds' on what might happen with the bishops. So the GC is holding it's breath until they act.

If I might express my opinion (something I obviously don't do much!!!) I would say the Bishops, as they deal with D025, hold not only the future of the Episcopal Church in their hands but the future of the Anglican Communion as well. But NOT in the way they might imagine. D025--go read it in the last blog--expresses a genuine desire to remain fully a part of the Anglican Communion AND to be true to the reality of the life of this particular and peculiar church. We are the only member of the AC who governs itself in a completely and transparently 'democratic' way. Most of the Primates of the AC, unlike our Presiding Bishop, have almost papal like power within their church. Whatever the Archbishop says, the church does. Someone today, in debate, said 22 of the other 38 churches in the AC are now, even with B033, in 'damaged communion' with the EC. I turned to Ellen Tillotson and said, "only 16 to go!" In a humorous and ironic way, I mean that. We have been duplicitous with the AC for years now--claiming we want to agree with them when absolutely everyone in the EC and the AC knows to what great extent we are already including gay/lesbian folks in our life and leadership. It is simply time to stop posing and tell the truth. This church is ready for the 'local option' about same sex blessings and election of bishops. We had 'local option' on women priests and bishops for two decades--no diocese HAD to accept it, but most would gladly. I pray the Hof B will relent their attempts at appeasement and coercion and 'speak the truth in love' to the rest of the AC. This is how we make decisions and this is who we are. We will not leave you but if you cannot walk with us, given our realities, then perhaps we must walk separately for a while.

The EC cannot be a strong and mission-driven church until we are honest about who we are. Our bishops were elected to LEAD. Instead, to much of the time, they hold back and give disinformation to the rest of the communion. Either we are a church where there are no outcasts, as PB Browning said at the last GC in Anaheim OR we are a church that betrays it's own members to the prejudices and often outright hatred of those far away. The best witness we can give to the AC is to be unashamedly and boldly "who we are" and call the AC to deal with us on that level.

Shame on the bishops if they emasculate or defeat D025. They have no reason to worry about my judgment. I only pray they fret and ponder the judgement of God--a God who includes all, with nobody left out.

The bishops are under the castor oil tree with Jonah. God chose to save Nineveh, to include those outcasts in the Kingdom. Our bishops can ponder where we are and who we are and claim our identity as followers of a God who includes all....Or they can hide behind demands on us from those who do not live under our constitution and canons and pretend to be a church willing to 'exclude' in order to be part of the flock.

(Last week was the 30th anniversary of the debute of Spike Lee's remarkable film "Do the Right Thing". How fast time flies...about the same time as Bp Browning's declaration of 'no outcasts' in this church.)

(a young lion was separated from his mother and raised by mountain goats. he became, as best he could, a mountain goat. he ate grass--though it tasted vile--and learned to say 'baa' and to run from any danger. one day, the goats were feeding on a mountain side and heard a dangerous and raucous noise from the valley below. The young lion bleeted and started to run, but something in that sound spoke to his heart. So, in fear and trembling, he crept to the edge of the hill and over it. There, by the side of a stream was a full grown lion, feeding on a his kill. He looked up and saw the young mountain-goat-lion. The mountain-goat-lion said "BAA" and ate a mouthful of grass.

"What are you doing?" the full grown lion asked him. "what was that strange noise and why are you eating grass? doesn't it taste vile?"

"Come over here," the lion said, "look in the stream with me." The cub who was a mountain lion went, though it took all his courage. In the mirror of the water he saw himself for the first time and saw the lion as well.

"I'm just like you!" the cub said. Then he took a bite of the lion's kill and roared his first roar.

"Never forget," the older lion said, "who you are and whose your are..."

For too long our bishops have been mountain goats when, in fact, they are lions. I pray that as they deliberate on D025, they will remember 'who they are and whose they are" and 'do the right thing'....

All is well and all is well and all manner of things will be well....

Sunday lull (before the storm?)

After the glorious eucharist this morning with all the bishops of the church processing and the two past presiding bishops (Edmund Browning and Frank Griswold) flanking Katharine Jefferts Schori at the altar and all the ECW's, each diocese called by name, personally handing their United Thank Offering to the Presiding Bishop--plus music and dance to die for--there was a blessed break in the convention.

Today is too warm for me so I've spent some time in my room reading and resting.

The House of Deputies meets again from 3-6 pm and there is a chance we may get to the first significant piece of legislation entitled D025 (D means the original resolution came from a diocese--in this case several--which were cobbled together by the Committee on World Missions. Each resolution is assigned to one of the 20+ committees and might be drastically rewritten in committee before coming to the floor of the houses. D025 is coming to the HD first and when we have fiddled with it and if we approve it, it will go to the HBishops. If they change it members from both houses will meet to try to reach a compromise. Whatever fails in one house or the other fails. Both houses must pass the identical resolution for it to be inacted. (Sound familiar? Just like the House and Senate work.)

D025, in its present form, both affirms the EC's commitment to the Anglican Communion and, by implication, voids B033-2006.

Committees have both Bishops and Deputies on them (more Deputies since there are 835 or so of us and not nearly that many Bishops. The Committee approved D025 26-5 (dep. 24-2, Bish. 2-3!) Here it is in its wonderful parliamentary language.

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 76th GC reaffirm the continued participation of the EP in the Anglican Communion, give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of the EC to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible, and be it future
Resolved, that the 76th GC encourage dioceses, congregations and members of the EC to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, net works and relationships of the AC, and be it further
Resolved, that the 76th GC reaffirm its financial commitment to the AC and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget, and be it further
Resolved, that the 76th GC affirm the value of 'listening to the experience of homosexual persons' as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988 and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the GC has come to recognize that the baptized membership of the EC includes same sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships 'characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, care, honest communication and the holy love which enable those in such relationships to see each other in the image of God' (D039-2000) and be it further
Resolved that the 76th GC recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to
God's call and have exercise various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further

Resolved that the 76th GC affirm that God has called and may call such individuals to any ordained ministry in the EC, which call is tested through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the EC; and be it further
Resolved, that the 76th GC acknowledge that members of the EC as of the AC, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.

It is, in my mind, a consummately "Anglican" statement, allowing for disagreement, pledging unity without uniformity, speaking boldly to the situation of our time and place. We shall see...perhaps today, surely Monday.

Got to go to the House now. (Well, it's not really a 'house', it's a huge room in an enormous Convention Center...but you know what I mean....)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

more catching up

OK, I've gone almost two days without writing--mostly because I don't have time.

So you'll know, let me tell you about my last two days.

After I wrote stuff friday morning I was in the HofD from 9:30 to 11:45. Eucharist for about 1 1/4 hours, quick lunch, back to house from 2-6. no dinner, went to reception and eucharist of Integrity...1500 people or so in a huge ballroom in the Hilton. Barbara Curry did the set up and the sound and lights for what can only be described as a kick ass eucharist! talked to people for an hour and back to my room to eat a half-of-Ruben sandwich left over from lunch.

today: up at 7 to go to fitness center (I've done it every day and am getting prideful about finding the time) 9-12:30 House of D, 12:45 Eucharist, 1 CT caucus in the convention center, 2-3:45-Public Narrative conversation, 4-6 House of D, ran to room to change clothes for Virginia Seminary Dinner in the California Hotel in Disneyland and got back to the hotel at 10. The only time I left the con center was to come put on a jacket for the VTS dinner!

tomorrow--the day of rest--the eucharist and ingathering of the ECW will be at 10 but I'm a minister of communion (I actually volunteered!) and have to be there by 9 for orientation. There will be between 6 and 7,000 people at the service and about 90 folks to give out bread and wine. It is such a trip to be a part of that kind of liturgy. There is a 45 minuted prelude of music and visuals on the two 30'x20' screens. We will have a 3 hour session in the house of deputies from 3-6. Some day of rest....

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the storm that ravaged much of New Haven County and did enormous damage to st john's. Judy McManis sent me a long email about it. If I knew how to do computer stuff I'd put the email in this blog...but I don't.

Random things:

*Bonnie Anderson, the President of the House of Deputies, a lay person from Michigan, invited 7 international people she has met in the last three years to speak to the House. There was the head of the House of Deputies in Canada, the Dean of the Cathedral in CapeTown, a seminary dean from somewhere else in Africa, an indiginous theologian from New Zealand (I heard her preach at a Gen Con and she is astonishing!), the archbishop of Brazil and a couple of others I can't give a title to right now. They were from three different continents and New Zealand and all assured us that whatever we do at this Convention, the Anglican Communion will still see the EC as a gift to the communion. Bonnie will catch hell for stacking the deck with people who support the progressive nature of the EC, but it was fun to hear. The Dean of Cape Town wore a tee shirt that I could read on the big screens. It showed two african men in profile and said "OUT IN AFRICA". The new zealand theologian who kept referring to herself as 'you indiginous sister' spent 15 minutes condeming the Anglican Communion for their treatment of the American Church. It was stunning. But even I must admit it was 'one sided' in the raging debate that is the Anglican Communion.

The Dean of Cape Town reminded us that there is a concept in African called 'curative rape'. Fathers whose daughters are lesbian will have them kidnapped and repeatedly raped to make them heterosexual. I think there are few people in the US--no matter what their thoughts about homosexuality--that would find that to be a sane solution. Is there any reason to wonder why the debate between "the Southern Hemisphere" of the church is at odds with the EC's somewhat open policy toward GLBT folks.

The House spent some 20 minutes today debating a resolution having to do with health care. A motion to 'divide' the resolution (vote on two parts separately) failed, two different amendments failed, a dozen or so people spoke before the question was mercifully called and in the end, the voice vote was practically unanimous! Tom Fuhr, who sits next to me at the Ct tables--a first time deputy--shook his head and wondered to me, 'why did we spend so much time on something we all agreed on?' A valid question. We really need to move quickly because we are almost a day behind on the calendar of resolutions already. It always happens in a legislative body of 800 people. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his parody of a hymn: "Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of God, Brothers we are treading where we have always trod...."

The Integrity Eucharist--as usual--was one of the most exciting and moving moments of GC. Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire and the center of the firestorm that has been burning the Anglican communion since 2003 because he was the first 'openly' gay bishop in a committed same sex relationship, was the celebrant. The preacher was Bishop Barbara Harris, retired Suffragan of Mass. and the first woman ever elected bishop in our church. Barbara is also black, so she was the first 'black woman' to be a bishop besides. She took no prisoners! She said that, according to the current stance of the EC, because of B033-2006, GLBT folks had, at best, a 'half-assed' baptism and suggested if gay/lesbian folks couldn't be elected bishops we should be honest and deny them baptism as well. She also said (and this is so clever I wish I'd thought of it!) that marriage, for most of human history, has already been same-sex--a contract between the bride's father and the groom!!! I saw bishop curry, who was there, afterwards and asked, "Why can Barbara Harris say those truths and sitting bishop's can't?' He smiled and shook his head--"she's FREE," he told me, "she can say whatever she wants...."

Barbara has a 'get out of jail free' card that active bishops don't have because they, like the EC, is so emmeshed in the tangled and confusing alliance with people who don't want to be in communion with us in the first place. We bend over backwards to appease and satisfy folks who don't want to be in our presence to begin with. B033 got the Presiding Bishop a ticket to attend the meetings of the Primates of the other Anglican Churches, but a significant number of them won't recieve communion with her....The cost for that 'half-assed' acceptance is Justice and True Inclusion. Don't tell me Irony is dead.....

At the end of the Integrity Eucharist, Gene Robinson invited all the gay/lesbian priests in the room to come up on the platform. That platform, about 30' by 20' couldn't hold them all. I know some of them. They are some of the most gifted, committed, devout priests and Christians in our church. And, at this point, they cannot be considered to be elected bishops. I said, is alive and well in Anaheim.

Finally, something you might not know, the EC's clergy are divided into 'tribes'. Where you went to seminary really matters to us. It's about the first question asked when two priests meet. Each of our Seminaries has a distinct 'culture' and ambiance. Tonight was the night for Seminary dinners. I went to Virginia's dinner. Virginia is not only the largest Episcopal Seminary, it is the largest (and richest) seminary in the Anglican Communion. Many of the priests in CT went to Berkley/Yale (or simply Berkley before the merger) or EDS in Cambridge or General in New York. There were some 300 people at VTS' dinner and I brought back the menu just to compare with the other guys dinner.

I thought I'd share it with you.
*open bar and appetizers on tables and from waiters
*Roasted corn and seafood chowder
*Spinach and Belgian Endive/fresh California goat
cheese/apple bacon dressing
*Point reyes crusted filet mignon/melot-fig demi
*seasonal assorted vegtables
*cafe noir mocha mousse/pistachio biscotti
*assorted bread basket and sweet butter
*Redwood Creek Chardonnay and Melot
*Coffee and Tea
All that was missing was the cigars. I'm sure, in a less politically correct time, they would have been available....

Plus they gave everyone a really neat VTS tote bag with zipper.

For that, we paid $40. In the resturants I've been in here, $40 would have gotten you the soup and salad and a glass of wine. I bet some of the seminaries had cash bars....I can't wait to gloat....

I told you this stuff, for whatever reason, matters to us.

At the dinner I saw the bishop of Sudan (one of the most conservative of all african bishops) who was at my table, embrace the bishop of California, arguably the most liberal bishop in our church. Bishop Andres was right across the table from me. He shut his eyes, smiling, joyfully and authentically embracing a bishop as far from him on the spectrum as possible.They genuinely care for each other. Neither could have faked that embrace...Irony isn't dead...but neither is Hope. Praise God!

(There's a mirror above the desk where I am writing. I just looked up and realized I look like a negative of a photo of a raccoon. this california sun has turned my face brown except for where my sun glasses sit. I am white around my eyes....)

More tomorrow....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The wheels of legislation....

This afternoon the HofD began a committee of the whole conversation regarding numerous resolutions, all of which ended up in the
Committee for World Mission, which seek to, in one way or another, deal with B033 from 2006. B033, to remind you, was the resolutions from the house of bishops that was (my description) forced down the throats of the H of D on the last day of the GC in Columbus. It said that bishops and standing committees--a majority of which are required to approve the election of a bishop--should 'exercise restraint" in approving any bishop-elect whose 'manner of life' would strain the 'bonds of affection' with other churches in the Anglican Communion. Translation: don't approve any gay or lesbian candidate for bishop who is in a committed relationship. The irony and hypocrisy of that is that the House of Bishops has always had gay members. I talked to a priest from Nevada today who told me he has served under 5 bishops and 3 of them were known to be gay.

At any rate, the committee outlined the options facing the 76th GC and B033;
1, do nothing (allowing B033 to remain in place)
2. reaffirm B033
3. overturn B033
4. pass a resolution affirming the Canons as the only
guidelines for approving Bishops (B033 violates the
non-discriminatory canons of the church)
5. pass a resolution affirming inclusion of all the baptized
in every aspect of the life of the church.

You see, a resolution only loses it's authority if a) expiration is built into the resolution (B033 has none) b) it is specifically overturned by another resolution or c)a resolution that obviously negates it is passed.

I'm relatively sure the HofD will pass something like 3, 4 or 5. My bet is #5, so we'll see how prophetic I am in several days. The House of Bishops is another matter. I believe the bishops have a majority that would like to void B033 but I'm not sure the 'will' is there to challenge the rest of the Anglican Communion by doing so.

The AC came into being in the 20th century (I'll look up the date for you) and it was established with worship as our defining characteristic, not doctrine and in face encouraged varieties of doctrinal stances within a worshiping communion. That's why it's the Angilcan COMMUNION rather than the Anglican CONFESSION or Anglican THEOLOGICAL UNION.

Certainly more on that issue. I know lots of people wish we could get beyond this issue. But this is the issue that we must first 'get beyond'. Passing either 3, 4,or 5 above would do that--if we have the courage.

There are lots of other things we need to deal with and I will report on them in the days ahead.

My postings aside: There is lots of stuff to carry around if you choose to carry it around. The 'blue book' of reports weighs about 5 pounds and our note book is about 20 inches by inches and 4 inches thick. Then there is all the stuff you pick up every day--reports, at least 5 daily news reports, position papers, handouts from church groups, etc, etc. I leave the big stuff on the table where I sit overnight. Many people take them with them and carry their laptops everywhere. So a considerable # of people are wheeling around carry on size suitcases to carry their stuff. These are remarkably dangerous. I trip over them several times a day and the collective noise of all those wheels on marble floors and sidewalks is almost deafening. I considered proposing a resolution forbidding them from the GC. But given how many people do that, it would surely have failed.

I was minding my own business today at Eucharist when a deacon came up and shoved a pitcher of wine in my hand. "Carry this and follow me", she said. So I found myself up at the altar where 4 dozen or so pitchers of wine were placed along with a dozen huge baskets of fresh baked bread. (It's a big altar!) I got to stay down off the podium with a good view of the consecration and then went up again to carry the wine to one of the communion stations. I never volunteer for such things but someone didn't show up and when she handed me the pitcher I gladly carried it.

This taught me a lesson I 'know' but don't live into much. When the church 'asks' for volunteers for something in a newsletter or bulletin or even an announcements you may get some. But if you hand it personally to someone, they'll almost always carry the pitcher to the altar. We need to do more 'asking personally' at St. John's. I'm always amazed at the people who bring up the bread and wine and pray the earth prayer--it's not because we asked for volunteers but because the ushers and Lucille Ladden simply ask them personally to do so--or in Lucille's case, she says, ' you'll be doing the earth prayer next week...' And they do. "Ask and you shall receive" sounds familiar. We need to do that more and more.

I saw Bp. Smith right after the Eucharist. He was astounded to see me up at the altar. He told me he said to himself, "Shoot," (or something to that effect) "that's Bradley up there...." He may have been concerned that I was in such close proximity to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was at the altar, knowing I'm not a big fan of the ABC. But I DO believe we are made "one" in breaking bread and not in our opinions, so Rowan Williams was safe.....

Blog Archive

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.