Sunday, October 31, 2010

reclaiming Halloween

I went to church today--a great service, good music, friendly folk--but not one mention that it was Halloween...the very Day!

I take that back, UNICEF boxes were available to collect money while trick or treating.

The church needs to reclaim Halloween (All Hallows Eve) and celebrate it liturgically like the Christian Holiday it truly is.

Perhaps we used to go over the top at St. John's--bloody foot prints up the altar steps, huge spiders above the pulpit, the celebrant wearing a witches hat, people (not just kids) in costume, acting out the Witch of Endor story--once with a smoke machine for the ghost....Maybe a little much for lots of folks. (We even had a solo of "Werewolves of London" at 8 o'clock!)

But it is the Eve of All Saints Day--a major Feast--we do Easter eve, Christmas Eve...why not for All Saints?

The belief was in certain people (especially the Celts) that on the Eve of All Hallows things were very "thin". The veil between this world and the next was so thin you could pass through. So the saints (meaning all dead Christians, not just the well-known) came to visit and needed to be welcomed and given hospitality. Not to do so would insult the Dead.

It should be an opportunity to remind ourselves that 'the saints' are around us always and deserve hospitality. Remember the advice from the Bible about welcoming strangers lest we entertain angels unawares.

It's too great a day to leave to the culture to commercialize and ruin.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

places that aren't 'anywhere'

We went to Providence today to be with some of Bern's family--her uncle, three first cousins, her brother and a second cousin. We had a great time that canceled out the horrible time we had last night at the WVU/UCONN football game. Don't even mention it, OK? WVU's coach has to go...just has too....He's apparently a great human being but I don't want a great human being (as rare as they are...) I want a mean, nasty, megalomaniac who's only purpose in his otherwise meaningless life is to win football games....

But to get from Cheshire to Providence required going down Route 9--one of the most rural places in CT. From Middletown to Old Lyme you don't see anything from Route 9. It's like driving in West Virginia most anywhere.

The difference is that in most of New England town lines are on top of each other. Cheshire begins where Hamden ends. Waterbury begins where Cheshire ends. Middlebury begins where Waterbury get the point.

Going down Rt 9 all these tiny places begin where the previous tiny place ends. Like there is 'nowhere' that is nowhere.

In most of the rest of the east coast states, geography is divided into 'incorporated' areas and 'unincorporated' areas. So, there are lots of places--most places, in fact--that aren't 'anywhere', they're 'between' Somewhere and Somewhere Else.

Where my friend Jo-Jo lived was 'between Anawalt and Spencer's Curve', as an example. Nothing in Connecticut is 'between' something and something else. Every acre of land exists within one town or another. It's odd to me to live in a place where there aren't places that aren't anywhere. People from New England would probably be equally troubled by a place where most places aren't anywhere except between two other places.

Region 'character' might be formed by something like that.

Something to ponder while, if you live in New England, you are comforted to know that wherever you are you are 'Somewhere'.

I just miss the places that aren't anywhere.....

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Have I shared this before? If so, sorry....


I believe in the edges of God.
Truly, that is my limit on the whole question of Creed.

I don't believe in God storming out of the clouds
and smiting my to smithereens if I am bad.
I don't believe in a God who would wake me up,
pin me to my bed and give me bleeding sores
on my palms and the top of my feet,
much less my side.
I don't believe in a god would would instruct me
to slay infidels or displace peaceful people
so I can have a motherland.
I don't believe in a God who has nothing to do
besides visit bedrooms around the globe
uncovering (literally!) illicit love.
I don't believe in a God who frets
about who wins the next election.
I don't believe in a God who believes in 'abomination'.

I believe in the edges of God--
the soft parts, the tender parts--
the feathers and fur of God.

I do believe in the ears of God
which stick out--cartoon like--on the edges of God's Being.
I listen and listen and listen
and then listen some more
for the Still, Small Voice.
I believe in God's nose--pronounced and distinctively
Jewish in my belief--
I smell trouble from time to time
and imagine God sniffs it out too.
The toenails and the fingernails of God--
there's some protein I can hold on to,
if only tentatively.

Hair, there's something to believe in as well.
God's hair--full, luxurious, without need of jell or conditioner,
filling up the Temple, heaven, the whole universe.
I can believe in God's hair.

God's edges shine and blink and reflect color.
God's edges are like the little brook
flowing out of the woods beyond the tire swing
in what used to be my grandmother's land.
God's edges are like the voices of old friends,
old lovers, people long gone but not forgotten.
God's edges are not sharp or angled.
The edges of God are well worn by practice
and prayer and forgotten possibilities
about to be remembered.
God's edges are the wrists of someone
you don't quite recall but can't ever remove from your mind.

God's edges are rimmed and circled
with bracelets of paradox and happenstance
and accidents with meaning.

God is edged with sunshine,
over-ripe, fallen apples crushed beneath your feet
and the bees hovering around them.

God's edges hold storm clouds too--
the storm of the century coming fast,
tsunamis and tornadoes, spinning out of control.

Blood from God's hands--now there's an edge of God
to ponder, reach for, then snatch your hand away.
God bleeding is an astonishing thought.
God bleeding can help my unbelief.

And most, most of all,
the edges of God are God's tears.

Tears of frustration, longing, loss, deep pain,
profound joy, wonder and astonishment--
tears that heal and relieve and comfort...
and disturb the Cosmos.

That's what I believe in:
God's tears.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pondering 101

I was having lunch today with a dear friend who agreed to read my as yet orphan novel (three rejection letters from agents and counting....) and she asked if I needed it back soon.

Then she said, "I like to ponder as I read...."

My heart lept up! I hadn't heard someone use the word "ponder", besides me, for ever so long. What a gift she gave me. I want people to 'ponder'. "Pondering" is becoming a lost art in the day of 'instant access' and the internet and such. I just finished a novel called "Roadside Crosses" that was about the horrendous fallout of on-line postings. It was about more, but it was about that in a big way--how people write things on line that they would never 'say' face to face. About internet 'bullying'. About how the anonymity of the Internet is both a shield and a lie (the murderer finds people from their email addresses and kills them). About how we write before we think. About how 'pondering' stuff might make life better in both the long run and short run.

I know first hand about that.

I have offended and gotten in trouble with three or four bishops 'o mine by sitting down at my computer and writing what I thought at the time were reasoned and reasonable e-mails. In fact they were insulting and incendiary. (My Lord, I knew how to spell 'incendiary'!!!)

Somehow, most things we type on a computer about just about anything bypasses the Pondering Point.

Here's what 'pondering' requires:
*the ability to doubt your own strongest held beliefs and opinions
*the willingness to be patient and thoughtful and self-critical
*the courage the acknowledge that what you think may not be THE TRUTH
*the ego strength to allow for the possibility that what you think might, in fact, be full of shit and sawdust

Stuff like that. And this is only the introductory course to Pondering.

I need to take Pondering 101, this I know.

How about you?

I actually realize that what I label "the ponderings" of an aging white man who happens to be an Episcopal priest....or however I put that in my explanation of Under the Castor Oil Tree", sometimes, more often than I want to acknowledge, "just Jim talkin'".

So, I take a vow that I will 'ponder' more in these posts.

And I ask that you 'ponder' what I write and let me know when I'm full of s and s (that's 'shit and sawdust' for those who weren't paying attention....

early halloween....

So, the dog got in the Halloween candy. I don't think he ate many, but who knows. I was out on the deck and wondering why he wasn't complaining to join me. When I came back in he was near the chairs in the little kitchen sitting room and ran up the back stairs. I came on up to play hearts (I really am addicted to hearts on the computer...I must apologize to everyone I ever looked askance at for playing computer games) and instead of staying in the office area he went down the upstairs hall--odd for him.

Shortly I heard bern in the kitchen. "Who got in the candy and left some on the floor?"

"Not me," I said, though if I had known it was there I would have--but not leaving evidence on the floor.

She comes up and grabs Bela by the ears and smells his breath.

"Chocolate breath", she said.

He ate wrappers and all so we've been watching for the evidence--besides the breathalyzer test--of his pilfering. (If you own a dog you know where you find such evidence...nuf said....) No wrappers yet so maybe, if we're lucky, he only ate one or two....But he was restless last night and kept me awake for several hours moving, scratching nests on the floor, jumping on the bed and laying on my head, panting, stuff like that....

The other Puli we owned, back when we were childless and clueless, had a terrible sweet tooth. When we lived in Alexandria, VA and I was going to seminary, he would find ways to snatch sweet stuff from surfaces he shouldn't have been able to access.

Once he got a bear claw--you know, one of those pastries about the size of your head--off a side table and when I came in he plunged into a corner and ate it as fast--actually 'faster'--than you can imagine.

That night he jumped on the bed and threw up on my head.

When we called the dog trainer for Bela's home visit and subsequent lessons (none of which took!) he asked, "What kind of dog do you have?"

I said, "a Puli...."

After a moment, he replied, "Why?"

He did tell the other dog folks in the obedience class that "there's more dog in this Puli than in all the other dogs here."

At the time I took it as praise lavished on Bela's head. No more....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


So....I did turn my computer off and my dashboard came up when I went to! Yea...

This weekend was a bummer. The Yankees lost the Pennant, West Virginia University's football team lost to Syracuse and I lost the election for General Convention. That anti-incumbent sentiment again....Only two of last GC's deputies were elected. One did get 1st alternate in the lay order and will go to Convention. I'm 2nd alternate in the clergy order so if anyone above me gets called to another diocese or gets knocked off by some guys I know....forget that! then I'd go.

Actually, I'm more upset by the Yankees and the Mounties than I am the Episcopalians.

I actually think I may have a mental disorder because I love sports so much....well, not sports, certain sports teams: Yankees, WVU (any sport), the Lakers and the Chicago Bears.

I love the Yankees because my father loved them. He was in NYC waiting to ship out to England in WWII and someone gave him and two buddies tickets to a Yankees/Dodgers world series game. He decided, having never seen a major league game before, to make which ever team won "his team". Well, Yankees/Dodgers...not much doubt who would win....So, here we were, Hill Billies who rooted for a team in NY.

The WVU connection is obvious. I've been to several of their bowl games with Bern and will be at UConn on Friday night. Plus their men's and women's bb team are both top 20 picks this year. the men went to the final 4 last year and the women, from no less authority that Geno A...."are final four quality...." Besides, their soccer team is doing well and the rifle team, not unsurprisingly, won the national championship...Don't mess with a West Virginian with a gun....

The Lakers--well that's a West Virginia Story as well. Jerry West--the greatest of all WVU basketball players, was an all-pro for the Lakers for years and then their general manager. When Jerry West went to high school, he lived in a town called East Bank. After they won back to back state championships, they changed the sign to West Bank. The federal government wouldn't let them change the post office's name, but they tried. You know the logo for the NBA--the silhouette of a player dribbling--that's Jerry West, for goodness sake! How couldn't I root for the Lakers?

(The thing is, I root for uniforms as much as I root for players. If Big Poppie or Jonathan Papplebaum or that little ogre who plays second base for the Red Sox (I hate them all more than most people can imagine I hate!) were traded to the Yankees, they'd be my new heroes. Same with the Lakers--both Bern and Josh (who are fans of most of the teams I am a fan of--Mimi thinks sports are stupid) left the Lakers for other teams when Kobe Bryant was accused of rape. Everyone in the gold uniforms could be mother killers and I'd still root for them. That is a distinction I've noticed in other people: I root for the TEAM while some people root for the Players.....)

And since I'm a 'uniform guy', the reason I am a Bears fan is that I love their uniforms--those black helmets with the red and white C and the black jerseys (or 'almost black blue', really) and the white pants with the black and red stripes. The first time I saw them play, when I was a kid, I loved the uniforms. If they switched to green or scarlet or maze....that I wouldn't like and would probably become a fan of another team....Like the WVU football team has a dark blue helmet like the bears and at home wears dark blue jerseys with old gold numbers and either white or tan pants. A few years ago they started wearing, for certain games, gold jerseys and pants. I hate that. If they had made the helmet gold as well I would have killed myself....)\

Maybe I need a 12step group for fans who are too fanatic...

but I'll have to eventually

So, since I will have to turn off my computer eventually, if I don't write each day it is because I can't get to my blog....

bitter anguish

So I've been bad mouthing Google for days now because they wouldn't let me get on my blog!

They want me to have a gmail account and I don't. I have a bloggecom account but
Google apparently bought Blogger. It said I could log on with me old account but when I entered the blog name I was informed no such blog existed. I tried to open a g-mail account and keep the blog name and was told by the computer that blog name was taken.

I filled out pages of stuff that didn't ask the right question--kept wanting to tell me my forgotten password--and sent several messages about my problem. each one was answered by a form email about how to find out what my forgotten password was....

A note at the bottom of each email said they no longer answered calls about fogotten passwords. So I sent a bunch of messages about my problem and how the question of how to get to my blog wasn't on any of their forms and I really needed to talk to someone. I gave my phone numbers and begged and pleaded and threatened bodily harm.

I talked to several computer gurus who told me to go to the help section and write my problem where others could read it since chances were a thousand percent better that someone else would have had the same problem and solved it than the chance of having Google respond to my bitter anguish.

I was going to do that but, being a glutton for anguish, decided to try one more time with my old account name and old password and, lo and behold, it opened up.

So I'm back to writing but I'm afraid to ever turn the blog or the computer off again....

Thursday, October 21, 2010

the pain of this all

Ok, I've been trying for days to get on my blog. I've had wondrous, humorous, profound things to write about and the damn sign in place--having switched to a gmail format--couldn't or 'wouldn't'
(I think the latter since I believe all Internet stuff is possessed by demons and sprites and unspeakable horrors from the beyond. I tried, literally, for days to get on. I sent ever more hysterical emails to google, since none of the questions which I went through dozens of times asked
"do you have a blog and the assholes at GMail just won't let you get to it?"

I got on tonight through the back door. After 15 minutes or so of dealing with the "Help", which is no f-ing help, section I found myself at a place with a dozen or so little screens on my big screen of places I had visited most. So here I am. Someone, if anyone still reads this since I couldn't blog for weeks, send me an email to let me know. So I'll see if I can with any consistency get on this way...if I can find the way to get on again....

What you missed since I couldn't write:
Why the Tea Party is really the ME Party
The amorous squirrels in my back yard
The absolutely true 'meaning of life"
First Autumn full moon
What I did on summer vacation...
Why I hate--really hate--LINDA and all her signs and mail she sends me and why she'll never deserve to be known by one name like Cher or Sting or Madonna
My favorite pork recipe

And I've forgotten why I would have written about all or any of that and what I would have said.

You probably didn't miss much.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

creatures in the night

ok, so I'm watching one of the Yankee/Twins games--could have been any of the three since they all turned out the same..."the Yankees win....the Yankees wiiiiinnnn...." when Bern yells out to me from our bedroom--across the hall from our TV room (we believe TVs should be on the second floor...) "Luke has a creature!!!"

He's been staring at walls--our cat, Luke--for years, but apparently something came out of one of them and he had it in his mouth. So I chase him down the upstairs hall to the back steps and down through the kitchen into the dining room where he lets the creature go and it it alive, before I can grab it, knowing it is a mouse...tiny at that...he scoops it up in his mouth again and runs up the front stairs to the bedroom and under the bed.

Something vital is happening in the baseball game--but never mind, the Yankees win and the Boston Red Sox players are all home watching or out stalking children--all Red Sox players are pedophiles at their best....

Luke runs under our bed--or, to be precise, our it is hard to get him. But I grab his tail and drag him out and the mouse runs away behind the dresser. Bern is still yelling but the only thing to do is let Luke catch the creature again, so I go back to the game and Bern goes back to bed, as if she could sleep with a stalking cat and a mouse in the room....

Luke apparently catches the mouse again and leaps onto the be with it because Bern is hysterically shouting--"It's in the bed!!!"

So I go in, grab a shirt and catch the tiny mouse in it and carry it out on the deck and toss it off into the pet graveyard....two dogs, three cats, a rat and a multitude of genuine pigs are buried beyond our deck...

Then I go back to watch Mariano Rivera do what he does in the 9th inning,

The mouse is gone. Luke is still sniffing the bed. The Yankees win. All is well in the world.


I start the dishwasher
during the Yankees game
after she goes to bed.

The dishwasher is stainless steel
and smarter than me--
She is flesh and blood
and also smarter than me.
What a quandary:
a woman
and a machine
both smarter than me.

I empty it after the game
(win or lose)
late in the night sometimes,
especially when they play
on the west coast.

Glasses go in the cubbard
as well as bowls and plates,
cooking dishes in the drawers.
Like base runners,
I line them up.

Cups on the hanger.
Implements: forks, spoons,
all where they belong,
like players in the dugout.

Wiped counters and
water barely dripping
from the faucet--
like the 9th inning.

Now I can sleep.
Having done what little
I do
to make myself
to her.

Home Run.
Walk Off.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

riding the train

I went to Baltimore on the train and back as well, since I couldn't walk...I love the train. It takes about 45 minutes less time to get to Baltimore (even on the NE Regional since I'm too cheap to take the Accela). And, since I'm not driving, it is great.

Something I've learned about riding the train--always get on the last car. You have to walk down the platform quite a ways, but it is more than worth it. Nobody rides on the last car. Going down there were four other people and coming back, three. Both directions all the other cars were pretty full, but people who get on near the front of the train give up and take a seat in an almost full car before walking all the way to the last one through the train. I know the other cars are almost full because you have to go through them to get to the cafe car. But the last car--well, nobody there. Amazing.

I shouldn't have told you since now you'll be going to the last car and getting it all crowded. Alas, transparency isn't all it is cracked up to be.

While in Baltimore, I spent time with my first cousin Mejol and her daughter (my second cousin) Elizabeth. My parents, who thought they might not have any children, had semi-adopted Mejol before I was born. She went on vacations with them to the Smokey Mountains (imagine driving 5 hours or so through mountains to get to mountains....) So she was like my babysitter/almost sister/omnipresent cousin. I think I've mentioned that when I was 13 or so, Mejol locked me in her room with a copy of "Catcher in the Rye" and a Bob Dylan album. That was the afternoon that changed the direction of my life. (It was "Highway 61 Revisited" I believe--but Dylan is Dylan. Our son's middle name is Dylan.)

Over the years we have been in and out of touch. I've been terrible about 'keeping in touch', I don't know why. I believe my parents' only friends were 'family'. I grew up surrounded by 'family' but I never kept in touch. Alas.

Josh calls it my age showing itself--my sudden interest in family. But Josh and Cathy were so gracious to Mejol and Elizabeth. I really think they could be friends with Elizabeth and her husband and with Fletcher and his wife who have 2 boys a few years older than the twins. That would give me great joy. But then, everything IS about me, isn't it?

Being an only child I've been pretty self-sufficient and I've always been able to 'create' family from friends. But now I want it back.

I regret almost nothing about my life so far except that I never kept in touch. I'm pondering that a lot recently--my age, as you know, showing itself....

Monday, October 4, 2010

i've lived too long

I just googled (a verb that should not exist in the King's English) AOL and got 97,500,000 options in 0.8 seconds.

Why do I need that. I just needed AOL to get to my blog. I needed one option before Wednesday of next week.

97,500,000 options aren't options at all. Luckily--and because Google is Google--the only one I needed was the first one to sign on to AOL. But Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Christ Almighty God, what about the 97,499,999 other options? If I looked at them all I would be 127 years old and die on my keyboard with several tens of millions still to click.

It's like the credit/debit card swipe machines. No two I've ever seen are alike. Why not? Why can't we agree on a template for swiping cards? Or, even more vital, why are there so many kinds of sneakers/tennis shoes/etc.?

And, since I went to my small package store today, why do we need so many kinds of wine? A nice white and nice red would suffice. Nobody I know needs a pink wine of any kind. All pink wines are part of the ananaphra of life. Ananaphra--which my spell check will not accept though it gives me more options than I need, including ionosphere, for reasons beyond all comprehension--means 'those things not necessary for salvation'. Pink wines fit that category. Yet, even in my little local package store there are hundreds and hundreds of wines. I'm reminded of Steven Arborgast (or abreast, airbags, aghast, and even angst, among other options from my spell check) who lived in the bush in Africa for several years, teaching. Toilet paper and paper towels and such were like legal tender there. Anything paper--I bought a coffee in the train station in Baltimore today and they gave me two paper napkins...a small fortune where Steve lived. And when he came back to the good ol' US of A, he was reacclimating quite well until he went into a Stop and Shop and walked down the paper goods aisle. It overwhelmed him to see 24 toilet paper rolls in one package--more toilet paper than he had seen in several years. He had to leave the store and go sit in a dimly lit, quiet room for several hours.

Too many choices.

OK, I am a socialist. I don't want 97 million options. I don't need a whole aisle of toilet paper or several hundred kinds of sneakers. I want someone (preferably President Obama--a native born American, a Christian, a moderate Democrat and our President) to narrow the options for me.

It's all too much.

I've lived too long.

being a democrat, cont.

So, today, just back from Baltimore and seeing the grand children, I took our dog, Bela, for a walk in the cemetery where we often walk. The Tea Party folks were up on Main Street, if front of the town hall where they are often on evening drive time. I saw a placard that said "Obama is a socialist". So, on the way back, I stopped and went up to talk to the man with that placard.

I had my dog with me so I thought I would seem benign. I really wanted to know what definition he had of 'socialist'. I am very left wing--but, at this time, short of being a 'socialist', though it is appealing to me philosophically. I approached him and asked if he could tell me what he thought a socialist was. He said, "if you don't know, don't ask".

I said that I did know and that the President is, much to my chagrin, a 'moderate democrat', not even 'liberal' or 'left wing', though I wish he were, but far short of a socialist.

He said he didn't want to talk with me.

I noticed that he, like most of the 30+ people there, had a glazed look in their eyes, much like my 4 year old grand daughter had when we watched a street magician on Saturday at a festival in Baltimore.

I said, "I just want a conversation..." and he replied, "we just had one."

So I sought out a guy about my age with a sign condemning the healthcare bill as "Obamacare" and recommending its repeal.

I asked him to talk to me about health care. He stared at me and dismissed me by saying, "the health care bill is all wrong."

I asked why and added, "I don't think it went far enough. We need a 'single payer' plan, what do you think of that?"

He called me a socialist. I thanked him and asked if we could have a conversation and he said, "we just had one."

I told him we hadn't and I'd like to know what he objected to in the bill--allowing children to stay on until 26? stopping insurance companies from canceling coverage when people got drastically ill or refusing coverage for prior conditions?

He too, called me a socialist, which I'm warming to after this event.

So I cried out to the group, "will anyone have a conversation with me about the issues on your signs?"

They gazed at me like kids at Disneyland and many of them laughed.

As I walked away, back to my car, some of them hooted at me and said I had bells on my shoes, which I don't understand, but one man called me a 'faggot'.

So, tell me how to engage these people in a conversation....

And I beg you, send this to all the people on your email list. I actually have believed that I could talk to Tea Party people. I'd like to. I need advice.

So, why am I a Democrat? I'm beginning to wonder why I'm not a Socialist....

Friday, October 1, 2010


Bob was the head of the search committee who brought me to CT in 1980. He was a dear, kind man who was committed to the church and social justice in profound ways. His funeral was today at St. Paul's and St. James. The beautiful sanctuary was pretty much packed. The music was incredible (a jazz quartet led "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and ended the celebration with "When the Saints...") They were fantastic. So was the organ--which was put in while I was Rector...I seem to have fallen into being around for new organs....

There were all these familiar faces--familiar except that they had all grown old! It was a joy to see people I hadn't seen for years--Bob still has the knack of bringing people together....

There were a gaggle of clergy--five us, including a former bishop--all of whom served at St. Paul's plus several others who knew Bob through his kindness and his works.

I had forgotten, over the years, what a beautiful sanctuary St. Paul's has (I still can't think of it as St. Paul's and St. James, much less--horrors!--what they call it: St. PJ's.) There is a carved wooden reredos with Jesus and St. Paul in the middle and little wooden statues of church luminaries around and beside them. The altar is an exact replica of the altar at St. John's in Waterbury!! Here's why: when I arrived, the altar was a piece of wood on top of two saw horses covered by frontals and such. Some memorial money was available and I started looking at altars. I saw the one in St. John's at a diocesan convention held there and we hired a craftsman to reproduce it. Little did I know I would spend 5 years in New Haven and 21 years in Waterbury standing behind twin altars....

The windows are not nearly so impressive as St. John's Tiffany's, but they are striking in a certain starkness. The lighting is wondrous and the sound system--though the Priest in Charge has the same difficult I have about utilizing it though he is 30+ years younger--is very good.

I really loved being at St. Paul's back when we had babies. People thought of it in those days as 'the liberal parish'. It wasn't--St. John's social outreach is remarkably more widespread than anything St. Paul's has ever done...and no one in their right mind would call St. John's "the Liberal parish". But it was "a parish of liberals"--people who spent their lives trying to accommodate a world 'dying to get better' and simply needed to be nourished and cared for and sent out full of the sacraments into the work they did. The head usher at Bob's memorial service was a guy who taught Labor History at Yale back when I knew him., We started having the laying on of hands and prayers for healing once a month on Sunday and he always came up--most everyone did, but what made him coming forward special was that he hardly had a religious bone in his body. I once asked him why he came for prayers for healing since I knew he didn't think 'healing' or 'prayer' were efficacious . He came to church for 'community', not for the religious mumbo jumbo.

"Here's what I realize," he told me, all those years ago, "there is almost nowhere in my life that I can be touched intimately without complications. I come up to be touched...."

How much truer that is today. Episcopal churches should probably have anointing and laying on of hands at every event. Being touched is so vital and so rare in our day, alas....

So, it was like a homecoming for me. I was so humbled by the people I met and so honored to be among them.

Bob did all that, from beyond the door to whatever come after death.

Marge and her daughter Liz--Marge the most left-wing person I've ever known personally and her daughter who used to babysit our children in St. Paul's Rectory--were discussing the possibility of "Everlasting life" after the liturgy. Marge said to Liz, and then to me, "do you believe in this everlasting life stuff?"

I told her I didn't critique funerals.

She persisted and Liz (bless her) said, "You're a 'man of the cloth', you must believe this stuff...."

I had to admit I have no freaking idea what is on the other side of that door. I actually don't wonder much about it. It is a mystery to me, not having passed through the door yet. And I have found, over all these years, that my admitting that I don't have the foggiest idea about 'what comes next' is, ironically, comforting to people rather than off putting.

But I do tell a story in many funeral homilies (one odd thing was 'being at a funeral' rather than 'doing the funeral'--odd to me to be in a pew....) that goes like this: St. Francis of Assisi, everyone's favorite saint, once said--"Death is not a door that closes, but a door that opens...and we enter in all new."

Bob, my friend, has gone through the door. He now knows if Francis was right or not. Or not.

Death seems like a closed door to me, at any rate. But, then, I don't know, do I?

Something to ponder and then, one day a long, long, long time from now, I pray, find out....

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About Me

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