Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Episcopal Pravda Online

One of the more distressing things about my Episcopal life is reading propaganda rags such as "EpiscopalLife Online."

Does your Diocese pay for it?

Like N.P.R. News, I gave up on the Episcopallife Online site for the sake of my soul, and I only check it for amusement, or when my suspicions are raised such as the time they tried to brainwash us with their twisted history of the Lambeth Conference as reported here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Sarah Hey recently called attention to this post which perked up my "Sunday ears" a little. Read the whole thing, or most of it here:

ENGLAND: Liberal Anglicans defend diversity, oppose covenant
By Mary Taylor, November 12, 2008

[Episcopal News Service] The council of the Modern Churchpeople's Union (MCU) met November 6 in London's Docklands to develop a strategy for the defense of liberal theology.

The council members, many of them Church of England clergy, agreed that the organization will be re-branded, re-named, and re-constituted to reflect more fully its openness and diversity. Furthermore, the group decided that an administrator should be appointed and a system of working groups set up...

Founded in 1898, the organization was originally named The Churchmen's Union for the Advancement of Liberal Thought. This soon became The Churchmen's Union, then The Modern Churchmen's Union. The change to 'Churchpeople's' was an inevitable, though arguably belated, innovation in the 1980s.

Modern "Churchpeople's" Union sounds soooo PC. You also should worry about an organization that has to keep reorganizing or renaming itself.
The original aims and objectives -- "to unite [those] who consider that dogma is capable of reinterpretation and restatement in accordance with the clearer perception of truth attained by discovery and research" -- are consistent with MCU's view 110 years on. Asked after the November 6 meeting how he would like to see MCU develop, Clatworthy said, "It is important to offer an account of Christianity which is consistent with modern scientific understandings of the world, open to new insights and constructive in its social and moral judgments."

We all know what that means; roll out the lightning rod...
In July, MCU members welcomed Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as a guest speaker at their conference, "Saving the Soul of Anglicanism."

Any other geniuses out there? Oh yes here are a few:
(Bishop) Griswold told the July gathering that the search for truth is a communal one, and that "the Holy Spirit can do different things in different places."

A little dose of functional modalism. If it works in New Hampshire, it must be the Spirit blowing in off the water, or was it just "smoke on the water?"

Mwamba spoke of "delusions of grandeur" among some of the African primates and noted that many church members throughout the continent had not been consulted about issues of human sexuality, and were "frankly not bothered with the debate."

Uh oh, do I detect a note of ugliness?
"Some of our primates act like ecclesiastical Mugabes," he said, making reference to Zimbabwe's tyrannical president who has led his country into a humanitarian crisis and financial collapse.

Now that was ugly. Why would they print that? You might think they are bloggers.
Speaking in opposition of the Anglican covenant, proposed as a way to maintain unity amid difference throughout the communion, Adams told the July gathering, "There is no single version of humanity within the church."

I am glad they did not capitalize "Church." They can't even agree on a version of humanity! But I thought they already decided that humanity doesn't start until the 3rd trimester, or was it when the baby is born? This is one statement that holds a kernal of truth, at least in the Episcopal Church.
The article closed with one more choice quote,

Badham, in his MCU booklet Liberal Anglicanism, argues that the church seems willing to "abandon two centuries of liberal scholarship and -- in the case of homosexuality -- to return to an ethic based on biblical taboo."

Bad, bad Biblical ethos, shame on you Bible...

Poor liberal Churchpeople, they don't know where to stand because they have set their feet on the shifting sands and have abandoned what was their rock and foundation.

(Holy Yoke)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Follow the Cross, but...

This morning I watched as a large tour bus pulled out of a local church parking lot. I managed to pull out before it had finished its maneuver, but as I sat at the red light, I stared into my rear view mirror as this big white monster came uncomfortably close to my rear bumper. All I could see was an emblem that read, "looHnav," which translates from "Bizarro World" Naigleb to "vanHool," a Belgian bus manufacturer.

I thought that I had seen the last of this bus as I made several turns and lane changes approaching the Interstate, but as I merged with the Interstate flow, there it was charging up the entrance ramp behind me.

The temptation on this particular stretch of I-77 is to drive faster than the posted 60 mph. As I throttled back, the big bus passed me on the left. Looking at the rear of the bus, I could see the company name,Cross Country Tours Spartanburg, and the motto, "Travel With the Cross."

Lord, I tried to follow your cross, but as you were going 73 mph in a 60 mph zone, I was torn between following the law and following you. I cautiously followed you, but at a distance. When the law allowed, I accelerated to 70 mph, but alas, you increased your speed to 77! I gave up and said a silent prayer for your passengers as you vanished from sight.

The moral of the story is this: Travel with the cross, but check out the bus driver first.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What Do You Call a Sunday Without a Sermon?

Once again, on the Sunday after Christmas the crew of the E.S. ECOOS was treated to a selection of carols during the sermon hour. The Pewster asked me to comment this week, so here it goes,

What do you call a Sunday without a sermon?
How do you catch the silence and pen it down?
What do you call a word that means quit complaining?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A Miltown?

Many a thing you know I'd like to tell you
Many a thing I thought you already knew
But how do you make me pray
And not listen to all they say
How do you keep a brain upon the pew

Oh, What do you call a Sunday without a sermon?
How do you hold a daydream in your hand?

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Case of the Missing Confession

What happened to the Confession of Sins at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour? It seemed to have disappeared on Christmas Eve from the 10:30 pm service.

Looking for clues I went around asking questions.

One of the answers is hidden in the back of your Prayer Book,
"Q: What is required of us when we come to the Eucharist?

A: It is required that we should examine our lives, repent of our sins, and be in love and charity with all people." (Catechism BCP pg. 860)?

That kinda sounds like a requirement to me.

How did we get to the time where we can drop the Confession before receiving the Eucharist?
Well, it just took a few well placed strokes of the pen. Some of the alterations in the 1979 BCP were too subtle for those of us in the pews to notice, but one of them was to allow the confession to be omitted "on occasion."
The 1928 Prayer Book instructions were unambiguous
"Then shall this General Confession be made, by the Priest and all those who are minded to receive the Holy Communion, humbly kneeling."

Fast forward to the 1979 BCP and we find the following,
Rite I p. 330, Rite II p. 359
"A Confession of Sin is said here if it has not been said earlier. On
, the Confession may be omitted."

Communion under Special Circumstances p. 397
"A Confession of Sin may follow. The following or some other form is used"

An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist p. 400

No mention of Confession at all, but the following warning is noted,
"This rite requires careful preparation by the Priest and other participants.
It is not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist."

The primary question I have is what is meant by "on occasion?" At ECOOS, I fear it may start to be interpreted to mean that
"on occasion, the Confession may be said.."

Now, I am not aware of all the goings on that led to the changes in the rubrics, and I will refer the reader to "A Form of Godliness An analysis of the Changes in Doctrine and Discipline in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer" by the Rev. Jerome F. Politzer who wrote,
"HOLY EUCHARIST The Holy Eucharist in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer is a simple, orthodox and biblical commemoration of our Lord's death on the cross for the sins of the world, which clearly affirms the doctrines of the Atonement and the Incarnation. Since these themes make the secular humanists uncomfortable we should not expect to find them emphasized in the 1979 Prayer Book. Instead of a clear presentation of the doctrines of the Atonement and Incarnation in the Holy Eucharist, the 1979 Prayer Book contains a doctrinal smorgasbord scattered among the eight rites provided for the Holy Communion Service. These rites run the gamut from a less-than-orthodox paraphrase of Eucharistic Prayer Four of the new Roman Missal to a do-it-yourself "Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist." The latter is an open invitation to all the secular and agnostic teaching and practice in the Church from Simon Magus to boy-evangelist Jimmy Joe Jeeter...The weakening of the great themes of penitence and forgiveness by the optional use of general confession and absolution further downgrades the doctrine of the Atonement in the new rites."

Now if all this sounds like the work of an evil mastermind, who could it be?

The Rev. Politzer may label the villain "secular humanism," but I think there must be more to it than that, because the people making the changes in the Prayer Books probably are only semiconscious of their own secular humanism. I say semi-conscious because the alternatives are that they are either ignorant, or they deliberately make these changes to further their personal agendas.
I am sure there are other theories out there.

We missed confession on Christmas Eve, but those who came to the Christmas Day Service with Fr. Dunbar were treated to the Rite 1 confession. So we made up for skipping confession by finding it again and together we acknowledged and bewailed our manifold sins and wickedness...

The investigation is ongoing, the suspects of interest are still at large, and please report any additional incidents.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Will Miracles Never Cease?

I have often been accused of being too negative. As I ponder the birth of Jesus and the series of events that led up to that day, my mind goes all positive and happy. Let me leave Advent with the following juxtapositions which may confuse some, but to me present something very positive:
Matthew 1:18-24
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife

And we also have,
Luke 1:26-33
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’* But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’

Something else made the rounds a couple of weeks ago and was picked up by StandFirm. Does it relate in any way to the passages quoted above?

From the Catholic News Agency

MADRID (CNA) — The Spanish daily “La Razon” has published an article on the pro-life conversion of a former “champion of abortion.” Stojan Adasevic, who performed 48,000 abortions, sometimes up to 35 per day, is now the most important pro-life leader in Serbia, after 26 years as the most renowned abortion doctor in the country.

“The medical textbooks of the Communist regime said abortion was simply the removal of a blob of tissue,” the newspaper reported. “Ultrasounds allowing the fetus to be seen did not arrive until the 80s, but they did not change his opinion. Nevertheless, he began to have nightmares.”

In describing his conversion, Adasevic “dreamed about a beautiful field full of children and young people who were playing and laughing, from 4 to 24 years of age, but who ran away from him in fear. A man dressed in a black and white habit stared at him in silence. The dream was repeated each night and he would wake up in a cold sweat. One night he asked the man in black and white who he was. ‘My name is Thomas Aquinas,’ the man in his dream responded. Adasevic, educated in communist schools, had never heard of the Dominican genius saint. He didn’t recognize the name”

“Why don’t you ask me who these children are?” St. Thomas asked Adasevic in his dream.“They are the ones you killed with your abortions,’ St. Thomas told him. “Adasevic awoke in amazement and decided not to perform any more abortions,” the article stated.

“That same day a cousin came to the hospital with his four months-pregnant girlfriend, who wanted to get her ninth abortion—something quite frequent in the countries of the Soviet bloc. The doctor agreed. Instead of removing the fetus piece by piece, he decided to chop it up and remove it as a mass. However, the baby’s heart came out still beating. Adasevic realized then that he had killed a human being,”

After this experience, Adasevic “told the hospital he would no longer perform abortions. Never before had a doctor in Communist Yugoslavia refused to do so. They cut his salary in half, fired his daughter from her job, and did not allow his son to enter the university.”
After years of pressure and on the verge of giving up, he had another dream about St. Thomas.

“You are my good friend, keep going,’ the man in black and white told him.

Some commenters had difficulty accepting Dr. Adasevic's dreams as a divine message. "Such things don't happen any more" they might say.
Some people I know said, "Oh they made that up."
How many people today say similar things about Joseph's dream in Matthew 1:18-24 or the visitation in Luke 1:26-33? Do you read them with your fingers crossed?

Do you listen to your dreams, or do you just chalk them up to some small bit of undigested fruitcake you ate last week? Do you listen to the dreams of others? Do you listen for the dreams that God has for you?

As for me, you may call me a dreamer. Roll over, John Lennon because I am pulling these words out of context from your song "Imagine,"

"You may call me a dreamer,

but I'm not the only one,

I hope someday you'll join us,

And the world will live as one "

What a miracle.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It was the Worst of Times and it was the Best of Times

On this the fourth Sunday in Advent, we were given the gift of Fr. Dunbar's last sermon as our assistant priest. Entering into his second retirement at the end of this month, he was assigned sermon duty today. His sermon was a reprise of one given 4 years ago, but it had new meaning given the circumstances. He drew us into the story of Mary and Jesus with a different take on things. Jumping ahead to Jesus' words on the cross, "Into thy hands I commend my spirit," we were instructed that Jesus was saying well remembered words from Psalm 31 (which we might remember better if we did the Compline service regularly),

In te, Domine, speravi
In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame: *
deliver me in your righteousness.

Incline your ear to me; *
make haste to deliver me.

Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold; *
for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, *
for you are my tower of strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit, *
for you have redeemed me,
O LORD, O God of truth.

Fr. Dunbar told us that the last verse was a bedtime prayer back in the day, and the presumption is that Mary played a role in being with the young Jesus as He said his prayers at night.

Fr. Dunbar talked about the pain and the pathos of the cross having to be held in the same thought as the triumph and victory of the cross. He did not talk about the pain and pathos of "Retirement," and how we need to remember it together with the triumph and victory of a job well done.

Well done, and good night,

"Chingford Parish Church Men's Choir sing Compline at Holy Trinity Tattershall, Lincolnshire on Thursday July 31st 2008. The conductor is Tom Cowhig, the cantor is Matthew Silverman, and the Vicar of Chingford Father Tom Page led the service."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Songs

We are all tired of those secular hits. Even Dr. Elmo won't play that Grandma song again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Politically Correct Carols

The Ship of Fools web site talks about some of the ways to make the old carols right, and asks for you to vote on the year's worst politically correct Christmas Carol. Here are some of the changes their shipmates have observed,

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Before: Glory to the newborn king
After: Glory to the Christ child, bring

(We can't have any references to Kings in the PC World)

O Come All Ye Faithful

Before: O come let us adore him
After: O come in adoration

(I guess they had to eliminate the masculine "him" in the hymn)

Once in Royal David's City

Before: When like stars his children crowned
All in white shall wait around
After: Where his children gather round
Bright like stars, with glory crowned

(Was it racially charged to dress the kids in white?)

Brightest and Best

Before: Brightest and best of the sons of the morning
After: Brightest and best of the stars of the morning

(There goes another masculine reference)

Joy to the World

Before: Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
After: Joy to the world, for peace shall come
Let this be our refrain!

(Not only is the Lord struck down, so is the King)

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

Before: This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright
After: To you is born a Saviour
In David's town tonight

(No more crossing your fingers during that one!)

Vote Here before Christmas!

I worry that the people of Bethlehem might be offended by the "little town" reference in "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" Maybe we should change "little" to "bless-ed."
(Remember the trouble Randy Newman got into with this song "Short People.")

Do any other Christmas Carols need updating?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What is Behind Those Prophets?

Today, the third Sunday in Advent was a day where we paid special heed to the voices of the prophets. At least, a sampling of prophetic voices was provided by today's lectionary readings.
We began with Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11
In another case of neglected verses, we missed verses 5-7 which read,
Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
but you shall be called priests of the Lord,
you shall be named ministers of our God;
you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations,
and in their riches you shall glory.
Because their shame was double,
and dishonour was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
everlasting joy shall be theirs.

Maybe that would have made the reading too long, or too confusing. Maybe the part about foreigners tilling the land while you become priests sounded a bit like slavery.

Next came 1Thessalonians 5:16-24 where we are advised about prophets,
Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

And then we have the case of John1:6-8,19-28 with the following expurgated verses,
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

There go those uncomfortable words again. Words like "only son" and "No one has ever seen God." Isn't it easier to leave some prophetic words out of the lectionary?
Well, it should make preaching the sermon easier shouldn't it? Charlie took the opportunity today to preach about prophets. He included Amos, Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Ronal King as good examples of prophets. In his focus on prophets of the modern day, he missed something. It could have appeared to the casual listener that prophets are just people who look around, see something wrong in society, take a stand in opposition to the ways of the world, and try to do something about it.

What is missing? I am not despising the words of the prophets mind you, but I am testing.

Is a social activist a prophet because they saw something wrong? While Charlie's examples are Christians, why not delve into the question of what power is the source of their vision, what is inspiring them, and what is pushing them forward despite the heavy odds. Is it just their concern for fellow man? If so, then who needs God? Yes, the God connection was not clearly elucidated. I missed it. How else can the prophet survive the pressures of the world?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Where's the Beef?

This was running on YouTube and posted at T19 demonstrating a promotional video for the Diocese of New Hampshire Spring Event.

My comments at T19 were,
I hope the production costs were donated.

I am distressed to see this “Letting the Secrets Out” with the “Too Many Secrets” scrabble words appearing again and again. We all know the unspoken secret to which that refers.

Besides that, when I saw this,

“Liturgy is changing” (Uh oh, I thought)
“Worship is the Episcopal Church’s best kept secret” (I agree)
“What if we let that secret out?” (Yeah, go for it)
“Let the liturgy secret out with
A liturgy that honors children (Huh?)
A liturgy that honors creativity (Wait a minute what about God?)
A liturgy that honors our senses and our bodies (Uh oh, here it comes)
This liturgy will let the Gospel secret out, (No I take it back, keep it secret)
and make the Bishop worship like this.” (Ack..Silly dancing clergy video)

And I always thought the liturgy helped me worship God with proper reverence and awe.

The YouTube comment section was interesting. Here are the first 5,

This is spectacular! Thank you.
Tom Woodward

What faith and tradition? TEC has thrown Christ to the curb, and is now a cult of moral relativism. It's disgraceful how racist and corrupt TEC has become under Jefferts-Schori, the attacks against African Anglican bishops, the theft of tribal lands in the Dakotas.

People, stay far away from this cult. They try to convince you that they are "Christians" but they are not; they don't believe in the Bible, they don't honor God but instead mock Him, they promote what God specifically forbids. They desecrate the sacraments of communion, baptism and especially marriage.
Christ would throw the PB and her fellow swindlers out of the temple.

This piece is nicely done - but like the Episcopal Church, it is far more style than substance. You can be as creative as you please, but if Jesus and his atoning death are not at the heart of worship, the liturgy is merely theatrics.

I love it. Thanks for the shout out! Some of the slides are too quick to read, though. You need at least 2.0 (maybe even 3) seconds to internalize a text, in my humble opinion. I hope you have a great conference.

Thanks for the helpful comments! Glad to hear that you don't mind me appropriating your work, FatherMatthew!

This was my first try at iMovie, so I struggled with how long to leave the text up. Next time it'll be more consistent.

After letting this post age a couple of weeks, and pondering the value of a theologically sound liturgy in a changing world, I am coming to the conclusion that there is no "secret." What we have here is a failure to communicate how the liturgy grounds us, and protects us from such foolishness as the dancing clergy in the video. Clergy whose feet have left the secure ground laid down by earlier generations. "A liturgy that honors our senses and bodies" it is not. It is a liturgy that brings us back to the Lord humbly, on our knees.
"Almighty and most merciful father,
we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep,
we have followed too much the devices and desires of our
own hearts,
we have offended against thy holy laws,
we have left undone those things which we ought to
have done,
and we have done those things which we ought not to
have done.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
spare thou those who confess their faults,
restore thou those who are penitent,
according to thy promises declared unto mankind
in Christ Jesus our Lord;
and grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
to the glory of thy holy Name. Amen."
1979 BCP p. 320

Now you are free to dance.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Advent 1941 or Wake Up and Smell the Altar Flowers

After last week's readings making us mindful to be awake for the coming of the Lord, and this week's emphasis on preparing the way of the Lord, I had to reflect on the second week in Advent, 1941. As I dozed off during Mary Cat's sermon, I thought I could smell the altar flowers given today to the glory of God and in loving memory of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and his sons Captain Thomas Kinkaid Kimmel, LCDR Manning M. Kimmel, and LCDR Edward R. Kimmel and in honor of all those in the military who have served their country and protected its freedoms, by Manning and Sheila Kimmel.

Yes, today is December 7, Pearl Harbor day. A day which is fading from our nation's collective memory. A morning when our armed forces were caught less than awake for the rising of an Imperial sun.

I read an interesting book, "At Dawn we Slept" by Gordon Prange et al (McGraw-Hill 1981)which dissects the events leading up to and following the attack including the Congressional hearings and the verdicts of history. Anyone studying the 9/11 Commission report would be wise to read this book and understand that there is usually more to any story, and that it sometimes takes years to piece things together. Our parishioner Manning Kimmel, who has helped lead the fight for the late Admiral Kimmel, has seen first hand the difficulty in getting people to wake up. The lessons of Pearl Harbor were forgotten by the time 9/11 rolled around. Perhaps the next book we read will be "And We Continue to Sleep."

This week I watched another parishioner, Phil Glennon on CN2's "THE CITY MINUTE" with Betty Jo Rhea. He gave a great reflection on his time as a submariner in the Pacific in WWII. If you see him, thank him for his service, and remember the submariners who did not return home.

Will the lessons of Advent be forgotten as well? What are we doing on a daily basis to be prepared for the day of the Lord? What will that morning be like? Will it be all Christmas presents and baby Jesus?

Such preparation is hard work. We are to stay awake and make straight the way of the Lord. All are to be encouraged in their labors on this highway project. But if the surveyors and planners start reading the plans wrong, or if they choose to ignore history and other sources of intelligence, what kind of path will the laborers take? I am worried that the leadership of the Episcopal Church has veered off the straight and narrow path which we are called to prepare. As the numbers presented in the last post demonstrate, the workers are losing confidence in their leaders. Will these leaders ever wake up, or will they "continue to sleep?"

Oh yes, Wallace Hartley pointed out that "Advent" is ironically the name of a sub chaser from WWII.
He could not find a photo of the USS Advent (Laid down 08/18/1941, commissioned 1942), but provided a picture of the Force, PC 1603, it was in the same class as the Advent PC 1587

Thursday, December 04, 2008

What Do You Get When You Squeeze a Turnip?

David Virtue's breakdown of the Episcopal Church money shakedown was posted on Catholic Online on 12/04/2008.
The source for David's data is the Episcopal Church's web site which recently updated the financial and membership stats to include 2007. You can find the data HERE.
He starts his comments as follows,

"Across the country, diocesan attendance figures show massive decline. Latest statistics for attendance in 2007 reveal that almost 100,000 fewer people are attending domestic dioceses than in 2003. Many dioceses are down 20%+ since 2003. In short, at least 1 in 5 Episcopalians has left The Episcopal Church."

This is followed by an evaluation of several diocesan budgets from around the country. He did not address our diocese directly.

But what about the Diocese of Upper South Carolina? Here is the breakdown in Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) for the past 10 years,


I was under the impression that South Carolina as a whole was increasing in overall population. There are a number of ways of working with numbers, and I had my own peculiar method in mind because of this question: How does the ASA decline compare to the population statistics for the EDUSC region of South Carolina? In order to do this I had to pull out the population data for the counties included in the EDUSC.

Here are the population estimates for 1997 and 2007 that I abstracted from the State of SC statistics pages here and here.

EDUSC County--1997-------------2007 (est.)



Okay, here is my calculated ASA/POP:

From 1 ASA (average Sunday attendee) for every 240 persons in the general population to 1 ASA for every 303 persons. I would estimate if the Episcopal Church had a flat growth rate, the ASA should have been 10,634 in 2007 instead of 8439.

This is roughly a 20% drop in ASA corrected for population growth.

So much for the decade of evangelism. Mea culpa?

I doubt we will be hearing about this from

The EDUSC may also want to update the figures presented on its Web site for the numbers of members in the greater Episcopal Church to 2.2 million worldwide (2.1 million in the US) down from 2.4 million worldwide in 2003.

The numbers indicate both a failure of Episcopal evangelism and a problem with loss of members. When evaluating a disaster, root cause analysis is useful. I have some thoughts, but I will end with David Virtue's summary conclusion,
"Perhaps Episcopal Church officials will reconsider their "mission" of pursuing Millennium Development Goals and suing churches. Throwing former members out on the street with nothing, is not really what Jesus would do, and it's time to re-evaluate their approach."

"At a deeper level, the decline indicates that theological liberalism is a cancer that is eating away at the Episcopal body politic and that no amount of money will ultimately keep it together. The Episcopal Church's "respectable unbelief" - Jesus is "a way" not "the way" ...truth and the life, touted by the Presiding Bishop will only lead more people to leave. After all, if you don't know what you really stand for, why should anyone follow what you fall for?"

Okay what do you get when you squeeze a turnip?

A smaller turnip.

Just call me Turnip Juice.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Gsus Pryr 4 fun

In case you missed it, this from The Ship of Fools

"We're pleased to announce the winner and runners-up in the Ship of Fools biblical text-messaging competition.
The competition was for re-writing the Lord's Prayer for the mobile phone, using just 160 characters or less. It was judged for Ship of Fools by the Churches' Broadcasting Conference. The task itself was not easy. The traditional version of the Lord's Prayer is 372 characters long, so whittling it down to 160 characters meant cutting the prayer by more than half but without losing anything important.

THE WINNER – out of a strong field of over 100 entries, Matthew Campbell, a history student at York University, came up with the winning entry, which is...
dad@hvn,ur spshl.we want wot u want&urth2b like hvn.giv us food&4giv r sins lyk we 4giv uvaz.don't test us!save us!bcos we kno ur boss,ur tuf&ur cool 4 eva!ok?

In 2nd place: Steve Seymour, Bristol, England
r pa in evan, respect 2 u, may u rain ear as in evan. giv us r needs, 4giv rsin as we 4giv r nmes. resq us from the evil 1. 4 ur always the most xlent dude. yo

In 3rd place: Rev. Stephen E. Moore, Bellevue, Washington, USA, You rule, up and down. We need grub and a break. Will pass it on. Keep us focused. You totally rule, long term. Amen.

SPECIAL MENTIONS – some entrants took a refreshingly cavalier approach to the competition, and both the longest and shortest entries deserve special praise. Andy Keulemans from Wrexham in North Wales took an extreme shortcut with his 48-character prayer...
Hi Fr., Mat 6:9-13 again pls. Cheers. c u in ch.

Meanwhile, the longest entry, which at 357 characters was more than twice the acceptable length, was written by Sheila Locke from Norwich, and says...
Hi Dad, still in the same old homestead? Dig your name ol'fella. "Thy kingdom come" (what's that mean?). Anyhow, expect me sometime in next twenty years (or earlier) - still trying to be good. I like bread - the more the better, but will try not to get too greedy. Overlook any little naughtiness won't you and will try to do the same, but am only human. Bye.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

On the First Week of Advent, My Rector Gave to Me...

The Great Litany.

Admittedly cool, but not that one! Something more like this one (although it looks like a Lenten one),

We were also treated to a brief sermon which attempted to explain why we would start Advent with the Great Litany. Never mind the meander into the current economic downturn. After all, the Litany was done with much meandering around the church, so we can allow a little meandering about in the sermon this week.

Was the question, "What are we doing here on a rainy, cold, Sunday, and why are we praying for God to have mercy on us for all of those sins" answered to your satisfaction? I hope so. I think we did it in order to be prepared for the coming of the Master. As we heard today in Mark 13:35-37
"Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."

Those short sermons help with that last command.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Go to Church, Women's Lives May Depend on It.

Please note, this study does not prove a cause and effect relationship.

By Serena Gordon HealthDay Reporter – Reuters – WEDNESDAY, Nov. 26 (HealthDay News)
-- Attending a weekly religious service, regardless of your faith, may lower your risk of death by 20 percent compared to people who don't attend services, researchers are reporting.

"Religion is always a hot topic, but particularly now, when people are perhaps in fear because of the recession and the threat of terrorism, people are looking for stability, and religion is something we find people reach out to for that stability. And, we see some health benefits here," said the study's lead author, Eliezer Schnall, a clinical assistant professor of psychology at Yeshiva College at Yeshiva University in New York City.

"Maybe it's the sense of community, or the support, or maybe people are less depressed when they join in religious services," he said, adding that the researchers tried to control the data to account for many of these factors, but "we have not completely explained it all."

Results of the study were published in the current issue of the journal Psychology and Health.

The study participants came from the large Women's Health Initiative observational study, and included nearly 95,000 women from all over the United States. The women were all between 50 and 79 years old at the start of the study.

When the study began, each woman filled out extensive questionnaires regarding health history, health behaviors, psychosocial factors, demographics and religion. Medical information was obtained yearly for each study volunteer, and the average follow-up time was 7.7 years.

Before adjusting the data, there was no significant difference in the risk of death between regular religious service attendees and those who chose not to attend. Schnall noted that there were many reasons why this could be so. But the main reason, he said, could be that people who go to religious services every week may be in better physical shape. "Maybe they're just healthy enough to go to services," he said.

When the researchers adjusted the data to account for physical health, age, ethnicity, income, education, social support, important life events and life satisfaction, they found that weekly religious service attendance was responsible for a 20 reduction in the risk of death. Attending less than once a week was responsible for a 15 percent drop in the risk of death.

But, attending religious services didn't improve the risk of death from cardiovascular disease or improve heart outcomes, the study found.

Although the study noted a decreased risk of death, Schnall wouldn't say that the prescription for good health is to attend religious services regularly.

"I'm not saying our study yields such a prescription, but our findings are intriguing and we do at least have some ideas of why there is a benefit, but we have not completely explained it all," he said.

Dr. Harold G. Koenig, founder and co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center, called the new research "a very well-done study that provides good, well-controlled evidence that religious attendance is related to lower mortality."

"And, they [the researchers] show it's not just the social factor, it's not just the behavioral factors, and it's not just that some people might be too sick to be able to go to church. The researchers controlled well for these, though they still don't explain it all at the end," said Koenig.

"But," he added, "that doesn't mean there are supernatural effects, just that we don't fully understand the mechanism by which religion does this yet."

The study focused on women, and there is no way to extrapolate the results to men. If there is a causal relationship, one can speculate all day as to why the Lord wants church going women alive longer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is Thanksgiving Catholic or Protestant?

Taylor Marshall at "Credo" asks the question "Is Thanksgiving Catholic?" (h/t Cato)

as evidence in support of a Catholic origin read,
...the truly “First Thanksgiving” celebration occurred on American soil on April 30, 1598 in Texas when Don Juan de Oñate declared a day of Thanksgiving to be commemorated by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

But consider closely the last paragraph,

"And let everyone remember that 'Thanksgiving' in Greek is Eucharistia. Thus, the Body and Blood of Christ is the true 'Thanksgiving Meal'."

Knowing how much everyone enjoys Greek, I went to Strong's online Greek dictionary for more info,

Eucharistia, "From eucharistos; gratitude; actively, grateful language (to God, as an act of worship) -- thankfulness, (giving of) thanks(-giving)."

Clicking on the link to the 5 references to eucharistia we find,

Strong's Number 2169 (εὐχαριστία: thankfulness, thanksgiving)

1 Corinthians 14:16 ἐπεὶ ἐὰν εὐλογῇς ἐν πνεύματι, ὁ ἀναπληρῶν τὸν τόπον τοῦ ἰδιώτου πῶς ἐρεῖ τὸ ἀμήν ἐπὶ τῇ σῇ εὐχαριστίᾳ; ἐπειδὴ τί λέγεις οὐκ οἶδεν·
Otherwise if you bless with the spirit, how will he who fills the place of the unlearned say the "Amen" at your giving of thanks, seeing he doesn't know what you say?

Ephesians 5:4 καὶ αἰσχρότης καὶ μωρολογία ἢ εὐτραπελία, ἃ οὐκ ἀνῆκεν ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον εὐχαριστία.
nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not appropriate; but rather giving of thanks.

Colossians 2:7 ἐρριζωμένοι καὶ ἐποικοδομούμενοι ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ βεβαιούμενοι τῇ πίστει καθὼς ἐδιδάχθητε, περισσεύοντες (ἐν) (αὐτῇ) ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ.
rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, even as you were taught, abounding in it in thanksgiving.

Colossians 4:2 Τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτερεῖτε, γρηγοροῦντες ἐν αὐτῇ ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ,
Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving;

Revelation 7:12 λέγοντες, ἀμήν, ἡ εὐλογία καὶ ἡ δόξα καὶ ἡ σοφία καὶ ἡ εὐχαριστία καὶ ἡ τιμὴ καὶ ἡ δύναμις καὶ ἡ ἰσχὺς τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων· ἀμήν.
saying, "Amen! Blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might, be to our God forever and ever! Amen."

Giving thanks goes way back to the earliest books of the Bible. It is how we give thanks that has changed, Christians use the "eucharistia," and that is full and sufficient for the day we call "Thanksgiving." I think the answer to Taylor Marshall's question has to be a resounding "No Thank You." Perhaps the ultimate meaning and identity of Thanksgiving is Jesus at the Last Supper..."he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat." (Acts 27:35) "Thanksgiving" is thanks given to God, from all of us, from the beginning, and forever more.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What is This Kingdom Thing?

Fr. Dunbar gave us today's sermon. He did a good job, focusing on "the Kingdom." To me this was something the followers of Jesus just couldn't really understand during the time He was with them, in spite of all the questions presented to Him, and in spite of the parables He gave them. The Kingdom of the Lord was so unlike anything they expected, that I suspect It is still something that we also cannot put into words.

Today's readings of the separation of the sheep into those which will be saved and those that will be given over to Satan's fires were not directly addressed in the sermon. No one wants to hear about that aspect, the "other kingdom."

After the sermon, was anyone else more acutely aware (with their Sunday ears) of how many times the word "Kingdom" came up in the liturgy? And did anyone else pause and reflect upon the crowns in the lower left and lower right sides of the Epiphany window?
(I need a better picture, this one was from the ECOOS photo gallery)

The juxtaposition of the crown of thorns and the regal crown are a fitting way to think about the Kingdom, if you ask me, which you didn't.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Now You Know that You Are Free

To the Dioceses of Fort Worth, Quincy, San Joaquin, and Pittsburg,

To counter Wallace Hartley's lame Pete Seeger imitation, I drug this song out of the memory banks, and I put it out for the most recent Diocese to leave the Episcopal Church, Fort Worth. Have you heard?
"Now you know that you are real,
Show your friends that you and me
Belong to the same world,
Turned on to the same word,
Have you heard?

Now you know that you are free,
Living all your life at ease.
Each day has its always,
A look down life's hallways, doorways,
To lead you there."

The Moody Blues

or perhaps their "Dawning is the Day" might be appropriate,
"Rise, let us see you,
Dawning is the day,
Miss, misty meadow,
You will find your way,
Wake up in the morning to
yourself and leave this crazy
life behind you.
Listen, we're trying to find you.

Flow to the sea,
You know where to go,
Still we are free,
No one tells the wind which way to blow.

Wake up in the morning to yourself,
Open your eyes and start to be you.
Listen, we think we can see you.
Baby there's no price upon your head,
Sing it, shout it.
Now the angry words have all been said.
Do it, don't doubt it.

So rise, let us see you,
Dawning is the day,
Miss, misty meadow,
You will find your way,
Wake up in the morning to
yourself, open your head and
look around you.
Listen, we think we have found you."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Rich Get Richer or The Awful Gospels

The Awful Gospels.

Did anyone else have a sense of deja vu at today's service at ECOOS? I sure did. In fact, the reading from 1 Thessalonians presented was the same as last week's reading. It should have been this,
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters,* you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved,* are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Continuing in this theme, Charlie in his sermon brought up the bridesmaids and the lamp oil parable from last week and presented his opinion that this and today's parable were "awful." Today's parable from Matthew 25 was of the slaves and the talents. I had a hard time with today's sermon from the get go. Was it something about the lack of virgins in America or was it trying to make the parable more difficult to understand? Perhaps it was trying to paint the master as a greedy cheating person (for how else does one get rich), or maybe it was portraying the good and trustworthy slaves as also being cheats and bad, or maybe it was an unspoken "God can't be that way" at the conclusion where the worthless slave is thrown into the darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Of all the sermons I have heard on this parable, this was the most bizzare. Because he could not explain his problems clearly, I am left speculating as to why it gives Charlie such difficulty. Why is liberal theology unable to come to grips with the closed door of the parable of the unwise bridesmaids, or the casting out of the worthless slave? I think that liberal theology has certain assumptions about God that lead to this difficulty. Is it the assumption that God = Love? Has this led us to think that God's love is the same as the human experience? Human ideal love would not be compatible with the closed door or the weeping and gnashing of teeth. Surely a loving God would not keep the unwise or lazy out of the kingdom of heaven.

I think the parables are trying to tell us that this is a dangerous assumption, and that we had better be prepared for the bridegroom, and we should be spreading the Gospel message, multiplying the gift of the spirit that our Lord has given us. God has given each of us the gift of Christ, wouldn't it be wise to increase his gift and not keep it to ourselves?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veteran's Day Tradition Resumes

A breaking e-mail from the rector.

Friends of Our Saviour,

Now that we have the Restoration Bell in place, we can begin to observe some of the important remembrances of our history. Since Nov. 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m., when the Treaty of Versailles was signed to end World War I, it has been the custom in many countries to ring eleven bells at 11:00 a.m. on that day each year. It is a way to remember those who have died in the service of their countries and to pray for peace. I'll be doing the honors of ringing the bell at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. I would ask you to stop wherever you are and to honor Veterans Day. If you can, observe a minute of silence at 11:00 a.m. and then pray with me the following collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in whom all souls live now and evermore, the God not of the dead but of the living: We bless you for all those who have faithfully lived and died in the service of their country. As we ever hold them in grateful remem-brance, let your love and mercy in light perpetual shine upon them, and bring us all at last into your eternal kingdom of peace; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen. Charlie

Wish I could be there to hear it ring, but since I cannot, here is a YouTube clip,

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Knocking on Heaven's Door

Mary Cat delivered today's sermon and had the task of elucidating Amos, Thessalonians, and the parable of the bridesmaids.
Amos' day of the Lord is darkness, and Paul's is being caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. These contain enough to chew on, but Jesus' parable with the unwise bridesmaids coming up against the closed door, and hearing the tough reply, "Truly I tell you, I do not know you," is scary stuff. I think Mary Cat soft pedaled through this a little. What if she had said what one of my professors said when he announced to our large incoming freshman class,
"Look at the person to your left and then look at the person to your right. I tell you, in four years time one of those students will not be around"?
And how did I get through those four years? Through my own hard work, my own perseverance, and my own commitment? I did not make it on my own then, and I am certain that the way of Jesus is another task that I cannot accomplish without Him. As I alluded to in the comment section last Wednesday,
The words may be harsh, but I am reminded that Jesus tells me the Good News of salvation, but I learned the bad news is that the way is through the Via Dolorosa...

God, grant us the courage, and strength to follow in Your way, help me along the way, please open the door for me, and when I knock, hear my cry.

Don't leave me "Knocking at Heaven's Door."

Eric Clapton's version is one of my favorites,

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can't use it anymore.
It's gettin' dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door.

Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can't shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin' down
I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door.

Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
-Bob Dylan

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Role of Preaching

Fr. Matt Kennedy presented his thoughts on the role of preaching HERE. Fr. Kennedy is a former (guess the denomination) priest at a former (guess the denomination) church. After reading his blog, do you have any idea why he might not fit in as a (guess the denomination) priest? Read for example,

"Biblically speaking, a sermon is not a speech, lecture or motivational talk.

Rather it is an exposition and application of scripture. Read Paul's charge to Timothy:"
'But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.'(2 Tim 3:14-17)

..."It is a dereliction of duty not to preach from the scriptures in such a way that the necessity of repentance and reconciliation is made clear. When God's call to all men and women to repent and surrender to Christ is hidden behind comforting words that provide false salves to the conscience and superficially alleviate the tension between biblical truth and cultural norms, souls are endangered. What a terrible thing to send a congregation home hyped up on motivational platitudes without a hint that there is a judgment to come and that apart from Christ none can stand in it.

..."At the same time, we should not depart regularly feeling condemned. While the sermon opens the Word of God and that necessarily leads to conviction from time to time, it also brings comfort and encouragement and assurance. Not only are we forgiven sinners, but in Christ, we are beloved children of God. We are heirs to the world. We have no reason to hang our heads in shame because our Lord has taken away all shame and guilt.

...There should then be a sense of eager anticipation as the bible is opened and the sermon begins...what treasures will God reveal? What comfort will he bring? What guidance or assurance will he give me this day? For every rebuke, there is also a promise of mercy and grace to all who seek it in Jesus Christ.

...The sermon is not a speech, lecture or motivational talk, done properly it is the means by which God communicates the desire of the bridegroom to the bride, Christ's will to his Church."

Whatcha think?

I think I need come back with a piece on "The Role of Listening in the Congo" (and not another one on Appreciative Inquiry)

Okay, was he formerly,

1. Roman Catholic
2. Greek Orthodox
3. Southern Baptist
4. Lutheran
5. Presbyterian
6. Episcopalian
7. Hindu

Fr. Kennedy is at the Church of the Good Shepherd Binghamton, NY.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Death, Taxes, and the End of Time

In the Episcopal Church there are few certainties. One of these has to be the annual "Every Member Canvass," or "Stewardship Campaign," or "Pledge Drive."
There are probably many other names for this time of the Church Year, and some of these cannot be shared in polite society. Most of these alternative descriptors are prefaced with words such as, "Not again," "They always want more," "They spend too much," "This year we are staying the same," or "We give enough already." These are not the words of the cheerful giver, but admit it, you probably have made or have heard similar comments.

Today was an unusual Sunday. Fr. Foss had to take on in his sermon the Stewardship business, All Saints Day, a double Baptism, the memory of the dearly departed, Revelation, and the Beatitudes. But that is not enough of a challenge, lets throw in the "church militant," Desert Storm, and the guilt of growing up with "Southern" prejudices.
All this presents a problem. The problem of time.

And I am not talking about the fact that by setting our clocks back this morning we had an extra hour of sleep. No, I have to bring up the fact that today's sermon ate away 23 of the 60 minutes we gained.
It is at times like this that I have to sit back and remember that time may not exist, at least below the Planck scale according to this article. If you don't read it, here is one choice quote,
“The meaning of time has become terribly problematic in contemporary physics,” says Simon Saunders, a philosopher of physics at the University of Oxford. “The situation is so uncomfortable that by far the best thing to do is declare oneself an agnostic.”

While squirming in your pew, please try to consider another solution to the problem of time. Just think of yourself as playing a role in this old John Prine song, (I give you the option of the lyrics, or a YouTube of someone singing John's song pretty well).
While out sailing on the ocean
While out sailing on the sea
I bumped into the Saviour
And He said pardon me
I said "Jesus you look tired"
He said "Jesus so do you,
Sit down son
'Cause I got some fat to chew"

Everybody needs somebody
that they can talk to
Someone to open up their ears
And let that trouble through
Now you don't have to sympathize
Or care what they may do
But everybody needs somebody
that they can talk to

Well he spoke to me of morality
Starvation, pain and sin
Matter of fact the whole dang time
I only got a few words in
But I won't squawck
Let 'em talk
Hell it's been a long long time
And any friend that's been turned down
Is bound to be a friend of mine

(Repeat chorus)

Now we sat there for an hour or two
Just eatin' that Gospel pie
When around the bend come a terrible wind
And lightning lit the sky
He said so long son I gotta run
Appreciate you listening to me
And I believe I heard him sing these words
As he skipped out across the sea

Everybody needs somebody
that they can talk to
Someone to open up their ears
And let that trouble through
Now you don't have to sympathize
Or care what they may do
But everybody needs somebody
that they can talk to

John Prine "Everybody" from "Diamonds in the Rough" 1972

Here's a version from Ohtis,

Oops, there goes more of that time we gained last night.

And don't forget to send in those pledge cards.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Marriage Revisited, and Revisited, and Revisited...

This from the Christian Science Monitor on the Nigerian man with 86 wives. He claimed God gave him the authority, and...
"'If God permits me, I will marry more than 86 wives. A normal human being could not marry 86 – but I can only by the grace of God,' a defiant Bello Masaba told The Christian Science Monitor during a recent prison interview. 'I married 86 women and there is peace in the house – if there is peace, how can this be wrong?'"

I have heard that before, the "if there is peace, how can this be wrong" bit. Sound anything like the argument we have in the US over same sex marriages?

And where does he get the money to keep such a household? Is it a sign of a miracle? Or maybe he's the guy I sent my money to in order to get my lost inheritance.

But talk about too many cooks in the kitchen! I think there may be something miraculous here in that there is peace in his house. Perhaps God's grace is at work here, but it has run afoul of Islamic law. Mr. Bello Masaba will have to divorce 82 of his wives soon or move. How unfair to have to choose which to keep and which to divorce, besides, where could he move?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Let Barking Dogs Bark


Fr. Foss delivered today's sermon on Matthew 22:34-46. You remember, the two commandments upon which all the law and prophets hang. As he said, "that's all there is to religion folks," or some such statement, I thought that I heard echoes of classical liberal theology as discussed earlier this month by Robert Easter over at Sanctifusion where he wrote,
"At the 'core' of Liberal Theology is 'reductionism.' Classic Liberalism took Jesus' words, 'on these hang all the Law and the Prophets,' concerning what we variously call the 'Summary of the Law,' or the 'Jesus Creed,' and reduced all they saw 'Christianity' to mean down to simply 'Go to church and act nice.' and relegated all the rest to the 'details' bin to be sorted out later.

I was not disappointed, as Charlie went on to tell us that everything else was just "stuff." And we all know, "stuff" is not worth arguing over. The next part of the sermon contained an underdeveloped story about neighborly love. Charlie gave a personal story of his neighbor's dog that barks day and night.

Charlie assumes that the dog barks because it is not loved properly by its owners. Or perhaps the neighbors were not loving part of God's creation, the dog, properly. Our readers should be reminded that Fr. Foss is more of a cat person and not a dog person. I don't blame Charlie if he is mad at his neighbor (he did not come out and say it, but isn't this an indirect dig against his neighbors. It is sort of like calling them bad parents is it not?). I wouldn't blame him if he went over and told his neighbor to shut the dog up, but Charlie did not address the loving your neighbor part of the story. I mean, it is hard to show love to your neighbor when their dog keeps you awake all night. I might be tempted to resort to violence myself. Alas, the barking dog issue was left open ended, but I got the impression that bad owners create barking dogs, which provides me with a connection for the next bit.

Next Charlie started dragging out the "stuff" we are supposed to not fight over, like Bishop Gene Robinson. Charlie told the tale of the Roman Catholic who could not see joining the Episcopal Church because of all the fighting and name calling going on over the divorced, homosexual Bishop of New Hampshire. My question is, what kind of Church is one that deliberately creates a situation which is guaranteed to cause such a conflict? A Church that puts a barking dog in the yard next to your bedroom window? The truth is, that because the owners at 815 Second Avenue did not show the proper love for Gene Robinson, or for their neighbors, he remains the annoyance in the backyard. Of course the same holds true for other forgettable noise makers such as Bishop Spong, etc. I now have a new found pity for Bishop Robinson. I also know why it does no good to ask him to be quiet. He can't be quiet because he is the victim of poor training and poor ownership. I guess I need to keep knocking on the owner's door at 815 and tell them to shut the "stuff" up.

As I commented earlier at the Sanctifusion blog,
"The old saying was 'The devil is in the details.' Perhaps that is why it is easier to toss the details into the can. 'Oooh, oooh, we can't go there because you know who is in there.'
Armed with Christ, we can go there, and conquer all those pesky details."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Moving Moment

Lord thank You for guiding the hands of that truck driver yesterday. Or maybe You woke him/her from sleep as the rig started across the median. Maybe You steered those 18 wheels safely down the grassy middle, away from those of us in the oncoming lanes. Maybe You kept me from swerving or braking too hard. "Maybe" nothin, it was You. Forgive me for those minutes where I did not think of You. Forgive me for first thinking of myself, my reflexes, my driving experience, my vehicle maintenence. If not for You, none of those would have been.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Smells and Bells

Today was a big day at ECOOS. It is probably a once in a lifetime event for most pewsters to be present for the dedication of a church. Well, that's what Bishop Duvall did today as we officially moved into our renovated sanctuary. Today's sermon was delivered by Bishop Duvall. I think the theme would be "What makes a place holy?" As he described Nashotah House Seminary and how the sanctuary gave off a sense of holiness as well as the scent of years of incense, I could not help but sniff around and think, "It still smells a little bit like molecules of floor finish, stain, and polyurethane floating around in here." Oh well, we didn't have incense, but maybe we could still count this as a smells and bells service. I appreciated him, or was it Charlie, recognizing everyone present including those baptised, married and even those buried here. And of course Bishop Duvall delivered one of his famous stories in the course of his sermon.

Like most good sermons and services I left with more questions than when I had when I entered the sanctuary.

What makes a place holy? Is it our prayers and supplications?
What makes it a place that can transform sinners? Is it a formal dedication?
Do we need a place at all?

We moderns tend to keep God's place separate from our everyday lives. It becomes a place to visit on Sundays or holidays. Shouldn't every place be like the place Jacob named Bethel?
"How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

Jacob found that place in a dream, but the place was made by God. The choir nailed down the answer to my question when they sang Brukner's "Locus Iste"
a "Gradual for the Dedication of a Church."

"Locus iste a Deo factus est,
inaestimabile sacramentum,
irreprehensibilis est."

"This place was made by God,
a inestimable holy place.
It is without blame."

There you have it. It is not a place made by man at all.

I did learn something else new while listening to that story from Genesis. I discovered the name of the Lord. It is right there in Genesis 28:11-19. Missed it? Try again,
11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder* set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him* and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed* in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ 17 And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’
18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19He called that place Bethel;* but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

Give up? Maybe you never watched "Airplane."

God to Jacob, "Don't call me Shirley."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shakedown Cruise

Today the Pewster is taking the day off and I was promoted to O.O.D. I was told the Pewster was busy solving the global financial meltdown, and was asked to complete the ship's blog.

This Sunday the faithful crew of ECOOS was mustered into their newly renovated sanctuary. All the wood and brass was glistening, reminiscent of a fine sailing vessel. Today served as a shakedown cruise for the sanctuary. Next week Bishop Duvall will take her out on the maiden voyage. The waters seemed calm today, and when Fr. Charlie Foss delivered the sermon, I am afraid that I drifted off and missed whatever point was being made. Knowing that the Pewster would be upset, I set about to interview some of the crew in the galley following the service. Here are some of the results.

Wallace Hartley: "What was the sermon about?"

Purser: "Capitalism?"

Wallace Hartley: "Is capitalism good or bad?"

Purser: "Both, I think."

Moving on, I looked for an opinion regarding any operational changes.

Wallace Hartley: "Did you notice any problems with today's service?"

Boatswain: "We seem to have an ancient memory that we are supposed to kneel after the Sanctus. You know, it has been so long since we have been able to kneel. The Officers crossed us up by using Eucharistic Prayer C. There is no written order to sit, stand, kneel or anything after the Sanctus. The crew was obviously confused. I hope the mass kneeling is not taken as a sign of mutiny."

Next, I ran into the cook.

Wallace Hartley: "Why are there no cheese doodles?"

Cook: "We heard that the Pewster would do that 'Liar Liar Pants on Fire' dance if cheese doodles were around because of a dare someone posted. The crew voted unanimously to hide the doodles."

Lastly, I encountered the Yeoman.

Wallace Hartley: "What are you writing?"

Yeoman: "This is a list of things that need repairs before the Bishop arrives."

Wallace Hartley: "Anything serious?"

Yeoman: "The air conditioners need to be fixed before next summer."

Wallace Hartley: "Anything else? I mean, things that might scuttle her. My friend the Pewster has been keeping a list, and I need to know if he left anything out."

Yeoman: "Yeah, can we maroon the Pewster on the next deserted island?"

Sensing that I might soon be in the scuppers myself, I headed for the gangway, but before I could make my escape, I was stopped by a mysterious, shadowy figure.

Wallace Hartley: "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"

Mysterious Shadowy Figure: "You can call me 'Deep Pew,' and I have the scuttlebutt on where this boat is headed."

Wallace Hartley: "But I don't want to know; get away from me Jonah!"

Deep Pew: "I heard the rector say that we are firmly anchored with both feet on the Rock. Beware, the Admirals are calling for the ship to be moved to the shifting sands. The ship will get grounded and then be at the mercy of the winds and waves of secular culture."

Wallace Hartley: "Reasserter."

Deep Pew: "Post your spyglass on the horizon Master Wallace."

With that, Deep Pew vanished, leaving me thinking that every church needs its officers, cooks, yeomen, boatswains, lookouts, its Jonahs, and even its mutineers grumbling in the brig. Maybe it's those Admirals in the funny hats that we need to watch out for.