Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Outrage of Collectivism: Silence on the Issues

Dad always said, "Never discuss religion or politics with company." I know what he was trying to say, and that was that these subjects can make or break friendships, or what in current church circles is called "relationship." But should they? One problem with Dad's "keep it to yourself" approach is that it ultimately leads to the type of shallow, secular non-friendships of which we have an overabundance. In the church, failure of the membership to discuss religious issues leads to shallow "relationship."

Like it or not, every church collective has a few folks who love to talk about issues, a larger group who sit quietly, wishing the issues would go away, a few folks who create issues, and a tiny number who turn to scripture for help with the issues.

There are times when we wish politics would just go away, and there are times when we wish politics would not try to resolve moral questions.

C.S. Lewis' take on the matter in "Membership," (found in The Weight of Glory, pp. 160-161) provides some important insights:

"We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy, and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.
True friends must be able to share quiet time together, free from the distractions of the world.
That religion should be relegated to solitude in such an age is, then paradoxical. But it is also dangerous for two reasons. In the first place, when the modern world says to us aloud, 'You may be religious when you are alone,' it adds under its breath, 'and I will see to it that you are never alone.'"
I believe that Lewis is referring to the powerful demands of modern society to silence the public witness of Christianity (You may be religious when you are alone) and the distractions of media and other temptations that prevent people from being alone with God for even a moment (I, the collective, will see to it that you are never alone).
"...That is one of the enemy's strategems. In the second place, there is the danger that real Christians who know that Christianity is not a solitary affair may react against that error by simply transporting into our spiritual life that same collectivism which has already conquered our secular life."
This is a bit more difficult for me to follow. How should I react against the error of thinking that Christianity is a private affair? Should I join with the collective even when it endorses sinful behaviors? I guess I could become one of those pewsitters who sits quietly, hoping the issues go away. But wouldn't that be like following the demands of political correctness we hear from secular collectivism? Lewis senses danger with that approach.
"That is the enemy's other strategem. Like a good chess player, he is always trying to manoeuvre you into a position where you can save your castle only by losing your bishop.
He didn't expect that the enemy might turn queens into bishops and vice versa in order to upset the whole chess board.
In order to avoid the trap we must insist that though the private conception of Christianity is an error, it is a profoundly natural one and is clumsily attempting to guard a great truth. Behind it is the obvious feeling that our modern collectivism is an outrage upon human nature and that from this, as from all other evils, God will be our shield and buckler."

C.S. Lewis.

Practicing religion as part of a group will always create issues. Problems can arise whenever the individual and the group hold opposing views. When one speaks out, the collective can come down pretty heavily. The prospect of causing angst in the collective is enough to stifle most pewsitters' voices even during those times that appear to demand a response. Some problems just cannot remain stifled. When the issue is an important question of Biblical truth, or when secular politics intersects with important moral questions, are we to sit on our hands?

Terry Mattingly's column in the Saturday July 10, 2010 edition of our local paper reminds us that the power of the collective to silence the voices crying out "Truth!" from the religious arena is just as strong today as it was in the time of C.S. Lewis. T. Matt quotes Ian Dowbiggin, author of “Life, Death, God and Medicine: A Concise History of Euthanasia.
“There are deep moral and religious issues at stake in debates about physician-assisted suicide, which is why religious believers have always been involved,” said Dowbiggin. “But what we are hearing today are prominent voices that say that religious people must keep their ideas to themselves, because religion is a private thing — period — and must not affect public life. If that idea is accepted, that’s a major step toward the acceptance of physician-assisted suicide.”
T. Matt quotes Dowbiggin again in what I think is a statement which applies to not just the intersection of politics and religion, but also to any issue which you have tested against the witness of Biblical Truth.
If religious leaders want to keep taking part in these policy discussions, said Dowbiggin, “they must have something positive to say. It is not enough to just keep saying ‘no.’ … They need a vision of what the ‘good death’ looks like. They need to say that this is the goal of all end-of-life care — people making informed moral decisions about hospice and other forms of care that are right for themselves and for their families.”
All too often, religious issues are resolved with a gradual leftward drift because reasserting leaders are stereotyped in a negative light. "The one who says 'No!'" might be printed on my next sweat shirt, but it would be in error. The most difficult thing about saying "No" in this context is communicating that what people really have to do is say "No" to self, and "Yes" to God's Word.

So, do you keep your religion to yourself in order to keep the collective happy, or do you do it to keep yourself happy? Are you silent on religious issues to keep the Church happy? Is the prospect of causing angst in the collective enough to stifle the pewsitters' voice? Are you just the voice that says "No"? Is any of that good for the body of Christ?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

An Intrinsic Division

A funny thing happened today along the way to a sermon on Luke 11:1-13. I started hearing a story on how people can be divided into two groups, dog people and cat people. Later on, I heard a story about how people can be divided into two more groups, extrinsicists and intrinsicists, and it was these groups that somehow got drawn into a sermon that should have included some thoughtful commentary on the extrinsic power we call,
"Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come."
Let me start out by saying that our rector identified himself today as an "intrinsicist," but he did not go into much detail as to what that meant. His description of extrinsicism was very short and limited extrinsicists to those who place faith on an external authority (such as the actual words of the Bible), but his description of an intrinsicist took quite a few more words that actually said even less. I think an intrinsivist believes they are looking beyond the words in scripture to a hidden truth that they must uncover on their own. No external authority can help them and there is the suggestion that no external authority was at work in the scriptures themselves. I am afraid that the extrinsic side got the short straw, and some congregants might be misled into believing that the intrinsicist path is the better path towards Truth (since our learned rector has chosen that path) although the rector asserted that he has nothing against those who read scripture or pray differently from himself.

Much more could be said about this division that he sees, but it may start to go beyond my pay grade. Nevertheless, I am going to give it a crack myself:

For example, if you believe p.868 of your BCP,
Article VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
Then you might be an extrinsicist.

If you believe Jesus said in John 5:24-25,
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live."
Then you might be an extrinsicist.

If your take on “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life” [a paraphrase of John 14:16] is,

KJS: I certainly don’t disagree with that statement that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. But the way it’s used is as a truth serum, or a touchstone: If you cannot repeat this statement, then you’re not a faithful Christian or person of faith. I think Jesus as way — that’s certainly what it means to be on a spiritual journey. It means to be in search of relationship with God. We understand Jesus as truth in the sense of being the wholeness of human expression. What does it mean to be wholly and fully and completely a human being? Jesus as life, again, an example of abundant life. We understand him as bringer of abundant life but also as exemplar. What does it mean to be both fully human and fully divine? Here we have the evidence in human form. So I’m impatient with the narrow understanding, but certainly welcoming of the broader understanding.

ADG: What about the rest of that statement —

KJS: The small box?

ADG: Well, the rest of the verse, that no one comes to the Father except by the son.

KJS: Again in its narrow construction, it tends to eliminate other possibilities. In its broader construction, yes, human beings come to relationship with God largely through their experience of holiness in other human beings. Through seeing God at work in other people’s lives. In that sense, yes, I will affirm that statement. But not in the narrow sense, that people can only come to relationship with God through consciously believing in Jesus.
Then you might be a Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church.

And you would be an intrinsicist.

If you believe that you are "Spirit led" even though the Bible suggests otherwise,

Then you might be an intrinsicist.

How does intrinsicism relate to revisionism? I think they run hand in hand. It certainly helps you to be a better intrinsicist if you start out from the point of view that re-writing the Bible to be relevant to "modern" people is perfectly acceptable. It also helps one to be a better revisionist if one has a low regard for the holy nature of what an extrinsivist would call the Word of God.

One of the problems with intrinsicism is that it makes the individual the ultimate authority. This authority applies not only to questions of Biblical interpretation but to every part of one's relationship to God and to the Church. The absence of Biblical authority must be liberating:
There is no longer any need for scripture with it's lessons on how God has made Himself manifest.
There is no longer any need to read about the consequences of a life apart from God.
There is no longer any need for the traditions of the Church.

External authorities just confine people to a box. All things could just as well be reasoned out by oneself.

Oh, you say, this just points out that there are two groups of people, those who submit to authority and those who fight against authority.

When it comes to the nature of our walk away from God, the problem of our relation to authority is perhaps one of the root causes of our unfaithfulness.

We make a huge mistake when we set ourselves up as the final authority.

It is very humbling to realize that God is the author of our salvation. In my case, it helps when I read the Bible that way.

I guess that makes me a dog loving extrinsicist.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Echoes from GC 2009 Heard in the 2011 Diocesan Budget

In March 2010, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington D.C. gave permission for priests in his diocese to preside at civil marriages according to this report from Episcopal Pravda Online. In July 2010 the Living Church announced that the Diocese of San Diego joins Massachusetts, Southeast Florida, and Southern Ohio in allowing same-sex blessings to "move beyond" where we were.

On May 15, 2010 we were presented with the "joyous" consecration of Mary Glasspool.

Does anyone remember this statement from one of Upper South Carolina's deputies to last year's General Convention of the Episcopal church? (Posted July 14, 2009)

Please remain calm!

Once again, as in 2003, we are dismayed by sensational headlines written, in some cases, by folks who have no understanding of Episcopal polity, our Constitution and Canons, or our Baptismal Covenant. Before you let anyone send you into a panic over the passage of DO25, pull out a copy of our Constitution and Canons and refer to sections on elections, ordinations, etc. While the fear is that passage of DO25 will further antagonize our Anglican family (and, no, it will not be received well), the reality is that the resolution did not actually change anything. What it does, in essence, is to say that these are our canons, the ordination PROCESS is open to anyone, but there are no guarantees that someone who goes through the process will be ordained. Our bishop feels that this resolution does not negate BO33, which asks us to exercise restraint in the ORDINATION of anyone whose manner of life presents a challenge to the Anglican Communion and to restrain from the blessing of same-sex unions (but, stay tuned – that resolution will be coming to us soon).

I can hear the echoes now... Please...Please...Remain...Remain...Calm...Calm...

I know that she was just echoing the Bishop's party line, but do we really need echoing deputies? Maybe so, if you are really desperate like the Sheriff was in this cartoon clip:

While our diocesean deputy was playing echo in 2009, the T.E.C. rats were in the hen house planning for their dastardly ordinations and same-sex liturgies to occur 2010.

The effects of GC 2009 are still being heard.

Although the powers that be in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina say, "blame the economy" (I recently wanted to stand up and shout, "It ain't the economy stupid!" when I heard that from the mouth of an Upper South Carolina clergyman), I think the reverberations from GC 2009 are one possible cause for the continued decline in the diocese's budget projections ($300,000 less income predicted for 2011) (Track the progress of the budget here). Falling Sunday attendance is another reason. It is getting increasingly difficult to ask people to come visit your church once you mention the brand name, "Episcopal." In addition, once visitors come and are exposed to the heretical views of many of our clergy, they take their Bibles and flee for their soul's sake, never to return. As a result, people just aren't giving to the Episcopal church like they used to. Why should they? Why give money to an organization that has chosen to walk away from your first love, the Good News as presented in the Gospels, as handed down by the Apostles. T.E.C. has taken on new lovers. For one, Biblical revisionism has, like the adulteress, lured the church astray. Pimps and prostitutes now run the show in the Episcopal church.

Woe to the church that does not hear the echoes from the past.

Woe to the shepherds who blame the sheep for a lack of wool.

I think for the next General Convention in 2012 we should send that same old cotton pickin deputy back, along with our new Sheriff, Andy, to represent us so we can hear all the echoes...echoes...echoes... from... from... from... 2009...2009...2009... again...again...again...

Of course, we might not have enough money to pay for their trip!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shallow Church

For those of you unfamiliar with Bill Gnade's bloggings, I would like to direct you to his new site "Shallow Church." Bill's older posts back in 2006, a series entitled "Theses on the Door: Statements Regarding the Episcopal Church of the United States" (the link is just for part 1) might be a good place for the uninitiated to visit as well.

Here is a teaser from "Shallow Church",

"This site is born of something akin to disgust. It is not born of what you might think: this is not a site devoted to the criticism of Christianity as shallow. In fact, the genesis of this project is something of the inverse. This site is born in rebellion of a Christianity that is deep.

You know what I mean. This site is born in reaction to those Christians who are "deeply" searching for authenticity, for the real, for the true Church. While their ambitions are laudable, let us note what their earnestness assumes: that the Church of today is shallow, inauthentic and unreal..."

I have added a link on the right side of these pages for updates on Bill's latest blog.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Quality Time Tango

Have you ever tried to spend "quality time" with someone, only to find out that they were too busy, or too distracted to get it?

Today's sermon was once again delivered by our deacon. He focused on the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42)
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’
Rick said that we all have our Martha moments when we feel that someone is dumping on us, or times when we get too busy, and we all have to stop and take the time to listen to God. By keeping his sermon simple and short, he was able to get this point across, that we always have the time to listen to the Lord. He is always ready to give us real quality time. Why do we seem to prefer listen to the distractions?

The "Quality Time Tango" is something that requires two fully focused particiants. In my case, I know which partner will be the clumsy one.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Upper South Carolina's New Bishop Suspends Cathedral Dean (Updated)

This story appeared in "The State" today.

The Very Rev. Philip C. Linder, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, was suspended today by the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, apparently over a leadership dispute between Linder and the vestry of the downtown Columbia church.

Bishop W. Andrew Waldo issued the suspension after Linder violated ground rules for the mediation process, according to a statement circulated to lay leaders of the church.

This was not included in the electronic newsletter sent out by the diocese today. We await word from those in the know about the dispute between the vestry and Linder hinted at in the news article. You might recall that Dean Linder was a candidate for Bishop in Upper SC last year, and his candidacy had some peculiar ins and outs. Some of these were posted on these pages: Here, and Here.

I wonder if this is a case of liberals eating each other for lunch.

Deep Pew where are you?

Addendum: The Bishop's letter to the people of the Cathedral may help:
"My role as bishop is to receive such documents and supporting information and to make a judgment on next steps. In that capacity and in light of the supporting documentation, I judged it critical that Philip refrain from contact with staff or parishioners until the concerns could be presented at vestry with Philip present. I issued what is known as a Pastoral Directive to enforce that principle. For clergy under the authority of a bishop, such directives are mandatory, with specific canonical provisions and consequences for non-compliance. All clergy make a solemn and holy vow to abide by this authority at their ordinations. My goal in this case was to create a space for mediating a resolution that would benefit both Philip and the Cathedral. Philip’s breach of that pastoral directive by numerous contacts with parishioners and staff, with and through his wife, Ellen, has put the health and wholeness of the Cathedral community at great risk.
These breaches left me no alternative but to pursue other means—in this case, suspension—in order to gain time to address the vestry’s concerns. Because of the nature of this situation, the suspension must remain in effect until the process set in motion by Philip’s behavior has run its course. That process precludes any contact between Philip and staff or members of the church.
Once again, this is not the path any of us would have wished, least of all me, but it is the path Philip has chosen."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sexual Abuse and the Secret Sins

H/T Midwest Conservative Journal
The Lead at the Episcopal Cafe posted this disturbing release of information about a retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nothwestern Pennsylvania. The post relates that he was bishop
"from 1974 to 1991. The four cases occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s."
And yesterday the allegations of five more cases were reported at

Having been trained in both "safe church" and in the Boy Scouts "two deep principle," it appears to me that safety has to involve the careful selection of leaders, ongoing supervision of those in positions of power, continued training for clergy, avoidance of situations where abuse might occur or might be alleged to have occurred, and of course, prayer for the Lord to strengthen our leaders so that they might not, excuse the reference, take advantage of their flock. I can simagine the problems that a pastor of a small congregation might face in trying to maintain safe church practices, and I am thankful that most pastors are safe to be around, but who knows what goes on in their hearts at all times?

Reports such as these have become so common that one has to wonder just what is wrong with mankind? Biologists, sociologists, and psychiatrics will all offer up their answers to that question, but I have to face the facts that the potential for evil behavior lies in each and everyone of us, but people will vary in the thresholds at which that potential becomes action. While some cross that barrier too easily and should punished when they do, the rest of us also have a lot to pray about because in our own hearts we all harbor some "secret sins" that we keep below the threshold of action. While I continue to pray for purity of heart and mind, it seems that there exists this potential for evil that keeps trying to rise to the level of consciousness. Those evil thoughts are among the things we must confess daily (and before we come to the Eucharist). We can keep no secrets from He who died for us.

Pray with me, spare us Lord...
Psalm 90 Domine, refugium

1 Lord, you have been our refuge *
from one generation to another.

2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born, *
from age to age you are God.

3 You turn us back to the dust and say, *
"Go back, O child of earth."

4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday
when it is past *
and like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep us away like a dream; *
we fade away suddenly like the grass.

6 In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
in the evening it is dried up and withered.

7 For we consume away in your displeasure; *
we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.

8 Our iniquities you have set before you, *
and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

9 When you are angry, all our days are gone; *
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

10 The span of our life is seventy years,
perhaps in strength even eighty; *
yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
for they pass away quickly and we are gone.

11 Who regards the power of your wrath? *
who rightly fears your indignation?

12 So teach us to number our days *
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

13 Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry? *
be gracious to your servants.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

First Love and Second Love

Today's sermon was delivered by Deacon Rick+. He had the parable of the good Samaritan as his subject. I remember my most important encounter with this parable was back in college. A pair of friends were working patiently with me to deliver me out of the darkness. They could have left me by the roadside, for I could be quite untouchable back then. As I walked them to the local ice cream parlor during those dark, muggy nights, I challenged them, teased them, talked mean to them, and did everything I could to keep from hearing their call. As Deacon Rick+ reminded me today, the call, like Donne's bell*, is a personal call from the Lord to yield to His command, to give in, to come and love Him.

From today's readings (Luke 10:25-37):

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind;"

This had to come first.

I must confess that I have always had a hard time with this commandment.

I went through a rocky period of rebellion against God for several years as a teen. I stopped fighting and accepted God into my life again during a period of personal longing and loneliness. At the time, I thought I was looking for love, but worried that I might be incapable of loving. I didn't really know what I was looking for. One friend told me that "You first have to love yourself." I didn't think that was right, so I kept searching. What I found, thanks two friends and thanks to the Gospel of Luke, was God's love. His answer to my lonely cry was the love of Christ Jesus. I heard His command which is to love God first, for without Him as the key ingredient, there would be no cure for my self imposed loneliness. Nor could I love myself. The "cure" was painless, but the healing continues. The "with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength" therapy was (and is) difficult, but time, prayer, and practice strengthed me. At any point during those early years, I could fallen prey to some other lover. I needed some honeymoon time with Him before I could be exposed to the next step:
"...and your neighbour as yourself."
After five additional years of preparation, during which time He revealed his love through scripture, prayer, and carrying me through times of crisis, God brought a human love into my life.

U.P.'s Wedding photo

For me, this could only have flowed from the first commandment. I can't imagine it working from the other direction. There seems to be a certain order to the process. Learn to love God first, then the "thyself" and "neighbor" stuff will happen. It may not happen overnight. It may not happen the way we want it, but it will happen.
Those first few months of each romance were confusing times for me. There were times in which human love wrestled with love for God. I now see that human loves, while powerful and sometimes overwhelming experiences, are at best only hints at the deeper love of God. Still, I often wonder about how all this works. And when I say "wonder," I do not mean "ponder." I use the term to indicate a certain marvel over the mystery.

God has shown me His infinite love, a love beyond compare. After He showed me that He was willing to die for me, He revealed His love through acquaintances, friends, family, the sick, and the dying. As love lives on, there is always this doubt: that maybe there is something wrong. Maybe I do not feel as strongly for Him as I used to. There is always that nagging concern, a reminder of those earlier years, that maybe I just can't love. Time and time again, He keeps reminding me that I am capable of loving him. I've done it before, and I can do it again.

All I have to do is listen for the bell, and take the steps towards the call.
* "As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring
first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that this occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.-John Donne"

Watch that first step. Its a doozy!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Myths and Legends: Memories of Pollywogs and Shellbacks

Two of my favorite books in High school were Edith Hamilton's Mythology and Homer's Odyssey. Something about the man versus the gods story within a story continues to draw me back to Homer.

Then Zeus, the cloud-gatherer, answered him, and said: “Ah me, thou shaker of the earth, wide of sway, what a thing hast thou said! The gods do thee no dishonor; hard indeed would it be to assail with dishonor our eldest and best. But as for men, if any one, yielding to his might and strength, fails to do thee honor in aught, thou mayest ever take vengeance, even thereafter. Do as thou wilt, and as is thy good pleasure.”
Then Poseidon, the earth-shaker, answered him: “Straightway should I have done as thou sayest, thou god of the dark clouds, but I ever dread and avoid thy wrath. But now I am minded to smite the fair ship of the Phaeacians, as she comes back from his convoy on the misty deep, that hereafter they may desist and cease from giving convoy to men, and to fling a great mountain about their city.”
I loved to think of Odysseus and those sailors, lost for years, on a tiny ship, in a vast wine-dark sea.

The other day I was sorting through a box of old photos and came upon a photo of my Grandfather as a young seaman.

Also in the box I found an old, rolled up certificate from the time when he first crossed the equator. My old friend Wallace Hartley had recently signalled his interest in the subject of Neptune (Gr. Poseidon), Lord of the Sea, and the peculiar initiation rites surrounding the crossing of the equator that sailors must undergo. I sent him a note that I had my Grandfather's original certificate from 1919, and I was asked to post it. This took some doing as my scanner is not big enough to handle the certificate. After several attempts at stitching two images together, here is the final result:

As near as I can make out it reads,
To all Sailors, wherever ye may be, and to all Mermaids, Sea Serpents, Whales, Sharks, Porpoises, Dolphins, Skates, Eels, Suckers, Lobsters, Crabs, Pollywogs and other living things of the sea. GREETING: Know ye that on this First day of February, 1919, in latitude 00,000 and longitude 36, 58', W., there appeared within the limits of Our Royal Domain the U. S. S. Westerdyk. BE IT REMEMBERED That the Vessel and Officers and Crew thereof have been inspected and passed on by Ourself and Our Royal Staff. AND BE IT KNOWN: By all ye Sailors, Marines, Landlubbers and others who may be honored by his Presence that _________, Lt. j.g. U.S.N.R.F. having been found worthy to be numbered as one OF OUR TRUSTY SHELLBACKS, has been gathered to our fold and duly initiated into the SOLEMN MYSTERIES OF THE ANCIENT ORDER OF THE DEEP. BE IT FURTHER UNDERSTOOD: That by virtue of the power invested in me I do hereby command all my subjects to show due honor and respect to him whenever he may enter Our Realm. DISOBEY THIS ORDER UNDER PENALTY OF OUR ROYAL DISPLEASURE. Given under our hand and seal this First day of February, 1919.

DAVY JONES, His Majesty's Scribe


Also in the box was a list of ships on which my grandfather served or commanded as well as various newspaper clippings about his distinguished career. I was surprised to find him considered a "genial" Commander since I remember being scared of him most of the time. At least that was the myth I had created about him, that of the imperious sea captain. I guess a good commander has to instill a certain amount of fear in his crew and in his grandchildren. Another myth busted.

Still, it gave me a smile when I imagined him going through the hazing process as he was inducted into the Order of Neptunus Rex.

Here is a description of the tradition.
"In the U.S. Navy, when a ship crosses the equator a time-honored ceremony takes place. This is a Navy tradition and an event no sailor ever forgets. With few exceptions, those who have been inducted into the "mysteries of the deep" by Neptunus Rex and his Royal court, count the experience as a highlight of their naval career. Members of Neptunus Rex's party usually include Davy Jones, Neptune's first assistant, Her Highness Amphitrite, the Royal Scribe, the Royal Doctor, the Royal Dentist, the Royal Baby, the Royal Navigator, the Royal Chaplain, the Royal Judge, Attorneys, Barbers and other names that suit the party.

Officially recognized by service record entries indicating date, time, latitude and longitude, the crossing of the equator involves elaborate preparation by the "shellbacks" (those who have crossed the equator before) to ensure the "pollywogs" (those who are about to cross the equator for the first time) are properly indoctrinated. All pollywogs, even the Commanding Officer if he has not crossed before, must participate.

A Golden Shellback is one who has crossed the equator at the 180th meridian."

All of this salty history led me to investigate the ship my grandfather was aboard at the time of his meeting with the "Ruler of the Deep." From my copy of Paul Silverstone's U.S. Warships of WWI, I found that the U.S.S. Westerdyk was a transport converted into U.S. naval service with the addition of 5 inch and 4 inch cannons, and returned to civilian ownership in Sept. 1919 (well after the crossing the line ceremony).

The following is an abstract published in the November 1913 issue of International Marine Engineering (p 499) (Google books) that tells us a bit about the ship itself.
"The quadruple screw steamers Oosterdyk and Westerdyk.- These vessels are modern cargo steamers designed by Messrs. Irving’s Shipbuilding and Dry Docks Company, Ltd., West Hartlepool, for the Holland-America Company of Rotterdam. The dimensions are: Length 470 ft; beam, 55 feet; depth, molded to shelter deck, 41 feet 7 ½ inches. The cargo loading and discharging gear is very complete and the accommodations for the officers and crew are fitted out with every possible improvement for the comfort of the personnel at sea, in accordance with the usual practice of the Holland-America Company. The machinery, built by Messrs. Richardsons, Westgarth & Company, Ltd., Hartlepool, consists of quadruple balanced four crank engines with cylinders 27 ½ , 37 ¾, 55 and 84 inches diameter by 60 inches stroke, supplied with steam at 215 pounds pressure by six Scotch boilers. A feature of the engine is the fitting of a Contraflo condenser with its appropriate accessories. A brief description is given of the auxiliary machinery and equipment of the vessels- Engineering, August 29."

One story that my grandfather told about the U.S.S. Westerdyk was how it would pitch and roll while crossing the Atlantic with a hold full of horses bound for the army in France in WWI. On one trip they had problems with the horses not being well cared for by the crew, so on the next trip the Captain found some Quakers to serve as crew (they couldn't fight, but they knew how to take care of horses), and as a result, on that trip they delivered the Army's horses with zero losses, and as an added bonus, they returned with a clean (and sober) ship.

I was able to find one record on-line of one of their journeys that seems to corroborate part of my grandfather's story,

Embarked October 19 1918, disembarked at St Nazaire, 648 animals on board, animals destroyed or died 2, sick or injured 0, Transport Veterinarian 1 st Lt. Eugene L Hannon, Veterinary Hospital No. 13
How often do think of the stories passed down to us as tall tales, legends, or myths? What part of "Honor thy Father and Mother" (Exodus 20:12) do we disobey when we ignore the value of their stories and place our present above the past?

Now if I can just find Grandfather's WWI Victory medal he earned for service aboard the Westerdyk.

And what about that story of how he sank a German submarine with his bare hands?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Price of Freedom

While I know that there are days set aside to remember our veterans, and to remember those who have died for us, the July Fourth holiday is more typically used as a day to celebrate our independence. Independence comes at a price, and because that price was paid by others for me, the holiday seems bittersweet to me. We have been gifted freedom from the tyranny of foreign king, freedom of self determination, freedom to elect our own scoundrels, and freedom to blog. Of all these things, the freedom to practice religion must be considered the greatest freedom. Our religious freedom comes at a price as well. The past couple of week's journey through Romans (in the daily lectionary) tells us as much with words and ideas that a modern blogger could never come close to expressing.

Romans 8:12-17 (King James Version)

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Freed from bondage, we should not fear anything earthly, even if it means that there is a chance that we might have to pay the price too.