Monday, December 31, 2007

The New Year

Umberto Boccioni, courtesy

Well it's about to be a new year, of one kind or another (never mind that the Jews, the Orthodox, the Chinese, and many others see it otherwise). I'm not much for treating this day or tomorrow any different than any other day, though I certainly do not mind the time off of work.

When I was growing up I spent the time watching t.v., Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show and the Astaire and Rodgers films. I recall one ghastly New Year's Eve home from college trying to emulate an Anglophile friend who had recently taken to sipping gin over ice with barely a smidgen, if any, of tonic water. To this day I can't come near the smell of gin. In later years, I gave up the alcohol part altogether, finding alcohol anything but a sign or means of celebration while I was married to an alcoholic.

This year I actually will be going out for a change, thanks to an invitation from friends. It will be a bit odd, I think, three couples, comprised of three Episcopal priests (two male and one female, if anyone's counting), a lawyer, teacher, and entrepreneur. Wonder what on earth we'll talk about. (Let's pray it will not be the ++ABC). We hope to wine and dine and dance and, who knows, maybe even stay awake past 9 p.m. or so.

Meanwhile, the blogosphere no doubt will carry on, seamlessly turning over the year from time zone to time zone. I do not wish to bury my head in the sand, but I must confess that I have grown weary of news, reaction to news, reactions to the reactions, whether it be the ongoing drama of As the Anglican World Turns or the vagaries of U.S. and international politics. I am tired of my own and sometimes others' outrage when it has little or no chance of spurring positive action or change. I am tired of rage and conflict, in the world at large and in my own home and community. There's no escaping it, I know, and I hope for much more than keeping a distant eye on things, as does the man with the arched Welsh eyebrows. But I do believe that building bridges and connections are the best that the internet can provide, not new ways of building virtual gated communities that only tolerate one kind or another and claim, right, left, or middle, to be able to discern what is truth and knowledge, meanwhile standing back looking at those with whom one disagrees with contempt and disdain. That is not, I believe, the way to keep an open mind -- seeing others as "not simply as wrong but as corrupt and wicked," or, at best, inexcusably ignorant. If we (including and especially me) continue to proclaim loudly and and as widely as possible that we simply cannot "imagine" how so and so could possibly think or act a certain way, then we need to start not only imagining better but also come to meet with others face to face.

So as part of my New Year's celebration, I salute Howard W., who earnestly believes in and practices the art of dialogue, and resolve to someday learn to do it so well.

Happy New Year to you all!

From Howard:

Civic Reflection

Eugene Bohm Dialogue

Extreme Tao of Democracy Inquiry

Global Transformation - Richaerd K. Moore

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation

Study Circles

The Dialogue Group

National Issues Forum

Selected Websites On Dialogue

Making space and keeping it

Jane has called attention to Doris Lessing's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which I, for one, lost sight of in the midst of daily episodes of As the Anglican World Turns. There's a lot of food for thought in it, but I'm struck by this snippet:
And we, the old ones, want to whisper into those innocent ears: "Have you still got your space? Your soul, your own and necessary place where your own voices may speak to you, you alone, where you may dream. Oh, hold on to it, don't let it go."
Lessing is known for many works, including The Golden Notebook (acclaimed by feminists but for which the author refused to be a banner bearer ["What the feminists want of me is something they haven't examined because it comes from religion. They want me to bear witness." Doris Lessing]. In her acceptance speech, she spoke in part to the space that writers need, but, at the same time, advocated for the kind of space that all humans need to thrive.

Lessing's kind of space is strikingly different from the kind Pope Benedict recently spoke of:
The family "founded on the indivisible union between a man and a woman" is the "privileged space in which human life is received and protected from its beginning to its natural end," the pontiff said.
(courtesy of Mad Priest). Had Doris Lessing stayed in that space, with her alcoholic father and her long-suffering mother, or perhaps even her family with her first husband, all bound up in the constricted space of colonial Rhodesia, the world would have been far poorer, I think. While physically leaving families, marriages, and homelands is not always necessary or desirable, space for one's humanity (and, I would add, those glimpses of divinity that we struggle to help God let shine through) and that of others requires something far different than being walled into a man-woman marriage and the family relations that surround it. Stability, comfort, love, and loyalty may, in fact, thrive in such structures but so, too, can their opposites. It is the space within that matters and the ways in which we can help create it for others not so blessed with the means to find it.

No Country for Old Men

The other night I went to see No Country for Old Men in hopes of seeing a serious, well-made movie for a change. That I got, a brilliant piece of movie-making from Ethan and Joel Coen, the creators of Fargo (which I've always considered a masterful account of the kinds of evil that lurk on the edges of ordinary life).

A brilliant movie, however, is not necessarily a good movie. Unlike Fargo, No Country for Old Men is driven by an extraordinary psychopathic killer, a foreign hired gun, Anton Chigurh, rather than the unraveling of everyday life that occurs when people give in to the temptations that have led humans astray since time immemorial. What this new movie does instead is depict, in excruciating detail and with slow, quiet, carefully crafted suspense, a series of killings that take place in the wake of a drug deal gone bad when the protagonist, Llewelyn Moss, stumbles upon a suitcase full of cash amidst the carnage in the desert and decides to take it and run, only to find Chigurh one step behind and sometimes in front of him. Chigurh was hired to retrieve the money, but he's on a mission of his own dictated by his own peculiar brand of "principles" -- namely, killing bluntly and coldly anyone and almost everyone in his path.

What is brilliant about the movie is not simply the nuts and bolts of its cinematography, sounds, rhythms, and pace, the fine acting from Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, and others, but the way it upends the conventional Western in which the good guys track the bad guys and eventually prevail, one way or another. It plays with all the conventions but attempts to hide the artfulness in what seems, at first blush, a naturalistic style, which some reviewers have found stark and bare of the kind of acerbic humor and disrespect for "simple folks" found in Fargo and some other Coen movies.

What keeps it from being a great movie is that the distance is still there, there being little art, imagination, or understanding behind the artfulness. Framing the entire story is the perspective of Sheriff Bell, who laments the loss of the Old West in which the Old Men fought the good fight and generally won against the forces of evil. In the contemporary world (depicted as Texas in the 1980's), there is something new and more powerful, epitomized by the story of the fourteen-year-old killer, described in the opening narrative as killing for the sake of killing, and the story of Chigurh's killing spree that unfolds in the movie. Bell and the unblinking locals who are killed on roadways and in gas stations are not sure what that new evil is or where it comes from, but it is real and terrible and won't be stopped. All Bell can offer by way of explanation are lines like: ''It starts when you begin to overlook bad manners. Any time you quit hearin Sir and Mam the end is pretty much in sight.''

This might be grimly funny, but it seems that the Coen brothers (and perhaps Cormac McCarthy, who wrote the novel), are playing it straight. They seem to think they are being cleverly existential, staking their vision in the person of Bell who says matter-of-factly that he waited all his life for God to come into his life, but to no avail. So he trails the killings and finally retires, left with no knowledge but that the end is in sight and dreams that when it comes his father, one of the Old Men, will be waiting for him.

The result is a shallow vision of good and evil and, worst of all, history. One doesn't have to look far to another kind of artful upsetting of Western conventions, the HBO series Deadwood, to realize that the Old West (with its virtuous Old Men and no comparable Old Women to speak of) was a figment of the Hollywood imagination. For those who care to look further, one can dig deep into the myths and folklore of the American West, the Turner thesis, and the hagiographies of various figures in American history, and find all the hard work later historians have brought to bear to bring them out into the light of a fuller, more complex historical reality, as best they and we can discern it. What we learn time and time again, once we delve below the surface and try to fathom real lives, is that the evil that comes from greed, betrayal, and love of power is pretty much the same as it has always been, and there is no clear dividing line between the ignorant local folks and the sophisticated, knowing oustiders that sets the boundaries between good and evil. (And what one can sometimes only imagine, because the historical record is sparse, is that it has often been the women, like Trixie and Calamity Jane, who have seen the bigger picture far better than any of the men, old or young.)

Artfulness that pretends otherwise, buys into the good 'ol times as historical reality to make a cinematographic point, strikes me as sorely lacking in imagination. Full-blown myths like The Lord of the Rings come closer to the truth because they unabashedly take the myths as our dreams and aspirations rather than a fundamentalist bygone age that must be recaptured or, at best, lamented while wallowing in the pain and confusion of its loss. Meanwhile, God only knows how many will see No Country for Old Men and simply be entertained by its clever carnage. Straw Dogs did it better, I think, but maybe that's just nostalgia for the good old days.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Priesthood of All Believers

I've never been much enthused about the Reformation. While the Roman Church of its day was full of abuses (as it and others are still today), which needed correcting, a whole lot of the mystery of faith and the corporal aspects of Christian life seem to have been tossed out, with dull literalism, anti-sacramentalism, and individualism taking their place, enthroned on pulpits rather than bishop's chairs.

Yet I'm beginning to see more and more of value in the extent to which the Protestant view attacked the notion of priesthood and the Magisterium that governs it as the keepers of holy mysteries, indeed, of the keys to the kingdom itself. Looking upon recent events in the Episcopal Church and the Christmas ceremonies in the Vatican, I'm struck by how important it is that the laity understand and appreciate that they are, indeed, living members of the body of Christ. As such, they need to strive to be mature in faith and witness, not act as children ever in need of instruction and oversight or as young or old delighting in the cult of personality, goggling, fawning, and destroying those they place in the limelight.

Earlier this month, Fr. Matthew Hopkins wrote with regard to this passage from the Archibishop of Canterbury's Advent Letter,
the gift shaped by the Holy Spirit which decisively interprets God to the community of believers and the community of believers to itself
At best, that fragment of a sentence should read
the gift shaped by the Holy Spirit which interprets God in and with the community of believers and continually forms and re-forms that community itself.
The Archbishop completely objectifies, makes passive, “the community of believers,” which, for this Anglican, is about as far from Anglicanism as one can get.
(Rev. Michael W. Hopkins, December 15, 2007).

In other words, even with regards to understanding and interpreting Scripture, the laity has an active, vital role to play as part of the larger community of believers.

This doesn't necessarily mean congregationalism in the usual Protestant sense, but it does mean that the clergy is not the sole repository for and guardians of the faith, the kind that was "once delivered" and must be jealously kept under glass, free from air or light or human touch.

It also means, I think, that sooner or later we all, Protestants and Catholics alike, need to let go of our notion that clergy are somehow supposed to be some sort of species of the semi-divine or at least measured in those terms. So many of us want clergy to be somehow better than the average person, not simply accountable for misconduct, as we all must be, but somehow radiating holiness or, at the very least, at all times striving to do so, while at the same time being our friends, neighbors, mother and father figures, and the teachers and preachers who tell all those in our lives and in our worlds who displease us that they should behave differently, prophets and advocates of all of our own personal agendas.

The problem, as I see it, is not simply the occasional "toxic" congregation, where these attitudes take the form of a group dynamic that can be very harmful to all involved, institutionally and personally. The problem is the extent to which those, both the sometimes believers in the pews and the skeptics and non-believers on the outside, expect moral and spiritual super-performance from the paid professionals, either as consumerists, who want return for our money (those of us who invest) or simply as frail human beings who would like to believe that if only we tried harder -- as those who have taken religious vows presumably are or should be doing -- we would be living in the City on the Hill or whatever our vision is of living the holy life here on earth.

Those of us who are Christians, especially those of a more Catholic bent, want our pastors and priests to be iconic in some special and distinct way -- not just iconic in the sense that all who seek to follow Christ hope to reveal a glimmer of the face of the divine imaged in all of us humans, but as humans whom we expect to re-present themselves as Christ himself, to not just follow or serve the Good Shepherd, but to act as though they are Him. This is dangerous, not only in relations with clergy, but in what it means in how we think of ourselves as non-clergy. Always looking up to clergy to lead -- although many lead well -- all too often leaves us waiting for directions, for mission "strategies," for planned evangelism (i.e. marketing), for community-building, for building-building, etc. It keeps us from taking action, living full lives in Christ as not just as individuals, seeking our personal salvation, but as his corporate Body here on earth, we, the people, the one holy and apostolic Church, lay and ordained alike. Priests have important roles to play in celebrating the sacraments, administering resources for mission and worship, facilitating and focusing the community's efforts at providing Christian fellowship and service to the wider community, but we, too, have important and vital roles to play in teaching, preaching, ministering, and, on occasion, even prophesying.

There is so much work to do for Christ, as individuals and communities, that we cannot afford to just sit in the pews or even bring the dishes to the pot-lucks. What brings me the most hope of late is seeing laypersons in the Episcopal Church reach across parishes and dioceses, across miles and nations, to each other. But if we are to do more such good work, I think we have to start at home, as well, seeing every single one of us as vital parts of the whole. We need to stop conceiving of ourselves and acting as communities around ministers but instead work at becoming ministering communities. We need to stop the busyness of putting our priests on pedestals, sometimes tearing them down, only to look for new ones to raise up to replace them, and instead plant all of our feet firmly on the ground, everyone working together to imitate and serve Christ.

As I recently heard in an ordination sermon:
We need to remember that it is baptismal ministry that is primary and basic to the life of the Church, and it is only when and where clergy and laity both believe and embrace that truth that the mission of the Church can be advanced. Those of us who are ordained, while exercising ministries that are essential to the Church’s life, do so to support and empower the ministry of the all the baptized, the vast majority of whom are lay people. Without you, our ministries have neither context nor purpose.

* * * *

This priesthood belongs to the whole Body of the Faithful; it is the priesthood shared by all the baptized.

And what do we have to offer? In and of ourselves, whether lay or ordained, all that we have is the widow’s mite. We have our own limited and fallible humanity— imperfect and broken, flawed in so many ways, prone to making stupid and idiotic mistakes, seemingly unable to offer the perfection that God has the right to expect. But the incredibly Good News of the Gospel is that this is precisely what God wants. God wants the imperfect, broken and flawed human beings that we are, to reach out to the world, because each and every human being on the face of the earth is made of the same stuff, experiences the same challenges, and must deal with the same flaws.

It’s all symbolized in the widow’s mite— it seems like so little. But it’s not the amount that’s the focus here. It is our willingness to offer who and what we are and have. That is our call; and that is how we exercise our priesthood.
Not just to clergy, but the call of the priesthood to all believers. Each of us, with our own mite to offer.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the whole earth.
Sing to the LORD and bless his Name;
proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.

Psalm 96

Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence!
Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.
Tell it out among the nations: “The LORD is King!

(choir door)

(The Lady Chapel)

(Tiffany windows in The Lady Chapel)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Still looking for my Christmas music CDs. Can't find my Mahalia Jackson, so this will have to do.

Hard to believe it's Christmas Eve already. It's been warm and grey and muddy of late, the two feet of snow that fell the other week melting, freezing, and melting again, patches of grass beyond the four-foot high mounds left by the snow plow. Maybe we'll have a touch of snow later today.

All those weeks of Advent and I'm still not ready. Ran around with the kids shopping on Saturday just to spend some time with them before they left yesterday to visit Grandpa, aunts and uncles, and cousins who all will be congregating in the Midwest. The kids finally went out and got a tree together on Thursday and Friday night decorated it. My son and his girlfriend disappeared upstairs, and my daughter and I watched Princess Bride on t.v. Yesterday went to early mass, drove them to the airport, and finally did some shopping myself.

Now they're gone. Had a bit of heart failure last night when I frantically text-messaged them when they should have arrived two hours earlier, when the last I had heard from them from Detroit was that their connecting flight was on time. Turns out that the wind gusts in Milwaukee were so bad that they had to circle around for an hour and almost went back to Detroit. Thank God they landed safely.

Today looms so long. I should be at church from 4 p.m. until 1 a.m. or so, unless we decide to come home for some of the 7-9 p.m. break between services. Have scarcely seen my husband, which, of course, is usual. Among other things, he had to write two sermons for last week (one an ordination sermon), and three for this long weekend -- Advent IV and two for Christmas Eve (one of the latter going to be recycled over for use Christmas morning). We'll probably just sleep tomorrow afternoon. Then it's back to work on Wednesday. Gift exchange, such that it is, probably will wait until later in the week when the kids return.

I wonder sometimes how other clergy families manage. In the beginning it was good to participate in something far more important than family gatherings, and to get away from the football t.v. fests, the delicate maneuvering around delicate family matters, the restless children, the focus on gifts, and what to do afterwards other than eat and eat and eat and fall into a carbed up stupor. Now it's just a time to try to be inconspicuous and avoid frayed nerves and tired, aching bodies. It's a series of performances, which each year have their own little glitches but the show always goes on. Nothing wrong with that -- indeed, as Children of the Story, it is vital that it gets played out in all of its splendor.
I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news,
But she just smiled and turned away.
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before,
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play.

And in the streets: the children screamed,
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken;
The church bells all were broken.
And the three men I admire most:
The father, son, and the holy ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.
(Don McLean, American Pie)
So let the music play on, the church bells ring, and those three men and their good women carry on. It sure beats the alternative.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Mad One Speaks

My mind (not to mention my heart and soul) is still struggling to find its way out of the debris of legal research and the flurry of teenage activities in my household (even the "good" child is showing anarchistic tendencies -- principal's office called the other day to report a "serious" infraction of the school cell phone policy and to warn of "very serious" consequences if another violation were to occur -- her story is that she did not use her phone or even open it during regular classes, just opened it to check the time at the end of P.E. class -- given the tone of the jerk who called, I'm inclined to believe her).

Meanwhile, I've come across this from the Mad Priest. I think it's one of the most ***king brilliant things he's ever written. I hope he won't mind my bringing it here (where it is extremely unlikely that anyone will see it without having read it first at MP's). I just need to save it to ponder further. So, thank ye, thank ye, Jonathan for your generosity and clear-sightedness.

COMMENT: Ironically, this little outburst from The Tufti shows just how snuggled up in bed he is with the fundamentalists. There is little difference between the liberal desire to hold everything in our tradition up for scientific scrutiny and the evangelical obsession with treating every jot and tittle in the Bible as if it's the unchallengeable word of God. Both are missing the point, both are blind to the big picture. Both are standing on the beach studying the pebbles when they should be gazing out upon the glorious ocean.

Although there is still plenty of overlap, there are two types of people living in the developed countries and so, also, in the churches - modernists and postmodernists. Those of us who grew up in our faith embracing the freedom of liberation theology and narrative criticism are predisposed to look first for the big picture. Unfortunately, because of snobbery and the old school tie network, those in positions of power within the Church tend to be academics, like the Tufti, who still cling to the modernism that was the defining theme of their education. Modernism is about laws and classical science. Postmodernism is about big ideas, dreams and quantum physics.

These two world views can be understood as two different languages and this is why there will never be any agreement between the lawyers and the liberationists. When they speak I stare blankly because there is nothing in my mind on which I can hang their words. I am sure the same must be true for them when I speak.

But I am happy to be where I am as the alternative is such a boring place to be. I really can't see what the point is in worrying about the reality of our mythology. I accept that things either happened or didn't happen but to deconstruct them without any intention of reconstructing them as new, more powerful myths is pretty pointless and a Grinchy thing to do. When you read a book to a child, that child is not thinking, "Is this a true story?" The child doesn't care. The child is listening to a story and a story exists outside of conventional reality.

Some Christians are children of the Book. Me, I snuggle up in bed with those Christians who are children of the Story - it's so much more fun. Liberals made postmodernism possible. I would call myself a post-liberal in that I believe the liberal quest was of the utmost importance in the development of true religion. I also believe that it has now done it's job of deconstruction and it is time for us to reconstruct. This does not mean, in the slightest that we dump what liberal theology has taught us. It just means that it becomes a component of a new theology rather than the main, defining philosophy and method for radical Christianity. 20 December, 2007 22:57
And, BTW, here is the second most brilliant thing he's written, IMO: "...born from an unnatural and obscene act of coupling between the British Old School Tie and Modern American Business Practice." (15 December, 2007 14:16).

Friday, December 14, 2007

It is done

Which is not to say finished, but at least it's submitted so I can't fuss with it anymore right now. It's been a wild and crazy last couple weeks working on this project for my employer, and the last 48 hours or so have been the worst. My son and I have been working tandem, some 150 miles away from each other, on our end-of-the-year end-of-the-semester projects respectively. So, I've had to field his emails in the middle of the night with his latest draft for my comments (which he doesn't necessarily pay attention to -- he just needs to hear if he's on the right track and seems to think I know), while still trying to stay focused on my own work.

Meanwhile, since I turned in my final draft, and belatedly took the dog outside, it has come to me that I could have dealt better with the last section if I had moved it to an earlier part and checked again the federal regulations that go with the statute. Always these things come literally out of the blue when I am off doing something else. In fact, the first day I really understood the whole statutory scheme, it came to me as I woke up in the morning. Now I'll have to wait to make it look like I made the changes in response to my boss's critique (assuming he ever reads all 37 pages of it, including endnotes).

So, what do I do now to celebrate? I get to finally get cleaned up, run to the bank and the gas station, maybe shovel some snow, and get ready to go to my very first rock concert ever, 130 miles away, with a carload of teenagers, where we will eventually meet my son, who is coming up from college, and will all travel back home late at night. In the morning, I have an ordination to attend out of town, and maybe sometime after that maybe I'll get to BEGIN thinking about Christmas, maybe find a tree, and start shopping if need be. Then, maybe, just maybe, I'll stop long enough to read the ++ABC's latest, which I gather isn't very good, but who knows, maybe he's been busy, too, helping his kid with a Dostoevsky paper.

Then again, maybe what I'll do instead is get my Messiah music and see if I can really make some headway with the Alto runs in "To Us a Child is Born." A lot to tackle for an old person new to singing choral music. My goal is to make enough sound to support the "section" (well, there's only two of us for Christmas Eve!) but not enough to be heard if I get a note wrong. I guess that's pretty crazy (that's me!), so perhaps I'll just try to learn to sing all the right notes (in order, no less) with my electronic keyboard and see what happens at next rehearsal.

At least Mad Priest has already given me my present -- posting my first audio contribution to the mission work of his site. Thanks be to God, and to all a good night (or something to that effect).


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Waiting for the King to Come

An afternoon ice storm canceled our Advent Lessons and Carols Evensong last week. I was really looking forward to it, having for years either listened to or sung this service which, for me, marks the beginning of Advent.

In order to salvage all the music we've been preparing since September, Sunday we will do a shortened version of the program. One of my favorites is a new setting for this hymn, which begins:
The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills,
And life to joy awakes.
The music, by Robert Lind, is both startling and beautiful, with the piano playing a duet, rather than an accompaniment, with the choir. It's got that Advent kind of clear, cold, crisp air and expectancy scaling upwards, reaching towards the Star in East breaking through the dark night.

Listen here (click on "Listen to sample audio").

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Crazy Ones

Today's junk mail that got through the spam filter:

Hey Karthy,

Here's to you and all the other crazy ones. Check out this 1 minute Apple ad honoring your kind ...

See it here:

Rock on,
Garret LoPorto
Author of The DaVinci Method

You were sent this because you took this personality test and scored 50% similar to the world\\'s greatest entrepreneurs.

[Hey this is fun -- open up an email, click a couple places, and presto a blog entry! All while I'm waiting to get an edit back from the central office. No need to think or write anything beautiful or profound -- just declare my Craziness. Back to my regularly scheduled program. BTW, I have no recollection of taking their personality test, but surely I can blame it on Eileen (though I hesitate since she's recently been maligned by the great Crazy One, but surely she'll forgive me).]

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Buried in more ways than one

The view from my "office" window today.

City of God Appeal

Just in case anyone's missed it, please go to City of God Appeal and make a donation for the mission and work of Christ the King in in the Cidade de Deus, one of the most impoverished and dangerous neighbourhoods in the world.

I'll "borrow" from Mad Priest the latest news from Luiz Cohelo:
From Luiz Coelho:

First of all, I'd like to thank you for spreading the word about this initiative. Christ the King is, more than anything, the story of a rebirth.

Christ the King was the project of one man very dedicated to God's work: the Rev. Jorge Macedo. About 20 years ago, he managed to gather donations from one parish in Canada, one parish in the US and from a Social Fund in the Netherlands, and build the solid builiding Christ the King now has. He was the founder, rector and principal of an elementary school that existed there.

Sadly, he died of cancer some years ago, and due to economic crisis which didn't (and still doesn't) allow the Diocese of Rio de Janeiro to hire more clergy, Fr. Macedo was substituted by a series of supply priests (who were at the same time in charge of one or even two other parishes) and it experienced a decline in membership. The school failed into bankruptcy and a couple years ago, there were only 4 active members and an empty school building. Some in the diocese wanted to sell the property, but there was a last try: the school was converted into a social project, which is also funded by ERD, and rents space to several community-based initiatives. And one year ago, a young priest, Fr. Eduardo Costa, was assigned to that parish (Fr. Eduardo is also the rector of Most Holy Trinity in Méier). That's how I found the parish when I first went there, even before Fr. Eduardo's official installment. I was about to send my seminary papers and still doubtful about my vocation. Some time, later I was already officially helping serve there and with my training on charge. Christ the King convinced me I had something to do with the Church.

After one year of Fr. Eduardo's installment, last sunday, our diocesan bishop visited us. We had more than sixty people there. 10 children were baptized, 9 adults were confirmed and one was received into communion. I invite you to take a look

The formula? I have no idea... We just tried to make room for people and make sure they are loved. Most of our parishioners were the "leftovers" of society, and many of our Christian sisters/brothers didn't care much about them, because they weren't legally married, or were poor, or not well seen... We became a church of refugees... literally. Once, the drug dealers shot against the police in front of the church and we had to lock ourselves inside it. As our website says, Christ the King is a community which seeks the divine path of conversion through its common faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, through respect for the incarnational mystery and through a sacramental life rooted in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist every Sunday.

Next sunday will be my last official Sunday there. I'm very proud and honored to know some of you are contributing to our ministry with children. We have about 20 children who attend our parish every Sunday, and the more we expand this number, the less children will be corrupted by drug traffic (drug dealers start hiring children at the age of 10). These donations will be directed to this ministry. Some of our goals are: buying musical instruments for them (drums, flutes, etc), buying Christian Education material and a DVD player and some cartoons on Jesus and the Bible. Money will eventually go to our parish kitchen (we serve a meal to everybody - especially the children - after services) if we run out of food.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


This was from the Church of the Advent, now the Advent Chapel in Montreal. Something about the rich blues in Anglo-Catholic churches -- this one for the Advent sky. I have no profound reflections on the season, just that it is dark, quiet, and full of reflection and expectancy.

It's Time

It begins. No, not the rapture. Winter.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Elizabeth Forter 1922 - 2007

I was just thinking the other day about how few women professors there were back when I attended college in the 1970's, despite the emphasis on the "liberal" part of our "liberal arts" education and the fact that the school had recently merged with Milwaukee-Downer Women's College. Men had an inordinate influence on my thinking and were those whose opinions mattered most to me. None that I recall discriminated against female students or failed to be supportive, but in hindsight it would have been helpful to have had more women around to have known as teachers and scholars and simply as mature human beings.

Then today I opened up an email announcing the death of Elizabeth Forter, a professor in the English department, the department of my major. I'm embarrassed to say that I had forgotten about her. I can now recall having taken at least two courses from her -- the third of the intermediate level courses on English literature covering the 19th and 20th c. and an upper level course on the English Novel, which went from Sterne and Fielding through Virginia Woolf. It was in that course that I first read Jane Austen - a delightful discovery, which I appreciated all the more for having made it so late.

Yet, as much as I enjoyed the courses I had with "Miss Forter" (although they invariably had Ph.D's, the custom at the school was to address professors as "Miss" or "Mr." because they considered "Dr." pretentious), I scarcely knew her at all. Turns out that she was an Episcopalian (not that it would have mattered to me back then -- although All Saints is located across the street from campus, I never darkened the doors of any church in college, except maybe the Methodist for an Easter Sunday service or two).

What I can recall was her wit, intelligence, and what the article aptly described as "good cheer." Elizabeth was not cheerful in the sense of being "cheery." But there was something about her, a calm sense of satisfaction and well-being that radiated from her, not out of a sense of optimism but rather a marvelous sense of humor and curiosity about the human condition and a delight and appreciation of those who wrote well about it, such as Austen. I believe her "specialty" was Trollope, whom she managed to continue to enjoy despite years of study, perhaps because Elizabeth knew, above all, how to truly read rather than merely dissect. I guess one might say that Elizabeth was someone who was characteristically in "good humor" -- a rare and wonderful gift to even those who only knew her at a distance.

I'm sad to hear of her death and regret I never got to know her better. At the time I was taking her courses, I was at the height of sturm and drang as only I, in full post-adolescence, could muster. I was more interested in listening to the men, wrestling with the likes of Foucault and Derrida or mucking in the swamps of Faulkner's Mississippi or swimming in the whiteness of Melville's whale than attending to a woman who was quietly but firmly sure of herself, her worth, and the respect of her colleagues, who was as interested in the big picture, the comedy and tragedy of human folly as the form and structure of the novel. Those young women and men who had the good sense to have worked closely with her and gotten to know her personally must have gained a great deal.

May she rest in peace and her friends and family find comfort.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blame it on Eileen

Eileen has tagged me. Now she should know by now that I don't do memes (just like I don't do email chains and pretty much don't do anything anyone ever tells me to do). But, the hour is late, and this sure beats working for the moment, and I don't have the presence of mind to speak to all those to whom I've long missed writing, so here goes my belated thankful thoughts, now that we're past the Thanksgiving holiday (best commemorated by Sarcastic Lutheran) and Black Friday.

Seriously, what am I thankful for?

1. God's grace and love. Truly. Lately it seems like I've been blessed with God's special care and attention which, I'm afraid, often hits me most when I haven't been paying much attention myself.

2. My husband. He can be very difficult to get along with at times (as can I), but he is faithful and dutiful in ways that are astonishing. I am thankful and honored to have his love.

3. The internet. As much as I curse it at times when I let myself get overloaded with all that is out there, it brings a richness to life I could have scarcely imagined a few years ago. While I cannot spend as much time establishing personal connections as I'd like, it is so wonderful to be able to read others' thoughts, likeminded and otherwise.

4. My backyard, neighborhood, and place in the world. I've never been so happy about where I live. The physical environment is beautiful. It's a wonderful place to come home to, one I need to get know better before we must leave someday when we retire.

5. My kids. No doubt I am too wrapped up in them and their lives, but I never cease to be amazed that they and I got this far together. I never really planned on having children, and they did not arrive until my late, late 30's. But they have taught me so much, challenged just about everything about me, and occasionally make me feel I have something worthwhile to offer others. Of course they drive me crazy, too, but.... Funny about my daughter deciding at the last minute that we just had to clear off the dining room table for Thanksgiving dinner (we were going to eat at the everyday table in the family room instead), and she actually found a cloth tablecloth and napkins, washed and dried them, and set the table with candles. God knows how it happened, but we're family and I guess we have some kind of family traditions, or at least moments.

Well, that was five. Pretty obvious stuff, I guess. Memes should be kind of funny and different. I suppose I could add a few more -- beagles, smells and bells high Episcopal liturgy, fresh popcorn, swimming pools, swimming in salt seawater, soft and fluffy snowflakes, unexpectedly finding a laundry basket of clean underwear, peanut butter, curling up in bed with a good book, and............ well, that's a start.

Another Loss

Remembering Kaitlin Mahr '09

Kaitlin Mahr '09 was laid to rest Saturday, Nov. 24, in Onalaska, Wis. The Lawrence junior was remembered in the La Crosse Tribune last week.

From the Lawrence University Home Page.
LaCrosse Tribune obituary here.

Words fail me. I did not know this young woman and I only stumbled across this item via RMJ's reference at Adventus to Martin Marty (Marty's website reported that he will be speaking at an honors convocation at Lawrence University in April 2008 and gave the link. Marty gave the commencement address at my Lawrence graduation in 1977). This might have been me 34 years ago. I lived, loved, danced, and was deeply depressed in and near Lawrence for many years. I was fortunate enough to have come back from the hospital alive after a similar incident, although at the time I was not at all thankful for it. I am so deeply sorry that Kaitlin did not make it and will no longer be dancing again here on earth. Prayers for her and her family and friends.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

In Memoriam - Robin Prosser

"Robin Prosser was a former concert pianist and systems analyst who suffered from an autoimmune disease similar to lupus for over 20 years. The disease left her in constant pain and made her allergic to most pharmaceutical painkillers. Only medical marijuana brought her relief, but last spring the DEA seized her medicine. Unable to cope with the chronic pain any longer, she committed suicide on October 18th." (Metafilter)

Here's Robin speaking on her own behalf:

"The nation’s DEA agents can sleep a little easier tonight. They now have one less medical marijuana patient to worry about policing...." (Read the rest at Helena Independent Record, A medical marijuana casualty By Tom Daubert - 10/30/07)

A Tale of Two Decisions

Thanks to Dennis for pointing out this story of "A Tale of Two Decisions" by Steve Bergstein with references to stories at How Appealing, Appellate Law and Practice, and Steve's own blog on Second Circuit civil rights decisions at Wait a Second.

The long and short of it is that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued its decision in the case of Higazy v. Templeton on October 18, 2007 and then, within hours, withdrew its original opinion and re-released it in redacted form. The case was about an Egyptian student the U.S. government interrogated and detained in the wake of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks (details described in the accounts linked above). The portion deleted from the court's opinion (beginning at p. 7) described the way his so-called confession was coerced. The Second Circuit overturned the trial court's ruling and decided that Mr. Higazy could, after all, proceed with his lawsuit challenging the government's use of a coerced confession to file criminal charges that claimed he made inconsistent and false statements about whether the radio found in his hotel room was his and the legality of his subsequent detention.

Now courts issue, retract, and reissue court opinions all the time, but normally only because a typographical error is found, a point of law needs clarification, or the court rehears the case or otherwise reconsiders and changes some aspect of its decision. But the retraction here was remarkable because it was, in effect, censorship and what some have characterized as a blatant attempt by the government to try to cover up exactly what its agents did to Mr. Higazy. The court's opinion no doubt had been circulated among the judges and law clerks involved in the case before it was released (almost always the case and almost certainly for a high-profile decision such as this), and apparently none of them perceived any error in the summary of events contained in the original opinion (which the government alleged was information from an appendix that had been placed under seal by the trial court). Yet within hours, the opinion had not only been withdrawn but a court official actually telephone Howard Bashman to try to get him to remove his copy of the original opinion from his blog, How Appealing. Mr. Bashman refused and the opinion still appears there.

Having formerly served as a law clerk on a federal court of appeals (the Seventh Circuit), I can only imagine the uproar this has caused within the court and legal circles (not to mention the grief and attention given to the judge and law clerk(s) responsible for the redacted portion of the opinion). But for ordinary non-lawyer citizens of the U.S. and the world at large, this whole fiasco should come as yet another alert about not only this kind of conduct from the U.S. government in its inept attempts to both wage war and "secure the peace," but also the long-term effects of the way it has manipulated the U.S. legal system and seriously eroded everyone's constitutional protections. Someday the U.S. will finally extract itself from Iraq (assuming, God forbid, it does not create another conflict in or with Iran). But the actions of the Bush lawyers and judges and the precedents and appointments made during these years will haunt us all for a very long time.

I confess that in the last few years I, who should know better, have tended to barely skim over these kinds of stories, simply because they sicken me so. The law, as well as the legal system, sadly is not the same as it was when I was in law school in the late 1970's and early 1980's. It was hardly perfect then, either, but back then even the Republicans (sometimes especially the Republicans, who used to stand for less government intervention in all realms of life) stood for constitutional principles. Something's gotta change now for the better, but it won't if we keep putting our heads in the sand, thinking that it will all somehow blow away if we can simply see our way to the end of the Iraq war.

P.S. On a somewhate related topic, listen to what Stuart Herrington had to say the other day about changes in the U.S. governements methods of interrogation and use of torture (and why they've been ineffectual, not to mention immoral) on NPR's Fresh Air.


Anna Lisa came home two days ago and last night attended the semi-finals game of the boys' varsity soccer Sectional championship games. She not only is doing well but, in the midst of the usual tumult in the stands during a hotly contested soccer match, had a remarkable conversation with her friends about her ordeal, which included questions to and answers from her friends about what they and others thought and felt about it. She is one remarkably brave and wonderful young woman.

Meanwhile... though I hesitate to mention it together with Anna Lisa, the game ended in its own kind of tragedy. Our team was ahead 4-0 at the half, having played some of the best soccer I've seen anywhere. The second half was not played so well by either team, but when there was only 7 minutes left in the game, a young (9th grade) player for our team, A.J., made the fifth goal and was (by most reports) taken down by the goalkeeper from the other team. I did not see it myself (and even if I had been looking, I would have been too far away to judge what happened, it being dark and windy). The paper this morning reported it as a "collision." In any event, A.J. was down on the field with a broken leg for a very long time until the ambulances could come and move him and take him to the hospital. Meanwhile, the other team cheered the goalkeeper who "collided" with him, and the rumors on our "side" were that the goalkeeper had kicked A.J. in the shin so hard that his shin-guard cracked in two. This is the kind of stuff I hate about soccer (and all sports, for that matter). Prayers are in order for for A.J. and his family and for better sportsmanship among all.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blessings in Celebration of St. Francis

“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless these pets. By the power of your love, enable them to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”

Gracie, eagerly awaiting her turn.

A new choir member.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Memory Meme

Where was I , 10, 20 and 30 years ago? (and should I take it back to 40 and 50 years ago?). Can't resist this one before going over to Eileen's for the TGIF party (everybody'd better get over there this week or else!).

10 years ago - 1997 - Divorce No. 2 was final over that summer, and my new life had just begun. Loved having my own place with the kids, finally with some sense of control over the chaos of our lives. Had graduated to full-time work practicing municipal law, for which I prosecuted traffic tickets, attended zoning board meetings, acted as stand-in city attorney when my boss could not be there, drafted ordinances galore, appellate court briefs, and once in awhile got all suited up and got to appear in court arguing on motions for various legal rulings on the briefs I had written. Fascinating stuff, some of the issues that arose concerning the powers of municipalities. Even got to do some election law. The marathon hearing on a woman police officer's protest over being fired for sexually harassing her married lover was not fun, however, if only because of the emotional damage flung far and wide in the midst of local politics.

20 years ago - 1987 - Just beginning my career as a Legal Writing instructor at a law school in Connecticut after having quit my job as a Legal Services Attorney in Wisconsin the year before and having spent six months in the best job of my life, a clerk in a Kroch's and Brentano's bookstore. During the bookstore period, I lived at home with my parents while my father was losing his battle with amyloidosis, complicated in the end by prostate cancer (which no one caught because of years focusing on other things) and brittle bones that led to one hip fracture, followed by surgery and recovery, followed several months later by fracture of the other hip, surgery, intensive care with pneumonia, and finally death in June 1987. My father was so happy and proud of my new job in academia, after having seen me, years earlier, blow the fast track career that I might have had after clerking for a federal appellate court judge, as a result of the struggles with my first husband's drinking and repeated failed attempts at rehab, inpatient and outpatient, during my critical summer internships at the end of law school, which left me empty and wanting to do something other than fighting the rat race in the big city law firms. By 1987, my ex had finally successfully dried out (we were divorced the first time in 1983) and we were dating, but my father hoped and prayed that my new teaching job a thousand miles away would solve the problem. Unfortunately, after my father's death and my move to Connecticut, we romanced our way long-distance through the remainder of 1987 and 1988 and married again the following summer.

3o years ago - 1977 - Oh dear. That was the first time of falling Madly in Love with my first husband. It was precisely Halloween of 1977 when, after only having known him for two weeks, we took off from Wisconsin to Atlanta, Georgia for a 4-day weekend to see the big, annual sports car and formula car race there. A friend and fraternity brother of my husband's -- a retiring math teacher in suburban Milwaukee who inherited the family's brewery's fortune and took it racing for many years in Formula Atlantic -- was racing. That's when we saw Paul Newman (also racing) and Joanne Woodward. I had fun, but I should have been forewarned about the kind of relationship we would have when our car (an old MGB)'s muffler started falling off at 2 a.m. as we first drove into the Atlanta area and once we parked, John took off the trailing piece, wrapped it in a blanket, and laid it on MY side of the car, while I tried to sleep scrunched up next to it, while he was able to sleep on his side unobstructed. Oh well...... The idea was to get away from bookish and/or practical people. I certainly did, but he was blue-eyed, sandy-haired, and very handsome (which seemed to go well with my raven hair and green eyes and... whatever).

40 years ago - 1967 - I was in 9th grade, deeply immersed in politics and foreign affairs, and then falling (innocently) in love with my World Civ teacher, Mr. Carpenter. He had us write essays due every Monday (which meant that eventually I missed a lot of Mondays when I couldn't finish in time). They were on topics unrelated to classwork -- just ideas to engage us and make us do some minimal research (we had to have three sources cited). I, of course, made what was supposed to be 3-5 page writing exercises into lengthy, major research projects. To make matters worse, I used to go off on tangents reading works referenced in the essays in the first two volumes of The Great Books (so I read enough for several papers). Meanwhile, I suffered through Advanced Geometry with Mr. Klaus who sent girls to the principal's office if their skirts were too short. I don't recall if I got sent down, but I did wear them pretty short (could those have been the years of fishnet stocking and mini-skirts? ouch, recalling fishnet stockings held up by garters, All I got from wearing them were nasty marks on my legs and feet by the end of the day).

50 years ago - 1957 - I was four. I don't know if if was that fall, but that was the year I remember being at the Lyric Opera House for American Ballet Theatre. I got an awful earache and ear infection but was entranced with Les Sylphides and Les Patineurs and only finally agreed to go home during Graduation Ball. My father, as always, took good care of me whenever I was in pain.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

This Came As No Surprise

Eucharistic theology
created with

You scored as Catholic

You are a Catholic. You believe that the bread and wine are transformed by the priest and become the Body and Blood of Christ. Though the accidents, or appearance, of bread and wine remain, the substance has been changed. The Eucharist remains the Body and Blood of Christ after the celebration, and is reserved in the Tabernacle; Eucharistic devotions are proper. As the whole Christ is present under either species, you partake fully of the Eucharist even if you receive only one.

Catholic 100%
Orthodox 75%
Luther 25%
Calvin 25%
Zwingli 19%
Unitarian 13%

But ain't no way I'm posting a photo of Benny on my blog!

Quiz thanks to Eileen and Sharecropper

The Real Scoop (maybe)

Now I realize that what everyone REALLY wants is to hear all about Mimi, Dennis & David, Eileen, Doug, Jake, Shel, Allen & Liz, Paul & Catherine, Tobias, Elizabeth, Johnnieb, Allie, G & T, Diane, Dan, jerseyjo, The Reverend Boy, and PJ (sorry if I left anyone out!). Mad Priest has recently cautioned me (why is he always giving ME warnings?!?) to speak only of gossip and innuendo, rather than report the truth, at least at his place. Unfortunately I have neither the wit nor a good enough short-term memory to supply either.

I think the hardest part about trying to write anything is the fact, as many have reported, that people were so much who we all are online -- nothing new or surprising other than the beauty of Mimi's lovely blue eyes (the depth and clarity of her sight and the warmness of her heart, we all knew). Now, of course, this doesn't apply to the lurkers and all of those who comment but do not blog (those wise, sane folks -- no offense intended towards bloggers, but I can see the wisdom in forbearance for myself). But, I'm just not going to tell EVERYTHING I learned or enjoyed about others. All I can say is the only small surprise (though not really had I given it more thought ahead of time), is that Tobias is the extrovert and Jake the introvert, although both are and were warm and gracious in meeting and talking with everyone.

In any event, I cannot hope to compete with the narrative the world will soon read from someone who claims, "Je suis occupée des affairs" (such wit the woman has, not to mention agility in many languages), and who will soon bring us the "chef d'oeuvre on the gathering." So, we will all have to await the definitive history of the five-day Affair (which involved ever so much more than The Kiss).

UPDATE: It's going to be a serialized account, like Dickens or maybe War and Peace. Stay tuned for Parts 1 through whatever.

P.S. I just have to add this somewhere - I don't get what all the fuss was about Evensong -- about seeing it as "fussy." I'm used to singing a Choral Evensong, which lasts longer and always has incense galore, and we're just a backwater parish practically in the north woods. My voice isn't much (and is much out of practice of late) but IF Dan and I had had a folder with the Canticles, we, too, could have participated (and he really DOES have a fine voice) (my apologies to him for fumbling with the books we had -- I "got" which ones were needed but promptly forgot in a rush -- isn't there an awfully high prevalence of ADD/ADHD in this crowd?). How do you all do church without a real, live Anglican Evensong now and then?

Notes from the Weekend

It’s been wonderful meeting people in person after having read many of their thoughts online almost daily for some time. I’ve had the opportunity to do this once or twice before, and it still amazes me that I can make friends and sometimes even become part of a community in ways that would take much longer or may not even be possible here at home. I sometimes wonder whether it is a mixed blessing for young people, especially school-age children, because even if care is taken to keep them from communicating with adults or strangers, reliance on cultivating relationships online may mean they lack the experience of doing it in real life or, in terms of romance, reach a level of emotional intimacy much more quickly than they are prepared for. But for an old-timer like myself, who now works alone at a computer all day, this “new” technology is a godsend. It is a great blessing to be able to air my concerns and frustrations, share my thoughts and reflections, with those who have similar interests and, more importantly, those who have greater knowledge or understanding than me. So I am thankful to have spent at least a little bit of time with so many of you, putting names to faces and giving us all a better sense of what each other is about.

The irony of this trip, however, was that one of its greatest benefits for me was that it got me away from the computer for four days and into the real world and away from the constant buzz of Anglican Communion and TEC news and gossip. I love cities – just about all the big ones I’ve ever visited or lived in. I especially like to walk and see people and neighborhoods, even more than sightseeing. I enjoyed the area surrounding Union Square, near my hotel, and wherever else I ventured from there and from other subway stops, ranging from the West Village to Midtown to the Bronx.

The day I arrived, Union Square was full of its farmer’s market and the subway musicians were playing flamenco guitar (well, electric, but flamenco rhythms). Every day was the stream of people everywhere, of all ages, races, national origins, children and old people, and all sorts in between, not to mention the dogs, so many of them, trotting here and there. The air was warm and humid, but often breezy, and the sun shining throughout the day. Trees and grass, plants and flowers, were still in bloom, with people doing their best to make the most of whatever urban outdoors they could find, whether it be children taking their small bikes to the sidewalk or helmeted adults hauling their large ones down and into the subway, headed for who knows where. At night local bars were crowded with baseball fans and others just looking for a place to relax and see people.

Of course my jaunts barely scratched the surface of all that is Manhattan, let alone the entire city. But this was the first I really spent any time in residential areas, even the upscale ones (unless you count walking by places in the upper east side near the museums). All I had seen of Manhattan previously were the stores and theatres in Midtown, Lincoln Center, the museums and nearby sections of Central Park, and enough of downtown to see the site of the World Trade Center and to take the Staten Island Ferry. I still don’t have a feel for the city like I do my native Chicago (which, I’m afraid, will always be my first love, with its distinctive people, the lake, the wind, the extraordinary architecture – NYC Is such a visual bore, by comparison – the theatre and entertainment community (the Goodman, Second City, among others), the Art Institute and other museums, the ferris wheel and the water tables in the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, the lakefront parks and beaches, etc.). But the sights and sounds of the NYC I encountered were wonder enough after so much time in cyberspace.

Walking itself was a great delight. I love to walk but never manage to find enough time for it regularly beyond my dog’s daily needs. It comes as no surprise that it turns out that it’s therapeutic as well. (See Thom Hartmann’s new book, Walking the Blues Away, highly recommended by a friend). I will have to try to do much more of it, to clear my mind and the dense cloud of emotions that often overtake me.

For now, I have had to busy myself with catching up with work and the family, trying to figure out how I can be many places at once, planning around the end of high school soccer season and the beginning of club soccer, church and choir schedules, and whatever it is I can do right now long-distance for my mother. Yet I wish I could find more time to pull together some of the random thoughts I had with all the walking and talking this past weekend.

Many of them had to do with church, which seemed odd to me, even though the impetus for the trip was meeting folks I knew from Jake’s and Mad Priest’s. Although church necessarily is a big part of my life, it’s not something I spend much time thinking about on vacation. But with all the writing and talk of late about people contemplating leaving TEC, on all sides of the divide, I was much more conscious of what it means to me, at times, to be an Episcopalian. I have largely kept quiet online (hard for me to do) regarding the resolution coming from the House of Bishops’ meeting in New Orleans and all the reactions to the various reactions. And I haven’t even read, let alone followed, the latest from ++Rowan Williams (letter to +Howe, etc.). I’m beginning to grasp the depth of what is at stake regarding what is known in shorthand as “GLBT inclusion” – how different it is from other kinds of “justice” issues and why, I think, it is especially important for the spiritual lives and welfare of everyone, but most important how it impacts the lives of GLBTs and their families in ways that go far beyond the issue of who can be a priest or bishop. At the same time, I am torn by my own thoughts and feelings about religion and churchgoing, which tend more towards catholicism, which is problematic but, I think, different from what some call “unity” – the latter striking me more as a political aspiration and wild-eyed hope of mission and evangelism among Anglican churches (in various directions) in different cultural contexts, whereas the former, catholicity, is something quite different, more the notion that we are all the church and one is part because one cannot be anything but a part, so we hang together not because we endorse all that is taught by those in authority but because we all must learn and witness together and work for justice and truth wherever we may be and whomever claims to rule over us.

I guess I could say that I’m experiencing “tension” (which like “listening” and “ambiguity” has become something of a dirty, overused word) between what I think I need and want, personally, from church and what I think it should strive to be as a community and as an institution, for teaching, learning, loving, and giving, in all ways practical and im(practical). My own feelings and experience with church don’t count as diddly squat, of course, but I’m struck by what occurs when I enter an Episcopal Church and feel so much divine (and sometimes human) care and comfort in ways I would not and have not elsewhere. Recently, being in church two weeks ago in the Midwest and this past Sunday in the Bronx, brought me places in thought and prayer I can’t imagine would have happened elsewhere.

These happened to be places where at least the priests were progressive theologically (I know little about the parishioners). But even if they hadn’t been, I would have felt much the same. As Elizabeth Kaeton recently wrote describing the thoughts of Ms. Conroy, “I need a place, just one place, at the beginning of my week, where I know who God is and where God is and that there's some semblance of order and control in the universe. Please don't deny me this one hour of illusion. Some days, it's the only thing that keeps me going.” Her thoughts, as well as those of Garrison Keillor’s (the occasion for the post), are very much how I feel about the Episcopal Church, especially in its more Anglo-Catholic manifestations.

I joined the Episcopal Church not, like many others in recent years, because it “stood” for any particular theological point of view or socio-political agenda, but rather because its words, sights, smells, gestures and sounds, in truly Eucharistic-centered worship, is what brought me home to the Christian faith, or at least to the kind of knowledge and awareness of the ever-presence of God and of my need to draw near and listen and pray in humility and wonder, the kind that spurs me to turn my life into something better, however feeble and frustrated my attempts, at times. I left the Lutheran church, where I happily resided briefly (after years of being unchurched and my youth spent with the Methodists), to escape a particular situation of church conflict (that time between a progressive but autocratic bishop and his staff and a faithful congregation who finally found their backbones), not because I thought the Episcopalians were free of such conflicts, not because I thought they were in any way more enlightened theologically or otherwise, but because I just knew it was home in some deep and profound way that reached the core of my being.

From the beginning I have had difficulty with this, knowing that a good part was and is self-centered. I left a Lutheran congregation of people I dearly loved, who were most responsible for bringing me back to any kind of church, who taught me the Eucharist, and who needed all the help they could get in their struggles with the bishop. I had to struggle with whether becoming confirmed as an Episcopalian was really worthwhile and meant something more than just moving across town to a different group of people (whom I also came to love) and their lovely music and liturgy. I thought so, I believe so now, though I am far from bearing the kinds of fruit that I had hoped.

Yet, the Current Unpleasantedness has brought this all to the forefront again. I have previously understood and increasingly understand better why gays and lesbians may experience the Episcopal Church as abusive, especially in light of recent events. I wish they and anyone else who do not feel “at home” as I do to leave and go wherever they can to find their own home (or, as much as it pains me to imagine, go out and keep seeking on their own, if that’s what they need, at least for now). But I would hope that those who stay, of whatever sexual orientation, theological or political views, would understand and accept, to the extent possible, that church has always been and always will be a human institution, peopled by laypeople, pastors, priest, bishops, archbishops and primates (or whatever other kinds are found in a particular denomination or faith tradition), all of whom are fallible. From my perspective, at least, it doesn’t matter how learned the person is, what kind of sacrament or studies have been brought to bear, each and every one is as susceptible to sin and as capable of limited understanding as the next. Those who look to their priests or bishops and to anyone else in the hierarchies as leaders or gurus or even wise men and women are, I think, doing a disservice to themselves and the church.

This is not to say that one cannot or should not work hard to change people’s hearts and minds, to lobby and vote for particular actions and ideas, and to hold persons in positions in authority accountable for what they do and fail to do – indeed, one must do all those things. But to be constantly in a state of disillusion, disease, and even despair over human beings being, well, simply human, as if anything will ever change, other than glacially, even in this age if instant communications, is something I think we should all endeavor to avoid. The Day of Judgment will come, certainly, and we must not tarry or dawdle, but, we, like many of generations before us, may well live our entire lives seeing we, the human race, and the world in which we inhabit, go on much the same as it always has. The church, as a human institution, is not going to change all that much, may even take many steps backward, though one hope it will do some good. It is only church as the Body of Christ that can and will do miracles, that can be counted on.

I don’t begin to know how best anyone should participate or not in institutional churches. Personally, I don’t view even these fallible institutions as something like political parties, where one opts in and out depending on the platform or leaders of the moment. I believe in catholicism, though I do not believe that is should be an idol or warrant support of any church “right or wrong.” But I do think it sometimes requires time and patience to effectuate any kind of long-term changes. I am NOT saying that endless negotiations and waiting are always good strategies or the moral choices called for, but I am saying that, like it or not, sometimes things come slowly, no matter what kind of efforts are made, and that is foolish to place any church on some kind of pedestal, expecting it and its authorities to do any better than people in civil institutions. Certainly we should have all learned by now that the "name brand" does not in any way guarantee the good and the right, let alone the holy and sacred. At best it -- the name of God -- keeps us mindful of what our priorities should be, at worst it is exploited and abused by those who seek power and privilege over others.

Well, I said these were random thoughts, and indeed, they are. I need to let a lot seep and settle for a longer period of time. Maybe in the end I don’t really have anything useful to add to all our conversations, maybe, indeed, my ideas need changing. I read Mark, for one, as a sometimes lone and brave voice trying to call everyone to truth, out of hypocrisy, and away from battles with people who apparently can give little more than more fight. I also have been thinking of the sign I saw in an Episcopal church in downtown NYC that said something like “It costs a dollar for every minute to keep this church operating” (or was it five dollars?). It was a lovely church, no doubt with great history, as is ours and many others. But when do the building costs, the costs of the choirs, organs, and music, the smells and bells, and the priests who are knowledgeable of both liturgy and scripture, come at too high of a cost? Is the future of the true church really the Emergent one, or at least something more like St. Gregory’s as Sarah Miles writes about in Take this Bread? Do many of us want too much our places of sanctuary, can we have sanctuary and mission both, did Christ ever want any of us to “do church” or should we always have found other ways to make and keep community, to love and serve the Lord, our neighbors, and strangers everywhere?

Questions I don’t begin to have answers for....

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Thanks be to Shel (pseudopiskie) for getting the best set of photos of The Gathering of all the photos currenlty circulating on the web. She even has probably the only one of me at the restaurant. Please go see them all at her site, but I just had to "borrow" a couple. I confess it's my own fault for avoiding the cameras whenever I could (unlike Tobias who quipped, "I feel like Princess Diana") -- for good reason, as you can see (vanity, not fear of being publicly associated with the company). But now I've gone public in all the group photos (my husband was telling me over my cell phone while I was delayed at JFK that my photo was "everywhere" -- he said with bemusement and to tease me, since he knows I don't like to be in photos), I might as well come clean with you all. So, here's the evidence that I really was There, thanks to Shel:

The Evensong Group.

Doug and me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I have so much I would like to write up from the past four days (even bought a notebook when I was in NYC but didn't have a chance to start). For now, I'm beat and it will have to wait for later. Today was a long, strange end of my mini-vacation. It was warm and humid this morning in Manhattan -- more so than even the last few days, which were summer-like. So I thought I'd just try to see if I could hop the subway and run up to the top of the Empire State Building -- a place I haven't been since I was 8 on my first trip to the city. It took up the entire morning. The lines moved well but what a long, complicated mess. The view was lovely and breezy and oddly reminiscent of the views of Paris when my kids and I went there in Feb. 2006 -- panoramic view of big city -- features vary but it's kind of the same idea everywhere. Then I had just enough time to run back to the hotel and start my quest to see if I could manage to get myself to JFK via the subway and AirTrain. Well, I did it, though I can't say I'd do it again unless I had to. So I downed myself a 32 oz. beer (thought I deserved it after that) at, of all things, the sports bar at the airport, and was already to get myself home at last when, not long before the plane was supposed to take off, they announced that it hadn't passed mechanical inspection so they had to find us another plane. Got sent to another gate, they found a plane, and in the end we weren't more than an hour late. It was raining and fall here at home -- the fall colors brilliant even in the rain -- and it was good to be back.

But.... so much to write about from the days before. Here's just the summary of what I did. Saturday, I met Mimi at JFK and took a cab into town together. I stopped at her hotel and then began the first part of my learn-the-NYC-subway-system quest, after finding some stations closed, finally got to one that took me to Union Square and I found my way to my hotel (well, only after heading several blocks west when I needed to go east -- the way I usually go about things, I'm afraid -- I get to where I'm supposed to be sooner or later). Then Mimi and I met up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw the Rembrandt exhibit and had a nice long chat until it was just about to close (it's open late on Saturday night). Cabs were hard to come by but Mimi found a bus and then I found one that actually went all the way down to within a block or two of my hotel.

Sunday was an extraordinary day. I had no idea how long it would take for me to get to the Bronx, where Mimi and I and some others were planning on attending church at St. James where Fr. Tobias Haller is vicar. I lucked out with catching subway trains, even on the Sunday schedule, and got there an hour early, and Tobias was gracious enough to give me a tour of the Tiffany windows in the church as well as something of its history. Bloggers and friends who showed for church included Mimi, Paul(a), Doug, Terry and Gabe, and Mark [did I forget anyone? I hope not]. Tobias announced our presence from the pulpit and we all stayed for coffee. Afterwards, when Mimi finally said her goodbyes (Southern style -- something we all noted throughout the weekend), Mark was kind enough to give Terry and Gabe and I a ride back to Midtown, where we had brunch and conversation until nearly 4 p.m. I went back to my hotel, revived myself, and dashed back uptown again to see Rent.

Monday, I went to MOMA in the morning to commune with Monet's Water Lilies, the Picassos, Kandinskys. etc. and then had a delightful long lunch with my cousins, who are retired English professors from Wisconsin who have a studio apt. near Lincoln Center, where they stay in September and October every year. I hadn't seen then for something like 4-5 years, and I enjoyed their company more than I ever have.

Then it was time to go back to the subway underworld in the heat and humidity and find my way to GTC for the Big Event. Who should I happen to find myself walking along the street with but Tobias Haller, who knew where we were supposed to meet. Then... well, the pre-meeting, Evensong (sorry Toujoursdan, I can't sing), and dinner. Didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked with everyone (like Eileen, Dennis, David, Jake, and Shel) but it was great meeting so many people, especially some whom I didn't know as well as others -- like Allie and Allen and his wife, and johnnieb. I also managed not to get into too many photos, although I am in some of the large group shots.

Well, that's how I spent my October vacation, folks.

Special thanks to Dennis for thinking it all up. I had the best time I've had in a long time -- at a time when I really needed it. And, some things hit me very deeply this weekend -- the richness and diversity of urban life, Tobias' sermon, just being at church away from home, conversations with Terry and Gabe, art, music, all the wonderful people whom I am so privileged to have known and/or have just begun to know from online, subways, and the stuff of life.

Musings to follow whenever and however I can, later.