Thursday, June 30, 2011


Remember back in 1972 or so when Les Crane's recording of the poem Desiderada was in the Billboard Top 10?  Even though it wasn't a song?  Maybe you don't, unless you are of a certain age.  (Other Billboard top hits of 1972 include The Candyman, Tumbling Dice, Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress, American Pie, and Layla if that helps.)

Anyway, there's a line from the Desiderada that always stuck with me:  "And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."

These china roses, Ducher, unfold as precisely as anything I have ever seen.  I am not sure the universe unfolds with such precision and perfection - I rather imagine the universe to be a little more messy, but then again, are we talking galaxies or society or our personal lives?

I go back and forth between a desire for order, for things to match up, and a desire to live in the spaces in-between, the liminal space, the space at the edge, the non-linear non-orderly non-predictable place where I imagine creativity flourishes and surprise is an every day occurrence.

I'm not knocking the orderly.  Look at this beautiful rose.  Listen to a beautiful Bach fugue or Mozart sonata.  Look at a single feather and be amazed that it is part of the overall plan for swans in flight.

But life is also messy, our journey twists and turns and sometimes we end up at a dead end that doesn't seem to be part of an overall orderly plan, at least not a good plan.  There is beauty and joy as well as sorrow in the surprises of our messy lives as they unfold.

Many of us hear or even say, when things go wrong, it's all part of God's plan.  You'll see someday.  No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should..... but which universe, I wonder?  And I have to admit that I don't like that platitude.  There are many things that happen in life that I refuse to believe are part of any plan of our Creator.

Sometimes things go according to (what I think is the) plan.  Sometimes they don't.  Neither is right or wrong.  I hope to always be open to the wonder of the journey, with all its twists and turns, even as I kick against the goads sometimes.

And to appreciate the precision as well as the flailing of the unfolding.

Morning Psalm

Psalm 72  
Deus, judicium

1       Give the King your justice, O God*
                  and your righteousness to the King's son;

2       That he may rule your people righteously*
                  and the poor with justice.

3       That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people*
                  and the little hills bring righteousness.

4        He shall defend the needy among the people;*
                  he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

5        He shall live as long as the son and moon endure*
                  from one generation to another.

6       He shall come down like rain upon the mown field*
                   like showers that water the earth.

7       In his time the righteous flourish;*
                    there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more.

8       He shall rule from sea to sea,*
                    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

9 His foes shall bow down before him, *
             and his enemies lick the dust.

10           The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, *
             and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts.

11All kings shall bow down before him, *
             and all the nations do him service.

12For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, *
             and the oppressed who has no helper.

13He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; *
             he shall preserve the lives of the needy.

14He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, *
             and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

15Long may he live!
             and may there be given to him gold from Arabia; *
                  may prayer be made for him always,
                  and may they bless him all the day long.

16May there be abundance of grain on the earth,
              growing thick even on the hilltops; *
                   may its fruit flourish like Lebanon,
                   and its grain like grass upon the earth.
17May his Name remain for ever
              and be established as long as the sun endures; *
                  may all the nations bless themselves in him and
                              call him blessed.

18Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel, *
    who alone does wondrous deeds!

19And blessed be his glorious Name for ever! *
    and may all the earth be filled with his glory.
    Amen. Amen.

(BCP 685)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Visual Evening Prayer

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless he dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake.  Amen.

(BCP 134)

The Sounds of Sirens Surround the Spirit

I attended the ordination of five priests on Sunday afternoon at our Cathedral of St Philip.

It was glorious as ordinations always are, and particularly the ones held in that space.  Beautiful cathedral, beautiful music and great singing, good liturgy and choice of hymns (Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing!), incense and beautiful vestments, two bishops, the procession with many clergy colleagues, and of course the happy ordinands and their families and friends.

At every ordination I go to (and I try to go to all of them), I pay special attention to the prayers and to the vows, remembering my own vows and re-calling myself to attend to them and I pray for the ordinands.

I especially like the part where we who are already ordained come forward to lay hands on the ordinands along with the bishop at the end of the prayer of consecration.  We go forward as we begin singing the hymn Veni Sanctu Spiritus to stand around the ordinand.  Our bishop observes a rather long silence after the singing of the hymn, before he begins the prayer of consecration.  It signifies the making room for the Spirit to come.  I like the practice very much.  It seems right to observe silence at that time.

On Sunday, during the we stood in silence in the face of having sung, Come Holy Spirit, I became very aware of the sound of sirens.  Emergency vehicles were racing down Peachtree Street, just outside the cathedral, sirens blaring, as we stood there in front of that beautiful altar, surrounding the ordinands, about to hear the bishop confirm what all present were doing together - making these five people priests in God's church.

And I listened to the sirens, and listened to the silence, and thought, yes, that's about right, too.  How appropriate to stand at the altar and hear the sound of sirens, a sound that signifies both trouble and the fact that help is on the way, in the moments before one becomes a priest.

Morning Prayer: St. Irenaeus

Almighty God, you upheld your servant Irenaeus with strength to maintain the truth against every blast of vain doctrine: Keep us, we pray, steadfast in your true religion, that in constancy and peace we may walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The N.T. reading for the day (1 Tim 2:22b-26) - Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

OK.  I have mixed feelings about Irenaeus and some of his heavy handedness in his "defenses of the church"against "vain doctrines," and 1 Tim's recommendation about shunning youthful passions (I'm not sure we should condemn that idea so broadly), but I do very much like the part about shunning stupid and senseless controversies.

Also Irenaeus said, "The Glory of God is a human being fully alive."  I love, love, love that - one of my favorite early church person quotes ever.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Another essay on social media and the church

I have been talking with church folks about the use of social media for some months now and have noticed among them  confusion, resistance and even suspicion about social media generally.  People have noticed that are lots of conversations going on out there via Facebook, Twitter, blogs and chats, but often those conversations are dismissed as shallow and/or uninformed or just mean.  And people do say mean and silly things online - in addition to saying all kinds of caring and helpful things online.

Still, I sense a reluctance to join the conversation (even to make it deeper and better) for fear of letting go of traditional notions about church and religion and communication, even though we can see, if we look, that those notions are getting very frayed around the edges.  There is a feeling that the church ought to close itself off from that sort of thing, or rise above it.

And then there is the refrain I've frequently heard that social media is just another thing that somebody has to learn, to monitor, another thing on the priest's to do list, another drain on his or her time.  That Facebook is just a time waster that you do late at night, after work, perhaps as a guilty pleasure.  In discussions about social media with church leaders and communicators, many seem to be more concerned with potential pitfalls and with gatekeeping than with the opportunity to harness the incredible reach and power that social media offers.  They don't see the value of it.  They imagine social media being more like print media where mistakes live forever when in fact social media is ever changing.

And they don't "get" the interactive component. Who has time for that, they ask?  What if people we don't know try to join our group? (What if people we don't know try to join our church, I ask?)  The pitfalls, while there, are tails that are wagging the dog here.  To focus on "not broadcasting all over Facebook that Fred and Sally are getting a divorce" is to miss the boat entirely.

In fact, there is great value in social media. Consider this: social media is to the 21st Century Church as the printing press was to the reformers.  Actually, it's even better, because the printing press just allowed messages to go out.  Social media is about messages going out and coming in, about sharing in conversation and deepening relationship.  Social media provide incredible opportunities to engage everyone in our culture, offering a window into the church community that is unparalleled in history.  Seekers, people who are lonely and lost, potential members who may be hesitant to come to the door (even though they saw the poster about the pancake supper) for fear of being rejected or subjected to something offensive or scary can see on the web what services look like, hear music and sermons, read blogs to find out what the church is really like.  They can look at pictures of folks enjoying fellowship or doing mission together.  They can get a preview of the community to allay their concerns or fears or to awaken their own longing for community and sharing in the efforts of helping others. Social media isn't a substitute for personal connection - it's another way of making personal connection. It's the way millions of people are making personal connection.

So, social media offers an incredible opportunity to create and deepen connections, to foster dialog and relationship, to make room for and provide a platform for sharing real life/real world faith stuff with and among people who are already out there using social media in their daily lives, and it's all pretty much free.

Further, consider the pastoral opportunity social media presents.  It used to be that the parson was expected to stay in touch with all the members - perhaps visiting all of them in their homes and of course keeping up with their goings-on so as to be the pastoral presence in their lives.  To know who's pregnant, who's ill, who's getting married, who's going off to college, who got a new puppy, who lost a job or a parent, who is grieving, who is going on vacation, who got a new job.  Personal visits are still expected in some places, but more and more people either catch the minister at church on Sunday or call in or sometimes make an appointment for a face to face visit.  And all that is good and no one who doesn't want to should be forced to use email or Facebook.  But surely priests don't answer the question about connecting with and visiting parishioners or going out to public events in the community as the face of the church "who has time for that?!"  

Ministers should be using social media as tools for pastoral care, rather than seeing it as a game to play late at night.  There are millions of people out there who are using social media to connect and stay connected and ministers can do that, too.  Ministers can and should make time for that, just as they make time for home visits, or phone calls, or personal conversations in the office.  Those highly desirable "young people" are using social media, and so are their grandparents, so that they can share pictures and messages.  Priests and other pastoral care types have an excellent opportunity via social media to connect with and stay connected to their parishioners and with people on the edges of the community - to "visit" by going to the big public square that is Facebook and Twitter.  To offer video chat "office hours." To stay connected with the kids when they go off to college and see the pictures of the grandbabies and check out the vacation photos, and share some of their own stuff, too.

My final point is this:  If you think of Facebook or Twitter or blogs as places to go, places where your people are, then it's not that different from the local vicar heading down to the pub or the coffee shop or the park to interact with the community there.  Your people are out there!  Go visit them!


P.S.  Lots of people are writing about social media and the church today, and if you'd like to hear some other and intelligent voices out there, I'd like to call your attention to three essays that I think are worth your reading time:

First, my C of E friend Fr. David Cloake writes on his blog "Vernacular Curate" about social media and the church.  One quote among many good ones:  "Blogging and micro-blogging and all other social-media tell the stories of ordinary Christians in ordinary time outside of the church building."  Read it all here.

Second, Keith Anderson writes in "The Living Lutheran" that culture isn't killing the church - grief is.  Read this poignant and generous essay here.

The third link is to an excerpt at the Daily Episcopalian from Elizabeth Drescher's excellent book on social media and the church Tweet if you  <3 [heart] Jesus (Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation).  I have read Dr. Drescher's book and recommend it highly - she carefully and clearly delineates the potential power of social media and makes the case for how much better mainline Christianity is equipped to take advantage of it than we were in the broadcast media age.  The excerpt, which shows us how the digital reformation facilitates today's priest in making connection, deepening relationship and generally pastorally caring for his or her flock (or, how George Herbert would have used Facebook) is here

Your thoughts?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Your Passion is Your Vocation/Sunday's Sermon

(Text:  Matthew 10:40-42)

During the time when I was growing up, my small North Carolina town boasted a single movie theater.   There were two shows each evening, at 7 and at 9, plus weekend matinees.  The theater was less than a mile and a half from my house, but for some reason we were often late to the early show, perhaps because of 6 o’clock dinner.  And so we missed the preview and the Porky Pig cartoon, and came in after the feature had already started.   

Oftentimes it was hard to follow what was happening in the movie because we’d missed the beginning, missed the part that set up the story and introduced the characters. 
Anyway, after the first showing was finished, we stayed in our seats until the theater got dark again and then started watching the movie all over again, from the beginning this time.  When things started looking familiar, someone would lean over and whisper, “This is where we came in,” and we would get up and slink out, bending over so as not to walk through the beams of the projector and irritate the other patrons.  With luck, by the time we got home, I would have had time to put the whole story back together in my head.  I hated watching movies this way!

I am remembering my childhood moviegoing experiences now as we begin the nearly six months of what we call ordinary time, the season after Pentecost, the liturgical time of Christian growth, of living out our baptismal vows in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Practically speaking, we have returned to the semi-continuous reading of the Gospel of Matthew, which is the Gospel of Year A, after having interrupted Matthew to read from the Gospel of John throughout Eastertide.

And it turns out that because Easter and thus Pentecost were so late this year, we have come back in to the story in Matthew at the tail end of Jesus’ discourse in which he authorizes and sends out disciples.  We missed all that led up to these last two verses of Jesus’ discourse that make up our reading for today.  We missed the introduction of the characters and the location of the action and the topic of the speech - just like my childhood moviegoing experiences, we came in well after the story began.

So let’s take a minute to get re-oriented.

This section of the story comes after Jesus has given the sermon on the mount and then gone about the countryside, preaching and healing, accompanied by some disciples and other followers.  As he has gone about his work in the world, Jesus sees that the world around him is full of people who are in great need.  They need healing, they need acceptance, they need teaching, they need food, they need companions, they need to feel God’s love for them. 

Jesus has compassion on the people around him, the crowds; he sees that they are drifting and needy.  He sees that they are like sheep without a shepherd.

So Jesus calls together his disciples and prepares to send them out as laborers are sent out into the harvest.  He is sending them out to continue and expand his work.  The disciples have been chosen and commissioned.  To prepare them for their work, Jesus tells them what discipleship is going to be like, that it is costly; he tells them how they will be reviled and even rejected, how they must be willing to go out without all their stuff and to trust the Spirit to help them speak and teach. He tells them that their message and their work will be countercultural.  He reminds them that God will be with them.  And finally, Jesus concludes his authorization to the disciples in these verses today by broadening the scope of discipleship to include those who came after the twelve, those who go out into communities everywhere, in every age, in the name of Christ.  Not only the disciples, but all of us are commissioned to ministry, and all of us share in the presence of Christ as we minister in his name.

So that’s where we are in the story.  Perfect timing, after Pentecost, when we enter the season of Christian growth, to be commissioned again by Jesus to minister to others - to go out and do what we can to be God’s love in the world.

The question for us today and all days is how will we be God’s love in the world?  This parish does great ministry in the community right here - with your food pantry and soup kitchen, the health clinic, and recovery center.  And for so many of us, being able to participate in these kinds of ministries through our church right here in our neighborhood is such a blessing, both to us and to our neighbors.  I hope that many of you are involved in this church's ministry in this neighborhood.

So, is that it, then? We can all pat ourselves on the back and call it a day?  What else is there to talk about?

Well, my guess is that, still, not all of you are involved in giving out that proverbial cup of cold water right now.  Maybe you don’t have time, or maybe you aren’t sure you are cut out for the soup kitchen or the clinic but you don’t know what else is out there. Maybe you're remembering Jesus' words that discipleship is costly and you are afraid.  Maybe you don’t know what your vocation is.  Maybe you don’t know that you have a vocation, since many of us have come to think that “vocation” is a technical term associated with the priesthood.

And it is about priesthood, but not simply ordained priesthood - vocation is about the priesthood of all believers.  It’s what the priesthood of all believers means.  All of us are commissioned for ministry by virtue of our baptisms.  All of us are called to minister to others in the name of Christ on behalf of God and are given the power and strength to do so through the Holy Spirit.

So the question I’m posing to you today is this: what is your vocation? What is God calling you to do in the world?

If that question scares you, hear what the wonderful writer Frederick Buechner says about vocation:  The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.  The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

You are called to do what you are passionate about.  Somebody out there needs to be the beneficiary of your passion.  But you don’t have to save the whole world - that's Jesus' job.  But Jesus says today that ministering can be as small as giving a cup of water to someone.  If giving out water is your thing, somebody out there is thirsty.

I heard a wonderful story on NPR this week about how fresh food from stores ends up in food banks to be distributed to needy people.  Some of it is cooked and served to homeless people; some of it is given to people who have their own kitchens except after paying the rent and the electric bill, they can’t afford to buy food.  And I was thinking about all the people it took to make it all work.  First, there were the people in the store who pulled the food off the shelves when it was getting close to its expiration date.  Then there were the people who volunteered at the various places where food is needed - the Salvation Army, local soup kitchens, and the like.  Then there were people who load and unload and drive trucks - to pick up food and take it somewhere.  Then there were people who cook and people who serve and people who work in the background to wash dishes or mop floors.

That made me think about a guy who buys cases of water and drives his old Toyota to the the base of the highway overpasses, the places where homeless people have their camps, and just hands out bottles of water to people - no i.d. check, no forms to fill out, no organization.  That guy doesn’t know what else to do, but he knows that people need water, so he hands it out.

Yesterday I read in the New York Times about the efforts to relocate zoo animals in Minot North Dakota where the flood waters are rising daily.  Regular people with trailers helped transport giraffes, and local farmers agreed to shelter bison and llamas and such.  They used what they had to help out in a tough situation.

And that made me think about how someone with an idea can do incredible ministry.  And also many people it can take to make a ministry work and how many ministries depend on even the small actions of someone who has a passion for something.  It depends on someone saying yes - yes to God, yes to your passion, and yes to one another.  Yes, I’ll drive your giraffe to safety.

I wonder if you’ve felt the urge to think about your own passion, your own deep gladness, to identify the thing you are really good at, the think you really love, and think about how you might make that your ministry.  How you might see that passion as your calling and begin to look about for places where you can exercise your calling.  How you might find your vocation in the world by listening out for your own passion.  

It doesn’t have to be earth shattering.  Whatever your passion is, it was given to you by God for you to share with the world.  The world needs your passion - whatever it is, big or small - like thirsty people need water.....

Most of us find ourselves in life coming into stories that have already begun but aren’t over yet. Life can be confusing to try to figure out.  It’s an intersection of God’s story and our story and the story of a world full of people who need love, who need care, who need to know their own identity as God’s own beloved.  And we have to find our place in the story, as Christ’s hands and feet.  

So, think about your passion and make your story into a story of offering that passion to a world that’s in great need of it.

Collect for 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 230)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Reading - Part Deux

OK, on both FB and my blog, continuing the summer vacation theme, we've had some discussion about what people are reading, particularly in the Clerical (loosely defined) Detective Genre.  I suggested you visit to see a comprehensive list of clerical detective books and series.  But here are the books people particularly recommended:

Rev. Lily Connor mysteries by Michelle Blake:  (The Tentmaker, Earth has no Sorrow, The Book of Light).  Lily is an Episcopal priest in Boston who does interim work as well as working at a women's center.  She wrestles with her faith, her love life, and the church in these three novels. I've read all three and liked them a lot.

Rev. Clare Fergusson mysteries by Julia Spencer-Fleming: (Seven books, which you should read in sequence according to readers, starting with In the Bleak Midwinter, then A Fountain Filled with Blood; Out of the Deep I Cry; To Darkness and to Death; All Mortal Flesh; I Shall Not Want; One Was a Soldier.)  Available on Kindle, Keith says.  Several people highly recommended this series, although it did get a negative review from Beth Royalty.

Rev. Merrily Watkins mysteries by Phil Rickman.  Ruth Innes recommends these and describes Merilly thus: female Anglican priest, single parent, smoker/cusser, with goth daughter; becomes first woman Diocesan exorcist and solves mysteries. Series is still going - first book is Wine of Angels, followed by Midwinter of the Spirit, A Crown of Lights, The Cure of Souls, The Lamp of the Wicked, Prayer of the Night Shepherd, The Smile of a Ghost, The Remains of an Altar, The Fabric of Sin, To Dream of the Dead.  Next one out in the fall. On Kindle. 

Sister Fidelma/Mysteries of Ancient Ireland series by Peter Tremayne.  Sister Fidelma is an Irish nun from the 7th Century who was at the Council of Whitby and solved a murder there.  The first book in the series is Absolution by Murder.  I don't think you have to read them in order but it is always my preference.  I've read a few of them and enjoyed them very much.

Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters.  Set in 12th Century England, during the warring between King Stephen and Queen Maud, Brother Cadfael is a Benedictine monk who is the herbalist in his order.  There are about 20 books in the series - A Morbid Taste for Bones is the first.  I've read several of them and enjoyed them, too.  

The Church of England/Starbridge Series by Susan Howatch, starring several and assorted C of E abbots, archdeacons, seminarians etc.  Six novels:  Glittering Images, Glamorous Powers, Ultimate Prizes, Scandalous Risks, Mystical Paths, Absolute Truths.  I haven't read them but Keith Oglesby has and recommends.

The St Benet's Trilogy by Susan Howatch.  The Wonder Worker, The High Flyer, The Heartbreaker.  

The Liturgical Mysteries Series by Mark Schweizer.  Hayden Konig is the part-time organist for St Barnabas Episcopal Church in the Western N.C. town of St Germaine.  There are nine:  The Alto Wore Tweed is the first.  (The Tenor Wore Tapshoes, etc. we are now at the countertenor wore garlic)  These are reported to by hilarious (says Meredith Gould, Ellen Sheridan, and all the reviews I've seen).   And also good mysteries. The organist keeps a loaded Glock under the organ bench and wants to write like Raymond Chandler.  And there are such fun things as The Feng Sui Altar Guild and the Weasel Cantata.  Available on Kindle.

Churchy/History books with non-clergy detectives but lots churchy/history stuff:

The Matthew Shardlake Mysteries by C. J. Sansom.  Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer in Tudor England who works for the Archbishop of Canterbury.  I've read two or three of these and they are engrossing historical mysteries.  Series of five (so far) begins with Dissolution, then Dark Fire, Sovereign, Revelation and then Heartstone.  Available on Kindle.

Phil Rickman has a single (no series, apparently) book out called The Bones of Avalon in which Queen Elizabeth I sends Dr John Dee out to find the bones of King Arthur. For you Tudor mysteries fans.

Other recommended mysteries:

In my opinion, the best mysteries out there are Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey books. Sayers was an Anglican Theologian and her father was a priest. In order:

Whose Body? 
Clouds of Witness 
Unnatural Death 
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
Strong Poison 
Five Red Herrings 
Have His Carcase 
Murder Must Advertise 
The Nine Tailors
Gaudy Night
Busman's Honeymoon

Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge series.  Inspector Rutledge is a WWI vet, shellshocked, who solves mysteries in post-WWI Europe. Walking wounded from the war all around.  

Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple mysteries set in 1920's Britain. Daisy is a writer and girlfriend then wife of Chief Detective who tries to keep her out of his cases (but fails, of course).

And then there are Anthony Trollope's two series:  The Barsetshire Novels and The Palliser Novels
(audio available by libravox) - serious literature and wonderful English novels.

This ought to get you through the rest of the summer.  Thanks to all who contributed!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gone Fishin'

All this talk about vacation has made me realize that I need one.  So I'll be taking off from blogging this week.

Please visit The Daily Office or the Northumbria Community's Daily Offices for prayers of the day and the various wonderful blogs I've linked to on my blogroll over on the right hand column for reading and reflections.

See you next Sunday!


Trinity Sunday

Hoo boy, Trinity Sunday.  And this year's gospel reading is Matthew 28:16-20 - the passage known as The Great Commission.  Big stuff to think about today!

So first, the Trinity.  Most people say they just don't understand the Trinity.  Certainly the church spent hundreds of years trying to hammer out a working definition/description.  After all, Christianity is descended from Judaism, which is fiercely monotheistic.  Every day, the good Jew prays the Shema - Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.  One God.  And yet we Christians have these other two "persona," Jesus, the Risen Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete/Comforter/Advocate in the mix.  Are we polytheistic, then?  Sounds like three Gods....

And so the church, using Scripture (particularly the Gospel of John) and Experience came together in great councils, particularly Nicea in 325 and Constantinople in 381to debate and refine the words and phrases we use to speak about God in Three Persons - all the same essence but not the same "personality."  Sort of like water, steam and ice - all H20 but experienced three different ways (liquid, gas, solid).  Except that that's not right, either; nor is the three-leafed clover example.  Much ink and some blood was spilled, and many folks sent off to religious Siberia, over getting the formula wrong.  Too much humanity for Jesus; not enough humanity for Jesus; Jesus as creation instead of begotten; God as OT bad guy to be succeeded or at least redeemed by Jesus as NT Love Guy.  Modalism, monarchial modalism, nestorianism, marcionism, arianism.... heresies all over the place.

Most of us don't really care too much about heresies.  Some of us understand that this is a mystery.  Somehow we experience God in different ways, and we feel that God acts these different ways, and how that happens is not something we have to understand in all its precise glory.

Some of us today, that is.  In the early centuries of the church, it was vitally important to draw some boundaries around our beliefs. The creeds (particularly the Nicene and Athanasian ones but also the Apostles') are the church's official statements of these boundaries.  And within the words of the creed live deep and beautiful mysteries that many of us may spend our whole lives pondering.  Certainly I believe the creeds are places where our questions often lie.  They were questions in the beginning, as well; questions about the nature of God, the nature of Jesus, the nature of the Holy Spirit.  Now the questions are often around the question "How much of this do I need to believe to be a Christian?"  I think that's not the right question, though.  Being a Christian is not all about making sure we believe the right stuff.  But it does involve exploring the big topics, themes, statements, doctrines, practices.  If we're doing it right, we'll be exploring them all of our days.

And as for the great commission, that's something we will explore all our days, too.  Go and make disciples, and I will be with you, Jesus says to people who were pretty ill-equipped and sometimes pretty dense.  Just go out there and tell the story.  And God - Jesus/God/Holy Spirit - will be with you.

Collect for Trinity Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday morning movie: Vocation

There is a move afoot to reclaim the words "discernment" and "vocation."   These terms have become primarily associated with ordained ministry, and yet all people have a vocation.  At our baptism, we are commissioned for ministry.  The priesthood is only one kind of ministry; the ministry of the baptised, the priesthood of all people - this is for everyone.  And everyone has a vocation, everyone has a ministry, which may change over time.  We are called by God to use the gifts God has given us for the betterment of the world, for loving our neighbors.  And so each of us needs to discern his or her vocation.  (Sometimes a priest helps us do that.  Sometimes others help.  It's a great idea to get help!)  

Frederick Buechner says that "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet."  We are called to do what we are passionate about.

So today's movie is about vocation in terms of everyone's calling.  Take a look.  

Saturday Morning Collect

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

(BCP 99)

Friday, June 17, 2011

New Kid on the Block

There's a new blogger out in Anglicanland (that sounds better than Episcopalland, but she's definitely Episcopal!):  M.T. Webster, who blogs at Notes of a Wayward Anglican.  Today's post ("Three Books from My Childhood") about three influential and formative books - the 1928 BCP, the 1940 Hymnal, and Rumer Godden's novel In This House of Brede, is really terrific.  Take a few minutes to visit Notes of a Wayward Anglican soon!

Friday Afternoon Sandcastle Break

Since we are in full bore vacation mode here at The Party (although I myself am not exactly on vacation - although some folks think I'm always on vacation!), now that the Easter season is past and we've got our summer reading lists going, our Friday afternoon breaks for the next few weeks will be sandcastles.  On a trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida a couple of years ago, I went out at "the golden hour" (that hour or so just before sunset when everything on the beach is bathed in golden light) to photograph sand castles.

This one is a sand igloo.  Perfect for these really hot days!


Morning Collect for Grace

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day:  Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in al that we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 100)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blooms Day/Anniversary

Today is Blooms Day - June 16, the day in which Leopold Bloom's entire day in Dublin is imagined/narrated by James Joyce in his novel Ulysses.

The photo is of a plaque embedded in the sidewalk on Dawson Street in Dublin.  On this day in Dublin (and other places, although I don't see really why), folks walk and gather in the places mentioned in the book, perhaps eating and drinking and reading excerpts from the rambling book.

It's also my wedding anniversary!  Twenty-two years!  Marrying my husband was the best and smartest thing I have done in my whole life.  I think our marriage has been the kind of anchor for both of us that has grounded us but has not demanded we stay safely parked somewhere, fused together and fearful about growth or change.  We have striven for interdependence, not dependence.  We have not been afraid of growth and change, and our marriage has been a steady and safe place that has nurtured exploration, growth, fulfillment.  (He's been more steady; I had the most growing to do.)  Within our marriage, we have sought to give each other the space to become truly who we are and to do what we believe we are called to do, to grow into what God has called us to be - committed to one another and to our family, striving to live out our vocations with integrity, always trying to discern how to live out our faith in gratitude to God.  It's not always easy to be figure out how to be married and still "free to be you and me" as it says in the old song, to be "responsible to" without drifting in to the less-healthy "responsible for."  And we have not always been able to live into our hopes and dreams without some struggle and disappointment. We've each had to make sacrifices.  But I think we have for the most part succeeded, especially because neither of us has had to make all the sacrifices and because we know that we cannot demand sacrifice, only offer it.  We know the power we have over one another, and, out of love, we have declined to exercise that power.  For richer and for poorer, for better and for worse, and in sickness and in health....

I wrote about Blooms Day last year, about our arriving in Dublin on that day six years ago.  That post is here.  For a great article about how to celebrate Blooms Day without leaving your computer, check out this post at Slate.

This year it's also my younger son's first day back at home after his own trip to Ireland.  You can read about his adventures on his group's blog here.  (I highly recommend it - especially if you want to learn something about teenagers who actually participate in church stuff!)

So the day is bound up in all sorts of things - family, marriage, children, celebration, literature, travel, exotic adventure.   I like a good mixture of all of those things! I hope you are having a great day as well.

Morning Collect: Joseph Butler, Bishop of Durham

O God, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith; We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Joseph Butler, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Well, we had some fun yesterday here on the blog and especially on Facebook about summer reading, especially clergy detective series.  (See yesterday's post and chime in with your own suggestions here  as well as your reasons why you love detective novels, which I'm really interested in hearing.)  People really do love detective stories, which I guess shouldn't be a surprise since there are so many of them.  I actually was not much of a fan until a few years ago when I discovered Dorothy Sayers; yes, I'd read the odd P.D. James and of course was raised on Nancy Drew, but I was always looking for "serious literature."  Now I find that a good mystery absorbs me like nothing else, and there are times when I just really want to get absorbed in something other than my actual life for a spell.

But today I have another question.  Do you have any icons?  Do you use them for prayer, or do you enjoy them more as religious art?  Or something else?

I was not well acquainted with icons until I went to seminary, and then I met many people who collected them and went to more churches that displayed icons somewhere - in the narthex or perhaps in the clergy offices.  I received an icon of St. Thomas from my classmates upon my ordination to the transitional diaconate (on the Feast of St. Thomas) and another of the Transfiguration when I was priested on that feast.  I have several other small icons now - pocket sized to 5 x 7 or so, including the famous Rublev Trinity.  I tend to appreciate them as art, as I do my collection of Celtic crosses.

But I know that some folks sit with icons during their prayer time.  I've noticed that there have been some icon writing workshops around.

So, tell me about your relationship with icons.

Morning Collect: Evelyn Underhill

O God, Origin, Sustainer, and End of all your creatures; Grant that your Church, taught by your servant Evelyn Underhill, guarded evermore by your power, and guided by your Spirit into the light of truth, may continually offer to you all glory and thanksgiving and attain with your saints to the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have promised by our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Reading

Summertime means summer reading days are here.  Time to put away the big heavy tomes and invest in some frivolity or mystery solving.  For whatever reason, many clergy I know are big fans of mysteries.  Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey novels are my all time favorite mysteries, but I've read all of them, some more than once.

It also turns out that the clergy-detective (or variant - monk (see Brother Cadfael), nun (Sister Fidelma) etc) is a very popular subspecialty in the detective genre.  Some of us were trading ideas on my Facebook page yesterday and today about clergy-detective books to read this summer.  (Many available on Kindle! One stop summer reading!)

Ruth Innes, of Rev. Ruth's Rantings fame, a Scottish Episcopal priest herself, turned us all on to this wonderful website curated by Philip Grosset that lists all of the clerical detective novels by author or by detective and gives summaries and recommendations about them.  What a find!  On the front page, the author says: 

"Welcome to this crime fiction site featuring 230 clergy and near-clergy detectives, including priest detectives, clergy wives, ex-clergy, monks, nuns, ex-nuns, rabbis, a rabbi's widow, a clerk of a Quaker Meeting, two Buddhists, a Muslim, two choirmaster/organists and even a few witches."

Have a look!

I'm now immersed in three Michelle Blake Lily Connor mysteries, but will be making my list of follow up summer mysteries soon, thanks to recommendations by friends and Mr. Philip Grosset!

What are you reading this summer?

Morning Collect: Basil the Great

Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace that, like your bishop Basil of Caesarea, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ode to the Book of Common Prayer

So today is the feast of the Prayer Book.  (See the collect for the day in the previous post.)  I am a big fan of the Book of Common Prayer, or BCP, in all of its versions, although of course I am most partial to the 1979 American Book of Common Prayer.

One thing I really like about the 1979 BCP is that it is so flexible.  We have options... Collects for nearly every situation or occasion, several different Eucharistic prayers, the ability to use alternative liturgies and prayers.  It's got the Easter Vigil in all its glory as well as two forms of reconciliation.  And of course, the beautiful Burial Rite.

When I was in seminary, there was a lot of talk about the prayer book.  I went to seminary with folks from several different denominations; the Episcopalian/Anglicans were the second or third largest group, behind the Methodists and either Baptists or non-denominational folks, I think.  Sometimes seminary chapel was an Episcopal service, and sometimes it was another type service.  We did Episcopal Morning Prayer and Evensong, too. We had our Episcopal-specific classes (including one on the Prayer Book) but took the core classes (OT, NT, ethics, systematic theology, etc.) with everybody.

The talk about our prayer book went in two directions.  First, many students from other denominations secretly (or not so secretly in some cases) loved our services and loved the BCP.  Certain students were fixtures at Evensong; we called them our Anglo-Baptist (or whatever) friends.  We Episcopal students were often asked to have lunch or coffee with a Methodist, Baptist, or Presbyterian classmate who wanted information about Evensong, about where to buy a BCP, about incense.  The Methodist students (who were in the majority at our seminary) were always amazed at how quickly we could plan a service, because we just used the BCP whereas some of them were trying to reinvent the wheel.  During my summer hospital chaplaincy, the BCP was in big demand by other (non Episcopal) chaplains - those beautiful prayers for the sick and dying seemed just right.

The other talk was tinged with disdain - these were just written prayers that people read, and where was the Holy Spirit in that?

That always bothered me.  I love the BCP, and to me, praying prayers that have been being prayed by faithful people for centuries is part of why I love The Episcopal Church.  Being part of that stream of tradition that stretches back to the earliest days of the church is something I particularly cherish.  Those prayers were not only Spirit-inspired when they were written but have been Spirit-infused as people have prayed them over and over again.  I have nothing against extemporaneous prayer, but to suggest that there is a qualitative difference between the types of prayers we pray is not only silly, it's untrue.

The other thing about the Prayer Book is that through it we come to understand that all of our worship is prayer.  We may have certain times in our services for litanies or particular prayers, but Morning Prayer is all prayer, not just the time for intercessions.  (This was another seminary topic - why did we only five five minutes for prayer during Morning Prayer, some people asked?  And so we were given the opportunity to explain that all of it is prayer.....)

I have several prayer books now.  The one I got when I was confirmed has a lot of writing in it, as I used it during my BCP class and pencilled in manual gestures to use in my liturgy classes.  I have a small, very soft leather bound one that fits into my traveling communion kit.  I have a combination Bible and BCP (great for Morning Prayer) as well as a combination BCP and 1982 Hymnal (great to use on Sunday mornings and Evensong).  I do also have an English Prayer Book; I have friends who have some very old ones that were passed down through their families.

And I have a BCP loaded onto my iPad and iPod now - great for travel.  Tradition meets technology.  I guess you can say my iPad is a combination BCP/sermon collection, as I preach from the iPad now, too.

The more things change....

How about you?  What's your favorite thing about your prayer book?

Morning Collect: The First Book of Common Prayer

Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, restored the language of the people in the prayers of your Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Morning Collect for the Day of Pentecost

O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 227)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Morning Movie: Mission Work at Juvy

Today's movie is about the Episcopal Church's work in the juvenile detention system in the St. Louis, MO area. "When a child loses his or her way, in a sense we have all lost our way." Please watch it with gratitude and hope. (Hat tip: The Episcopal Cafe)

Morning Collect: St. Barnabas

Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well­being of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Grammar (or more precisely Punctuation) Geek Alert!

Need a laugh?  I often do.

Call me crazy, but one of the things I think is funny in life is the arbitrary use of quotation marks on signs.  Our state has a sign about how driving drunk kills people so "don't do it."  I suppose they are quoting Officer Safety First or else there's a little "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" going on there.   And then I see "local onions" printed on the grocery store display.  So, do they really mean it or are they pulling my leg about the onions being local?  Is the quoted word or phrase a joke or a euphemism, the written form of scare quotes you do with your hands?  At our house, for instance, we have a joke about "meat" which comes from a Chinese menu from somewhere in which tofu chicken or other vegetarian protein options are called "meat" and we can do a whole standup routine about "meat" at mealtime which gets everyone laughing.

Anyway, if you think this sort of thing is funny in a harmlessly silly kind of way (or even if you don't yet), check out this new blog, The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks, here.

Also, you might like the blog Apostrophe Catastrophes, which is about, well, the misuse of apostrophes, here.


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