Thursday, May 31, 2007


At this very moment I can hear the Gallery Choir rehearsing for the concert coming up on Sunday. Meanwhile, up in the chancel, the Ritual Choir is doing the same thing while a group of musicians mills around with study-looking violin and cello cases waiting for their chance. One of the great things about being at SMM is that you don't have to go long between chances to hear fabulous music!

Among other tasks today, I spent some time reading a paper written some time ago by one our learned parishioners--Professor William Blisset. It's an article he wrote as the chapter of a scholarly book on Renaissance Romance literature: "Caves, Labyrinths, and The Faerie Queen."

I'm realizing as I read it that I haven't recently fantasized about living in a cave as I once did. I used to a have burning desire to follow the ascetic, feverish rabbit of my inner monk into a literal cave, but, strangely, the practical possibility never really materialized. Nor am I likely to get an opportunity to spend a few months underground since I got married! Too bad, there is something appealing about living in a mountain cave worshiping and meditating by oneself for months at a time.

Back in Lent I picked up Thoreau's Walden with every intention of finishing it. Never did, of course, but my trusty copy of The Norton Anthology of American Literature still sits invitingly on my night stand. Alas, I've lately burned through about 100 pages of a 200 page Anne Rice novel of a fashionably naughty nature. Yes, I think it's fine for priests (and their parishioners) to read such stuff. Not sure that I would bring it up in a sermon, however, since the reference would be more distracting than instructive in such a context.

I put my AC into my office window today. This is the kind of physical work that happens more often in ordained ministry than people would expect. I don't mind; it's a great opportunity for "Dharma Practice" (as some of my friends and teachers would call it)....


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Last Sunday...

Something I didn't mention in my blog entry about last Sunday...

I got up early in the morning after a night it which I had tossed and turned to think about my sermon. I do this best in the shower, and spent at least a good hour thinking through various Pentecost issues. By the time I arrived at church I had a lot of good ideas, but only a few of them were appropriate for a sermon.

You see, preaching must always be done to build up the community, and that often means balancing the prophetic vs. the pastoral. We heard a lot about this dichotomy in seminary preaching classes, and it indeed does prove true in experience. You want to challenge the congregation and speak truth in love, but you also want to nurture and support them.

Anyway, I was thinking about where I should draw this line as I listened to the lessons during the 8 o'clock Mass on Sunday. Then it was my turn to read the Gospel. Although I was quite familiar with the text from John appointed for the day, I didn't really feel it in my bones until that moment of reading it aloud to the small congregation of early risers. Something about the almost mournful character of Jesus' sayings at that moment, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?" I thought at that moment of the Holy Spirit saying that to church. How have we failed to recognize our Lord among us? It was a thought that nearly brought me to tears as I was reading to that congregation. Nice to know that I'm still capable of having those kinds of moments.


Sunday, May 27, 2007


Fr. Harold and I have have been constantly preaching about the "problem" of Evangelism for weeks now. Little wonder, it's all that gets talked about at the Deanery and Diocesan levels, it seems. That means, in turn, that we have a lot to say on the subject. It's also true that we are, to some degree, responding to each other and spurring each other on to deeper analysis and thoughtful reflection.

On Saturday, at a lovely and elaborate Solemn Mass in honour of Our Lady (complete with a procession around the block with a Statue of our Lady held high) Fr Harold said two things in his sermon that particularly caught my attention. He said that the Church needs the people outside our community or in order to be complete. He also said that the Church has failed to proclaim the Gospel to the people in our society who are not part of the Church community. I've heard him say that before, but it particularly struck me yesterday.

So today when I preached I talked about how we need to do the work of Evangelism by learning to speak the language of the culture we inhabit. It is insufficient to expect people to learn to speak our faith langauge before they can hear the Good News. I invoked the missionaries of old, whose first task was always to learn the langagues and traditions of their people and THEN to express the Gospel in that context. That second part means that the Church is not only participating in culture as a consumer or repository, but as a producer as well.

I'm big into this notion that Church needs to produce culture. That means generating media. One of these days I'll write a white paper on my concept of the "Media Rich Church," but in the mean time I'll settle for getting some stuff onto You Tube.

Anyway, I was pleased with my sermon and received a lot of positive feedback about it. Now I'm looking forward to a nice rest and peace at the last!


Thursday, May 24, 2007

I'm back

I've returned, triumphant, from trips abroad. Betsy and I went down to Mobile and had a grand time with the Zellner clan and friends. The wedding of my friends Francis and Ally went off without a hitch, and they are now truly and wonderfully married. At this moment they are in Costa Rica enjoying a well-deserved honeymoon.

As for Betsy and I, besides enjoying the delights Mobile has to offer (boating, eating raw oysters, etc.), we also got to enjoy the company of an old family friend, Clint Doolittle. He was the organist at my wedding, my mother's wedding, and my sister's wedding (not to mention various Aunts and Uncles). We stayed with him and got to drive around his pickup truck.

We went on a Side Trip to New Orleans' French Quarter to see what that place is about. Much pleasure to be had there, as you can imagine. The city overall, however, is still struggling to get back on its feet.

Anyway, I'll share more as I have the chance, right now I'm pretty busy with church stuff. I have a presentation to give at tonight's PMDC meeting...


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Betsy (my wife) and I are heading to Alabama for a week for a friend's wedding. In the mean time there is much to do to prepare. I'm particularly worried about the U2charist on Pentecost Eve. Sigh. Anyway, I'll see you all on the 23rd...


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Preaching Joy

Excellent, I'm keeping up with the blog. My wife will be happy.

I'm on to preach tomorrow. I spent much of today (after celebrating Mass and having breakfast with the SMM Saturday crew) thinking about my sermon for tomorrow. Right now I'm trying to link up the spirit of the Church as depicted in Acts, the enthusiasm and vision of Synod, and Holy Joy. Holy Joy has something to do with eschatology.

Searching around the web I came across some references to Hymn of the Universe by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Some deep wisdom there, but not quite on the mark for my preaching tomorrow. That's the sort of thing that you have to prepare people to hear, if you want to take them down that road.

In my sermon at Mass this morning I explored the notion to Springtime and the Springtime of the church as revealed in the readings from Acts that we heard. I tied that to Springtime emerging on all levels of our religious consciousness--from Synod on down to our subjective spiritual experiences. In retrospect I could have gone a bit higher to the Universal Church. Alas.

I usually preach by thinking of organizing concepts. So far I've got the concepts of springtime, joy, and way both tie into evangelism and mission. But as usual, the hard thing is the "take." What do I want people to take with them besides the obvious insight that joy is a good thing. I can make them feel joyful... sure. But the would see Jesus.... Is Jesus the God's joy and delight? That sounds promising...

As usual, I'll leave it be for awhile and go watch hockey instead. I'll finish tying these things together tomorrow...


Friday, May 11, 2007

A good day

Towards the end of the day today I had a really nice feeling of God's love and peace. It came about after (and perhaps because of) a pastoral care situation. It had gone very well, and I felt good about my own ability to be responsive and tuned into the spiritual rhythms of the Universe and all that good stuff.

So I was sitting in the chapel listening to the second lesson of Evening Prayer (a healing story from Luke) and just came to moment where I felt exhilarated in my body and spirit. Hard to describe except to say that it was delicious and wonderful and peaceful and exciting all at the same time. I wondered whether I should just revel in that moment when the lesson ended, or whether I should continue to Office as normal. I decided that I should continue leading Evening Prayer--the insight to be had is that it would have selfish for me to stay in my own spiritual moment and abandon the congregation in silence. If the liturgy had set up the expectation of silence or contemplative shenanigans, I would have made a different choice.

In this liturgy is similar to meditation, where often one's commitment to the integrity of the exercise must supersede anything else, even if it seems to come from the spiritual realms. I think it was Thomas Keating who said somewhere that if it is the Holy Spirit, She will come back another time.

I referred to the Holy Spirit with a feminine pronoun the other day in the company of a person I had just met and she was delighted (my companion, I can't speak for the Spirit on this occasion). It's one of the options outlined by Elizabeth Johnson in She Who Is as way to have more correct language about God. If you haven't read it, I would recommend it. She argues straight out of the tradition, which makes her pretty hard to counter no matter how "orthodox" one might be.

Anyway, I'm heading home now. God be praised.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

End of the Day

Wow, 2 blogs in one day! God by praised...

Busy day today. I managed to get through several projects that I had expected to take much longer than they actually did. Isn't that nice? Among other things, I created a cool map of the Parkdale Deanery in Illustrator. I also did some work related to fundraising the U2charist and a few other things. Good for me. But now my blood sugar is low and I'm crashing....

Here are some wish list items I hope to finish before I leave SMM--obviously these don't include the ongoing Parkdale stuff...

  • Create a Customary (Acolyte Handbook) for SMM

  • Create a new SMM Missal for 1962 Rite Masses

  • Add a virtual tour to the SMM website

  • Add some SMM videos to Youtube

  • Finish the Parish Photo Directory

  • Recruit and Train a Webmaster

  • Recruit and Train a Soundguild

  • Supervise upgrading the Sound System (starting with mics)

  • Ramp up Choir Publicity

It's just a small sample--and some of those will really be difficult. Sigh. Well, I've got a couple of months...



Lately, as I think about my departure from SMM this summer, I've been worried about the long-term prospects of some of my projects here. It's a question of legacy. Who will take over my projects when I am gone? Particularly I'm thinking of the website and the audio recording of the services and a few other similar items. I'm simply not sure there is anyone in the congregation with the combinations of technical skill and commitment to pull it off. For example, right now I am the one who records both the 9.30 and 11 o'clock services. It may be possible to get the Gallery Choir to commit to recording the 11, but what about the 9.30? And the problem goes beyond simply hitting the button to start it and again to stop it. Someone has to transfer those files onto a computer and edit them and put the relevant parts (especially the sermon) on the web.

In my mind I imagine that this will probably slip by the wayside for a while. Some of the sermons and motets may be recorded and posted--but perhaps not all. Sigh. One of the lessons in this is that program initiatives of this sort are delicate in church. Another is that programs that rely on skills that the clergy bring to the position will only last as long as the pastorate.

I wish I could say that as my initiatives fall aside my successor will start news based on his or her skills. Alas, that is not to be since I will be replaced by a very part-time person who will be mostly occupied with liturgy.

Anyway, it's another thing for me to fret over until I have the spiritual maturity to let it go.


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

These Days...

Pass like water down the river. I'm thinking of the Hudson River in particular--just as it flows past Holy Cross Monastery. I'm hoping to spend some time there in retreat next month. But these things are always more complicated than they appear. The Hudson "River" is actually a tidal estuary at that point in it's journey from Lake Tear of the Clouds until it empties into the Atlantic Ocean that takes it by Holy Cross. That means that it actually flows in two directions (and sometimes not at all) past there. I've always thought that complexity suited the place well.

I just finished a cover letter going to one of the churches I am applying to for my next call. Very exciting place, actually, though right now I'm not sure that they would describe themselves that way. Like with the river, it's all about perspective. I'm anxious to get at least an interview with them. Freud said that love was all about obstruction. So, I suppose, this delay will only increase my desire...


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

General Synod '07

Every other year the priests of the Diocese of Toronto along with elected lay representatives from every parish gather with the bishops in "Synod." This is where a lot of decisions about the strategic course of the Diocese are made. For instance, this year there was much discussion around changes to the diocesan bureaucracy to make it leaner and more responsive. But this is also a chance to touch base with the other 284 congregations in the Diocese and discuss mutual concerns and share resources. The networking and comradery are wonderful. Of course, I'm an extrovert so this stuff feeds me. Check out the Photo albums created by Michael Hudson (Diocesan Photographer).

The Synod was held at Durham College. It was a "Residential" Synod--meaning that most people stayed over two nights. There was some nice drinking to be done both nights, let me tell you! but there was also some great worship and real moments of inspiration.

I remember at one moment watching Bishop Johnson and thinking, "Yes, I can follow this man." Nice to have that feeling about one's leader.

I made progress on my job search. Lots of information to think about and some excellent leads. At this point I must be patient and wait for the situation to unfold on its own.

In the mean time, I have the U2charist at the Cathedral to prepare for. There is also the trip Betsy and I are taking next week. We are going to Mobile for my best friend Francis' wedding. So it goes.

This is also a crazy time for Betsy, my wife, who is taking her Ph.D. comps even as I write this. She is happy with how she has done so far, so I'm sure her success will continue...