Thursday, August 30, 2007

All Pau

"Pau" means "finished" in Hawaiian. It was in the remarks column of my grandfather's last flight log.

My last SMM Mass was the morning 7.15. I nearly cried when I read the Communion Sentence just before blessing and dismissing:
Go forth from this place: behold I send you out like lambs among wolves
I didn't choose this sentence, it chose me in a sense. It just happened to be in the propers for today. I love it when God pulls that providential stuff.

Stress level starting to ebb, finally, after reaching its peak today.

We are just now packing up this office. Tomorrow morning I'm off on retreat until next Wednesday. Much needed.



Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Updated Wishlist

I want....

  1. an HDTV
  2. an iPod
  3. a pirate flag
  4. scotch (Single Malt)
  5. a week to catch up

Got that world?



Today has been a frustrating day. Lots of obstructions and problems in the whole move process. Part of what has me really annoyed is that I've asked for help from two or three key people--the sort that probably think of themselves as helpful and "there for you"--and they haven't come through. Nor do they even return my phone calls! I'm sure that when I next run into them they will apologize and explain reasonably the things that kept them from helping me now. But in the mean time Betsy and I really struggling with this move.

In retrospect I should have insisted on having this week off from SMM, despite how hard that makes things on the church. Suffering should be spread around--not simply piled onto the shoulders of the clergy! Sigh.

Just to top off my disappointment and sense of frustration that people aren't doing what they said they would be available to do, we found out today that the TV we though was included with the rent on our new place is, in fact, not included. It had been scratched off the final copy of the rent agreement by the landlord before we signed it. Neither the Realtor nor ourselves noticed it--probably because it was a fax of a faxed copy and we were eager to sign it and have a place to move. Compounding the problem, I ordered a cable package based on the belief that I would have a nice TV to watch it on, it was supposed to be set up today. Now I'm going to have to cancel that (our little TV is unworthy of cable). so that's one more thing to do.

Oh, and I now I have to rush off to take care of a pastoral care situation that requires my attention. Ahhhgggg!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

RIP Father Belway

Father Belway, a grand old retired priest in the Diocese and a member of SMM died this morning. I first got to know him at the 7.15 AM Masses on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While I was preparing to say just such a Mass, he passed away peacefully at his retirement home. Fr. Brinton, Vicar of the Cathedral, was taking the lead on pastoral care to Fr. Belway as his health declined. He called me this morning to tell me of Donald's passing and to ask that I attend to the body with appropriate prayers--he himself was traveling to Ottawa for the day and wouldn't back until the evening. Fr. Harold had just arrived back from vacation (though he's not back "officially" until Saturday), but I figured correctly that he would want to come with me as we paid respects to the kind priest.

I was aware that Fr. Brinton had already given Donald "last rites" (actually, Anointing of the Sick and Ministration at the Time of Death), so the purpose of our ministry this morning was to mark the passing with prayer, to commend Donald's soul to God, and to comfort the caregivers and friends who joined us in the small room. As we were going about the retirement home preparing to do this, a number of people on seeing me in my collar spoke of Fr. Belway's kindness and good humor. He was a charming man and well liked for his gentle sense of humor and sharp wit.

I'll never forget the time over breakfast some months ago when Fr. Belway was commenting on our new music director of the time, Kevin K. "We're so lucky to have him; he's a fantastic musician. (pause) But I wish someone could explain why he dresses the way he does."

"Father, have you ever heard of 'Metrosexuals'?" He laughed over his soft-boiled egg (Professor Blisset's specialty) while I explained the fashion movement reflected in Kevin's Sunday best. He always found these kinds of surprises delightful and was ready to laugh.

In his room this morning, looking over his pale body, Harold and I lead a little service with some of the nurses and nurses' aids that looked over him in his last days. I brought a BAS with me, but I took two more off of Donald's desk and handed them around to the group.

A big portion of the mini-liturgy we did was the Litany at the Time of Death. Interestingly, this is precisely what I had prayed over Donald a few days earlier when he was still alive, but barely arousable. I was sitting alone with him as he slept and decided that I should pray for him. I didn't have a BAS, but borrowed one from the desk next to his bed as I did again after his death. First I read some Psalms picked randomly. Then I prayed the litany. It's a patient prayer that mysteriously combines a sense of progression with timelessness. You can pray a litany forever, marching through the lists of heavenly beings and spiritual virtues and every manner of distress from which one ought to be delivered. It's a holy thing to sit in a chair next to the dying and quietly bid in turn all manner of grace to comfort them.

Donald was extremely happy for as long as I knew him. He liked to say that he was "blessed." Indeed he was.

Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord,
And let light perpetual shine upon him.
May his soul, and the soul of all the departed ever rest in peace. Amen.


The Ghosts of SMM

This morning my server told me that she saw a ghost in the nave while we were celebrating Mass. She said that it was a gray haired man that appeared while the first lesson was being read. I asked whether it could have simply been someone wandering into the church during the service who then left, but she was certain that it was an actual ghost. I did not notice the man, nor did I hear anything (and I'm very attuned to hear people creak and moan across our old pine wood floor). So who knows.

There is, in fact, a famous ghost at St Mary Magdalene's known as "The Gray Lady." My server, the one who saw the old man in the nave, told me that she saw the Gray Lady once a few years ago while dusting torches in the side chapel. Willis Noble, the former director of music here, also told me when I first started about his run in with the Gray Lady. He was practicing the organ late at night and saw the specter glide noiselessly down the South Aisle and disappear. Ever since then he was reluctant to practice at night.

I must say that I've been here many late nights, and though I've occasionally felt as though I wasn't alone, I've never seen anything myself.

Strange to me that the subject of ghosts would suddenly be coming up--Hallie told me that she saw a ghost at Rob Castle's cottage a few weeks ago. She was coming out of the bathroom and swung open the door right into and through a ghostly figure of a man who then disappeared.

It might be easy to dismiss such stories if it weren't for the shear number and credibility of the people that have told them to me over the years. I even had a very no-nonsense theology professor tell me that he didn't believe in ghosts until a poltergeist haunted his family's house for a few months. He said that all you had to do was mention the idea of moving while in the house and a bookshelf would topple, glasses slide off table tops, etc. It was so violent that he felt in danger a few times.

I once asked a priest (Dwight Neglia, in fact, whom some of you from NJ might know) about why more churches weren't haunted. He replied immediately, "I don't think the Holy Spirit would allow it." I was floored. First, that he seemed to be admitting the existence of ghosts and second that he had a theological explanation for how they fit into the church.

My own theory is that whatever we mean when we say "ghost" is a real phenomenon: some kind of psychic echo of powerful events, emotions, or persons. But ghosts, even destructive poltergeists, don't have much real power, spiritual or otherwise, and even most of that is only theirs because we give it to them.

And yet my own experience contradicts my theory. I once lived in a haunted rectory (back on Block Island). I tried to exorcise the spirit(s) myself, but my house blessing/smudging didn't work. All Donatism aside, the spiritual state of the exorcist does seem to matter in this sort of prayer. I'm reminded of Matthew 17:14-21 // Mark 9:14-29 // Luke 9:37-43a. That's the story of the (epileptic?) boy whom the disciples could not heal. Jesus managed the task (with a great show in Mark's version) and the disciples wonder why they could not manage the healing themselves. In Matthew and Luke it's because they have insufficient faith. In Mark's version it's because "This kind can come out only through prayer" (9:29b). But even in Mark's version faith has a prominent role in the healing. This is the origin of the famous line, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24b).

So was my faith insufficient to exorcise the Rectory on Block Island? I'm not sure. Could be that I simply don't have enough ju-ju built up yet. Or it could simply not be my charism to have. Hard to know. Not the sort of thing I'm planning to explore in great depths unless in thrusts itself upon me again (as it did when I lived in that Rectory).

Sigh. I will keep my eyes open for any SMM ghosts...


Monday, August 27, 2007

Last Sunday

My last Sunday at SMM went pretty smoothly. Normally I don't sleep well on Saturday night, especially if I'm preaching, but this week I was out like a baby. Woke up refreshed in the morning. Even after being the celebrant and preacher three times I still had enough energy to enjoy a nice lunch with Betsy at the Pour House. Nap time after that.

Today (Monday) is going to be a big day. More packing to do, plus picking up the rental car (still haven't been able to find a Canadian co-signer) and meetings, etc., etc.

Saying goodbye on Sunday went quite smoothly. I think I did a good job of saying what I needed to say and giving the congregation a chance to do the same. Freidman would be pleased.


Saturday, August 25, 2007


Megan, her husband Chris, and Matthew were over last night for dinner. They left 5 1/2 hours later after a very stimulating night of talk and food. There are so many juicy projects to start at COTM its hard to know where to start. Yet I know the answer to that: "it's about the people, stupid."

We might have come up with a T-Shirt design, as well. Imagine a picture of COTM converted to black outline with a pirate flag flying off the bell tower. The caption would read: "The Church of the Messiah / Under New Management." Lol. I think that might be too cocky even for me! Perhaps just as a coffee mug?


Good Byes....

I'm in a weird space. Trying to prepare for tomorrow, my last Sunday at SMM, and feeling woefully behind in that regard. This has been a week full of obstructions. One thing seems to be broken after another, and it has been difficult to get much done besides simply staying afloat. But, of course, my SMM to-do list has NOTHING to do with the task of leaving the place, and that's a truth that has yet to sink in. It began to hit me while I was preaching this morning. I was trying to talk about saying goodbye and suddenly found that I had stirred up more emotions than I had anticipated.

So obviously I have some processing to do. I've thought that perhaps it would be helpful to list off some of the things that I've accomplished here....

  1. Preached better than average sermons
  2. Celebrated exactly 402 Masses (assisted at another 100 or so?)
  3. Learned to sing
  4. Mastered the SMM ceremonial
  5. Created a computer network
  6. Recruited/trained Brin
  7. Completely rebuilt the website
  8. Switched Bulletin process to PC/digital
  9. Created the SMM Calendar in In-Design
  10. Redid various SMM liturgical materials (Vestry prayer book, etc)
  11. Created multiple fliers and postcards
  12. Pushed through the replacement of the copier
  13. Rewired the nave speakers
  14. Did extensive work on the Sound System
  15. Advocated/lead various reforms to 9.30 liturgies
  16. Did a few adult-ed programs
  17. Was very involved in the Parkdale Ministry Development Council
  18. Participated in Momentum
  19. Shepherded the Confirmation Class
  20. Gave spiritual direction
  21. Gave pastoral counseling
  22. Visited parishioners
  23. Reformed various office procedures and methods
  24. Started recording/posting sermons and music from services
  25. Recorded several concerts
  26. Produced a CD
  27. Co-coordinated the Cathedral "U2charist"
  28. Got Harold to use a computer
  29. Etc., etc.

And yet the list of things that are not complete yet is full, too. I still have to get the stupid photo directory and the story board project out the door. They are pretty far along, but will require some effort to complete. Sigh.

Well, now is a time to think of what I've done and feel good about the gift it was to the congregation as well as what I received from them all. It's been a kind of crazy two years! I think the next two years are going to be totally different!


Friday, August 24, 2007


Well... We picked out a car, but the deal is stalled because of the "usual" banking problems. Basically, since we U.S. citizens here on special visas (Betsy as Student, me on a Special Clergy Visa), banks in Canada are reluctant to give us a loan (even against a car) without a co-signer. This is very frustrating since I've been working to solve this problem for about two years. For the past year I've even had a Canadian Credit card and therefore have a Canadian credit history (not to mention a Canadian job, etc.). But every time a potential solution emerges it gets stalled one way or another. After two years of this I'm about ready to tear out my own hair.

Of course, much of this would be resolved if Betsy and I changed our immigration status to "Landed Immigrants." That requires all kinds of steps to be taken, including paying a hefty fee, securing criminal records checks from the FBI, possibly medical exams, and a bunch of other hoops that I didn't want to jump through until we were sure we were going to be up here in Canada for a while. Now is the time to start that process, but in the mean time we have to move house and get a car.

I could spend several more paragraphs exploring my anxiety and frustration about all this, but instead I'll take a deep breath and try for the spiritual virtue of detachment--a combination of awareness and perspective.

In two days is my last Sunday at SMM. I haven't accomplished a lot of those "little" things I had hoped, but I'm not surprised. It takes enormous patience and persistence to get new initiatives off the ground. In my experience usually at least one month for every person or entity involved. (and I have a whole way of determining what "involved" means in this formula). It's hard to let go of these things because I've invested so much in their accomplishment and because I believe that people will be let down by my failure to complete them. Detachment shrugs and says, "so what."

Here's a poem by Mary Oliver that should help...

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Details details details

I want a Utilikilt. these are so cool (literally and spiritually). Like the cassock, they look comfortable as hell and are practical, too....

Ever loose a remote control? We have two electronic items missing remotes: the TV and the stereo receiver. Betsy was bugging me about this in the helpful way of wives when it dawned on me that I could probably find the exact right replacement remotes on the internet. Sure enough, I was able to track down and purchase exactly the right remotes from E-bay. Turns out there are retail outfits that actually try to make a living selling $20 replacement remotes for old TV's and stereos and such! We are finding the mute button particularly satisfying.

Lots of little projects coming to a head personally and professionally. I sent a huge e-mail to a bunch of people at SMM to hand off various projects. Many are things that were on standby waiting for this or that person or company to get back to me, but I'm going to start taking my office apart soon and can't be bothered with those kinds of projects anymore.

Went car shopping this afternoon with Betsy. We may have some very good news to report tomorrow....


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ninja Priest Part 2

So the guys made the scaffolding even higher, so of course I had to climb again to take some close-ups of the cracks on the back of the Rood Cross...
Up I go

The reason for my ascent

The View

I've noticed that COTM has a bell tower with a flag pole on top. What should we fly from there? Perhaps a pirate flag?


Ninja Priest

Word went out on the Diocesan List-Serve that I'm going to COTM. Various friends and colleagues have called or e-mailed with congrats. Makes one feel good. Also I've had a bunch of minor back-and-forths with Megan and the Parish Administrator about COTM stuff in advance of my arrival. There are plenty of details to coordinate without me even being there, yet.

Met with a nice couple that I'm marrying at COTM in my first week there. It will be my first wedding in Canada, which will be fun. In Ontario you have to be licensed to perform weddings, so I dug my paperwork out and confirmed that I am, indeed, legal. Marriage is one of those cases where the separation of church and state breaks down a bit. For precisely that reason I've heard theologians argue that we should give up doing "legal" marriages and instead only offer "sacramental" marriage. This is what they do in France, for example, where you get married in a clerks office officially and then in a church (if you wish) to receive God's part of the deal. Yet, still, I find it satisfying and appropriate that the church wedding "count" for something in the eyes of the civil authority. Anyway, this couple and I hashed through various details for the upcoming ceremony. Sounds like it will be very nice.

Electricians are repairing the "Corona" lights in the chancel. They had to put up this scaffolding to accomplish the task.

Now, A Ninja Priest like myself looks at something like that and says, "I should really climb that." The excuse is to take some pictures of stuff that doesn't normally get photographed.

The Altar from above

The Electricians doing their thing

How else could I
get this shot?

I love my job.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Details details

Said Mass this morning. Only two people besides me present, and one of them was the server! The nice thing about celebrating mass almost everyday while Harold is gone is that I have most of the Mass memorized and can go "off-book." The thing about the East-Facing Celebration is its seeming perfectibility. The ritual is so precise and laid out that you can have the illusion of saying a "perfect" mass. When you face the people (so called "West-Facing Celebration") the whole feeling of the liturgy shifts towards a relational thing. Perfection is no more possible in this relationship than in any other. That is, you simply don't think about perfection but rather about the relationship and its qualities. It's a completely different theology of worship (and one that I support). Yet as a priest there is something very satisfying about being the people's proxy and making this sacrifice day after day on their behalf.

At the heart of all this is the fact that the liturgical spirituality of SMM is basically oriented around dynamics of sacrifice, duty, and obligation. These drive towards identity. That is, identity is created by commitment. Community is formed by shared commitments. This is all well and good, but probably not what I'm going to find at COTM. I'm still not sure about the heart of COTM's spirituality. I've heard about transformation and shared journey. Hmm. A lot to explore, there.

After Mass I came home and slept most of the day. Did some e-mail and move planning in the PM.



Shingles is a neurological disease, which means it can really mess with you. There is a whole list of typical psychological symptoms that can go along with this thing. Very nasty. One minute I'm exhausted and want a nap, the next I'm up all night unable to sleep a wink. Of course, the whole sleeping project is complicated by the fact that the skin near my right elbow sometimes feels like it's being eaten from the inside-out. You can actually feel the blisters blooming. I haven't slept at all tonight. I must show up to SMM in about an hour to say Mass, then I can potentially take the rest of the day off. Hopefully by then my body will feel like sleeping again. Sigh. So much for the list of things I wanted to get done before leaving SMM.

Ok. I'm firmly resolved to complain less about these shingles.

One of the COTM wardens is in Mexico City. I told him he must visit my favorite restaurant there--La Hosteria de Santo Domingo. Their Mole Poblano is to die for.


Monday, August 20, 2007


My shingles are subsiding slowly, but the pain tends to still come and go hour by hour. Spent the day doing as little as possible. Watched a few DVDs and then took a nap in my recliner with the cat on my lap. My beautiful wife is fixing me chicken soup--more proof that she is awesome.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Valtrex Sunday

Man, this Valtrex stuff is great. It made a significant improvement on my outbreak overnight, but it's starting to reemerge this afternoon, probably because of the usual Sunday morning stresses and strains. Thankfully, I put Maylanne Maybee and Graham Thompson on to preach and celebrate the various masses. I avoided touching the elements until after everyone else received in case someone in my congregation hasn't had chickenpox yet.

One of the things that's masochistically interesting about this affliction is just how much it changes from hour to hour. The pain really ebbs and flows, and the sensations in other parts of my body really change moment by moment, too. Right now, for example, I feel drained and sluggish and really hungry, too. So now I'm going to go home and rest.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Diagnosis

The Ceti Eel under my ear turns out to be shingles. Yes, that's right friends, I've got shingles. Or, more precisely, a "reactivation (from the nerve cell body in the sensory ganglion of a segment of the spinal cord) of varicella zoster virus" (Wikipedia). This has been bothering me for a few days, and when it only got worse I went into a walk-in clinic today. Doctor recognized it immediately, and suggested that I would have been a lot better off if I had come in a few days earlier. Nonetheless, he put me on Valtrex and a topical cream for the outbreak site (my jaw and cheek area). Sigh.

MD says, "No one knows why it reactivates." Gee, I wonder if stress could be a factor?

So here's a pic of my new favorite molecule...

Let's hope I started it in time to make some difference to the course.

Luckily this isn't very contagious, the only risk is that I would give the virus to someone who hasn't already had Chickenpox, and even then it's pretty hard to spread it. But I'm going to have others distribute communion tomorrow just to be safe.

Sigh. So where's the wisdom to be gained? Go to the doctor earlier? Obviously. Perhaps also, "stress is bad for you?" Surely there is something deeper there. Sigh. Right now I'm in no mood to figure it out...


Bad News

Last night I found out from my mother that a member of my extended family has Cancer. Very sad news. Feels a bit unreal, still. Hard to know what to do with such news except process and pray.


Ceti Eel

I still have a strange bump under the skin under my right ear. Betsy thinks it's a Ceti Eel. I sure as hell hope not.


Pickled Hot Peppers

Betsy and I pickled Hot Peppers last night. Here is the evidence:

And for kicks here is a picture of our darling cat...


Friday, August 17, 2007

Good Bye Joanna

This is our dear friend Joanna. Along with her husband Luciano, they were among our first friends in Toronto. Alas, the changes and chances of this mortal life have required Joanna to move to Manhattan to continue her Doctorate there. She's already found an apartment there and is back in the GTA to finish packing up their old place and tidy up some loose ends.

She came over a few days ago for dinner and we had a nice heart-to-heart on the porch talking about common problems and challenges with academia, married life, and the like by lamp light. On Thursday night we went out again, this time with some of our other mutual friends, Betsy (P.) and Elena, to the Pour House (our local pub) for dinner and drinks. Good times were had by all. Here are some more pics from the Pour House.
Elena and Betsy P.

Friends are so incredibly important. I can't imagine what the last two years would have been like without people like these around. No doubt we will see Joanna again, but something is definitely ending with her move to New York. I think the urban environment makes it even more difficult to create and sustain these kinds of relationships. Sigh.



Here's a picture of my nephew Wolfy with his proud parents--Molly and David. Looks like Betsy and I are not the only ones settling into a new life!



After some anxious moments, the house we will use as our Rectory while I'm at COTM is settled: 127 Farnham Avenue, Toronto, CA M4V 1H7. We are very happy. Really feels like we've finally "arrived." Very satisfying to know that years and years and years of hard work are finally paying off. Many thanks to everyone who has supported us along the way and made this possible. Here are some picks of my favorite features....
Master Bedroom Fireplace

The Kitchen

"Why, yes, that is a 42" Samsung HDTV included with the lease..."

I'm thinking XBox360; I'm thinking Monday Night Football; I'm thinking movie nights....

And, of course, the place has a very nice guest bedroom for out-of-town friends, family, etc.

life is good.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Edwin Friedman on Church Surveys

Here is a hilariously true quote from Edwin Friedman about church surveys. This is from a speech he gave:
So what they do is they poll the congregation and I’m sure you all know here when a vestry or a session or a board of trustees is incapable, doesn’t have the courage to take positions, they always do the same thing. They poll the congregation. So what they did was they sent out this huge questionnaire. And they asked everybody in the congregation what you liked about the minister, what you didn’t like, what you liked about the congregation, what you didn’t like. And they correlated all this material together. And I got invited and I said you know this church still has a money problem and I can solve it for you. There are 350,000 church units in America. If you would send this around to every church in America and just charge them $5.00, $10.00, whatever, and say to them, look this questionnaire contains every question and every answer that any church has ever asked and when you have to do a questionnaire we can save you a lot of money. You don’t have to send it out. (Laughter) Here it is. The answers will not be different.

LOL. I'm making him required reading for COTM leadership!

Beaten Up

Today I'm feeling pretty beat-up physically. I have a series of unexplained bumps, bruises, pains, and scratchy places on my body. I think one of the reasons for that is that I'm on my own running a fairly complex organization and that means I'm very busy and stressed out. I'm doing three people's jobs at the moment. I'm also coming to the end of my time at SMM and trying to wrap up various loose ends and projects related to that. But I had lunch with Paul Maclean yesterday and he reminded me that the only legacy that will matter is what I've done relationally with people. The rest of it, I suppose, is just dust and ashes. So that's two good reasons for the scratches and bruises.

A more interesting explanation, however, has to do with the dynamics of transition and the fact that major life transitions (change of job, home, or significant relationships) are also periods of risk. It's well known that people tend to have more accidents around periods of life change. So it's little wonder that I knocked over a plastic wine glass at the potluck last night or that I'm bumping my shins against coffee tables more than usual. I would go a step further and say that some of my symptoms are psychosomatic manifestations of sublimated "stuff". I'm processing my grief and anxiety with weird scratches, spontaneous bloody noses, and a pain in my head!

Now, it's a basic insight to recognize that this is the case. A more advanced insight is to see that this is possibly a good thing. These emotions and interior states need to be addressed one way or another. And if I won't give them room in my conscious awareness, then it's perfectly alright with me if they translate themselves into flesh. In fact, it's often easier to heal things when they show up in a corporeal rather than psychic form. So how do I address these aches and pains in my body?

Well, one thing I know about myself is that my body responds very well to touch. So either I need to get a massage or I need to convince my wife to give me a back rub. (That reminds me, the movie The Mystic Masseur was really very insightful about mind-body healing.) But there are things I can do on my own, as well. Exercise, of course (good thing I went sailing on Monday). Meditation would be wise. But probably what I really need to do is try to take it easy today and let whatever I do be enough.

I had a great conversation this morning with a member of the parish who is a therapist. We ended up talking shop and trading notes about what methodologies we should explore. She mentioned to me the possibility of using sensation and bodily awareness to treat anxiety. I mentioned to her my favorites including Family Constellations,
EMDR, John Savage's Therapeutic Listening model, Edwin Friedman's Family Systems Theory, etc. I always enjoy talking about that stuff. But I'm realizing that I'm ready for some new wisdom. I'm ready to take on the effort to learn and explore a new method. I'm not sure what that will be, though I'm tempted by Tantra and some even more esoteric methods that are NSFW. (Ask me in person and I'll tell you what I have in mind, but to paraphrase St. Paul, it's important not to scandalize those in our community who can be scandalized, even when we believe that we are acting within the bounds of our Christian Freedom (Cf. 1 Corinthians 8:9-12).

Anyway, today I'm just going to do what I have to do and get through the day. Tomorrow is a different story!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pot Luck

Assumption of the B.V.M.--Solemn Mass followed by Pot Luck. 12 hour day. Must go home. Wife waiting. More tomorrow...


Tuesday, August 14, 2007


P.S. No, we did not see the Gaasyendietha.



Betsy and I spent my day off yesterday sailing in the Inner Harbour with Alison, one of the SMM parishioners. She has a membership in a sailing club and was nice enough to take us out on a 15-foot Albacore. It was Betsy's first time, though I've been sailing a number of times over the years.

The wind was from the north, which makes for some strange and uneven patterns after it winds through sky scrapers and thermal affects in the city. At times we were barely moving and then a big gust would come up and two or three of would be scrambling up the gunwale to keep the boat from going over. We saw one boat in the distance go over and capsize. Alison, however, did a remarkable bit of work at the helm to compensate for the shifts in wind speed and direction, and it certainly made things interesting.

Of course, I wasn't going to take my Canon DSLR on the dinghy, so you all are going to have to settle for some photos I took on land...
Me next to an Albacore

Our skipper, Alison

Toronto skyline as seen from the Islands

Of course, one can say many things about the theology of sailing, but I'll save those for another post. Sometimes a good sail is just a good sail...


Sunday, August 12, 2007

hope, fear, and holy vigilance

This morning I had a hard time thinking up a sermon. The text seemed relatively straightforward--hope, fear, and holy vigilance. But it was hard to think of what to say without slipping into dangerous territory. As an Associate Priest you always have to worry about saying anything that can be perceived as being critical of the Rector, even when it isn't. It's a fine line to be the designated agent of change in the parish--hired specifically to grow the place--and yet not upsetting the status quo too much. Therefore it's easy to avoid Scylla on the one hand and Charybdis on the other by climbing the mast toward heaven. It would be interesting to do a study of the correlation between clergy stress and the level of spiritual abstraction in their preaching. Anyway, this morning I'm taking the safe route and talking about the way in which we are called to cultivate faith as a preparation for the unseen yet coming kingdom. Perfectly true Gospel, but not quite as hard-smacking as I would wish for my third-to-last sermon. On the spectrum between Prophetic and Pastoral, one often defaults to "Pastoral," I'm afraid. Probably that means I'm stressed out too much at the moment. But on the other hand, people really liked my sermon and thought is spoke to them. So one never really knows about these things! "The ways of the force are mysterious, young Skywalker."

Anyway, services went well. 95% of my singing was just about perfect. It was one of those morning when everything seemed to go just about right. A nice feeling to have as I lead worship in the waning days of tenure here.

True Torontonians will recognize this as a P-Meal Bacon
Sandwich from the St. Laurence Street Market


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Toronto Scenes

Here are few pics of my Toronto...

Betsy and I bought hot peppers this morning from
the St. Laurence Street Market

Here's Betsy on her bike (a classic Schwinn that was
my mother's) in front of the Bata Shoe Museum

Here is a Chartres-style labyrinth someone created
next to Honest Ed's

I find the labyrinth particularly intriguing. It's the sort of guerrilla spiritual art that I think is on the cusp of something important. Call it raids on the secular. I think I'm going to try some similar experiments near COTM once I arrive. Perhaps chalk art on the sidewalk out front inviting families in with a message that projects the image that we are spiritually engaged with the lives of children (which is quite true of COTM). Or maybe some kind of outdoor devotional stations? We'll see.

A paranoid schizophrenic I know asked me to bring her a book--perhaps Sophocles if I had any. So I graped a volume off my book shelf at home and gave it to this mentally ill acquaintance without much thought except that I was giving her what she asked for. She looked down at the title and said, "You brought me Oedipus Rex? Why did you have to bring me that??!" In a flash I remembered all her daddy issues and the paranoia and laughed internally at the stupidity of my decision. A comically bad choice. But the recipient of my gift appreciated the humor of the moment, too, and we laughed about it as we decided that she should skip Oedipus Rex and read Antigone, instead. Life is funny.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Ode to the TR-3

A few years before my parents got divorced, my father bought this 1962 Triumph TR-3B convertible. It was drivable when he bought it, but there was plenty to do to get and keep this beautiful beast in tip-top shape. I have many fond memories of working on this car with my father in the garage. He did nearly everything himself, opting for professional help only when the equipment or expertise were beyond him (such as when the body needed to be repainted or part of the frame re-welded). It was a dark period in my family's history--the divorce and then my mother and I moving back East to live with her parents in New Jersey. I was out of place and isolated in the rural Kansas school where I went and had few friends. I had a slightly better school experience in High School in New Jersey, but it wasn't until College that I really hit my social stride.

In the mean time there was always the Triumph. When my dad moved from Kansas to Seattle he decided to drive the TR the whole distance of the move. I was living in NJ already, but flew out to meet up with him in Denver. It was a real road-trip in a real roadster. I got sunburned on my already receding-hairline (at 16!). I even remember that I was reading an analysis of the leadership style of six famous generals as we drove. The Triumph was always one of the characters in the relationship between my father and myself.

It was also a link between my grandfather, my father, and myself. The first Moss TR-3 was purchased by my grandfather straight off the assembly line in England. He picked it up while on Vacation with his wife (Betsy) and then took it across the channel to France. He told me once that he got the sports car up to about 100 MPH on the Autobahn while Betsy was asleep next to him. He was a pilot and had a pilot's affection for going fast, but in control, in well engineered steel. He eventually gave or sold the car to my father, who gave it up only after a few years of marriage. The second Moss TR-3 had to wait until us kids were in school and out from under foot.

When my dad moved from Seattle to his parent's coffee farm in Hawai'i, he flirted with the idea of giving me the TR3, but discovered that it wasn't as expensive to ship it 2670 miles (4296 km) as he thought. The TR-3 was well suited to life at the Aina na Hoku Kai Farm: going down the mountain for quick shopping excursions and around the windy mountain roads for the monthly meetings of the Kona Coffee Council and the Kona Coffee Farmers Association. But when I last visited the farm about a year ago I noticed that the car was showing more wear and tear than he usually allowed, and I realized that he was probably not far from giving it up. I told him to let me buy it before anyone else. I got to take it out a few times on that trip with my Betsy. The other Betsy Moss would have been pleased.

On a Sunday trip to the local Episcopal Church (Christ Church, Kona) a local woman recognized it as a favorite car of her young adulthood. She was a stewardess for Pan Am (she even flew with "Captain Moss" a few times) and used to leave her TR3 in the airport parking lot for weeks at a time. She said it would always start up reliably. "I loved that car. I was so upset with my brother wrecked it." Small world.

So it was disappointing to learn from my dad last night that he had sold the TR-3 to a local friend after 20 years of proud ownership. He said that the opportunity arose to sell it to someone who would take care of it rather than some kid he was likely to get through a classified ad. He knew I would want it, but thought it was too much of a hassle to transport it across half the pacific and then most of the continent. I never had the chance to convince him otherwise, so another chapter closes in my personal history--a link to my forefathers and to the better parts of a troubled childhood.

Let's not get too sad about it. The troubles of my childhood are essential to the best parts of me now. If I hadn't gone through those years of pain I would probably be a computer programmer somewhere with a geeky hobby rather than a ninja priest chasing the Holy Ghost down the rabbit holes of ordained ministry (still with a geeky hobby, though). Or maybe I would have--who knows. Anyway, loss is loss.

Loss is also initiation into the world of adulthood. "When I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways," says Paul. Everybody has their pot of grief to stir. Carl Jung, among many others, believed that these kinds of experiences of loss were a necessary resource for mature life. I agree completely. Something about loss integrates us spiritually in a way that joy cannot. Very often, people who have experienced loss can have major strong ju-ju for healing others--not necessarily because they can empathize, but because their loss connects them to something beyond themselves. What's really cool is when you start talking about trans-personal grief--shared or inherited loss. Tie into those trunk lines to find serious emotional and spiritual wattage.

David Whyte, one of my favorite poets, uses the image of a "well of grief" whose murky depths must be explored in order to find the treasure concealed in the muddy earth below...
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface of the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear, nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown away by those who wished for something else.
--David Whyte "The Well of Grief" in Close to Home
That's the good stuff. That's what we lock away in the tabernacle behind the altar every week, the memory of our collective Christian grief at the death of Christ. The promise of communion.

Last night, I heard John Stewart challenge a Harvard professor of psychology who teaches people how to be happy about whether happiness is truly good for us. The professor didn't give an interesting answer, in my opinion. Because the truth is that grief does do some good things for us, yet how many have the courage to go that place unless they have no other choice?

So... good bye TR-3. You were a good friend. And we'll miss you.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Joshua leadership

Bishop Johnson, in his charge to Synod a few months ago, said the following:

If you need permission to start inviting people to your church, if you need permission to establish another service or to plant a church, you have got the permission now.
I found the whole speech to be an inspirational call to "be strong and courageous," as God told Joshua in the Bible Book that bears his name. I'm taking the people from Messiah seriously when they told me, "We are in attack mode," and I know that this mood is in alignment with Diocesan inclinations, as well. They want to see us do bold and courageous things for the sake of the Gospel. Perfect. I feel like I've been training for this for years. I suppose Joshua felt the same way, having been the XO (second in command) for 40 years under Moses. Actually, Joshua is an interesting leadership example much admired by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Douglas MacArthur.

It was a busy, 11-hour day for me today. Managed to make incremental progress on a multitude of fronts. Even managed to do some of those "extra" tasks that brighten people's days. For example, I burned a CD of the Women's Schola's concert a few weeks ago complete with a pretty label and gave a copy to each of the performers. It's not a superb quality CD, but it's certainly "good enough" for our amateur purposes. The bulk of my afternoon was spent doing pastoral care. I was pleased with how that session went, though I can't say much more than that for obvious confidentiality reasons.

There is a really interesting idea brewing in Megan's head for involving the children in a service at COTM on the 16th of Sept. I added a few touches and we are both getting excited by it. I'll say more when the idea has more momentum. It is exciting to already be talking about COTM stuff, though I must commit to memory Friedman's warning not to focus too much on new initiatives when beginning a new cure. Prioritize relationship!


Wednesday, August 8, 2007


I need to realize that I will never get as much done on a Wednesday as I can on a Tuesday or Thursday--which is weird considering that Tuesdays and Thursdays are often 12 hour work days for me, and a certain point your brain turns into mush. But by the time you get done with the 10 a.m. Mass and the coffee hour afterwards the morning is over and it's all damage control and catch up after that.

Here's a picture of the recent Corpus Christi Procession at SMM. Picture by Michael Hudson (yes, we bought permission). Call it Anglo-Catholicism does evangelism...

Just for fun, here's another pic from the same liturgy (also by Michael)...

I had a long conversation today about the Theodicy problem: why does a good God let bad things happen. I think ultimately much of the answer is to simply say that the potentiality for evil/badness is a necessary feature of a world where real choice is possible. It's not a totally satisfying answer, but it works for me for me today. Whenever I'm asked that I'm often tempted to explore the nature of the question itself, which seems at least as theologically problematic as any answer might be. Today as I was thinking about it I realized that I should ask my old professor and seminary mentor Rev'd Marilyn Adams about it. Now she's a ninja-priest if I ever met one! She was at Yale when I was there; now she's got the Regius Chair at Oxford. Truly one of the smartest priests I've ever met.

We have an offer out on our next "Rectory"--I really hope they accept. It would be nice to have that piece settled. And did I mention that the place comes with a HUGE HDTV?

COTM (Church of the Messiah) liturgy decisions are already coming up. That likely means fitting in another meeting between now and the end of the month to plan my arrival liturgy. Needs to be something colorful. I mentioned St. Gregory of Nyssa's Church to Megan and she immediately said something like, "I like umbrellas!" I doubt I'll be able to introduce those in my first week, but it's nice to have liturgical fantasies.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Christmas Cactus

On Sunday morning I found the following plant outside the church's side door...

With it it was a note addressed to "Christians" which read:
Christmas Cactus
for Christians
the Pine tree is
Sacrad (sic.) don't kill
it decorate
it out side
the house
talk to all
religions eat bread
of life and cherry juice
of love Jesus lived to
save us not died

Strange, huh? I have these kinds of encounters every few weeks (especially when I'm wearing my collar, for obvious reasons). But I think that it would be a mistake to dismiss this kind of thing as the work of some mentally ill person. Even if it is, it still expresses a coherent set of thoughts aimed at us "Christians." So let's parse this mysterious message a bit.

First of all, this business about the pine tree is interesting. I must admit some sympathy on that account, I'm not a big fan of killing trees for decoration, either, but this is really more a secular than religious custom. It's history likely dates to some pre-Christian pagan ritual that was co-opted by the Christians. We did that a lot, it's a pretty natural part of a new movement gaining ground in a culture. The Christian explanation (perhaps created after the fact as a justification for the popular custom) is that the evergreen tree represents new life--something green and living in otherwise sparse white landscape. Anyway, it seems rather innocent to me--we are all guilty of much more heinous environmental crimes. Note, by the way, that this note was written on white paper--probably not recycled...

The next thing I noticed is this instruction to "talk to all religions." Well, I think we do a fairly good job of that, on the whole. Certainly we talk with all the religions interested in dialog.

Then there is this curious eucharistic reference: "eat bread / of life and cherry juice / of love"--well that's rather nice.

And now we get to a more problematic theological claim: "Jesus lived to / save us not died." I'm not exactly sure what this means, but I guess that the author may be claiming that Jesus never died on the Cross. Curiously, I've encountered this belief quite a bit among people who wish to criticize Christianity through me. I remember a very nice German Buddhist who was convinced that Jesus was really an advanced Yogi who merely looked dead on the cross. I realized immediately that she had come up with this explanation to reconcile her newfound Buddhist faith with her culturally-Christian upbringing. What touches me about this story is that she returned the next day to apologize to me for attacking the foundations of my faith. Now there is humility!

Anyway, I think these folks that claim that Jesus never died on the cross are trying to make the whole Christian Easter story (aka the Pascal Mystery) less threatening by explaining it all away. Of course, this is one of the more unlikely explanations when you consider that the Roman executioners would be unlikely to be fooled by a man who was simply faking it. Nor is it likely that Jesus would have survived the spear thrust meant to confirm his demise. Nor does this explanation explain what happened to Jesus after his fake burial.

Anyway, to return to the note/present at hand--I'm reminded of something Edwin Friedman wrote: "Criticism is a form of pursuit." Meaning, this person is trying to engage us, somehow, but can't quite do so in person (nor even sign their note with a name). It's a hopeful sign. I know people who would take this as evidence that we Christians are besieged by a hostile society--but I fail to see how the gift of a plant is evidence of hostility.


knots and such

Kind of quiet day off for Betsy and me. We spent much of it walking around Toronto for no good reason except exercise and something to do. We finished the evening with a trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario for showing of a masterpiece of Russian cinema: Andreiv Rublev by Andrei Turkovsky. This version was about
3 1/2 hours long
! That's a long time to spend in 15th Century Russia!

I've been getting some nice compliments about that Capital Campaign flyer I've been working on. I still have some small tweaks to make, but it's close to done. The Pax Christi Chorale website is very close to being ready, also. I'll probably go live with it whether or not it's completely finished tomorrow or the next day.

Don't ask me why, but lately I've been reviewing/learning rope knots. I already knew all the basic Boy-Scout level type stuff, but I've added some new ones--The Trucker's Hitch, for example, which is very handy. Check out Grog's website if you are into such things. I'm particularly pleased with the Chain Sennet and the Alpine Butterfly. Basic knots that I never bothered to memorize. Anyway, it's been fun to play with these.


Sunday, August 5, 2007


Continuing my recent habit of posting interesting religious art...

Still From Bill Viola's Video Installation
Catherine's Room

What's interesting about Catherine's Room is that it seems to explore the life of an ascetic. We watch as Catherine does yoga, studies, prays, and sleeps in her cell. That reminds me, I really need to read a book on my shelf called The Contemplative Pastor before I start at Messiah. I'll put in on the list.

Also need to reread Edwin Friedman's chapter on leaving and entering congregational systems in Generation to Generation. I just reviewed it a few minutes ago and was so impressed that I think I'm going to make a copy and give it to the Wardens at COTM. Among other things he notes that it's important to control one's own emotional reactivity (as opposed to emotional responsiveness) while allowing it in others. It also important to be non-anxiously involved in the transition process and to stay in touch after separation (but continue to de-triangle). It's good advice from one of the foremost thinkers in this kind of thing.

Edwin Friedman

Church went well today. I sang a pretty good Eucharistic Prayer 4 all the way through (including the words of institution, etc.). Sermon was okay at 8 and 9.30, superb at 11. Usually I peak at 9.30, so that was a little different.

Now I need to go meet with my Realtor. I'll do another post tomorrow or Tuesday!


Saturday, August 4, 2007

Sermon Prep

It will probably surprise no one that I do a lot of my sermon prep by surfing the net looking for relevant and interesting things. Today I came across this picture on the website for the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts project. It was part of the Image and Likeness exhibit.
Susan Tilt
Transfiguration: Dwellings

The Feast of the Transfiguration takes place on Monday, and we are doing little to mark it here at SMM besides the usual daily Mass. We usually only do one big weekday Solemn Mass a month; August's being The Assumption of the Virgin Mary on the 15th. Too bad for the Transfiguration, which is a very "preachable" feast: a feast, possibly, for our times. It speaks to the tension between the command to go out and serve those in need (cf. Luke 10:25-37)and the impulse to sit and adore Christ (cf. Luke 10:38-42). It's great that those two parables come back-to-back, and the key to understanding their relationship may be in what our Lord says at the beginning of the first pericope: the law is to Love God with your entire being and your neighbor as yourself. That's a HUGE "and."

Looking to Sunday's Lectionary Texts, "Paul" is not much of a help. He pushes us toward celestial life: "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2-3). (Of course, this might not have been written by Paul. Raymond Brown said that there is a slightly greater probability that it was written by one of his disciples rather than by Paul. About 60% of biblical scholars think it wasn't Paul. But I'm not sure how important it is to answer that question, anyway.)

The Gospel text for Sunday (Luke 12:13-21) seems to also skew us towards detachment from earthly things. Disputes about Money, J.C. says, are foolish. Reminds me of Mary (Magdalene?) who anoints our Lord's feet with oil (Luke 7:37ff // Matthew 26:6ff // John 12:3ff). Judas argues that the money could have been spent on the poor, but Jesus validates the prophetic and devotional character of her witness.

So I suppose throwing ourselves into the task of service to the world in Christ's name is not sufficient, somehow. There has to be a piece of us that addresses God.

The mistake the Rich Fool makes is to believe that his wealth had spiritual value. In the parable God addresses him harshly: "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" (Luke 12:20). I think that God addresses this dude because this dude failed to address God. When Jesus gives the two great commandments he phrases the first in a way that implies real devotion and focus and submission to God. Whereas the neighbor love business is spoken of in much more balanced way (love your neighbor as yourself). Our relationship to our neighbor somehow exists within an ethical bubble created by healthy self-regard, but the love we owe to God is something much more extreme. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind" (Luke 10:27a).

Neighbor-love needs a healthy ego. You have some kind of self-love in order to love others properly. God-love seems to require the surrender of self-regard--the utter and perfect orientation to God (cf. The Cloud of Unknowing). Think of Martha's sister Mary sitting at Jesus' feet and staring up at him with rapt attention. I think of some moments I've had with prayer like that--sitting and reveling the presence of God. I've actually felt my skin tingle and vibrate at the sheer ecstasy of pure orientation to God.
Let not, therefore, but travail therein till thou feel list. For at the first time when thou dost it, thou findest but a darkness; and as it were a cloud of unknowing, thou knowest not what, saving that thou feelest in thy will a naked intent unto God. This darkness and this cloud is, howsoever thou dost, betwixt thee and thy God, and letteth thee that thou mayest neither see Him clearly by light of understanding in thy reason, nor feel Him in sweetness of love in thine affection. And therefore shape thee to bide in this darkness as long as thou mayest, evermore crying after Him that thou lovest. For if ever thou shalt feel Him or see Him, as it may be here, it behoveth always to be in this cloud in this darkness. And if thou wilt busily travail as I bid thee, I trust in His mercy that thou shalt come thereto.

That stuff gives me the chills, it touches so close to the bone of the matter.

Anyway, I've preached all this already. I need to find the new level. I return to the relationship with the congregation. What will be the character and content of my relationship to the people of SMM tomorrow morning? How is it affected by my departure at the end of the month? Should I spend these last few sermons summing up my teaching here? Shall I spend it processing the emotional consequences of my move?

What does this Gospel say? That the world is melting away? That we shouldn't hold onto the labors at hand as though they were permanent? Certainly it feels like the fruits of my labors in the SMM vineyard are about to fade away. What's my legacy going to be?

These thoughts have taken me to an emotional place that feels similar to nostalgia and holy melancholy. It's not grief for things lost, but a piercing awareness of a pastor's love. Nothing mushy or sentimental about it. It's quite sharp. The kind of love that makes the lover frustrated with and proud of the beloved at the same time. I want to aim my bow strung with Mary-like devotional intention not to the clouds above, but towards the Christs in the pews. I want to tell them how much I long for them to touch God. How to do that in a way that won't scare the hell out of them???

I suppose the gift I have to give is the disclosure of a naked and unembarrassed "intent unto God." That's half of the Gospel. It's the in-breath we take before we read it aloud. The out-breath contains the second half of the Gospel: the revelation of God's action.

So what does that look like? Passionate, sure. Eschatological, sure. A love that urges the beloved into being in the fullest sense themselves. I must grasp hold of that vision of the kingdom people they are destined to become. I must preach towards that. (Why look backward to a Christian society that once was? Let the dead bury the dead. I want kingdom come preaching!)

Sigh. I'll stop here, else this post becomes ridiculously long. Right now it's just a snap shot of how my preaching is evolving for tomorrow. Hopefully the Holy Spirit will come between now and tomorrow to fill in the gaps....


Friday, August 3, 2007

Spiegel Tent

I got a late start to the day, which is what I do to compensate for the 12-hour work day I did on Thursday. I imagine that next week I'm going to have to go into insane work mode and do a bunch of days with those kind of hours in order to clear some of these projects off my desk before I back up my office at the end of the month.

I had my usual singing lesson with Halley today. My voice is kind of tired, which means that I'm talking too much, and also that I'm not talking properly. She wants to learn to use a different placement of my voice for my regular speaking, somewhere closer to where I sing. She also gave me a new chromatic scale drill to do. We also spent some of our time talking about various church music issues and ideas. It's good times.

I don't think I mentioned that a week ago Friday Betsy and I had another couple went to the Spiegel Tent show down by the Toronto waterfront. It's a very unusual theatrical experience: a burlesque tent from the 1920's transported from Europe and set up next lake Ontario. The tent isn't as big as you might imagine, but the intimate size works well since everyone feels like they are sharing in something special. The show itself was rather like an old fashioned vaudeville experience--mixing acrobatics, comedy, dancing, music, and even burlesque. It probably wouldn't get more than a PG-13 rating if it were a movie, but what made it so great was the shear energy and excitement of the crowd and performers in the tent. And it helps that they serve food and alcohol, too. It was a blast, the kind of thing I do again except that the show closes August 12 (having been extended twice already).

Betsy and I used to see a fair amount of theater in New Haven, and I'm looking forward to catching more here in Toronto. There is plenty good theater to catch, for sure.

Friends are coming over tonight--I'm not sure what Betsy's plans for supper include...


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Projects Projects Projects

Here is a picture of Megan Jull--the Lay Associate Pastor at Church of the Messiah....

We had a long lunch to talk about the church and where what we are going to do first. By all accounts she done a remarkable piece of pastoral work in the last year or so keeping the place together, and she will be an invaluable resource as I move into my role in the place. Alas, she will be departing from COTM (Church of the Messiah) at the end of December for the happiest of reasons (she's expecting). After that she will probably be going to parts unknown to continue to pursue ordination. She certainly has the gifts for it, so I'm sure she'll do well.

One of the things are thinking of doing is grabbing Matthew (Director of Music and Liturgical Arts) and going on a leadership retreat. Two or three days of meeting and praying ought to really move things along nicely. They say that going on vacation with a boyfriend or girlfriend accelerates a relationship--in the same a nice retreat can accelerate the team discernment process.

The Capital Campaign flier is coming along nicely. Rob Castle, SMM Warden, has had helpful feedback. Should be ready in the next day or two.

Betsy and I looked at another possible "Rectory," but decided that we liked one that we saw last week better. So now that we've decided on a property our Realtor, Fran, will help us negotiate the deal. The place we are looking at is gorgeous. It will be fantastic for entertaining. I'll have to have an open house in September and then regular parish events frequently after that, as well. Perhaps football parties in NFL season? (I have a hard time taking the CFL seriously, I must admit, it just reminds me too much of High School sports.)

Tons of other projects on the books, but I do feel like I'm getting some stuff done in my days....


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Half of today was consumed between Morning Prayer, saying Mass, and then participating in the fellowship after the Mass. Attendance at the Wednesday Mass is kind of soft because it's summer: only seven of us today. But I'm sure the rafters are crowded with the angels and archangels.

The other half of the day was mostly filled up with two print projects: an ad for The Whole Note and a very complex flier to publicize the SMM Capital Campaign. Interesting how it only took me half a day to get a pretty good result--my skills with Adobe Creative Suite have really improved in the last two years. I left a hard copy for Fr. Harold to look over before his vacation. I'm also getting feedback from one of the Wardens.

It falls under evangelism, but in an ideal world we'd have volunteers doing this. On the other hand, asking volunteers to do this kind of thing can be tricky. Even if you find someone with the right expertise and a willingness to take direction, projects often take a lot longer when volunteers are involved. Just the sheer effort of coordinating the project between the various players can take months in the church environment when it would only take days in the business world. In seminary they teach you that volunteer recruitment and management is one of the most challenging and important tasks in running a church. Unfortunately, they gave us very little training in this regard.

Anyway, I was thinking about this volunteer issue yesterday evening as Betsy and I took a walk by The Messiah. I could see that many of the bushes and shrubs on the Avenue Road side of the building need some TLC. Probably some kind of Saturday Work-party is in order. I'll have to discover what the volunteer culture at Messiah is like. It's actually a relief that everytime I look into the details of the place I see things that I would like to address or change. That's good, because I'd hate to arrive and have a hard time coming up with things to do!

Tomorrow I'm having a lunch meeting with Megan Jull. She is the Lay Pastoral Associate at Messiah. By all accounts she has done an amazing bit of pastoral work there in the last year or two. She has amazing passion for the place and has developed deep pastoral intimacy with many (if not most) of the people there. So I'm sure we are going to have a great conversation.