Thursday, January 31, 2008

Playing with God

I had lunch today with the Rector of a nearby church. We see eye-to-eye on many issues having to do with how to do ministry in our various contexts and find it mutually rewarding to share with each other. I know people that don't know how to have these kinds of conversations, and that makes me sad for them. How can you learn if you can't listen? Not that I'm always such a great listener, but at least I try.

I've been trying to understand some of the things that made the conference so exhilarating for me. It's not just that I learned some new techniques or listened to some interesting ideas. I think that what really, really turned me on was playing with God. My own spiritual temperament has always been keen on holy play, but somewhere in my training for ministry I learned that you're not supposed to be that way when you are leading worship. It's serious, life or death business that requires concentration and intentionality and focus. This sort of liturgical theology is closely tied, IMHO, with notions of worship-as-sacrifice. I know priests that say that the primary value of the saying the Office is that it is a sacrifice of time. They feel good about the fact that there are million things that they would rather be doing. That it be prayer is besides the point in this theology.

So lately I've been breaking that open by exploring play in my private devotional life. That is, I've been praying the Office in a manner that plays with God. I'm just messing around as I experiment with singing or by sitting in a different place or burning incense or whatever else might come to mind. The point here is that I am giving myself permission to be expressive. What could be more "correct" than that?

I'm not saying everyone should pray crazy--I'm just saying it's working for me this week!


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another Example of Paperless Singing

Here's another example of Paperless singing--this time it's Marilyn Haskel (from St. Paul's Chapel, NYC, and Church Publishing) teaching the conference group a Fraction Anthem she composed...

Between these two clips I think you can begin to hear what this is about. I especially like the way you can hear the energy of the group. Note how we self-corrected as went along. Neat...


An Example of Paperless Singing

People near me have been hearing me froth about the singing we did at the Conference, so here's a quick clip of what it sounds like in person. Keep in mind, we had never sung this piece before, and we didn't have any paper in front of us with the words or notes. Emily Scott (who overlapped Betsy and me at YDS/ISM), the Director of Worship at Riverside Church, simply stood up and taught one half of the room one part and the other half the second part and then put it together. Cool, heh?


Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I really love what they did with the classic vestry mirror. This is where us clergy love to look at our pretty selves all dressed up for the party. At St. Gregory's they etched the poem below into the mirror to use as the "Vesting Prayer" they say before every service...

HOLINESS on the head,
Light and perfection on the breast,
Harmonious bells below raising the dead
To lead them unto life and rest.
Thus are true Aarons drest.*

Profaneness in my head,
Defects and darkness in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest :
Poor priest ! thus am I drest.

Only another head
I have another heart and breast,
Another music, making live, not dead,
Without whom I could have no rest :
In Him I am well drest.

Christ is my only head,
My alone only heart and breast,
My only music, striking me e'en dead ;
That to the old man I may rest,
And be in Him new drest.

So holy in my Head,
Perfect and light in my dear Breast,
My doctrine tuned by Christ (who is not dead,
But lives in me while I do rest),
Come, people ; Aaron's drest.
-George Herbert

Nice, heh? Beats the heck out of the traditional vesting prayers. I used the old ones for a few years (even before serving at the Anglo-Catholic St. Mary Mag's), but find the theology to be somewhat out of synch with where I am now (a bit too donatist). So lately I just make something up as I vest, but I really like the idea of etching the mirror with something like this....


A Few Pictures

Here are a few of the hundred-some pictures I took during my time in San Francisco...
That's Sara Miles, who founded the St. Gregory's Food Bank, talking to us about the healing power of touch
Here's the Lectern at St. Greg's--
note the similarity to a Jewish Bimah
A few of the dancing saints...
A display of some of their liturgical umbrellas
This the Vestry Mirror--
Note the poem "Aaron" by George Herbert etched in
On a field trip to St. John's, Mission District--
note the lack of pews
Field trip to Grace Cathedral
At the beach with some friends
The ocean
More ocean

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Last Day

The conference wrapped up today. In the morning we met at Grace Cathedral to look at some of their worship spaces and talk about how they work and don't work. Side note, Grace has famously bad acoustics for speaking (huge reverb) and recently invested in a new sound system based on the same technology that I advocated for SMM--linear array speakers. They are so thin (about 3 inches) as to be virtually invisible against the columns, but thanks to sophisticated digital sound processing they create an incredibly articulate perception of the spoken word. I hear that SMM did get a new sound system, but I havedn't heard it.

Anway, after spending some time at Grace we went back to St. Greg's and experienced their famous food pantry first hand. They typtically distribute food to about 500 people, and what's really interesting is that this ministry supports itself entirely thanks to a few key gifts and low overhead. It's only costs about $1 per person, and they can raise that easily enough. so at this point they have used the extra money they raise to found 14 other food pantries throughout the city. It's an amazing story worth more desciprtion, but suffice it to say that they are clearly doing God's word and it's a beautiful to behold. The stories of how this ministry has changed people's lives can easily move you to tears to hear.

Afer that we spent time listening to each other talk about change how it can transform communtities in amazing ways. After that there was time to reflect as a group about what we had been through, and then it was over. Now I have another few days to enjoy SF and then it's back to Toronto. So much to share when I get there. These last few days have been amazing!


Thursday, January 24, 2008


My friends are going through the rituals necessary to put their 3-year-old to bed, so I'll make some comments about the day.

Equipment I brought with me....
  1. Video Camera
  2. Digital Camera
  3. Digital Audio Recorder
  4. GPS
  5. Cell Phone

I know--I'm a nerd. But I'm a nerd who is coming back to Toronto with lots of material to share. For example, I recorded a fascinating talk about how to lead "paperless" congregational singing. This stuff is amazing to experience, and recording it will make it much easier to share with others!

Morning Prayer this morning was neat. I found singing the Gospel improvisationally be as amazing as I hoped. I was able to find an emotional center in some sections, and that is very cool to convey with voice.

We spent some time in our conference sessions working on improv. At one point we were put into small groups with the task of acting out short snippets of assigned Gospel stories--and we couldn't use words at all, not even as we planned what to do. The idea was to convey the emontional content of these stories without relying on traditional narrative. The results were stunning. I ended up playing the Good Samaritan, and as I collapsed to the ground having been struck, I had moment of really inhabiting that role.

From there we ended up doing some work around how to "land" your communications. That is, there is a subtle way in which an actor or preacher can "land" his words on the people in the congregation. This is the opposite of the kind of preaching where eye contact is considered a good embelishment of a act which is still really about conveyance of the written word. This is advanced teaching, and yet totally intuitive. I think it's something people respond to in my preaching even when the "understandings" I convey are not particularly profound or remarkable.

there is much more to say--I'll be reflecting on this trip for a long time, I think. Good thing I brought plenty of equipment to capture some of it.


Live From SF

I'm exhausted, so this will have to be a short post...

The conference is blowing my mind. It's about 40 energetic, creative, and bold folks from all over North America (Oklahoma, Vancouver, Indiana, New York, etc.). The content of the talks and the exercises are interesting enough, but then there is the Spirit in which we do them. It's incredibly inspiring and prayerful and playful and supportive. I have many stories to tell. It's revolutionizing my approach to some key aspects of the liturgy--but it will have to wait as I'm increibly tired and have to get up by 6 A.M. to make to Morning Prayer at St. Greg's. BTW, Morning Prayer is compeletely a lay initiative at St. Greg's. They have four to about fourteen people show up every morning to pray--how many parishes can claim that kind of corporate prayerfulness? And tomorrow I'm on to chant the Gospel lesson as the morning reading IMPROVISATIONALLY! We're not talking doing the stardard chant tones from the back of the Altar Book--we're talking about doing sometime much more free-flowing and expressive. And you know what, it feels really, really good. It's incredbily liberating to sing what you feel as you read the words and not be thinking at all about what you are "supposed" to be singing. This is something my voice teacher has been talking about for ages--chant as elevated speech.

Time for bed. It's all blessings. God is good, etc.!


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dear Anonymous...

My last post elicited an incredibly angry response from some reader who refuses to reveal himself or herself--so I've exercised the right to moderate comments and deleted it. I may repost it later to comment on it, but basically the writer thinks that my choice to observe MLK was the evidence of a kind of trendiness that is not theologically orthodox enough. I wouldn't mind someone making such an argument in a reasonably civil way, but the pure venom of it was simply unworthy of Christian community.

Christians can have arguments, but I'm not going to spar with someone who doesn't have the moral courage to reveal his or her identity. It seems to me that this person is more interested in making me look stupid than engaging in a real conversation--so I've disabled anonymous comments and will screen comments before they appear on this blog in the future.

So if this person wants to have a grown up conversation, then I'll discuss why I thought recognizing a 20th Century Martyr (who has a statue in Westminster Abbey, of all bastions of Anglicanism) was liturgically justified. Otherwise, keep it to yourself!


MLK Sunday

This morning we celebrated Martin Luther King in church. MLK isn't on the Anglican Calendar of Saints, but he should be. He's on the American church's calendar as well as various others, so I felt we were on solid ground recognizing his feast as a local custom. The service itself was excellent. Matthew went all out in organizing the music and trying some new things. The Prelude, for instance, consisted of an LCD Projection of MLK's "I have a dream" speech on the wall behind the altar while the choir sang "We Shall Overcome." Very nice.

My sermon went well (and wasn't dogmatic in the pejorative sense at all). Here it is:

Now I'm going to watch some football. I've got a long flight tomorrow...

Anonymous Notes

This morning I found this anonymous note in a place where I would find it:
Any sermon, or just dogmatics??

I suppose this was left by someone who doesn't care for my preaching style, though I don't think of what I do as being very dogmatic. It's not a very stinging criticism. It's also possible that this was left by someone from the AA group that meets in the space on Saturday nights.

From time to time I get these kinds of critical notes, I suspect most pastors do, too. The usual advice given about these things is that you should ignore any anonymous criticism, because if you let it change the way you do things than you create a very toxic and passive-aggressive kind of dynamic. So I'm doing to ignore this one, too, but I wanted to post it here just because it's an interesting artifact of parish ministry.


Friday, January 18, 2008

On Telling Stories

Susan, on her blog This Passage, quotes this wonderful bit from Elie Wiesel's The Gates of the Forest.
“When Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov saw misfortune threatening…it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and misfortune averted. When his disciple, Magid of Mezritch, had occasion to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say, Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer.” Again, the miracle would be accomplished. Later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov, in order to save the people, would go into the forest and say, “I do not know how to light the fire. I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient.” Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, head in his hands, he spoke to God: “I am unable to light the fire. I do not know the prayer. I cannot find the place in the forest. All I can do is tell the story, and this must be sufficient.”
And it was sufficient.
God made man because He loves stories.
--Elie Wiesel

Isn't that great? Reminds of the Desert Fathers, naturally.


Church Signage...

Does this sign look familiar to my regular blog readers?

Back in December I saw an article on amusing church signs in The Times that had a picture of that same message on a different church sign. One of my faithful readers then pointed out that it was a fake, which made me feel pretty gullible. But now we have this message appearing again, this time for real. What's especially amusing about the message this time is that it was probably inspired by the appearance of the fake sign on the web!

Anyway, the real sign apparently caused some woman in Brampton to be annoyed enough to raise a fuss. Read about it in The Star.

Momentum Recap

The Momentum retreat was as rewarding as ever. It's a real luxury to meet with colleagues so often (either every month or every other month) for so long (this our third year). We've developed deep trust and understanding.

This session was about church management issues. Among other things, we spent several hours learning about how do the Annual Church Vestry Meeting. Ours will be at the end of February. There is a lot to do before then, especially since this year we are instituting a number of new projects/initiatives. For instance, I'm going to reconstitute the Advisory Board (aka Parish Council). That means recruiting people of good will to lend some of their time and talent.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Church Politics Explained

I doubt I'll be able to blog much in the next two days as I'll be away on a Momentum Retreat, so here's another post of dubious (but amusing) value:

This is, of course, by Dave Walker and used with a license. Dave has been asked to be the "Cartoonist in Residence" at this year's Lambeth Conference, which should produce some interesting results. Lambeth is a meeting of the Anglican Bishops that happens every ten years where they get to argue with each other about who is most faithful to the Gospel (or, at least, it seems to be heading that way).


St. Paul's Chapel

Preparing for the conference next week, I came across this essay by Donald Schell (co-founder of St. Greg's, SF) about the recent "Music that Makes Community" conference at St. Paul's Chapel, Manhattan. St. Paul's has become a 9/11 shrine site that attracts many pilgrims, and the response of the place to this ministry is remarkable. Here's a quote from Donald's essay...

Last week that’s where twenty of us, clergy and church music leaders from around the country were making music, specifically developing a practice of the most traditional and modern kind of church music – singing we learn by ear and by heart, singing without books. All day our workshop sessions, our worship and even our mid-day meal was at the center of a swirling sea of people, all of America, the world. When we were singing we could feel the music touch them (and sometimes we forgot they were there and lost ourselves in music-making and praise). Sometimes we saw curiosity, joy or even healing on people’s faces. It came in swells, both for us and in their response. Sometimes they walked with their backs to us, continuing their quiet murmur of background conversation as they surveyed the 9/11 displays and the story of workers and a city who turned the terrorist attack into a sign of mutual support and courage. Then a piece of sacred song, something hearty or haunting, maybe some improvised bluesy jazz on a text from the Bible, or even our laughter at a shared discovery, something drew their attention and they were with us in church – both the community of people and the place of worship. So it went all day, hundreds of people an hour and flashes of grace and glory as our little group joined our Public Work to Trinity’s. (source)

This notion of church as holy place of calm in the midst of swirling and sometimes confused pilgrims is a compelling manifestation of a usually invisible dynamic. I think it's an image for our age's version of urban ministry. Part of what really impresses me about what St. Paul's Chapel is doing right now is this thing about developing unique liturgical expressions that are relevant to their exact circumstances. I'm anxious to learn more about this musical style that is emerging there.

Wow, next week is going to be mind blowing. I can't wait to spend four days talking liturgy and leadership with some people that have real wisdom and experience. It's going to be fantastic!


Up on the Roof

I was up on the roof today to investigate the leak in the day care. Here are two pictures from there...


More Thoughts on the Magi

For some reason, the Episcopalian blogsphere has had a lot of interesting material about the Magi recently. One of the blogs I regularly read, On Not Being a Sausage, is maintained by Deirdre Good, Professor of New Testament at General Theological Seminary, NYC. She points out this interesting article on another Christian blog that has an insight about the story of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents in Matthew's Gospel (emphasis mine)....

The unfortunate massacre took place because the Magi initially searched for God in the wrong place. When they initially targeted their search to Palestine they decided that the final identification could be made with the assistance of the rich and the powerful.

The Christian community has traditionally considered these children as martyrs and as Saints and commemorate this sad event as Childermas, Children's Mass or Holy Innocents' Day. In the gospel the massacre of the holy innocents comes after the story of the Magi. Yet the western church's marking of that date coming after Christmas on the 28th of December and before celebrating the Epiphany in January 6th seems almost to hide this story away – almost as if it would be rather bad taste to have such a sad unpleasant story spoiling the celebration of Christmas and Epiphany.
So by conveniently separating this sad event and the celebrations of Epiphany, we risk losing the holistic understanding of the consequences of Epiphany. By sanctifying and elevating to sainthood the massacred children we cannot sanitise the fact that the martyred children were victims of raw human greed for power and control and their massacre was the horrific consequence of wise people searching for God and salvation in the wrong place. (source)

I know not everyone gets the whole blog thing, but I do love scanning the web for gems like this. Blogging is a great way to cast crumbs on the water.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Ordinations Round 2

Sunday morning worship was very nice. My sermon went well. One person commented that he liked being told that being Baptized requires him to change his life. I think he's probably right that sermons don't require as much from congregations as they once did. We tend to do a lot more explaining and exploring and not so much convicting and commissioning. Anyway, here it is...

Tay's Sermon for Baptism of the Lord 2008
Incidentally, the original story about the guys trying to pass their dead friend off as alive to cash his social security check can be found here.
After the service at COTM I went to Belmont House to do a ecumenical Christian service--this is different from the mid-week Anglican Communion service that is struggling so much. The Sunday service gets a decent crowd no matter who's leading it. I gave pretty much the same sermon as I had at COTM, and people really liked it, especially that one's that could hear me. One of the Nurse's Aides nearly lost it completely when I said that the two guys who wheeled their friend's corpse to the local check cashing place probably weren't married because spouses keep us from doing stupid things like that.

After Belmont House I went down to Redeemer for the priesting of two friends of mine, Greg Carpenter and Andrew Federle. The service was lovely, and it's always moving to watch someone go through it. I also enjoyed seeing a number of friends, including Stephanie Martin and Bruce Kirkpatrick Hill and some old friends of Betsy's that she first met in Brooklyn, NY, many years ago. Everyone was is good spirits.

Speaking of Ordinations, I have to say that I think it's a shame that this Diocese no longer allows ordinands to prostrate themselves. The last time it was done was an ordination at the Cathedral a few years ago. Some low-church folks were so upset as to petition the bishops, who agreed to disallow the practice (or so I've heard). Prostration has an ancient history as a posture of prayer--right up there with the Orans Position and the more common palms-together fingers pointed upward posture. It was an important part of my prayer practice long before I was ordained. It's an incredible experience to lie on your face in front of an altar and surrender yourself completely to "a naked intention unto God" (as The Cloud of Unknowing puts it). I remember particularly when I was living in Los Angeles and was having a very difficult time I lavished attention on my prayer life. I had the keys to an Episcopal Church in Inglewood, Holy Faith, and would say the Offices with the OHC Breviary in the side chapel. There was a copy of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the wall opposite the choir stall, and sometimes I would bring fresh roses to put there as an act of devotion.

When things got really, really bad, I spent hours doing various prayers and litanies and meditations. Sometimes I would just lie prostrate in the chancel yearning for the peace of the Holy Spirit. I suppose my prayers were answered because things did get better for me in LA, and by the time I left the city I was ready for seminary.

When one Ordinand asked me about prostration many months ago, I suggested that she could spend some of the vigil night before her ordination in prostration (I did). Ah yes, that was a night! I recited all 150 Psalms under St. John's approving stained-glass gaze. I prayed and I prayed and I worried. I fretted about whether I would be a good priest and whether I had enough faith and a million other things. How far that night seems to me now.

So when twenty-odd priests put their hands on dear Greg and Andrew, I hope they felt something of the connection they have with all of us who have felt God's calling. The whole church has struggled and prayed and fretted to incarnate God's love for thousands of years. If that doesn't make you want to prostrate yourself, I don't know what would!


Saturday, January 12, 2008


There is an article in today's Globe and Mail about the struggle of mainline churches to survive in the city. It has a nice big picture of my friend, Diocesan Consultant Simon Bell, wandering around the Cathedral like he's never been there before! This is amusing enough, but towards the end of the article another friend of mine, Jeff Kennedy (Rector of St. Matthias) is quoted saying, "I will bless anything presented to me at the liturgy."

Of course, Jeff would have said this with perfect deadpan humor, and I'm not sure that comes through in print, but it makes me laugh just to imagine it. I'm tempted to compile a list of the 10 most absurd/amusing things someone might present to Jeff to bless in the liturgy!


Friday, January 11, 2008

The Tao of the Furnace Room

Today was a full day. As usual for a Friday I spent a significant amount of time doing work around the parish finances. We are ending the year on a very positive note, but so much has changed from 2006 to 2007 to 2008 that coming up with good budget estimates is tricky. But since the budget is really a policy document, it's important to spend time on getting it right. That means looking at the data and making comparisons and plans and so forth.

The usefulness of "metrics" in ministry is debatable. It's easy to get caught up in data because it's much easier than prayer or relationships. And it's also nearly impossible to measure things like "discipleship" or "prayerfulness" or spiritual growth. Yet on the other hand, it's foolish to ignore the data when it's available. For instance, the contributions have risen every year (by 33% over the last four years)! Now that tells me good things about the stewardship here, or it could just mean that the parish had a lot of extra expenses and giving rose in response. Anyway, my point is simply that there is lots of insight about the parish to be gained by looking at numbers like these.

Then I spent about an hour working on getting the Bell Tower Room turned into a "Vestry." Of course, it's not just moving the vestments in that makes it a Vestry. the best vestry rooms provide the clergy with a sense of peace and prayerfulness as they prepare to lead worship. So it probably is going to need a few icons and cross and a place to sit down and so forth. Recently that room has become a kind of catch-all storage space, so there is still a lot to move out.

My singing lesson with Hallie in the early afternoon went well. She says my pitch matching ability and control are continuing to get better, but my strength and endurance have declined since I left SMM. That's not a surprise--I'm singing a lot less since I came COTM, but that doesn't mean I should quit working at it. Anyway, Hallie is going to give me a piece of music to learn for a recital. The important part, to her, is that it not be Church music!

After that I met with a furnace salesman to talk about a new furnace and water heater system for the Rectory. I'm not exactly an expert in this kind of thing, but it's role, not competency, that is the main source of authority in ordained ministry! Is God is the boiler room? Probably, but I didn't any signs of Him. No BVM or Face of Jesus to be seen in the dust, I'm afraid! I suppose I could have tried praying in the basement while I waited for the furnace guy, but that's hard to do when you don't know how long you will be waiting. What is the spirituality of building maintenance?

On my way back to the church I stopped at a local gym I'm thinking of joining. They gave me a tour and all that. Seems like a nice place, I just have to decide whether I'm ready to make the commitment to actually work out. No doubt doing so would make a number of people in my life very pleased (including God, I suspect).

Now I'm in my office doing some e-mail and other necessary tasks. Tomorrow the roofer is coming by to look at the leak in the church and then I have some other meetings and things to do... Such is my ministry...


The Burning of the Greens

My Sister's church, St. James', Leesburg, VA, has a tradition of burning the Christmas Greens on Epiphany. Here's a neat video about it by the Washington Post:

It's a good example of the way a church can use a ritual to adapt what's at hand (old Christmas trees and a parishioner's farm) to create meaning for the community. I especially like what the kids have to say: "It's not really about the snacks and stuff."


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Gradual Progress

This morning started out with a sparsely attended service at Belmont House (one of the local retirement homes). I'm very concerned about the fact that we get such a low turnout (2-4 people) while the other Anglican churches that do midweek services there get a very high turn out (more like 30). Unfortunately, after my predecessor left COTM, one of the priests that did ministry on the church's behalf drove a lot of people away. I think the only way I can save this service is just to be myself and be patient and hope people start coming back. Sigh.

For lunch I met with the Rector of one the cardinal parishes in the area. He's a nice guy with a thriving ministry. He had some good insights and advice to offer--most of it stuff I've already been thinking about--yet it's nice to have your ideas validated and nuanced by people wiser than yourself. He told me that things are going to get both much harder and more rewarding in the next few years--that sounds right. I should not expect fast results. I had the blue cheese salad. Yum.

Susy B. stopped by with the sketches in my previous post. I'm very happy about that--these things are coming along.

Some of the administrative issue that were the bane of my existence earlier in the week have been moved forward, that means I can address some of the other urgent projects and people that need my attention for the rest of today.


Mural Project Sketches

Susy came by today and delivered the latest sketches of the children's mural we are planning for the children's education room. These are now at a stage where we feel comfortable sharing them widely, so here they are...

These will go on the West and East ends of the room, respectively. I'm very happy about the progress she has made. If we do this and replace the lights and the carpet, that room will look fantastic! I love the message it sends: kids are important and deserve good things, too. Certainly I can't imagine replacing all the nave chairs and repainting the sanctuary without doing something similar for the Sunday School!

So now I just have to raise some money....

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Anglican Bloggers

The ever amusing Dave Walker has created a Facebook group for "Anglican Bloggers." He made this cartoon to illustrate...

They already have 278 members--though I doubt all of them have blogs! A quote from Dave:
By the way I have drawn the people in the cartoon wearing cassocks as I am assuming we all wear cassocks when blogging and commenting. In fact I tend to wear a dressing gown, which is a short cassock made from towelling material. (source)
I must admit that I don't usually wear a cassock while blogging, but I do usually wear slippers in the office, which are like dressing gowns but for feet.


Evening Prayer with the Sisters

So, I did make it to the Covent yesterday and had a nice Evening Prayer with the sisters. Of course, it took me more than 45 minutes to get a half-hour service, but prayer is a precious thing that is worth sacrifice. Being there reminded me of just what a treat it is to pray the Office with a community that it does it so richly. After the Office one of the sisters came up and told me that she was glad that I came. Me, too. Now I just have to visit Holy Cross's house more often...

On another note entirely, here's an amusing clip about an aspergance gone wrong...

Via Eva from Gloria.Tv

Otherwise, today was another busy day. Among other things, I'm learning more about residential furnace systems than I ever cared to...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Today was incredibly busy. It started off with the "Tradcom" (BCP) service in the morning. It went extremely well--certainly my preaching was better at this Tradcom than at the previous ones. I'm definitely finding my preaching groove again. Now that I'm preaching pretty much every Sunday I expect to things to heat up nicely. I'm already thinking some good thoughts about Baptism of the Lord this Sunday.

After the Mass we had lunch. After lunch I was inundated with important yet tedious administrative stuff--much of it involving property maintenance issues and coordinating various tradespeople. It's easy to get overwhelmed.

So that's it; I've had enough. Today is the day I go to the Convent to pray Evening Prayer with the Sisters. I've been putting it off long enough. I'll blame Bishop Johnson's note!


A Note from +Colin

Bishop Colin Johnson sent an e-mail to all the clergy in the Diocese with some encouraging words and this poem by Michael Podesta:
If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things,
and again with things,
if we consider ourselves so unimportant
that we must fill every moment of our lives with action,
when will we have the time
to make the long slow journey across the desert
as did the Magi?
Or sit and watch the stars
as did the Shepherds?
Or brood over the coming of the child
as did Mary?
For each of us, there is a desert to travel,
a star to discover,
and a being within ourselves to bring to life.

The Bishop continued in his own words:
It is not that Mary and Joseph, the shepherds or the magi left their "day jobs" (or "night jobs") completely to sit all day and meditate - a baby must still be fed, chores be done, decisions made, people visited, bills paid, after all. But each of them allowed the truly important to interrupt the "trivial round, the common task" and took time not only to think about what it meant but to allow it to change their lives profoundly. Next week the area bishops, archdeacon of York, CAO and chancellor will join me on an annual retreat at SSJE in Cambridge, MA to spend time in silence, prayer and discussion (along with a little frivolity!) to listen to and ponder what God is doing in our own lives and how we are responding to God's call.

May you find time - no, actually you have to make time - to make the journey and ponder what it means to be a beloved subject of God's desire.

I like that line about being "a beloved subject of God's desire." Nice to have a Bishop with a similar spiritual temperament as myself.


Sunday, January 6, 2008


Church this morning was good--but I was made aware of how much work I have to do. For instance, I have to revamp the way COTM does acolytes. I have to train some of them to assist me at the altar. I'm also anxious to make progress on hiring someone to help redesign our Sunday School curriculum. After the service a bunch of volunteers and I worked on taking down the Christmas decorations. That whole process went well and I was impressed with how much we were able to do in only a few hours.

In the late afternoon I went to the Priesting of a friend of mine, Jason Van Veghelwood. Ordinations leave you feeling really good about the church, and I enjoyed the chance to take part in such an intense and personal liturgy. As I felt the intensity I noted, in my mind, that that kind of feeling is rare in Anglican liturgy. But I have seen it in, for instance, healing prayer eucharists. However, why aren't baptisms or marriages so prayerful as ordinations feel?

On another tangent, right now I'm thinking about something that makes me very sad, but I can't stop thinking about it, either. That means I'm not finished processing it. This kind of internal work sucks--I mean who wants to think about sad things? Yet the coolest water is always at the bottom of the well.


Friday, January 4, 2008

I'm Going to San Francisco!

The Diocese mandates that I have to put aside (and eventually spend) a certain amount every year for Continuing Education. So this year I've decided to spend that money going to a conference in San Francisco. It's called "Leadership In Community: helping the people find their voice in the liturgy" and is being hosted/sponsored by St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, which I've talked about a lot on this blog. I feel that I have a lot to learn from these people, so I think it will be a worthwhile investment of my time. Plus, SF is a kick-ass town and I can see some friends while I'm there. The conference runs from the 22nd to the 25th, but I'll probably take that Sunday off as my post-Christmas vacation (clergy get 1 week off after Christmas and then a month off in the summer).

This is one of those moments where I am just delighted that my life and ministry are turning out so well. Blessings, blessings, blessings.

But there is work to be done, too. This morning I had a meeting with some folks to look at some of the financial administration issues that need to be addressed. Some of it is compliance stuff, like making sure we get our books properly audited. Others have more to do with getting data flowing from A to B in a helpful way and planning how we are going to make up the 2008 budget. Most of the tasks to be done are straightforward, but it's just a matter of planning a course of action and implementing it.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Eugene Peterson

Ever have one of those books sitting around that you just know will change you, when you get around to reading it? Since seminary I've had Eugene Peterson's book The Contemplative Pastor sitting in my pile of books I must read. I don't remember who recommended it to me, but I always knew that it would be important to me once I took the time to actually read it. So yesterday I decided to crack it open and see where it takes me. Here's a good quote from an interview of Peterson:
...Maybe we need more pastors like him, and more churches that want pastors like him: the pastor who wants to be local, to take seriously a place, and the church that wants to be a community, using the materials of its locale. At least that's how I understand the pastoral life. I've been at Christ Our King Church for twenty-six years. All William Faulkner knew was two or three square miles of Mississippi, and I guess that's what I want to do. I want to know two or three square miles of Christ Our King, just know it and keep on knowing it.

Good stuff. The imperative of the local. There is tremendous wisdom is this idea of just staying local with our attentions. It reminds me of the Desert Fathers and Mothers.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Christmas 2007 Pictures

Here are some of my favorite pics taken this Christmas Season...
The COTM Choir performing at the Christmas Concert

The Bold Steps Dance Studio performing during the COTM Christmas Concert

Tay and Wolfie

Betsy with Wolfie and Velma


Devo-to-Go Podcast

Trolling the web for nuggets of religious/spiritual wisdom as a I do a few times a week, I found the "Devo-To-Go Podcast" put out by the Episcopal Campus Ministry at GSU. Check out this fascinating exploration of the Annunciation Story (Luke 1:26-38). If you've ever imagined the Holy Spirit singing Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" to Mary at that fateful moment, then this will appeal to you! Very hip Christianity.


The Crumpet Elf

Here's one of the funniest NPR stories ever, David Sedaris' account of his time spent as a department store Christmas Elf. This story apparently launched his career.


Christmas 1 Sermon

As promised, here's last Sunday's sermon...


Tuesday, January 1, 2008


I've been sick the last few days. Spent most of Monday in bed. sore throat, runny nose, general ickiness, and exhaustion. This is a persistent little bug. I feel better at the moment, but that could change quickly. In the mean time, I'm all about the fluids. Could this be the flu that has been going around Toronto?

Snowing outide. Looks nice. Cat sleeping in a little cat-bed by the window. Betsy has Christmas music playing on the stereo.