Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fresh Expressions

The Conference ended well. I got some new ideas and some stuff to process. Even more importantly, I established or re-established some relationships. Again, I'm too tired to blog a lot about the conference here, but I will point those of you interested in emerging church kinds of stuff to Fresh Expressions, which is a website out of the U.K. that has a lot resources...


Decisions, Decisions

Someone (I don't know who) e-mailed me a link to this article in the New York Times about how people make decisions when those decisions affect future options. Essentially, people are loath to lose their options even when they can gain a clear good. This is more proof that how you frame a decision has a lot to do with the quality of the answer.

This also explains why people often have trouble letting go of opportunities, even when they know they can get a superior outcome by doing so...
“Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss,” Dr. Ariely says. In the experiment, the price was easy to measure in lost cash. In life, the costs are less obvious — wasted time, missed opportunities. If you are afraid to drop any project at the office, you pay for it at home. (source)


Prayer of the Week - Lent 4

Beloved Parishioners,

This year winter just doesn't want to quit. The days seem to be getting even colder--if that were possible--as we approach spring. Perhaps the only positive aspect of the weather these days is that it suits the mood of our spiritual season of Lent. The solemn, penitential character of our services is meant to bring out the memory of life before Easter.

Stuck in the coldness of our closed homes, we are supposed to spend this time in spiritual house-cleaning as we look forward to the joy of Easter. Yet to tell the truth, I'm kind of sick of Winter (and Lent).

Nor am I first church person to feel that way. Perhaps that's why in ancient tradition the fourth Sunday of Lent--sometimes known as "Laetare" Sunday because of the first lines of the original Latin service--was a Sunday for introducing a little joy back into things. Flowers on the altar and rose colored vestments (rather than Lenten purple) were allowed. In some places this is called "Refreshment Sunday" to bring to mind the mid-Lent break it is. In some congregations this is the only day in Lent when marriages can be celebrated.

Having such a break in our otherwise most-rigorous season of spiritual athleticism is a good reminder that being a Christian--especially a spiritually engaged Christian--is hard work! Luckily, we have a God who knows something about rest. Besides the Sabbath rest taken by God during creation, the principle and practice of taking sabbath was encoded into Jewish law. Our Lord Jesus also knew the value of true sabbath and can often be found resting in the Gospels. When understood this way, rest in not a break from doing spiritual things, rather, it is a spiritual thing! I'm convinced that more growth happens in the pauses in our lives than anywhere else. God loves to come us when we are resting, filling our sleep with dreams of angels!
Heavenly Father, you created heaven and earth with work and rest; help us to find the perfect peace of sabbath in our busy lives. Refresh us between our labors with times of holy leisure play. Remind us never to take our own efforts too seriously, but to see in them, always, the echoes of the great work you have done. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

In Christ,

Tay Moss

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stephen Colbert on the President's Popularity

My favorite Sunday School teacher, Stephen Colbert, who like me is deaf in one ear and went to Hampden-Sydney, had this gem on his show last night. He was speaking of President Bush's popularity...
He's not that unpopular; his latest approval rating is 19%, which is low for a President but high for a fish.


The Vital Church Planting Conference

Yesterday and today I was attending the Vital Church Planting Conference here in Toronto--so I haven't had as much time to blog as normal. The conference itself is about more than planting churches, of course, it's also about mission, evangelism, and growth. I have heard some things that have given me some ideas for COTM, incidentally.

BTW, at the conference I've had a chance to talk about some of the moves I'm making at COTM with people wise in the ways of the force (the Bishop, Diocesan Consultants, priests I respect) and they've given me some very affirmative feedback. It seems that I'm on the right track, which is important to check out every once in a while. A good test of discernment (among other tests) is whether it stands up to the scrutiny of peers.

Hopefully I'll have a chance to write more about some of the learnings from the conference. But right now I'm tired and need sleep. I'm hoping that tomorrow, when the conference is done, I'll have time to post some overdue sermons to the blog.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Bishop's Daughter

Honor Moore, the Daughter of Bishop Paul Moore (former Bishop of New York City), published an excerpt from her upcoming book The Bishop's Daughter in the New Yorker this week. You can hear an audio clip in which she discusses the public and private sides of his life here. The big thing in the article is that she discloses in public what many people already knew, that Bishop Moore was in the closet and had a male lover for many years. What's hard for me reading this is that I'm aware of stories about her father than are not nearly so benign a take on his sexual exploits while bishop. I can't say much more than that since I didn't witness anything first hand--I've only heard hearsay from people that were priests under his authority--but it ain't pretty or innocent if they're true. Of course I have no interest in attacking a dead Bishop's memory, but it does put the Christian community in a weird place if we want to uphold justice and truth-telling on the one-hand and avoid painful public controversy or gossip on the other.

Anyway, it's another chapter in our church's life...


Monday, February 25, 2008


Check out this article in the NY Times about shifting religious affiliation in the U.S.
Americans Change Faiths at Rising Rate, Report Finds
More than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion, a new survey of religious affiliation says. (source)

There are a couple of surprises, here. For one thing, Catholics are losing members:
The Catholic Church has lost more adherents than any other group: about one-third of respondents raised Catholic said they no longer identified as such. Based on the data, the survey showed, “this means that roughly 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics.” (source)

Less surprising is the success of churches that are more adaptive to cultural change:
“The trend is toward more personal religion, and evangelicals offer that,” said Mr. Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, who explained that evangelical churches tailor many of their activities for youth. “Those losing out are offering impersonal religion and those winning are offering a smaller scale: mega-churches succeed not because they are mega but because they have smaller ministries inside.” (source)

We are experiencing similar trends here in Canada, though the patterns are a bit different. In general, Canadians more likely to be "unaffiliated" than their cousins south of the 49th Parallel.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Annual Vestry

The Annual Vestry Meeting today went extremely well. I won't give a blow-by-blow, but I will say that people said it was one of the best Annual Vestry Meetings in years. There is definitely a sense that things are on the upswing. People are really enthusiastic about the state and future of the parish and it shows.

Someone told me today that my love for the congregation shows and is rubbing off. Certainly I felt loved at the Annual Vestry Meeting (and how many Rectors can say that after their Annual meeting?) Honeymoon period? Perhaps, but I'm still going to savor it.

Tomorrow is for rest and a few errands. Cheers!


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hard Drive Failure

Uhhg--one of my three Hard Drives seems to have failed. It's a 360GB Maxtor drive that I use for storing media like MP3 files and all my Digital Picture files. I'd say I've got backups for less than a third of that, so if it's completely unrecoverable than I'm in trouble. My entire digital music collection is on that drive, along with thousands of photos I've taken or collected over the years. Right now it is emmitted a strange sound when it powers up. Not good.

But... I've been getting some weird behavior from my motherboard so I'm hoping it's just a bad controller. The verdict will come when I try to hook up the drive to a new motherboard and see how that goes. Incidentally, check out the motherboard I'm thinking of basing my new system on...

Note the integrated water-block. That means that the board uses a water-based cooling system; it's more efficient than traditional air, but also harder to set-up. Definitely a 1337 kind of deal. But it also makes for a faster and quieter computer.

Sorry to geek out on loyal readers--but I do like to be well-rounded in my interests!


Friday, February 22, 2008

Another Video Posting

On a video-posting spree--so here's a classic Twin Peaks moment...

Would it a bad thing if I based my leadership style on Dale Cooper's?


Pure Pwnage

I'm still thinking of getting a PS3. That makes me think of games and gamer culture. There's a funny Internet series that was done a few years ago (and still being made) called Pure Pwnage. Part of what makes this really funny for me is that it's filmed in Toronto right in my neighborhood--so I recognize the street scenes. Here's the second episode in the series: "Girls."

My favorite quote: "It turned out that they're pretty good like defensively. Right away they repelled like my attacks. You know, like they had good base defense or something."


Eastern Influences Part 1

So I've been asking around a bit about the influences of Eastern liturgy on Anglican/Episcopal liturgy--as I suspected the answer is "a lot"! I posted the question to on the APLM List-Serv and a number of people have posted interesting replies. When the thread winds down I'll post a summary here...


Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Torah: A Woman's Commentary

Man, I'm blogging like crazy this afternoon. Here's the final thing from me today, though...

This appeared on Deirdre Good's Blog...
Today's CSM has an excellent review article written by Jane Lampman on The Torah: A Women's Commentary:

The editor of the commentary, Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, professor of Bible at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, recalls how some responded to the December release.

"An 80-year-old woman, embracing her copy, said, 'I've been waiting for this all my life.' And a young woman told me, 'For the first time, I am included in the conversation,'" Dr. Eskenazi says.

One of the stories that highlight the import of biblical women begins in Numbers 27. Five sisters challenge an inheritance practice that would deprive them of their father's land. They speak to Moses and the entire leadership.

"Moses speaks to God and God responds that these five daughters speak rightly," Eskenazi says. "This is an extraordinary moment. It is the only time in the Pentateuch that a law is initiated by people, rather than God, and it becomes a 'law from Sinai,' binding for all future generations."

For the women of Reform Judaism, this is just what they have done – insist on their share – not of land, but in inheriting the Torah and participating in the ongoing Jewish conversation.


Prayer of the Week - Lent 3

Beloved Parishioners,

As part of my morning routine I stuff various things into my pockets as I dress in the morning: pen, wallet, handkerchief, pocketknife, keys, etc. This morning I added another item--a compass. I knew when I got dressed this morning that I would be going to the Downtown Bible Study and would therefore likely be navigating the windowless corridors beneath the core of our fair city. A compass, I've learned, is a handy way to keep from getting lost in the underground labyrinth. Sure enough, I got a confused while looking for my car after the meeting, but as soon as I whipped out the compass and oriented myself I was able to find my way again.

A wise bishop, on noticing that my home parish in New Jersey had put up new outside signs, commented, "A sign is a useful thing for someone looking for direction." Indeed, we all know how useful a little direction can be. Yet do we do enough to provide the people around us with signs of God's presence and message? At times I wonder whether we suffer from being a bit too reticent to share the love and hope we have been given. On the other hand, are we wise enough to see the signs put in our paths or to pull out our spiritual compass from time to time to whether we are heading in the right direction?

This Sunday will be doing a bit of collective compass gazing as we gather for our Annual Vestry meeting. The Wardens and other leaders will give reports about our work as church and we will respond with questions and counsel. My hope is that we will do this with attention, wisdom, and even joy!
Almighty God, you are the Way. Guide us with signs to paths of righteousness where we might not stumble, but return to you our Creator. Help us to walk as children of light as we seek to live out your Gospel in this community of faith. Bless our deliberations and our discernment as we gather to examine our life together. Prosper the work of your Holy Spirit among us and keep us always mindful of Jesus, who taught us to serve if we would lead. We ask this in His Name, Amen.
In Christ,


I went to lunch-time Bible Study downtown. Did some church stuff, then went to the gym for a little while and now I'm back at the church.

At the gym today I had a consultation with a personal trainer sort of person to assess my physical status and goals and to make some recommendations. I learned a few things, like that weight training will be more important to me than cardio. I also learned that it's very important to eat at least 24 grams of protein within 45 minutes of working out if your goal is to build muscle. Right now my %Body Fat is 26.3--which is kind of pathetic. According their modeling I can probably get that down to 15% in 24 weeks with 4 workouts a week.

So I've got a ways to go in the future, but at least I'm making an effort!


Movie Night at the Rectory

My bad for not posting yesterday--the afternoon and into the evening was kind of crazy. I had the Lenten Movie Discussion group over to the "new" Rectory for supper and to watch "Dead Man Walking." It's a powerful film that was done with a lot of insight into what Pastoral Care really looks like when it goes well. It's about how people change when confronted by violence as well as love. When I get some seminarians I'm going to make them watch it. Another movie that really shows what pastoral care is all about is "Wit". Both are really dead-on in my estimation and experience. They are also much more interesting than the several hours of training videos for psychologists I once watched!

Betsy made a great bean soup before she left for Dallas--a few extra days in the fridge made it even better. I provided a Caesar Salad based on a recipe I pulled from the net...


1 large head romaine lettuce
1 cup olive oil
3 cups French or Italian bread
2 large cloves garlic
8 anchovy filets
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh is best)
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse ground salt
2 egg yolks for large eggs, at room temperature*
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded or shaved

Trim the romaine lettuce of bruised or browned leaves, then cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Wash and drain the lettuce, pat it dry and refrigerate for 30 minutes to crisp the leaves.

To make the croutons, cut the bread into cubes, heat the 1/2 cup olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry the bread cubes in the oil, tossing frequently, until they're crisp and golden. Drain the croutons on a paper towel until ready to use.

Peel the garlic cloves then put in a large wooden salad bowl. Mash the cloves against the sides of the bowl with the back of a wooden spoon. Rub the pieces against the bowl until they begin to disintegrate. Remove most of the mashed garlic from the bowl and discard (oil from the garlic will remain in the bowl and flavor the salad).

Add the anchovies and repeat the procedure you used with the garlic, but leave the anchovy pieces in the bowl. Now add the dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, black pepper, and egg yolks and blend well. Slowly drizzle in the remaining olive oil mixing with a wire whisk until a creamy mayonnaise type dressing forms.

Add the lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese and salt. Toss everything together and serve directly from the salad bowl!

*Note: The original recipe may have called for coddled whole eggs (warmed to 120F degrees, to coddle simmer in water 1 minute and cool in cold water) so they are soft and runny. Some chefs who make this salad today use the whole egg at room temperature. (source)
The only thing I did differently was use prepared croutons rather than fresh.

Betsy arrived back from her trip in time to join us for the movie. It was, by her reports, a brief but worthwhile trip.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Holy Week Service Times

Here's our Holy Week Schedule...

  • Passion (Palm) Sunday - March 16, 10:30 AM

  • Maundy Thursday - March 20, 6:30 PM

  • Good Friday - March 21, 12 Noon

  • Easter Vigil - March 22, 8:00 PM

  • Easter Day - March 23, 10:30 AM

Note in particular the inclusion of the Easter Vigil, which they haven't done here for a while. But I'm just too much of a liturgy wonk not do one, even if attendance is sparse! Still, I think I can get a couple of brave souls out!



Today Matthew and I went back to Paul Hahn Pianos to check out another candidate for COTM's permanent piano: a matte black Baldwin 5' 8" grand. The store had made an effort to adjust this piano to improve the action in a particular way in response to Matthew's feedback, and the results pleased Matthew. In a perfect world I'd still prefer a stained wood to a black case, but as I said at the store, I'm more concerned about how the piano sounds and makes my Music Director feel! So they are going to swap the current piano we have on loan from them for this one and try it out for awhile. It's quite possible we may settle on this instrument for permanent use, but we want to get to know it a bit first.

This is a great way for churches to buy pianos--put down a down payment and then keep trying instruments until you fall in love with one. It eliminates virtually all the anxiety about finding the right one, and it pretty well ensure that we will find what we want at the price we want (eventually).

By coincidence, this was also the day the organ tuners (Alan Jackson and Co.) came by to take a look at our pipe organ and do the usual sort of tuning and upkeep. They told me that our organ is in excellent shape and ought to give us at least another 20 years of good service without an issue. I asked what was likely to fail first, and the expert suggested it would be the combination mechanism (the buttons that let you set multiple stops with one press). In our case this would be a relatively minor repair, so no worries. I tell you, I've learned more about pipe organs in this my ministry than I ever cared to! I think the previous generation of priests would have said the same thing about boilers--and the next will the same about computers. One of the most important attributes of a descent parish priest is someone able to learn new things!

I had lunch with a parishioner today--that included some good feedback about a couple of recent decisions I've made. I also got to bat around some ideas with my staff at our weekly meeting. Several different initiatives are beginning to come together even better than I originally planned. Whew!


From The Onion....

I saw this in The Onion. It sounds familiar...


Kitchen-Floor Conflict Intensifies As Rival House Cats Claim Same Empty Bag

The Onion

Kitchen-Floor Conflict Intensifies As Rival House Cats Claim Same Empty Bag

MAPLEWOOD, MO—"It is beginning to appear that any long-term solution may have to involve deployment of the disciplinary squirt bottle," said one U.N. investigator.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Goofing Off

Very early this morning I dropped Betsy off at the airport for her (short) trip to Dallas. She is gone until Wednesday visiting an Art Exhibition along with a gaggle of students from her department (mostly undergrads) and a professor. I have to admit, I was feeling weird by the time I got back, like I was in danger or something. Such a mood can mean many things, including the possibility of some internal shift happening. Often I've found that death-omens portend periods of growth. The same thing can happen in congregations, BTW, that are poised to experience growth and change. Anxiety can be a good thing!

The sun still hadn't risen by the time I got back from the airport, so I went to bed. Many confused dreams. I've been reading Dante's Inferno, and I think some of those images may have invaded my dreams. That's telling, isn't it--a priest dreaming he's in the Sixth Circle watching the heretics burn in their sepulchers! Ominous.

I spent the rest of the day playing with the cats, watching TV, and basically goofing off. Tomorrow will be busy enough.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll finally get around to ordering parts for my computer rebuild. I also have a couple of meetings to attend and a staff meeting and so on. Tuesdays are a busy day.

Incidentally, I've been thinking of buying a PS3. You see, now that I have an HDTV it makes sense to have a Blu-Ray player. And the Sony Playstation 3 can play Blu-Ray discs for the same cost as a standalone player and can also do games and can play all kinds of media content (streaming audio and video, etc) and you even browse the internet with it on your TV. Pretty cool, heh? I don't know, it may need to wait until my birthday.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lent 2

Today was a good church day. The whole service had a nice feeling about it, and someone commented afterwards that the whole church seems to have a lot of energy and good-feeling right now. I would agree, and experienced that myself as I asked several people about allowing their names to stand for various elected/appointed positions to be filled at next Sunday's Annual Vestry meeting. People want to be involved right now, and that's great.

I was reflecting after everyone left the church and I was putting a few last minute things away that I'm putting my time and energy pretty much exactly where I want them to be going right now. That is, I'm not being distracted much from the work of building up this community, and that's a great thing. As everyday passes I feel more and more on top of things here. Life is good.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Whirlpool Bliss

I took a day off from the gym today so that my muscles can recover a bit--man are they sore. After three straight days of intense workouts they've earned a break. After my workout yesterday I took a dip in the whirlpool and was rewarded with a huge rush of endorphin and other natural opiates. It was incredible bliss! I went home, spent some time with Betsy and went to bed early.

Today was mostly about a marathon-length Corporation Meeting. We are getting ready for Vestry and making some other year-end decisions as well as dealing with the regular monthly stuff. It felt like a good meeting--we got a lot done.

My computer is acting kind of funny. I need to order the parts and rebuild it, which I have been meaning to do for sometime. But I know it's going to be a day-long project and I just haven't done it! Once I get it upgraded, I can tackle some of the video editing projects I've had on hold. I also need to get myself in gear to get the COTM website going. It would be nice to have a draft of that up before Vestry, in fact.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Time Out, NY, Reviews Holy Cross

Picture by Randy, n/OHC

Time Out, NY, recently ran a piece reviewing Holy Cross Monastery. It's kind of a funny article, like most first-timers, the reviewer had an interesting reaction the silences. From the article:
After the best night of sleep that I’ve had in years, an old-school dinner bell announced the 7:30am Saturday breakfast (on Sundays, you’re given 15 more minutes to linger in bed). Hey, sloth is a deadly sin after all, and a bit of discipline never hurt anyone. Served in the brick-appointed, sunlight-filled refectory which overlooks the Hudson River and a glorious Vanderbilt manse, the morning repast falls during the last hours of the Great Silence, so you’ll endure the rare experience of communicating to 14 holy men sporting flannel shirts and jeans via hand gestures while munching on your toast. Though I had difficulty with the chatting restriction, being silent does make you focus on and appreciate such simple pleasures as wholesome, tasty food: I dined on locally-grown arugula, homemade chorizo-topped whole-wheat pizza and chocolate-chip cookies—all prepared by a Culinary Institute of America–trained chef. And if you get ravenous between meals, you can help yourself to a bowl of free fruit. (source)

I know what she means about sleep. I sleep better at the Monastery than anywhere else in the world--something about the dark nights and quiet, I suppose. The lifestyle in the monastery is also so balanced and healthy that they body just seems to say, "Ahhhh."


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Prayer of the Week - Lent 2

Beloved Parishioners,

For Lent this year I have taken on the spiritual commitment to workout regularly at a gym. If the body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, then I'm afraid this temple needs a capital campaign! As I get older I find that I can no longer just rely on my body to take care of itself like it once did.

There was a time when I could eat whatever I wanted without consequence, but those days are gone. Now I find that the spiritual virtues of self-control, abstinence, and faithfulness are required if I want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What happened? Is this the mid-life equivalent of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden? We are told that because of man's disobedience, we are fated to work for our lot with perpetual toil and effort. "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). This seems harsh, but some commentators have pointed out that work is not necessarily a punishment for disobedience, but simply a feature of the new relationship God established between humanity and the earth in response to sin. The new ecology of creation requires us to get a little dirt under our fingernails to keep us honest and humble.

Life has many situations like this: once easy endeavors that require our commitment to maintain. Yet we are hardly more ourselves than when we are engaged in our vocations. Work makes us strong, lively, and engaged. I remember fondly how my grandfather, when he was old, seemed to be "loosing it" at home, but at his law office he was still as sharp and clever as he ever was. Therefore we should take on our commitments as the blessings they are, receiving the curse of long hours at the gym with the blessings of good health and vitality.

Gracious God, you have created us as partners in creation, tasking us with fruitful work that completes our humanity and enriches the world. Help us, we pray, to maintain our commitments with patience and persistence in the face of discouragement and exhaustion. Banish from us all laziness as we seek to perfect ourselves in your image and fill us with courage and fidelity all the days of our lives, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

In Christ,


I had my first workout at the gym yesterday and man am I sore today--especially in my arms. But I was pleased with my performance on the treadmill and elsewhere. I think this will work out. It's funny, I'm used to college and university gyms (and Dojos)--the gym I just joined is much fancier than that: lots of piles of white fluffy towels around, flat screen TV's in the locker room, new equipment, juice bar, etc.

This morning at Belmont House no one came to the Anglican Communion Service run by COTM. Just at the Chaplain and I decided that this was a sign that it was time to give up doing the service for good, a nice Presbyterian lady showed up. When she heard that she was the only one she went into the hall and grabbed the next person to walk by and convinced her to attend, as well.

Still, it has become clear to Don (the Chaplain) and myself that it's time to re-evaluate Messiah's mid-week service. It seems that the other Anglican churches in our neighborhood (Redeemer, Christ Church Deer Park, etc.) once had midweek chapel services like us, but found them to unsustainable once the people that developed them moved on. It seems that priests like my predecessor were able to build up a following over years of work, and that when they moved on the corresponding service at Belmont simply collapsed. I seem to be suffering the same fate as the other churches. The only mid-week Anglican Communion service still thriving is the one run by Milton Barry (of Grace Church on the Hill). He's the last of that generation of local clergy doing ministry at Belmont House.

But all is not lost. Although the chapel service is struggling, we can still do Communion on the fourth floor (this is where folks with cognitive deficits live). Like Redeemer and Christ Church, we are simply going to drop the chapel Eucharist and continue doing a short service upstairs.

When Don and I decided to drop the mid-week Communion service, I felt disappointed and sad (more than I expected to feel). It's the end of something. So I decided to wrap it up with the two nice ladies in the chapel. Don and I sat down with them and I led an abbreviated morning prayer service. I ended up doing a meditation/homily about love (it is St. Valentine's Day), which they appreciated very much. It seemed fitting to end things on that note.

Today I had a very encouraging meeting with a person working on a cutting edge of children's ministry. I'll be able to talk more about this in a few weeks as it develops, but it looks like I finally have a direction to go with Christian Ed. at COTM. They next key will be hiring the right person to help us develop and implement the vision!

Now I need to write my Prayer of the Week and then get to the gym for today's discipline!


Wednesday, February 13, 2008


To my delight, today has been more prayerful than usual. It started with a nice Contemplative Eucharist with a few other souls and then moved into Mattins by myself. When all was said and done I had passed about two hours in prayer and meditation without hardly noticing the time. It was one of those times in prayer where I was receiving the "Consolation of the Holy Spirit" as one the great masters said--i.e., I was feeling the presence of God and feeling warm and fuzzy as a result. Alas, this is not something to grasp a hold of or rely upon--the Holy Spirit has a mind of Her own and these kinds of prayer experiences come and go like the wind. I suppose the analogy is that when you are walking to the mailbox to send or receive mail sometimes the walk is more pleasant than at other times. But although you may linger in your walk to the mailbox to look at the pretty spring flowers by the side of the driveway or hurry past snowbanks in the winter, the important thing is that you get the mail!

One curious thing I noticed was during the Prayers of the People. I was holding my mind on a general intention for all the people that I love in the world. As I did so, I became aware that the feeling of my skin was changing, it was like a warmth spread through my skin--very pleasant. Funny how the body responds to prayer; most of the time we are too busy to notice such things.

Lately I've been singing most of the Office, and today was no exception, but this time I did it using the Mattins Office from the OHC Breviary rather than the BAS . Of course, the Breviary Psalter is pointed for chanting, so that made things much easier this morning. Yesterday I used Tone 1.1, so today I went with 1.2 for no particular reason. Just a few years ago chanting the Office by myself would have been very difficult, so now it comes with a nice feeling of accomplishment!

After saying my prayers (and then practicing the Exultet until my voice got tired) I had to do a challenging task. It was easier than I expected, and I couldn't help thinking the mornings prayers had something to do with that. Ah, simple spiritual pleasures!



It occurs to me today that the Bishops have a difficult ministry and need our prayers. Here's an image of Linda Nicholls announcing the peace just after her ordination.

It's a nice picture by Michael Hudson--he's a good guy, I had him shoot at SMM back when I was there. I'm hoping to get him to shoot an event at COTM at some point.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008


funny pictures

Mike Swalm, one of the bloggers I keep tabs on, wrote an entry about disappointment that many in our profession can relate to.
We just entered the lenten season. I love the experience of Lent. Something about living counter-culturally in this way really appeals to me. For the kick-off of lent, I invited a bunch of people over to read Scripture, pray, do the ashes on the forehead thing, and really just be a community. I love the two people that showed up. I really do. But how, as a pastor, do you focus on the two and disregard the twenty that didn't? (source)

It's a hard truth--as a priest or pastor you spend a lot of time and effort trying to create programs or services or experiences or whatever that will be of spiritual value to your flock and then you experience a lot of disappointment as people either don't show up or take it the wrong way or otherwise fall short of your hopes. Been there; done that; got the T-shirt. (BTW, my favorite T-shirt says, "I pray on the helpless," not "I built it and they came.") So what to do in the face of pastoral disappointment?

First off, I think it's a huge mistake to "adjust your expectations." I know so many bitter priests and ministers who won't try anything unless is a sure-thing. They hem and haw about how they don't want to put their time into something that won't fly. Really they just don't want to fail, IMHO.

Second, it is heretical to think that the work of church is about achieving outcomes. That is, it is disrespectful to the Holy Spirit to go about the work of church as though superior planning and execution will "achieve" the outcome we desire. So many of us carry around anxiety about the "success" of our ministry that is based on the misguided notion that institutional preservation is God's will. Maybe it ain't! Call me crazy, but I think we should be about following Jesus and leading others to do the same. It's true that this often coincides with our institutional interests, but motivation is totally different. So "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God..." everything else will flow from that, good and bad.

Third, this is why the spiritual virtue of detachment is essential. If you have a sense of where you end and where the world begins, you will not become overly identified or invested in outcomes which are not yours to cause, anyway. This doesn't mean that you don't apply craft or savvy to the vocation of ministry, it merely means that you should do so without being invested too much in a particular outcome. It's related to the idea of self-differentiation: know where you end and the other begins.

Fourth, love the flail, embrace the suck. When things don't go the way you might desire, recognize the great value of this moment. There's nothing like an epic fail to bring your perceptions into line with reality. Even more valuable, though, is the feelings that arise at such a moment. Disappointment is usually evidence of great love and desire. If you can get to that place, you're doing okay.

So those are a few of my thoughts about failure and disappointment in ministry!


Lent 1 Sermon

Here's my sermon from last Sunday...


Monday, February 11, 2008

Take This Bread

I just finished reading Sara Miles' Take This Bread. It's a memoir about her adult conversion to Christianity and subsequent effort to found a bunch of food banks in San Francisco. She's a Anne Lamott kind of Christian--nice and feisty. Actually, I wonder whether they know each other--they both live in the Bay Area, are professional word types, and are liberal Christians...
Anyway, Sara's book is a good account of how modern, thoroughly secular people can come to faith through powers outside their control. I have to say that meeting her was really something. Sometimes you can just look in someone's eyes and know that they've got something special in the whole God thing. As if that weren't enough, she has a way of touching people (I mean literally, as in hugging and kissing on the cheek and so forth) that is holy in that earth-mother meets eco-warrior kind of way.

My next book? Dante's Divine Comedy. I haven't read it since College, but something about that epic poetry is calling me right now...

It's my day off. I joined a gym, bought some cable to make a better connection from the wall to my cable box, and now I think I'm going to go to the convent to pray with the Sisters. Yep, it's Lent!


Sunday, February 10, 2008

My Obama Hat...

Way back in July I bought an official Barack Obama hat. When I wore it around Toronto, a number of people had either never heard of Barack Obama or were only vaguely aware of the campaign. I remember more than one Canadian told me that they believed the U.S. wasn't ready to elect a black candidate. And now I see that Obama is continuing to gain ground against Hillary Clinton.

But my hat didn't survive my trip to San Francisco--I think I left it in the nave at Grace Cathedral, and it was gone when I went back for it. Maybe I need to order another...

So why do I support Barack Obama? Well, simply because he represents an overdue shift in American politics. It's a move toward something like optimism--imagine that! Everybody always says they want "new blood" in Washington--and that regard I think Obama is real deal!

The decision to support Obama gets easier for me as Hilary seems to be going more and more to the dark side. She really seems prepared to do just about anything to get elected--even trying to play the race card. But at least it makes for an exciting campaign!


Saturday, February 9, 2008


Today I spent some time moving the chairs in the church around into their Lent configuration. After that I went to Ikea to buy a coffee table for my office. Ikea is just this side of a cult, IMHO. Someone should do a paper on the theology of Ikea. You just know everything there must have been designed on Macs.

I'll post something longer tomorrow. Right now I'm a bit tired. This morning when I decided to sleep in, I realized that I have been under a tremendous amount of stress at work and that I need to dial my engagement back a smidgen--God knows there already enough dysfunctional/codependent priests out there.

BTW, I just saw the movie "Breach." There is a nice long shot the interior of Church of the Redeemer (COTM's mother parish). It only took me about two seconds to recognize it, despite the set dressing!


Friday, February 8, 2008

Desk Clearing

Wow, my desk is now clearer than it has been in a long, long time--however there is still a four-inch pile of non-urgent things I'm supposed to read. Amazing how when you are a Rector people are always asking you to read things. I've gotten good about not accepting entire books if I can help it, but I still get the usual newsletters and reports and "updates" from various organizations and individuals. It's important to stay informed about all these people and individuals connected to the church, so I can't simply skip it. Still, I'm pleased that my office and desk are looking more and more organized.

My experiment with singing the Offices by myself is continuing to go well. It really does change the feeling of the rite. It makes it much more prayerful for me--probably because it's much more embodied. I'm also saying in the church rather than at my desk--again, embodying the prayer seems to be key in my case.

I've been asked to write an article about my experiences at the Leadership Conference. I'm thrilled that have opportunity, and I'm glad that I took lots of notes! Considering that both of my sisters get their stuff published all the time, it's about time that I catch up!

Fridays are Finance Day at COTM. This morning we made progress on a number of fronts having to do with the 2007 books being prepared for the Annual Vestry. The bottom line numbers are encouraging, but it's still going to take a lot of work to sort out the details of how to organize the financial activity for reporting it to the congregation. The instability in clerical leadership over the last 2 years or so has a lot to with challenge. Yet there is something really nice about having a fresh start!


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Prayer of the Week - Lent 1

For sometime now I've been sending a weekly e-mail to my parishioners with a "Prayer of the Week." This was something that began before I came to COTM, and it simply seemed very natural for me to pick it up and continue it. I've decided from now on I should post the Prayer of the Week here, as well as e-mailing to the COTM list.

Beloved Parishioners,

Coming into this Lent the poet Mary Oliver has been on my mind. She has a remarkable capacity to read what medieval theologians called the "Book of Nature." The idea was that God was the author of two divine volumes: The Book of God (The Bible) and the Book of Nature. Any reasonable person, with the right set of tools, could "read" in either the Holy Gospel of God's creation and redemption of humanity.

Here's one of Mary's poems that I think is particularly appropriate for the beginning of the penitential season of Lent...

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

At first blush this poem may seem to be eschewing traditional Christian notions about the importance of striving to live a moral life and repenting when we fail. A deeper reading, however, may speak to a moment beyond the striving. Many of the great spiritual masters of our faith spoke of the growth of the Christian life as proceeding by stages from purgation to illumination and finally towards union with the Divine (put another way, from morality to wisdom to love). In this view, repentance and amendment of life is only the beginning of the Christian journey. This is important to keep in mind even as we explore the dark depths of Lent. It's far too easy to reduce Christianity to a mere set of ethical teachings about being good to other people (indeed, this is perhaps the most common heresy about Christianity, that's it's only about being "good" and that Jesus was just an inspired "teacher"). If we believe the Gospel or heed the harsh cry of the wild geese, then our place in the family of things is much more profound--something about redemption and life everlasting.

I believe that at its best the experience of contrition and forgiveness can offer us a glimpse of what the Gospel is all about. Certainly in my own life, I have been shocked at the kind of transformation that has taken place when I've had the courage to admit wrongdoing and seek reconciliation. Something profoundly transformative happens when grace squeezes into the cracks that formerly separated us. We do well to meditate on our memories of this dynamic and to examine whether our lives would be enriched by present acts of confession.

Therefore my prayer this week is an encouragement to seek reconciliation not merely in order to be "good"--but so that we may have the full and eternal life promised to us in Jesus Christ.

Almighty God, you hate nothing that you have made and work continually to bring us back to union with you, we humbly ask this day that your Holy Spirit would inspire our hearts with the courage and patience to be humble and penitent in the face of our many failings. We know through your Holy Gospel that you are eager to forgive us our sins and restore us to new life. Help us to make true confession to you who know all and love all, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

In Christ,


Your One and Precious Life

Here's a poem by Mary Oliver:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

This seems relevant to Lent, somehow....


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mr. Tay's Breakthrough in Holographics

Apparently I just published an article in the journal Nature about a breakthrough in Holography!


Ash Wednesday Sermon

This is my sermon from Ash Wednesday. The recording quality isn't great, but I was pleased with how the sermon itself turned out....


Ash Wednesday

Last night I had a strange dream. I was observing a two-cell prison floating on a lake. There was a guard on this floating prison. Suddenly, the whole thing sank and me with it. Now I was the guard, and I watched as the prison swirled downward in some kind of vortex. Many books and objects were swirling in the descent. I had the sense that I needed to swim deep, to follow the prison and the books and the other things as they went deeper, even if it meant that I would drown. As I twisted around in the dark, cold water, I became aware that I had already gone too deep to return to the surface before drowning. There was a moment of calm acceptance as I watched some bubbles float past me. Then my mind took me out of that dream and into another. It seems like a great metaphor to explore in a sermon, and I may use it Sunday, but it seemed too self-indulgent to use it this evening.

Today I went by the Anglican Book Centre to buy some worship stuff. Mostly I got some more hymnals from around the Communion, but I also bought some incense charcoal for the Wednesday Contemplative Eucharists, a clerical collar, extra palm ash (in case our small supply ran out), and a few other odds and ends. But the purchase that pleased me most was two very nice (reproduction) icons. I hung the one of the Trinity (no, not a copy of Rublev's) in my office and one of the crucifixion (with Mary and John, naturally) in my new "Vestry." This way I have something to meditate on while I put on my vestments. It's hard to have too many icons. If are even at a loss of what to buy an Anglican priest for a gift, go with either scotch or icons.

The Ash Wednesday supper and Eucharist went extremely well. The turnout was great despite the weather, and the liturgy itself went incredibly well. There was an abiding prayerfulness and dignity to the whole thing that was just amazing. The musical choices Matthew and I worked out had a lot to do with that, but I think every other factor in the liturgy worked, as well. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have a chance to post an audio clip of the sermon I gave. The choir also did an incredible job with a version of the Advent Prose we took from the St. Greg's music book. Yes, I know it's slightly unorthodox to use the Advent Prose in Lent, but I tell you that the music and the text are just too perfect a fit to pass up!

Tonight I'm tired and proud of my church for doing worship well. We have such a good thing going here that I can't wait to see it flourish.

Here's wishing you a Holy Lent!


Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Most priests suck at confrontation--it's simply not a part of our nature to argue with people unless we are really backed into a corner. But lately I've been told of a situation that requires pastoral intervention, and thus I have to act. It's very unpleasant, but then I recall the time in which I have been confronted for bad behavior and the ways in which that sometimes led to very good growth. Confrontation is one of those things that you do a lot of in the CPE training I did. Our group would sit around a few times a week for months and every once in a while someone would have a beef with someone else and we'd fight in the healthiest way possible! Sometimes it felt a little artificial, sometimes it was incredibly authentic and many tears were shed. The thing about confrontation is that when it's handled well it really can be graceful. Far beyond merely correcting behavior, confrontation done in a spirit of love can call a person into a richer life. So I'm gearing up for this encounter, though in truth there isn't much to prepare. It's all about the encounter and the moment. Prayer helps, though.

Sunday was weird. I made a couple of mistakes that made me feel stupid. It's good to make those kind, though, because it keeps you liturgically humble. In my case I didn't break anything of hurt anyone, so it's all just worship after that. I'll post the children's sermon when I get a chance, but today has been busy.

Tradcom went very well--we had a dozen people. My homily came to me easily and the liturgy was smooth. The BCP Communion service still grates me sometimes, but I'm happy that others are fed by it.

I'm on to say a second Mass today--Dana Fisher invited me to be one of her regulars at the Trinity Chapel. I consider it quite an honor, actually, to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in a seminary chapel. I remember when I got to celebrate Eucharist at the Berkeley Divinity School chapel with great affection. It's also luxurious to lead worship in someone else's church! It's like being a grandparent, all the love and none of the responsibility.

Here's one of Dave Walker's cartoons to amuse you. The man has deep wisdom...


Monday, February 4, 2008


Sunday morning started off weird--I made a couple of dumb mistakes--nothing important, just enough to keep me humble. For instance, I was reciting the Gospel lesson from memory, but then got a little flummoxed on the last line! Arrg! Then I managed to dent a silver patten during the offertory. Again, not a big deal, silver is soft and can be easily reshaped, but I felt like an idiot for about 15 seconds. Then I took a breath and remembered that our worship is always imperfect, and that the grace happens when the priest can lift it up anyway.

After the service, a person I have been getting to know gave me a precious gift of some insight into her soul. It was a nice moment that made me very grateful to God--the sort of thing that keeps you going in Pastoral Ministry. So after that I was in a great mood. It's funny how fickle a pastor's self-confidence can be--which is why you should never, ever make your pastoral ministry dependent on how good you feel! Of course, that's easier said than done. Detachment is perhaps one of the most important of spiritual virtues to develop for the sake of ministry.

In the afternoon/evening we had a little Super Bowl Party--that went well except that my team, the Patriots, lost. I can still hardly believe it. So much for perfection. I guess like worship, football is imperfect.


Sunday, February 3, 2008


Last week I had a friend of mine who is also an architect come by to give me an informal consult about the church. The further along I go with developing plans for replacing the chairs and repainting the interior, etc., the more aware I become that I'm a bit out of my depth when it comes to things like choosing chairs or picking color schemes.

Looking at the space, she said that she could see what the architects who did the 1976 reconstruction (after the fire) were trying to accomplish and also how their plans didn't always work. She said that the challenge was to go with less, not more. Looking around, it's hard to easily identify the elements that could be removed. For example, the vertical columns near the storage closets don't "work" from an aesthetic point of view, but were obviously necessary to support the weight of the daycare above.

So she's going away to think about it some more and come back to me the outline of a proposal. Once I have that in hand I can begin to bundle the pieces together to make a physical plant renewal plan and start raising money.

Speaking of church architecture, I've decided to go back to the collegiate-style (aka choir style) seating arrangement for Lent. It simply does the work of liturgy (worship and transformation) better than the common layout usually used here.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Linda Nichol's Ordination

That picture is from Linda Nichol's ordination as Bishop at the Cathedral this morning. It was fun, as usual, to gather with my colleagues. These kind of events with hundreds of clergy can't help feeling a bit triumphalist, though! Anyway, it was a nice service and I was glad to seem many friends in one place.


Friday, February 1, 2008

A Snow Day

It's snowing like crazy today, so I cancelled my two appointments and took it as a snow day. Driving half way across town to Hallie's for my voice lesson just isn't a good idea in these conditions! Too bad, I have some new directions to take our lessons.

Yesterday I ran into the Cantor from St. Mary Mag's on Bloor Street near St. Paul's. He told me that SMM is very happy with their new sound system. He says that they can actually hear the sermons now. I'm glad to hear that. I always thought investing in that sound system would add a lot. They just need a couple a people who are really crazy about new media to continue developing content for the website--media production is a great way for Anglo Catholic Parishes to evangelize using the beautiful stuff they already have.

Speaking of websites and new media,check it out...

I'm in print! Pretty cool, heh?