Sunday, March 30, 2008

Easter 2

Church went well today. People liked my sermon, which was about doubt, faith, and belief (appropriate given that the Gospel lesson was the famous "Doubting Thomas" story).

I think I went overboard doing the audio mastering of this sermon clip. I'll take another crack at it when I'm less tired.


Easter Sunday Sermon

Sorry for the delay in getting this Easter Sunday sermon posted--I had to get Adobe CS3 (with Soundbooth) up and running before I could edit it.


Friday, March 28, 2008


Betsy and I finally bought a bed frame! When we got married the first piece of furniture we bought together was a bed (as in, just the mattress and box spring). We were too poor at the time to invest in a frame, we thought. That mentality has mostly continued, and although we don't have the funds to buy a really fancy antique bed, we can certainly afford the sort the thing they sell at Ikea, so two days ago we took the plunge. We got this wrought-iron style frame and we are very pleased with it. Of course, I also get the small thrill of assembling the thing--yet compared the grueling 8 hour computer build, this was a cake walk.

Interesting how having a frame actually changes the whole feeling of the bed. For one thing, it doesn't wobble and move around like it once did. It's also nice not to have pillows disappearing down the gap between the wall and the bed. The cats, however, are confused since this upsets their normal bedtime patterns. I remain unconcerned, they'll figure out new places to sleep on the bed, I'm sure.

Ikea is just great. You can outfit your whole house at a reasonable cost. It might be interesting to write a paper on the theology of Ikea. It strikes me as very protestant in it's directness and emphasis on function over ornamentation. If the spirituality of Ikea matches the aesthetics, than there is something to be said about the simplicity and cleanness of it, as well. And I like their meatballs...

Today kind of quiet at church. I did two pastoral visits and an errand. Believe it or not, that's enough to fill a day!


Thursday, March 27, 2008


So today I pulled the principle hard drive from my old computer and installed it into my new one to facilitate moving my e-mail, etc., over to the machine. So what work I did on my computer today I did on Vista 64. So far, it seems okay. Not much different from XP, really, which is to say that most of the problems that XP had are still there (although people do say it's a bit more crash-resistant than XP).

The real proof will come once I get the Adobe suite installed and start putting ORAC through his paces! I expect to have some problems with software that was designed to run on XP(32-bit), etc. Since the photos from Palm Sunday arrived today, I have PLENTY of content to start editing and putting onto the website. I also have my Easter Sermon to post. Of course, I made the current COTM website in Wordpad and could keep coding by hand if necessary, but editing the image, audio, and video files will require that I get the Adobe Suite going. (Or, worst case, alternative editors).

Today I brought Easter Communion to a couple unable to come to church for health reasons. As I'm not keeping Reserve Sacrament at COTM until I get my tabernacle (currently on order), I called down to Redeemer and they were more than happy to give me some of theirs. The couple I visited received me graciously and gave me some tea and "biscuits" after I gave them the sacrament. Nice people.

Life is good.


A Rubik's Cube Proof

A computer scientist managed to prove that any Rubik's Cube can be solved within 25 moves. He basically developed a way to mathematically model the "cube space" and the simplify the otherwise 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 combinations into sets (which still number in the billions). It took over 1500 hours of processing time on a quadcore workstation to solve each of those sets within 25 moves. Next he's going to attempt to prove that every cube is possible to solve in 24 moves.

I was always interested in creating a similar mathematical model to play every possible game of the "Free Cell" version of Solitaire. I know that not every "game" of Free Cell is winnable, but I wonder what the odds are that any given game is winnable. Some envelope-back calculations convinced me that the complexity involved means that actually solving each game would be near impossible by brute force. However, I could still get meaningful data by sampling possible decks.

Okay, now to REALLY geek-out: these kinds of problems would be instantly solvable by means of a "quantum computer." Such a computer basically leverages a weird by-product of quantum physics to essentially solve a problem by imagining every possible value of every variable simultaneously. In fact, any problem that could be expressed mathematically as a result of variables interacting could be solved in this way. It's possibly the ultimate computer. There is a lot of money going towards this kind of computing, particularly as the physical limitations of transistor-based computing begins to crowd Moore's Law. (Moore's Law predicts the infinite and exponential increase in power of computers over time.) A quantum computer would also be able to do things like break a cypher nearly instantly. (Current methods of simply guessing possible codes are limited.)

Anyway, it's not science fiction--small-scale quantum computers have already been built and demonstrated. When they get bigger, they will be very good at solving probability-based problems.

Obviously, computers have been on my mind the last few days...


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bede on Holy Week

I commend Bede's blog to you for an account of the Triduum Services at Holy Cross this year. Here's one of the fine moments in that story:
Early in the meal I turned around to get some page of the Liturgy that I needed and there was the full moon - the Paschal Moon - rising over the River. I stopped and looked at it for a while. To my left was a young woman whom we have known, along with all of her family, for many years, and she said quietly: "One of my earliest memories is of seeing the full moon through that window." And I thought: "Oh, my." I have been here for a lot of years, but I was a well-formed adult when I came here. I just thought for a while what it would be like to have always had this place in your consciousness. What does it mean to a life if one of the first things you remember is the moon through the Monastery window? I had a moment of very deep gratitude for being able to carry someone through life like that. (source)

Bede has a remarkable way of being present and available to the moment. I once asked him how that could be maintained "in the world," and he said that it is very difficult to maintain outside of monastic community, but it has been done. It seems that the people that we know capable of maintaining this kind of sensitivity are very disciplined meditators.

This morning at our contemplative Eucharist I had a thought about this. I think much of the talk about meditation is really unnecessary. I'm not even a huge fan of giving much instruction to guide novices as they sit. I think the real key is simply sitting down with the intention to be aware. The preconceived notions of what that awareness will feel or look like--descriptions passed down to us from teacher to student about about non-attachment to passing thoughts and so forth--ought to be self-evident from the practice. "Don't just do something: Sit there!"

My contemplative heart misses the days when I could just sit and adore God. I'm desperate to get to Holy Cross soon. Yes, I know I could "sit and adore" anywhere, but places, liturgies, and people all have ways of helping me return to my best self.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Unexpected Prayer

Yesterday afternoon I showed up at Trinity expecting to say Mass. The altar book (missal) was already in place, so I decided to set the ribbons first thing. Every priest is kind of idiosyncratic about this--I typically follow the pattern I learned from Fr. Harold:
  • White Propers of the Day
  • Yellow Ordinary of the Mass
  • Green Proper Preface
  • Red Eucharistic Prayer
  • Purple The Lord's Prayer
  • BlueBlessings and Dismissal

As I was doing this, a gray haired man came up to me and said, "I already set those." Not sure if he was an over-ambitious acolyte or a priest I said, "But I'm the Celebrant, right?" It turns out we were both booked for yesterday! I decided to yield to my elder brother, and I'm glad I did.

You see, it's actually rare that I get to just worship in an intimate chapel setting without having some kind of responsibility for something. So I received the gift of the opportunity to worship with the students gratefully. As it turns out, I experienced quite a nice relaxed prayerfulness during this liturgy. These kinds of daily chapel services are precious and it's a great honor to be able to participate. Being there made me a little homesick for Holy Cross, though. I kept thinking about how their daily Eucharist compares.

After the liturgy I spoke to a woman who was contemplating the new Pascal Candle in the Trinity Chapel. I noted that it was the exact same one that we had purchased this year. She said it was pretty and then I said that I was looking for a worthy destiny for last year's candle. She lit up and said that I could give it to her to send to the Caribbean. Beeswax candles are expensive there and so many Anglican churches would love to have our old candles. This strikes me as a great idea--and it's neat how a random encounter after worship produced it.


Project: ORAC part 2

Yesterday I spent about 8 hours on my computer re-build project.  I've decided to name him ORAC.  Double-geek points if you know what ORAC is without following the link to Wikipedia.  
Eight hours was long enough to assemble the whole thing from the parts and get Vista installed (thought not completely working, yet). I didn't run into any insurmountable obstacles, but this is by far the most complex computer build I've done to date.  Lots of little, sensitive pieces.  A few highlights:
  • Quad-Core (Extreme Edition) Intel CPU
  • 4 GB DDR3 RAM
  • Asus Formula Extreme Motherboard (including water-cooled North-Bridge)
  • Two 750 GB Hard-Drives in RAID 0 configuration
  • Two ATI Radeon 3870 Video Cards
The CPU, as well as the Motherboard, are water-cooled, which means that water is pumped in a loop through two copper water blocks and then through a radiator on the exterior of the case. Because water cooling is much more efficient than water, the components will stay cooler, last longer, and can also over-clocked well beyond factory specs. Normally, my CPU should run at 3.0GHz, but with water cooling I should be able to manage 4.0GHz easy.

Of course, running plastic tubing with pressurized water through a case of precision electronics is a little nerve-wracking, but I managed it with only one leak! Luckily, I used a non-electrically conductive fluid in the loop--specially made for the task. This stuff also changes color from orange to green depending on the ambient light spectrum (cool, heh).

This whole system comprises a blazing fast workstation that will be great for video, audio, and still-image editing. The shear processing horsepower will make short work of the otherwise time-intensive work of transcoding video from one format to another. Even opening a 1.5 hour MP3 recording of the service into my editing program takes about 15 minutes with my current set-up (which ain't weak).

Of course, all this hardware depends on a working operating system! Vista (64-bit edition) loaded okay (it only took 26 minutes), but then I ran into problems getting the video cards' drivers to work. This whole driver issue has been a problem for many of the Vista early adopters, but I think I know how to fix it tomorrow. Eventually I plan to make this computer a dual-boot Vista/Linux system, so that I boot either operating system. Linux can be much more efficient for certain kinds of tasks, and mastering it will be a good challenge. I like learning new geeky skills.

What to with my old box? Maybe make it into a media file server for home? Perhaps. It's already four years old, so I won't get very much for selling it....

Here are some pictures of the build...
The components laid out.  Note the bottle of orange liquid cooling fluid.
Assembling the motherboard.
Denise supervises as I assemble the hard drive cage.

Me, liking my life.

The completed motherboard assembly.  Note the plastic tubing for liquid to flow from the CPU cooling block to the motherboard's cooling block.  You can also see the impressive silver-colored heat sinks of the two RAM modules.
ORAC completed.  Note the radiator on the back of the case and the wide tubes within.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

PS - E-mail

BTW, Bell fixed the e-mail problem earlier than I expected, so it's working again.

Happy Easter

Happy Easter, everyone!

Celebrations at COTM went really well--it was the best stuff about COTM all wrapped up into one service. It was joyous and fun and relevant and just great. More details (and the sermon) later. Right now I need (and deserve) a pub lunch.

99 people here--which is more than last year!


The Vigil

The Vigil went well last night. We had 15 people, which was more than I was expecting. The lighting of the new fire mostly worked. But the first time I struck the fire steel I was blinded by the bright sparks, so I was aiming blind at the cotton ball I had soaked in lighter fluid. After a few more fruitless sparks, I asked Betsy to hold a flashlight so I could see without night vision and that did the trick: it caught on the next strike.

It turns out that a single cotton ball soaked in lighter fluid is plenty of fuel to see the altar book and the pascal candle. In fact, doing this ritual blessing of the pascal candle--scratching the cross, alpha, omega, and the numerals of the year--by flickering firelight was intense.

I thought my Exultet was pretty decent, especially once I settled into it. Funny how much more difficult these things are in actual performance vs. practice!

There are a few small modifications I would make for next year--but all in all it was well-worth doing this liturgy.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Vigil Preparation

I think I'm all set for tonight's vigil. I've put great care into making sure everything is where it needs to be. I've even rehearsed starting the "New Fire" about a dozen times. You see, this liturgy starts with a fire being kindled either outside or at the back of the church--the larger the better (according to the rubrics). So I have a little table-top charcoal grille to use for the purpose.

At St. Mary Magdalene's they use a nice cast iron pot which is just the right size and seals up tightly when the lid is put on to extinguish the flame. But putting the fire out is easier than starting it. At SMM Harold always uses a long-necked lighter like you'd use to light candles for a birthday party. It always grated my Anglo-Catholic sensibilities wrong to use such an undignified source for the everlasting fire! Especially since at SMM all the candles burn from flame taken from the Easter Vigil Great Fire--they simply pass the flame on from candle to candle throughout the year. (I've always liked that tradition.)

When I asked Harold about the lighter he shrugged and explained that lighting the new fire with a flint is near impossible. This year, I'm taking up his challenge, with a little help. A heard that one of the other priests in town once cursed the sacred flint as he tried to light the Vigil fire. In punishment, God made sure his microphone was on and everyone still inside the church heard his unkind words! I'm not taking such chances. I'm using a fire steel I bought in the camping section at Canadian Tire. I found that lighting something on the ground is easier than something suspended on a grill, because you can't brace the rod against the tinder. So I'm cheating a little. I'm dipping a cotton ball in lighter fluid, then putting tinder on top of that and lighting it that way. I usually takes five or six strikes, but it seems to be reliable. So stay tuned to see how that works!

I'm especially looking forward to doing the whole Pascal Candle routine--etching the Cross, Alpha, Omega, and year numbers into it, the adding the "nails." Very cool. I hope I get more than just a handful of people. From what I understand, the tradition of doing the Easter Vigil is new among Anglicans in Canada, so it hasn't caught on as much as it did in the U.S.


The Wonders of Technology

BTW, if any of you are trying to send me an e-mail yesterday or today it will probably bounce back. Basically, Bell failed to update a certain configuration file for e-mail on their end, so my e-mail is broken until Monday, sigh.


Friday, March 21, 2008

COTM Website

By the way, I finally sorted things out with the CIRA DNS naming authority, so we finally have control of the domain name again. So... voila: our new website: .

Obviously, to start with I just used the same CSS template I developed for St. Mary Magdalene's. I also haven't created all the sub-pages, yet, so pretty much all those links are broken. But it's a start.


Good Friday

Last night's Maundy Thursday service was deep. We did an Agape Meal, which I began using traditional Jewish blessings. Towards the end of the meal a stranger came and we were able to show him table hospitality, which pleased me. I went about filling wine and water glasses and essentially modeling servant leadership.

After the meal I went to a foot washing station I had set up near the font and washed the feet of the people who came to me (about 8 souls). They sat in a line of chairs and went from one to the other on my knees, dragging the basin and the pitcher of warm water with me. I used good, fluffy towels from home to dry the feet. Strangely, this most pastoral of liturgical actions is not the least bit awkward for me. It feels quite natural in fact--I suppose that's another gift of experience: I once spent three days clipping finger and toe nails in an Ashram in Kathmandu. To imagine an Ashram, think of a public retirement home for about 500 poor people run in what was once a Buddhist Monastery, now a dilapidated building, run by five Nuns (from Mother Theresa's Order, The Missionaries of Charity). This Ashram was right next to the Pashupatinath Temple complex on the Bagmati River--where the remains of hundreds of people a day are cremated. The smell of burning bodies mixes with the spice markets nearby. Surreal.

(As an interesting side note, they used to do human sacrifice in Pashupatinath until about the 6th Century.)

Anyway, having clipped the toe nails of the poorest of the poor people of world as they waited to die next to the cremation grounds, washing feet on Maundy Thursday is pretty tame!

After the foot washing (which made my knees sore, I will admit), we hid the Reserve Sacrament and started stripping the church. Meanwhile part of the Passion Narrative was read and then the whole of Psalm 22. By the time the Psalm finished, the chancel guild and I had emptied the church of all the ornament except a single white candle burning near the altar. When the reader finished the psalm, I turned out almost all the lights in the building and the head of the chancel guild carried the candle (still lit) into the sacristy. Thus, Christ appears to be gone, but we know He is only hidden from us.

Shortly after this, a woman in our congregation with some mental health challenges broke down and started talking incoherently and groveling at someone else's feet. When I came over to her she got up and hugged me, and I took her into my office to spend some time doing some pastoral care (with the door open--one must be careful these days).

Having her freak out wasn't planned, but it did put people into the kind of alarmed state that is appropriate for the liturgy. It also made me think about our liturgies are perceived by those with less control over their own minds.

Today, Good Friday, was a very different kind of service. I put the attention squarely on the cross (forgoing Communion even from the Reserve Sacrament). I preached about the crucifixion using an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association. This article describes, from a medical perspective, just how horrible crucifixion is. I took them to a painful place of looking at the cross.

Then we had the Solemn Intercessions and then we brought out a large cross for people to venerate. I set the stage for this by prostrating in front of the cross for a minute or two. Several people came up after to me do some kind of devotion, but fewer than I expected. The service ended bluntly (as it is intended to), and I could see several people were moved by the experience.

Good liturgy is like that--it has the power to move people so long as the clergy know when to step out of the way.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday 2008

What to say about Maundy Thursday? Something about the mixed feelings of the day. The love and service at the table. The long night. The arrest. The trial. The death. Jesus hidden.
"Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis
vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent:
Sibylla ti theleis; respondebat illa: apothanein thelo." (translation)

Mostly I feel tired. It's only Thursday and I'm tired! Lent should be over. Winter should lift. When will the snow melt?
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers. (source)

This time of year I often read T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. I believe it's really a Triduum poem: caught in the dynamics of this difficult three days.
After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience (source)

Yet it's a complicated resurrection Eliot presents to us. One of those already-not-yet paradox things.
In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.
Only a cock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico co co rico
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
Bringing rain (source)

The poem eventually leaves us the flooded plane, wondering what to do in our little boats.
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam ceu chelidon - O swallow swallow
Le Prince d'Aquitaine a la tour aboli
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih

It's a complicated poem. I spent a lot of time studying it before it really started to make sense to me. Reading Dante helps (which, coincidentally, I have been doing this Lent). Yet there is much wisdom there--and plenty of heartache to go around.

Sigh. It's Maundy Thursday.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Pulpit

I haven't posted anything from Dave Walker in a while, so I thought this might cheer me up. And yes, I purchased a license to use Dave's stuff.

Man, I wish I had a pulpit like that! Maybe I should build one.


Race in America

If you haven't already, check out Barack Obama's speech on Race in America. Very nicely done--it raises the bar to a new level....

The New York Times liked it, too.


Holy Week

Well, we are about to tip over the edge of Holy Week into the down-hill slide towards the resurrection. I find that this is usually a very difficult time of the year. Even before I worked in the church, I found that the last few days before the Triduum bleak. The weird thing is that it seems to be something in the whole universe that makes it feel that way, not merely my own interior goings-on. I remember the Lent I spent at Holy Cross many years ago when I had a big tiff with another resident of the monastery. It was really a silly little argument that we resolved the next day, but it fit with the whole depressing mood of the place and we went deep into Good Friday. Yuck. And as recently as last year I felt terrible at this time. This year I'm not feeling particularly good, either. I'm sick of the snow and sick of Lent and tired and blah, blah, blah. Easter can't come fast enough.

Today I worked a bunch of minor projects, including sorting through a bunch of old e-mail and having lunch with a colleague from a nearby church. Of course we talked about church and evangelism and mission and all that good stuff. We each went away having learned something new, which is exactly what I think we were both hoping for.

In particular, she mentioned something called "MOPS"--Mothers of Preschoolers. It's an ministry designed to meet the needs of young families by providing a place for mothers to gather and share community. From their website:
A MOPS group is a dynamic, inviting environment where women can come-just as they are to build friendships, be encouraged and gain practical parenting strategies. All while their children are lovingly cared for in the MOPPETS program.

What makes MOPS outreach approach unique?
At MOPS International, we believe in the model of lifestyle evangelism - that through meeting the needs of women, we demonstrate the love of Jesus for them in the following ways:

* Teaching and encouraging women about issues that are relevant to their stages of life
* Sharing our faith through actions and the way we live
* Taking the opportunity at least twice a year to present the gospel

How will I see MOPS directly impact growth in my church?
Moms who normally wouldn’t go to church will often join a MOPS group. In this season of early mothering, the need for practical help and spiritual hope, provides the chartering church with an opportunity to meet the long-term needs of the mom and her family. Through practical experience and training, MOPS gives women opportunities to develop their leadership skills to go on to serve in leadership positions in their churches, communities and places of work.

Intriguing, heh? I'll float some trial balloons with some of the mothers in the parish and see what they think of this.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


This morning was the annual "Renewal of Vows and Chrism Mass" at the Cathedral. That means that most of the clergy in the Diocese gather to renew our Ordination Vows. Also during the service, the Bishops bless the oil that is used through the year for Chrismation and Unction. All the clergy tote bottles to the service to have them filled for the year's supply. (Of course, plenty more is kept at the Cathedral in case we run out.) It's an interesting tradition that helps remind us all of our connection to the Bishops and the Diocesan family.

Every year before the service Christian Swayne, OHC, sits in a side-chapel to hear Confessions before the service. Usually I take advantage of this opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka "Confession"), but this year I didn't for two reasons: 1) I arrived at the Cathedral about 15 minutes before the service, and didn't feel like I was in the right head-space to confess for that reason, and 2) I couldn't think of anything specific to confess this year. Of course, often when I've gone for this sacrament I've confessed something vague and innocuous, which has some value, but it's not what we usually imagine Confession is for. As I sat in my Cathedral box-pew, I decided that Reconciliation is best received after suitable preparation, which I hadn't really done, so I should just try again next year.

The service itself was mostly about faithfulness and discipleship--worthy themes to preach to a church full of priests--but I wasn't really moved until I went up for Communion and passed through the choir while they sang some particularly lovely canticle (a setting of Ubi Caritas, I believe). At that moment, ascending the steps into the chancel and surrounded at once by the choir, the stain glass, so many clergy friends, and immanent Communion, I smiled and tilted my head back to drink it all in.

Then God pulled the rug out from my comfortable ego. By the time today was done I was made aware of several ways in which I failed people. Basically, several different people, in all love and charity, confronted me about some things I've failed to take care of recently. It's nothing that really hurts people or things in a major way, but it's just stuff where I let people down. I was expected to do certain things and I failed. I had to apologize and promise to do better. More than that, I was able to come up with some ways of correcting my behavior so that I should get a better result next time.

This kind of correction is hard. But, you know, we priest-types are always asking our people to accept loving criticism, and that's pretty hypocritical if we aren't willing to accept some ourselves. A senior priest told me a few months ago, "You need people to tell you when you are being an ass hole." So true.

The place where I really learned how to take criticism well was CPE. CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) is a training program for clergy that involves a combination of supervised pastoral care (in the form of chaplaincy) and what amount to group and individual therapy. One of the key experiences in this is learning how to criticize your peers and receive criticism in a healthy way. This is very, very difficult. But in CPE we spent literally hours and hours sitting in a circle listening to others criticize us. It's brutal. But if you survive, it's because you've developed a way to receive and process critique (and all the emotions that go with it).

Of course, some clergy would say that you should never admit to making mistakes in public unless you really must, because it undermines people's trust in your competence. But I think that's just baloney--if we can't repent openly, how is anyone else going to learn to do it? We are called to be models of the Christian life, after all, and that means continual amendment of life!

So now I need to get some cat litter and then work on a project due tomorrow morning that I have been procrastinating on. God help me, a sinner!


COTM Picture of the Diocesan Website

Check it out, a picture of the Church of The Messiah's Palm Sunday service made it on to the top page of the Diocesan website! Cool.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Another Presentation by Bishop Cray

Here are the two slideshows presented by Bishop Cray when he did a talk at St. Paul's, Bloor Street, on March 8th, 2008. The first one is about Fresh Expressions, the second is about some of the underlying theology for the shift towards Mission-based church happening in the U.K.

I hope those are useful to people. Thanks again to the Bishop for letting me share them!


Gym Update

When Lent began I made a commitment to go start going to the gym. Since we are coming to the end of the penitential season (but not the end of my commitment) it's worth a quick update...

So I've been going to the gym for the last several weeks. I must admit that I haven't fallen into a really good, predictable pattern, but I go when I can. One of the results has been a been a shift in my metabolism. I find that I need to eat frequently or else my blood sugar will get way out of wack. Once I became physically ill after skipping breakfast and having a late dinner. So now I keep a granola bar in the glove compartment of the car just in case.

The first few times I went to the gym I had a lot of soreness afterwards--but now my muscles will get tired and weak, but they don't feel horribly sore anymore. I can't say I've noticed a huge change in strength, but my endurance has definitely improved even in just a few weeks.

As for weight, I was told not to expect much change for the first few months since my workouts are designed to build muscle, not simply burn more calories than I am consuming, yet I have lost about seven pounds, which is good. With more muscle comes more burning of calories, and so the weight loss should happen gradually if I keep up the workouts.

I do feel that I would benefit from some personal training--specifically because a trainer could create some good, balanced routines for me. perhaps next month I could try that.

I haven't enrolled in any fitness classes, per se, but I did notice that they are starting a Brazilian Ju Jitsu class at my gym, so I may try that and see how it goes. Brazilian Ju Jitsu is really designed for dueling and involves a lot of wrestling on the ground trying to get your opponent into locks and holds. It can be absolutely exhausting. I learned some of this back when I was studying Karate so intensely in High School, so it might be a lot of fun to get those juices flowing again.

Anyway, life is good. I feel better for having gone to the gym (went today, in fact), and hopefully I can keep that up.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Fog of War

The U.S. has been in Iraq for about five years. The security situation has improved, but much of that is based on a tenuous ceasefire on behalf of the militia forces that could end at any time. No matter how you feel about the decision to invade, from a spiritual perspective it's worth taking a moment to note the costs of this war:

U.S. Military Deaths:

"Contractors" Killed
(as of June '07 and believed to be under-reported)

U.S. Military Wounded in Action:

Iraqi Civilian Deaths:
81,964 - 89,448

Cost of the War:
$406.2 Billion
($9.2 Billion a month)

It's hard not to find that disturbing, especially when it's juxtaposed with Rumsfeld's smug predictions before the war began (which he mostly maintained throughout). It was only when his doctrine of fewer-faster-better was replaced with the whole "surge" notion (cf. The Powell Doctrine) that things improved. I read a lot about the history of the first Gulf War, and it was hard not to keep thinking that Rumsfeld and G.W. Bush were ignoring all the lessons learned from the earlier conflict. And thousands of people have died as a result of their failures. That's a terrible, terrible thing to contemplate.

If this kind of thing interests you (politics, history, etc.), I highly recommend the movie "The Fog of War." It's a documentary about the life lessons learned by Robert S. McNamara (the principal architect of the Vietnam war). The film explores not only what he did and what he learned, it also goes into how he was formed in such a way as to come to those ways of thinking. Here are his 11 Rules...
  1. We misjudged then — and we have since — the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries … and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.
  2. We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience … We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.
  3. We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.
  4. Our judgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.
  5. We failed then — and have since — to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine.
  6. We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.
  7. We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale military involvement … before we initiated the action.
  8. After the action got under way and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course … we did not fully explain what was happening and why we were doing what we did.
  9. We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people's or country's best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.
  10. We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action … should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community.
  11. We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions … At times, we may have to live with an imperfect, untidy world.

He published this list in his 1996 book In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam--well before 9/11 and the decision to invade Iraq. He also generally refused to comment on the implications of this "lessons learned" for the current conflict (not that it takes much imagination to do so).

I remember the lead up to this war and the "Just War" debates that were going on in some Christian circles. I even heard that there was a public debate-by-letter between George Bush, Sr., (defending his son) and the then Primate of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Frank Griswold over the ethical justification for the war. (If any of you have a URL for this, I'd love to know it.) It's interesting to look back on those discussions and how each of us felt at the time. History is an excellent teacher.


Bishop Graham's Power Point

The Bishop of Maidstone kindly gave me permission to publish his slide shows on my blogs. This one is the shorter version of his presentation, which he gave at the Wycliffe Institute of Evangelism Dinner.

Pretty good, heh?


Seminaries Struggling

Here is an article about the struggle that many Episcopal Seminaries are facing. A number of trends have meant dropping enrollment for traditional, 3-year seminary programs. Hard times have already caused Seabury-Western to suspend it's M.Div. program, and others are trying to adapt. One interesting factor is the rising cost of higher education in general and the consequent debt load most of us must carry post-graduation:
For the class of 2006: While a third of Episcopal seminarians enrolled in three-year residential M.Div. programs had no debt whatsoever, of the two-thirds with debt, the amount averaged $39,085 halfway through a student’s seminary career, Reverend Mitman said. That cumulative figure includes consumer and automobile debt as well as all education debts, including those accumulated in the undergraduate years.

For those graduating this May, the average figure rose to $48,978. Estimating that those seminarians will accumulate another $14,000 in debt before finishing, that leaves them with $63,000 or so in average debt upon entering a profession where $45,500 is the average beginning compensation. (source)

Many other professions that require advanced degrees (Medicine, Law, etc.) have adapted to this problem by trading meritorious service (in deprived geographic areas, for example) for debt relief. Or the salary scales reflect the cost of pursuing the training in the first place. Alas, us priests ain't so lucky!



Sorry for no blog yesterday--I was at an all-day event with Betsy at the University of Toronto. It was kind of neat to be surrounded by academics for a while. I love the atmosphere of ideas and study that universities provide. I must admit, though, it's hard not to get materialistic about knowledge. I mean, to really crave reading and studying more. So many books to read!

Speaking of reading, I've been working my way through the "Mission-Shaped Church" Report. On the one hand a lot of it seems obvious to me by now, but then I realize that many of these ideas are completely new and radical to parishes in Canada and the U.S. I'm reminded at such moments that shifting the whole parish's orientation in this way is going to be very difficult (and stressful).


Friday, March 14, 2008

What Makes me an Uber Geek

How can I claim to be an Uber Geek? How about these badges of honor?


A New Blog

Uber Geek that I am, I founded a second blog. This one will be less about me and more about of the goings on in the Diocese of Toronto with regards to Missional Church. Basically, I've been noticing a network of churches and individuals arise who are interested in transforming their parishes along these lines, and it seems like a good idea to give ourselves a bulletin board for sharing information, etc. I don't want to hog this blog (quite the opposite, in fact) so if you want to be made an Admin for that blog, just tell me and I'll set it up so you can post stuff.


Alan Roxburgh Interviewing Graham Cray

I was at Wycliffe last night to hear Graham Cray (again). Here's an interview of Bishop Cray by Alan Roxburgh I "borrowed" from the Allelon website...



Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gadgets For God...

I can't help it, here's another post from Ship of Fools...

A Ship of Fools health warning: Not one word of the following sales blurb has been altered...

Cradle the memories of your lost loved ones within a rare jewel of artistry and song! A tender tribute to those who have gone to their eternal reward, this Peter Carl FabergĂ© style musical egg is available only from Ardleigh Elliott. It is handcrafted of fine Heirloom Porcelain® and opens to reveal a symbolic jeweled stairway, topped by a shimmering cross.

This collectable Holy Cross Christian religious music box sparkles with platinum accents, Swarovski crystals, and more than 100 sparkling hand-set rhinestones. It bears a heartfelt inscription and plays "Amazing Grace." Imagine giving yourself or a friend the comfort of this limited-edition bereavement gift – what a lovely way to welcome the healing touch of faith!

Price: £34.98 – click here!


My Favorite Christian Joke...

I got this from the Ship of Fools, though it has been reprinted various places...
Written by the comedian Emo Philips.
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. I ran over and said: "Stop. Don't do it."
"Why shouldn't I?" he asked.
"Well, there's so much to live for!"
"Like what?"
"Are you religious?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "Me too. Are you Christian or Buddhist?"
"Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
"Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"
"Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"
"Baptist Church of God."
"Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"
"Reformed Baptist Church of God."
"Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?"
He said: "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915."
I said: "Die, heretic scum," and pushed him off. (source)


J.C.'s Girls

Here's an interesting story: there is a ministry in Los Angeles called J.C.'s Girls. A former stripper turned evangelist has created a ministry reaching out to strippers and their clients. Heather Veitch is also trying to change the culture of local churches to accept sex-workers who are looking for the Gospel and brave enough to risk rejection by congregations.

My favorite quote:
And I came to [my pastor] and said, "Matt, um, I want to go into strip clubs and tell strippers about God." And he said, "Heather, go make it happen."

So part of this story is the empowerment of lay ministry to do unconventional evangelism into cultures that are alien to mainstream Christianity. At first I was a bit suspicious because this looked like a bait-and-switch kind of approach, but as I've listened to Heather's story a bit more I see that her approach is actually much more loving and open-hearted than that. She is the real deal.

No doubt her visibility will be raised even more by the documentary film about her, "The Pussycat Preacher," but she has already been on the talk show circuit.

Something else about her is worth noting: her husband suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him disabled. So she is raising her kids, taking care of her husband, earning the money, and do this ministry on top of all that! More power to her.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008


When I first came to COTM I noticed that they had the practice of reserving the Sacrament from Sunday, but didn't have a proper place to do so. I tried to find a spare tabernacle lying around the Diocese without any luck, so I've decided to go ahead and commission one to be made by a local furniture maker. It will be a simple oak box with a lock and an adjustable peg system for hanging icons on the front. It is possible to buy something like this already made from a church supply store, but they are nearly twice as expensive out of a catalog than custom made. The mark-up on church stuff is unbelievable!

It will take a couple of weeks to do it--at that point I'll post some pictures. I'm not 100% certain where to put it. I'm thinking in either the Vestry or the Sacristy to start, and then I may move it in to the Chancel at some appropriate time. I'll also have to figure out how the handle doing a presence lamp of some kind...


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Present Moment

Bede's blog is particularly good this week. Flooding in the church is fodder for a discussion about the nature of spiritual attentiveness to the present moment....
So if, in retrospect, I go back to that moment, what can I recover? What was the Present Moment, if I had been willing to be there? Well, there was a lot of frantic dashing about, some of which was useful and some of which was merely using up excess energy. There was the feeling of tension and anxiety. There was some feeling of hopelessness while the powers of nature roared outside our door and we couldn't do anything about it. And, if I'm right, there was a rather cosmic chuckle behind things at the thought that we could build a Church on this hillside and forever escape the powers that govern the law that says that water flows downhill. And there is also that freedom that does come with practicing the present moment: the sense that the best and most lasting things about life are behind and beyond and within all that is going on in this present moment. The present moment in fact can liberate or bind us, and sometimes it does both. But, as the old hymn says: "Underneath are the everlasting arms." (source)


The Runaway Bunny

The previous blog entry reminded me of The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. It's an illustrated children's story from the 1940's. Margaret Wise Brown also wrote Goodnight Moon, and both are great religious allegories. Goodnight Moon is, in my opinion, a meditation on death and spiritual detachment. Note the progressive loss of self as the attention focuses inward until a state of emptiness is achieved. (Cf. The Cloud of Unknowing, etc.)

As the movie Wit points out, The Runaway Bunny can be read as an allegory about God's unbounded love for the soul. As far as we can run, there God will find us. It's great poetry! I think I might use it a sermon sometime.

You know, it's rare that I hear I death preached well. I mean, I've heard plenty of good funeral sermons, but it's rare that a preacher really digs his or her hands into the dark soil of grief. I think there are a lot of reasons for this. For one thing, few preachers are comfortable getting truly vulnerable in front of their congregations. For another, it means opening up a box of emotions that may be difficult to close. Yet there is some incredibly powerful spiritual work to be done with grief preaching. I tried my hand at this a couple of times at St. Mary Magdalene's with good results.

Part of the reason I wanted to preach through grief at SMM had to do with my discernment that it is a parish that is still grieving the loss of Christendom. It's a place that still mourns the loss of pervasive Christian influence in Canada. There are a lot of parishes that feel that way (I've even experienced some of that at COTM).

I remember particularly the sermon I preached after I got back from the funeral for Douglas Brown, OHC. I went to that grief place with the congregation and they came with me. Several people were crying, not because they knew Douglas, but because they had their own losses to feel. I don't think this kind of preaching is self-indulgent at all; I simply was "real" with the congregation in a way that conveyed God's grace (I hope).

I've done something similar for Good Friday. A couple of times now I've done a brutal sermon on that holy day by simply describing in detail the facts of what crucifixion was like. It's hard to hear--but God is there, too.
"'If you run away,' said his mother, 'I will run after you. For you are my little bunny." (source)


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Lent 5 Sermon

I went much longer than usual: almost 20 minutes! Maybe I was just reflecting having heard John preach last week. Or maybe I simply had a lot to say this morning...


More on Missional Church

I preached about Missional Church this morning (big surprise). The lections were perfect: Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones and the Raising of Lazarus. Basically, I said that if God can resurrect a pile of dry bones or some corpse that's been rotting for four days, then He can certainly give new life to the Church!

A couple of reflections about the meeting yesterday with Bishop Cray...

I gotta get me a copy of Mission-Shaped Church, the report from the Church of England about Mission and Evangelism. This document is a blockbuster in terms of opening up the CoE, and everyone keeps referencing it.

I need to check out the training resources developed through the Fresh Expressions project. What's there that's worth me spending a lot of time with?

Doing traditional church better (a model based on attraction) at best means competing for only about 6% of the population--but being a different kind of church has virtually infinite potential.

Key Principles:
  • Inculturation
  • Planting not cloning
  • "Dying to live" (cf. John 12:24)
  • Less detailed advanced planning; more discernment in context
  • Seeing what God is doing and jumping in

" not try to call them back to where they were, and do not try to call them to where you are, beautiful as that place may seem to you. You must have the courage to go with them to a place that neither you nor they have been before." Vincent Donovan

Mission to Community to Worship, not Worship to Community to Mission

A sign of maturity in a Fresh Expression is that they know they need inherited church, and vice versa.

Every form of church is provisional and incomplete.

Fresh Expressions require a new ecclesiology, but they also need a new and robust eschatology to backup all that Kingdom-talk. We need a new language for the Christian hope that is more than just middle-class suburban bliss and do-good-isms or maintaining a repository of "culture."

If the decline of the church is our fault (for not adapting to changing need) than it can be addressed through a process of repentence (cf. Bob Jackson).


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Missional Church Meeting

Today two of my three Wardens and myself spent a few hours at St. Paul's, Bloor Street, to hear a presentation by Bishop Graham Cray about Fresh Expressions of Church. This the third event on Congregational Development/Evangelism/Church Growth I've been two in the last month or two. They've all been a little different, but also strikingly similar in many respects. Basically, the Church is poised on the edge of great change and growth, and it's being one all over the place already. So much of this mission stuff is about giving people the permission to engage their imaginations to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit already in progress.

One priest at the event pointed out that what's happening is a network of churches and people in the Diocese interested in Mission church is beginning to emerge. That's going to develop all kinds of experimental mission projects and initiatives. Yipee!


Friday, March 7, 2008

CCCC Meeting...

We had another meeting of the Christ-Centered Character Curriculum work group today. We made more progress on what we hope to create and how we are going to get there. It's not easy but it's coming along fine...


Project: ORAC Part 1

This week I ordered the first of the parts for my computer rebuild. They included a Thermaltake Black Armor Full-Tower ATX Case, An Asus Maximus Extreme Motherboard, and an Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core Processor (3.0 GHz). This is just the beginning of what is going to be one bad-ass workstation. My intention is to get back into creating websites for the church, and that means being able to edit image, sound, and video files. With my current computer I can do those first two fairly easily, but editing video has been difficult and inefficient. The transcoding alone (taking it from one format to another) takes hours with my single Pentium 4. More than quadrupling my processor power ought to help with all kinds of media-creation tasks.

I'm also looking forward to the craftsmanship aspect of the project. the "Leviathan" is going to require some new skills from me. I've never done water-cooling, for example, until now. That's right, my computer will use a system of circulating water to cool down some critical components. Stay tuned for more updates as I assemble the components...


Thursday, March 6, 2008

It's the Toys Stupid...

NPR has this piece about how the changing way kids play is negatively affecting their development. Basically, old fashioned play (more make-believe and less out-of-the-box) does a better job of teaching kids self-regulation and other skills necessary for self-mastery.


Eastern Influences Part 2

Ok, as promised, here's a compilation of some of the responses I got on the APLM List-Serv when I asked about Eastern Influences on Anglican Liturgy. All the links are mine...
Dear Fr. Moss, I have just returned from the most recent SCLM meeting in Memphis, and am not yet unpacked. However, I will give some thought to your very important question. Off the top of my head, several suggestions: Andrewes' "Preces Privatae," with notes by F.E. Brightman, gives some concrete illustrations of the Orthodox influences on a major Anglican Divine, another important area would be available commentaries on the study of the Scottish Non-Jurors. Finally, I would urge you to put the same question to my collegue [and former neighbor at seminary] the Rev. Prof. J. Robert Wright. His long experience as an advisor to Presiding Bishops on Orthodox relations, together with his command of Anglican Liturgical history make him the best possible source of information. Greg Howe

There is an article by Boone Porter on Mozarabic influences on the Book of Commmon Prayer, written about 1989-92 or so. And although the Mozarabic liturgy was of course Latin, its roots are probably in Byzantium and Syria, by way of North Africa. Boone's article may have appreared in The Living Church--I do not know, but a bibliographic search might render its whereabouts! Juan Oliver

The direct influence on the early Tudor Prayer Books is pretty minimal -- the most famous example is the Prayer of St. Chrysostom in the office. The influence in the new rites is overwhelming. In the eucharist the Greeting, the Prayers of the People and the ecumenical eucharistic prayer are based on Eastern models. Perhaps the greatest influence is the baptismal rite which is arguably the most beautiful and influential work in the new rites. The introduction in the Canadian Book of Alternative Services gives a very brief outline of the sources. Doug Cowling

You can also find more about this precise Byzantium influence on Boone’s personal contribution and on the BCP in the book written to honor him upon his retirement. I can’t remember the title, though I contributed an article about his general impact on the church. Joe Doss

Another influence comes with the provision for several pieces of service music in the 1982 Hymnal They are probably little used. S123 is a Mozarabic setting of the Sanctus, and S 272 of the Gloria. (The index wrongly lists the memorial acclamation at S 140 as Mozarabic; it is in the Ambrosian preface tone.) The Altar Book includes a florid Mozarabic setting of the eucharistic dialogue and preface for Prayer D. My former rector, Wayne Wright (now bishop of Delaware), loved to sing this during Easter.
What makes a liturgy Mozarabic or Ambrosian or Byzantine or anything else is not only words, those least of all. It is music and vestments and the whole way they do the liturgy. Ormonde Plater


Prayer of the Week - Lent 5

Beloved Parishioners,

Among those who talk about Evangelism and church growth it is sometimes said that the Anglican Church in the U.K. is about ten years ahead of the Anglican Church in Canada, and that the Americans are ten years behind us! This is because the massive cultural shifts that have secularized society in Canada in the past few decades hit first in the UK and lag in the United States. For this reason, many of us in Canada are looking to the cutting edge evangelism movements in England for clues about what we should be doing, now, in Canada to grow our churches.

At a recent meeting of clergy and lay leaders here in the Diocese to talk about these movements we heard from Dr. John Bowen who told us that in order to do mission and ministry in the 21st Century we need to be more clear than ever about what we are about as church. Inherited cultural assumptions about the role of the church in civil life simply don't apply in a world where many people have never even read the Bible or learned the most basic facts about our religion. It is a post-Christian age. Dr. Bowen suggested that we should begin with one of the most ancient descriptions of the church, the one we find in the Nicene Creed: "We Believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church." These are the traditional four attributes of the church.

By saying the church is "One"--we mean that we experience a unity in the church unavailable in other relationships. Somehow, we know ourselves to be one body--Christ alive in the world. This manifests locally in our sense of community when we show regard and care for one another. Think of the Prayer Chain and coffee fellowship and these messages. Think also of our Christian education programs and our efforts to grow together to maturity in Christ-likeness. When we look inward at ourselves and each other, we manifest this characteristic of Church.

To say that the Church is "Holy" means that it has its origins in God, but it also means that it sustains that connection with the divine. In our context, we experience this most clearly in worship as we lift our voices in prayer and praise. We celebrate the Eucharist, a memorial feast that makes God specially present among us. The "holiness" of the church is the transcendent aspect of what we are about--our looking upward.

When we talk about the "Catholicity" of the Church, we mean the sense in which our local community of faith is tied to all other Christian communities through space and time. We are connected by common heritage and belief to Redeemer down the road and also to the worshipers in Medieval Cathedrals a thousand years ago. The Bible, faith in Jesus Christ, the prayers we've received, make this true. We invoke this when we speak of the "tradition." It means, in a sense, looking backward.

Finally, the fourth attribute of church--"Apostolic"--is when we experience ourselves as reaching out towards the world in mission. This is the aspect of church most closely associated with evangelistic zeal and love. It is the loving gesture we make towards the world that communicates the love of God--the Word that is Jesus Christ. It is an outward focus that directs our awareness to the world God created.

I'm laying all this out here because I'm beginning to see them as the framework for our renewal at COTM. It is not overambitious to think that as church we need to be developing in all these aspects at the same time. I am beginning to see how our efforts to create the "Christ Centered Character Curriculum" enhances our "oneness" as we form a new generation of faithful Christians. Similarly, the work that Matthew, the choir, and others have put into worship enhances the "holiness" we aspire to in liturgy. So does repainting the nave and replacing the chairs.

One area still under development is the Mission of COTM--the specifics about our witness to this community. I hope that the upcoming parish visioning event on April 13th will give a chance for the Spirit to speak to us about this. This will be the second of three workshops designed to allow our vision for ministry to emerge, and I hope to see as many of you there as possible! I also believe that the Missional Church movement, which both Andrew Sheldon and John McLaverty have spoken about at COTM, will play a role here.

The manner in which our "Catholicity" will flourish is also a bit unclear to me. No doubt our worship will continue to use the spiritual language of our inheritance: the prayer books and hymns of the church. But are there opportunities to make our links the Universal Church stronger? Maybe our outreach is part of this.

Brothers and sisters, we have taken up a project that we did not begin. We will harvest spiritual crops we did not plant! But we are being sent into the fields to do the Lord's work, and I'm incredibly excited to be a part of it! Please continue to join in the conversations we have about our future and God's will for us. These are great times to be part of the Church of The Messiah!
Creator of all, you made the church to be the continuing presence of your Son in world, bless our efforts in your vineyard. Give us courage and wisdom as we seek to build your kingdom. Help us to have patience and diligence in our struggles, and keep us ever mindful of your providential purposes. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Psalm 23

Here is a recording of the COTM choir performing Psalm 23 as set by Bobby McFerrin on Lent 4 (Mothering Sunday)....


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Slow News Day...

Another busy day--too busy to do that post about Eastern liturgies. But I did say two masses and plan most of the Holy Week services. One of those Masses was at Trinity Chapel. It's always a pleasure to celebrate with the students. Nice folks.

There is an article in the New York Times about American Immigrants to Israel having a hard time proving that they are sufficiently Jewish. This reveals much deeper identity problems within Jewish culture.
More than any other issue, the question of Who is a Jew? has repeatedly roiled relations between Israel and American Jewry. Psychologically, it is an argument over who belongs to the family. In the past, the casus belli was conversion: Would the Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew coming to Israel, apply to those converted to Judaism by non-Orthodox rabbis? Now, as Sharon’s experience indicates, the status of Jews by birth is in question. Equally important, the dividing line is no longer between Orthodox and non-Orthodox. The rabbinate’s handling of the issue has placed it on one side of an ideological fissure within Orthodox Judaism itself, between those concerned with making sure no stranger enters the gates and those who fear leaving sisters and brothers outside. (source)


Monday, March 3, 2008


Not much to report today--except that I broke a stovetop in dramatic fashion. I had been using it season a cast-iron pan (following directions for doing so) and had just finished when I turned the stove top off and went downstairs to change the laundry to the drier. When I came back up, an alarmed looking cat was staring at a pile of glass spread all over the floor. Apparently the glass part of the stove surface had shattered. I guess some parts of the stove top cooled at the different rate than others? Anyway, it broke and we'll have to get that fixed. Bummer.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Lent 4 Sermon

This morning John McLaverty, a member of the parish and also a pastor-turned-Church-Consultant, preached. I appreciate his style very much--like me he likes to go without notes, looking people in the eye and developing a relationship as he goes. I would describe his exegetical style in this case as being somewhat experiential, not afraid to do a bit of Midrash to break open the word like so much bread. Good stuff. John is very smart about the Missional Church stuff being developed, and I'm looking forward to learning more about that from him.


"State of the Parish" Sermon 2008

This is the "State of the Parish" Sermon given to the congregation on the Sunday of our Annual Vestry Meeting (Lent 3 - February 24th). It is also the Charge to the Congregation, of course. Doing in the service rather than an the Vestry meeting is a good idea, begun by my predecessor, considering that only about half the congregation stays of the actual meeting! And yes, I do preach on the Propers for the day, as well.



Today I had an encounter with a person that I could help. I have known this person for some years, and today she needed my help. It happened that I was in a position, as her priest, to help her in several ways simultaneously, and that made me feel really good. This kinds of pastoral encounters are so precious--they keep you going. Interestingly, she spoke to me about the Kingdom of God--which is a theological concept I've been thinking a lot about lately. The Spirit, IMHO, at this time seems to telling the Church to build Kingdom communities and lead people to be disciples ready to imitate Christ. I know, that sounds like something the Spirit is always saying to the Church, but when I look at the emerging Christian movements as well as the successful mission initiatives of inherited-church traditions, I see a renewed emphasis on Kingdom and Christ-likeness.

Anyway, it's just neat to be able to exercise Pastoral Ministry in a way that you know helps people in big, big ways.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Baptismal Formula

The Vatican's doctrinal watch-dogs, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), has recently ruled that Baptism done "in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier," are not valid! It's a popular formula, but it does have it's problems. Essentially, it defines the Trinity in "economic" terms, rather than relational ones. You see, the work of creation, redemption, and sanctification are performed by the three persons, anyway. So they decided that it was just not a sufficient expression to be "valid" at baptism.

Of course, this Western emphasis on understanding sacraments in terms of their validity or unvalidity is problematic in itself. I mean, we can say much more about them and their efficacy than whether it was "done right."

I can't really talk about feminist theology and the naming of God without referencing Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, and her awesome book She Who Is. She's a brilliant, brilliant scholar who knows how to argue persuasively from within the tradition. If her stuff is of interest, you might also check out this essay she wrote about the things that have influenced her.

(incidentally, no, I have not forgotten to post about the Easter Influences question, I've just been too busy to synthesize the responses I got into a post.)


Geez Magazine

Do you all know Geez Magazine? It's sort of a Christian version of Ad Busters (which I also like very much). Their motto is "Holy mischief in an age of fast faith." They are having a contest to find the top 30 sermons you'd never hear in church. That sounds promising. They did one amusing piece in the last issue about whether communion bread (the little white disc kind) comes from an acceptable source, eco-justice wise. The verdict was not good.


"Christ Centered Character Curriculum"

Today was long. It began with a meeting at St. John's, York Mills, with the working group developing this new curriculum I've been talking about. We met for about 3 hours and made tremendous progress in narrowing our focus. We even gave what we are doing a name--"Christ Centered Character Curriculum" (CCCC). We also decided on our "key" virtues to develop and several other aspects of what we are doing. We also drafted a logo! The group's enthusiasm is infectious, and I'm looking forward to our next meeting. It's nice to know we are on target with this developing work.

I didn't have long at Church before I had to go to my singing lesson with Hallie. Lately I've been working hard on the Exultet, which is a hymn the Deacon singing during the Easter Vigil liturgy. It's probably the most difficult piece in the standard Anglican priest repertoire. I say "standard" because Anglo-Catholic parishes can have other, more challenging pieces. But for most Canadian Anglican Priests, the setting of the Exultet in the musical appendix of the BAS Altar Book (aka The Missal) is about as hard as it gets.

I've been working hard on it, and I'm doing well. Hallie says my intervals and diction are excellent. She would like to hear better phrasing (I'm taking too many breaths). Also I can be a bit "pitchy" in the beginning section, which in my case is about settling into a home pitch rather than about knowing what intervals I'm trying to get. Good thing I have a few weeks to get it closer to perfect.

After my lesson I went on a grocery run and then got home and started cooking supper for some friends that were coming over. I made a relatively simple salmon dish. Here's the recipe...
Salmon With Lemon-Pepper Sauce
1 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel, divided
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil plus additional for brushing
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
6 6-ounce salmon fillets
1 1/2 cups (lightly packed) watercress leaves and small sprigs
Fleur de sel
6 lemon wedges

Whisk yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon lemon peel in small bowl. Season with salt and generous amount of pepper.

Whisk honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil, shallot, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon peel in 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Add salmon fillets and turn to coat. Cover and chill at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour, turning salmon fillets occasionally. Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Line large baking sheet with foil and brush with olive oil. Transfer salmon fillets, with some marinade still clinging, to rimmed baking sheet. Roast until salmon is just opaque in center, about 14 minutes.

Place 1 salmon fillet on each of 6 plates. Drizzle with lemon-pepper sauce and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve, passing additional sauce alongside. (modified from this recipe on Epicurious)

I also sauteed some bok choi, roasted some asparagus, and prepared a nice salad. Our friends provided homemade cheesecake. It was a nice evening.

Now I'm ready for some sleep.