Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Rare Note About Schismatics

I normally don't comment much on this blog about the ongoing unpleasantness in the Anglican Communion. But the latest news from Jerusalem is just too juicy to pass up: a group of conservative Bishops meeting in Jerusalem have decided to redefine what makes them "Anglican."
The conservatives’ statement said that although they acknowledged Canterbury’s historic position, they did not accept the idea “that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

They said that membership in their conservative alliance within the Communion would be determined by 14 principles of theological orthodoxy laid out in a manifesto they released on Sunday, which they called the “Jerusalem Declaration.” (source)

Funny how they are willing to abandon traditions like the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury or the the Lambeth Conference (which they wanted to undermine by meeting ahead of) when it suits them. Also significant that they are framing this as an anti-Colonial movement. (Note, by the way, that they met in Jerusalem despite the objections of the Anglicans there who feared the impact this would have on the delicate relations they have with their Christian and Muslim and Jewish neighbours.)

But perhaps most troubling and non-Anglican is this weird "Jerusalem Declaration": Since when is communion determined by passing a test of theological orthodoxy? Note that they want to return to the 1662 BCP as the standard of worship and the "plain reading" of the Bible (modern scholarship be damned!) They also, of course, make male-female marriage one of their founding doctrines. It's so odd to me--if you are going to define a church with 14 principles, to make one of them about sex and none about, for instance, economic justice. Jesus had very little to say about sex or marriage (avoid divorce, adultery is bad, weddings need booze, etc.) but lots to say about the evils of wealth. Sigh.

So they are taking their toys and going home. Fine. Let them split off like all the other splinters from the Anglican Communion. All I know is that I have a very nice little Garden that God wants to me to do something with. And boy are those tomato plants getting tall!


Pride Parade

I marched in the Gay Pride Parade today. It was a real blast. I didn't realize it would be so much fun. Lots of Anglicans to march with. Someone even brought sashes to wear that read "Proud Anglicans." I marched with a handful of clergy and about 20 or 30 lay folks and one Archbishop (Terry Finlay). Before we marched he asked me some questions about Messiah, a parish he knows relatively well. When David Miller (the Mayor--a good Anglican) went by us with the city council he gave us a hearty wave and pointed the Archbishop with a look of recognition. As we went across Bloor and then down Yonge Street our float got lots of cheers and waves from well wishers. I was shocked by how many people were lining the route. Apparently the Toronto Gay Pride parade attracts a tonne of people from all over the region.

But the walk was also exhausting--I spent something like 4 1/2 hours on my feet. I didn't think ahead enough to bring water, but I did remember my camera and took plenty to interesting shots. I'll post a few the next time I'm in the office.

Worship was good. People got a kick out of singing "God Save the Queen" and "O Canada" (in honour of Canada Day tomorrow). I preached about leadership, borrowing heavily from Judy Paulsen's presentation but adding a dash of Edwin Friedman for good measure. We talk about he "priesthood of all believers" frequently enough, but about the "Apostleship of all believers"?


Friday, June 27, 2008


Today I went to the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board offices for a meeting related the Christ-Centred Character Curriculum that we've been working on. The School Board has done a lot of work on character development for their students, but there is very little of this going on at the parish level--so we make a good partner as we develop this stuff.

After that I made a pastoral visit and that finished off my work day. At home I did a bit of yard work and helped Betsy plan part of our Istanbul trip. Hard to believe we are going to Istanbul for two weeks! I'm still getting used to that idea. I think we are going to love it. I'm especially interested in visiting some of the old churches and mosques. Needless to say, I'll be bringing our camera(s)!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Prayer of the Week - Pentecost 7

Beloved Parishioners,

Jan Richardson, an artist who maintains a blog in which she reflects on the upcoming Sundays readings, had a remarkable thing to say this week about hospitality. She was reflecting on the story of the unnamed Shunammite woman that shows hospitality to the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-37). In recognition of her act of generosity, Elisha prays (successfully) for her to have a child despite old age. Jan writes:
I think of the Shunammite woman as I ponder Jesus’ words about how those who welcome a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. Which at first doesn’t hold a lot of appeal, given the usual “rewards” bestowed upon prophets. For their efforts, they are dangerously prone to imprisonment. Beheading. Crucifixion. Slaughter by various methods. But in the land of Shunem, a woman welcomed a prophet with a room, a bed, a table, a chair, a lamp. Looking for no reward, the woman provided a sacred space for a holy man. And within the space of her own self, an unexpected child began to grow.

It’s a strange economy, this kind of hospitality. We can’t know what we will set in motion when we offer some space to the ones whom Jesus tells us to welcome. We offer a cup of cold water, or a place to rest, or an extra room, or a corner of our heart; we cede some precious territory to one who comes with a word from God; we open ourselves to remembering who it is God put us here to be, and all of a sudden, we’re carrying something we never expected to carry. Maybe it’s not a literal child, as it was for the Shunammite woman. But this kind of hospitality always makes room for new life to take root in us and to come through us in ways that we can’t predict. That’s part of the strange economy, the curious ecosystem of hospitality: open a space to the holy stranger, and God creates a sacred space within our own selves. An extra room in our own souls. A place for God to grow. (source)

Hospitality is something we offer not just because it's a "good" thing to do, or even because God tells us to do it. Hospitality is something that transforms us into being more God-like, as it was God who made the ultimate gesture of hospitality in the creation of the world. A world created to accommodate us. When accommodate others with generosity of heart and wealth, we imitate the God of creation.

Let us, beloved, therefore outdo one another in showing honor and mutual affection (Romans 12:10). This is, too, is our calling as followers of Christ.
Gracious God, you created a world for us, your children. Help us to show hospitality that we, too, may accommodate others. Fill us with love for our neighbors and the courage to make room for them out the blessings you have given us. We ask this in the Name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Communication Begins in Song"

Donald Schell contributed this piece about liturgical music to the Episcopal Cafe Blog. I found the following paragraph particularly striking:
In all the fractious debate in our Anglican communion, we have managed, at least sometimes, to remind ourselves that ‘communion’ isn’t something we make or earn. Sometimes, at least, we remember that communion is what we do together that makes us one. I hope bishops at this summer’s Lambeth Conference will remember that communion is neither an enforced human artifact of pure unity nor a reward for agreeing that everyone like us is right and everyone not like us is wrong. But can we find our way without singing together when music is an essential nutrient in the fertile ground from which communion springs? Does this sound like overstatement? I do mean it. (source)

It's such an Anglican/Episcopal idea: let's figure out how to worship together and let God deal with our conflicts. It's one of great contributions to Christian theology: Lex orandi,lex credendi. What am I talking about? Here's a snippet from Wikipedia to explain:
Given its locus in the worship of the Church, Anglican theology tends to be pragmatic and strongly liturgical and ecclesiological, placing a high value on the traditions of the faith. It acknowledges the primacy of the worshipping community in articulating, amending, and passing down the Church’s theology; and thus, by necessity, is inclined toward a comprehensive consensus concerning the principles of the tradition and the relationship between the Church and society. In this sense, Anglicans have traditionally viewed their theology as strongly incarnational. (source)

This is a very difficult thing for many non-Anglicans to understand. I think our Brothers and Sisters that come from Reform Traditions, in particular, have a hard time with Anglican wishy-washiness. Bishop N.T. Wright was asked by Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report, "What do Anglicans believe, anyway?" The Rt. Rev. responded, "If it's true, Anglicans believe it." Or perhaps more accurately, some Anglican(s), somewhere, believes it!

I love being an Anglican.


This Makes Me Sad

Seen on Craig's List...

Blue Recliner Chair - $50 (Avenue/St. Clair)

Reply to:
Date: 2008-06-25, 1:41PM EDT

Are you tired and stressed out at the end of the day? Do you need a place to put up your feet and stretch out?

This Lane "Relaxor" recliner is designed to melt away your stress. Not only is it super comfy and soft, but it also comes with a built-in massage function! Just lift the cover on the armrest and use the attached controller to adjust the intensity and speed of the massage. The armrest also has a cup/bottle holder and a deeper bin for remote controls or snacks. No more reaching or bending over to rest your drink on the coffee table or floor. All this luxury and comfort can be yours for just $50!

Although everything about it still works, it is well worn. The upholstery has some damage from our cat's claws around the front corners. The chair comes apart into two pieces for moving.

Sigh, goodbye old friend...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

COTM Does Gospel

In all the busy-ness lately, I haven't had chance to post about the choir's recent adventure. They went to a one-day Gospel Music workshop on Saturday. The event ended with a concert that I attended. Our choir even got to do a special piece on their own that was really nice. It was great to see our choir shine, and I think they got something out it. Matthew is already thinking about next year!


Video of Paperless Singing

Here's a video taken at the All Saints Company conference "Music that Makes Community," St. Paul's Chapel, New York City, April 2008. It's an example of the style of "Paperless Music" that I've been thinking about. You can find a bunch more videos like this by going to You Tube and searching for "Paperless Music."


Your Full Ministry

On my mind, this passage from this upcoming Sunday's lectionary:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

It's the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul and the lessons are all about pastoral leadership. Appropriate, perhaps, that I just attended a (Momentum) workshop about church leadership. One of the interesting things that Judy pointed out there was that conflict is absolutely necessary for church leadership, and that one should actually "mine" for conflict. Conflict is where the growing edges and creativity are. So one important metric of group effectiveness is its capacity to tolerate the anxiety produced by conflict. I think a lot of clergy get themselves into trouble by avoiding and then occasionally reacting to conflict.

This is a pretty obvious observation is make. Most people will tell you this. But taking to the next level--application--is much trickier. The proverb I hear a lot in church leadership circles is "you have pick which ditches to die in." Meaning that while conflict is good, it takes resources to engage and you can't do it all (at least, not simultaneously). Perhaps this is why Paul says we need to have "patience in teaching." Anybody who has taught anyone anything knows something about that.

So for me "Full Ministry" has something to do with that active and awkward-making moment when you, the priest, choose a path that makes people a bit uncomfortable. The alternative, making everyone happy, is neither holy nor really possible. Comfortable is for the easy chair you use to watch football and nap on Sunday afternoon. We are called to intentionally make ourselves uncomfortable!


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Meditation as the Craft of Thought

Deirdra Good (NT prof. at General Theological Seminary in NYC) points out this interesting book on her blog:
This astonishing book was the subject of one of our workshops: Mary Carruthers, The Craft of Thought. Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Pp. 399. ISBN 0-521-58232-6. $59.95....

For medieval monastic culture, meditation, and not rational argument, is the path to proper remembrance. And for monks as for artisans, the notion of "craft" implies the proper use of the body as well as a craftiness of mind. So, this is a book about meditation as a "craft" that presupposes the mastery of all of the mind's "tools" that are appropriate to the soul's own special vocation, which is to employ proper books, "places" and buildings, and images (all of which involve as well the participation of a pure and well trained body) in the quest to know God. (source)

So much of the work of Christian spirituality is about proper remembrance--it makes sense to see meditation as the craft that makes this possible. I'm struck that we don't teach this nearly enough in church on Sundays. I mean, meditation is often one of the next things Christians are exposed to in their developing spiritual lives once they look beyond Sundays, but we don't look at it much on Sundays. Sometimes we'll have silence in liturgy or sing in a contemplative manner. But that isn't really teaching meditation, per se.

Once I gave a children's sermon at SMM in which I taught them about meditation and even did a five minute sit with them. Perhaps I should do something similar at COTM...


Sermon - Pentecost 6 2008 (Kerrie's First!)

This Sunday was our monthly family service--which means that the kids stay the whole time with the assembly, and that there are some liturgical choices made to engage them. Usually the sermon is designed with the kids in mind.

Since we have a new Director of Children's and Youth Ministry--Kerrie Fulton--I thought this would be a good chance to give her a shot at preaching. It was her first time, so I basically just threw her into the pool--but really, is there any other way to learn?

She decided that since the kids were doing a special musical anthem after communion, she would show she is teaching the kids to use their bibles to find answers to questions like, "why do we sing?"

Very nice for a first attempt! I love her fearlessness, many people would have looked at me like I was nuts if I asked them to preach!

Here's a direct link to the MP3 file...


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sermon - Pentecost 5 2008

I was pleased with how this sermon went. I think I'm definitely getting back into my preaching groove...

Here's a direct link to the MP3 file...


Judy Paulsen on Leadership

Here is the Powerpoint presentation that the Rev'd Judy Paulsen (Incumbent of Christ Memorial Church, Oshawa) gave to our Momentum group a few days ago. Many thanks to her for sharing it....

Also, a few books Judy recommended:


Friday, June 20, 2008


Momentum is over for me. The last hurrah was a good one. Lots of good laughs and some interesting final sessions about leadership. One of these was a presentation by The Rev'd Judy Paulsen--she promised to send me her Powerpoint show to post here when I get the chance.

Work has been busy and stressful. Missing two days means stuff piles up (including blogging stuff). But I'm not going to stay late on a Friday night to do that kind of Administrative stuff. I am, however, going to have a nice full riding my desk tomorrow. Tonight we are going over a friend's place for dinner. It will be nice to be pampered for a while.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Very, very busy day. Trad Com (BCP Communion), then fellowship lunch. Then I had barely an hour to return a bunch of phone calls before our staff meeting. The meeting went very well. Lots of good discussion as we covered a lot of ground and made some good-feeling decisions about a variety of matters. Amazing how much goes into running a place like this. For instance, we are still struggling to deal with the trash. Toronto Waste Services keeps missing the pick-up, for some reason. The "Trash Inspectors" (think police internal investigations but for trash) are trying to figure out why we keep getting missed. We also have yet to source a good, rugged trash receptacle for outside. The rats (yes, rats) ate through what we had out in the alley before--so we need something super tough.

We had to end the staff meeting when Susy Bleasby arrived to plan some more details of this summer's mural project. It's going to be intense. As I'll be away for much of it, good planning will be critical. I'm also thinking that I may need a designated "project manager" on the church side of things to coordinate the various things that need to mesh together. I should pray for God to give me a volunteer keen to do property management!

Again, I barely had an hour to do some e-mail and phone calls before the happy couple arrived to do marriage prep. Now it's 7:30 and I'm tired and looking forward to going home.

Tomorrow and the next day I'll be at a Momentum retreat, so don't expect a post. It's my "graduation" from the program--so a very bitter sweet moment in my professional career. Consider that I've shared deeply with these friends for the first three years of my call to Canada.


Marriage Prep

I just finished doing a marriage prep session with a couple that live in the neighborhood. The actual wedding is being done by another priest out east, but it made sense for them to do the prep here.

Every priest does this differently, and my own style seems to change a lot based on the couple. For instance, sometimes it feels more like couple counseling and we really dig up deep stuff. Other times it's more like a class where I'm giving them "homework" like personality tests and essays about the spirituality of marriage to read.

I notice that a lot of priests seem to approach marriage prep as essentially a psychological issue. They want to explore issues around compatibility and behavior and so forth. Others treat marriage as a liturgical problem, and focus too much on ushering couples through the planning of the ceremony. Me, I like to cover a broad range of stuff and see what resonates with the couple. Ultimately, I'm just there to facilitate a process that is ongoing and will continue long past my brief involvement.

Another thing worth noticing: the couples I've met with are usually very enthusiastic about doing the marriage prep. They take it seriously and believe me when I tell them that studies show that good marriage prep is a significant factor in people staying together.


SMM: The Best Church Choir in Canada...

BTW, I keep forgetting to post my congratulations to the St. Mary Magdalene's Gallery Choir for winning the CBC National Choir Competition in the category of "Church or Temple Choir." I'm very proud of them and can't help but be amused that St. Thomas's came in second, despite the fact that they pay many of their members, etc. What's a little friendly competition between high-church parishes?

When Stephanie Martin told me about it she had a real spark in her eye. Then she stuck her fist out for a "pound." Lol. I've always had a great connection with her and Bruce.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Memories of Pizza

Friday was a busy day. Lots of little projects to handle--many of them confidential enough that i can't say much here. By the end of the day I was emotionally drained, but managed to gather enough energy to go out. Betsy and I went to a CD release concert at the church. It was a very successful concert, and the performer, Heather Taves, certainly put the piano through its paces. It worked pretty well, although there were a couple of minor technical issues that need to be addressed. The soft pedal and the sustain pedal were creating some problems--but it didn't interfere with the concert much.

After the concert, we went to a friend's birthday party. Once there, I met a woman currently in Kansas who got her masters degree at Yale. It was fun to talk about New Haven and Kansas and such places that I used to call home. I miss New Haven sometimes. It was a good size and had a lot going on. I still miss the excellent pizza. (New Haven claims to have invented the Pizza as we know it in North America.)

You haven't lived until you've had a New Haven mash potato and bacon pizza.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Prayer of the Week - Pentecost 5

Beloved Parishioners,

In the Gospel lesson appointed for this Sunday (Matthew 9.35-10.23), Jesus sends his disciples on a mission. He sees the enormous need of the crowds of people who have come to receive his teaching and healing and "had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (9.36). In response to the world's need, he asks the disciples to pray for workers to gather the Lord's harvest (v.38). The prayer is apparently answered, as Jesus sends out the twelve disciples to extend his work among the Jews (vv. 10.5-6). Their mission is to "proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons" (vv. 7-8).

Jesus' further instructions deserve our attention. He tells these first evangelists to travel with the barest of provisions. Without money or extra clothes, they must rely on what the people to whom they minister provide. He tells them to expect opposition. "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues" (vv. 16-17). Yet poverty of preparation is a feature of Kingdom-preaching: "When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time" (v. 19). They are to rely on God, not careful planning, to provide for their defense.

In our age of anxiety, we are told that careful planning will save us from a bad fate. So we develop procedures and asses risk and buy insurance and do everything we can to insulate ourselves from the reality that life is delicate and every moment precarious. But one of the features of the Kingdom-come is that every moment is a precious and holy encounter and that everything we need will be provided to us. This is a Gospel of freedom from worry even as we prepare for the most difficult of mission trips.

I'm not saying that planning doesn't have it's place in the life of faith, merely that we should not be possessed by it. There is a time for talking and for council and a time for action. I think more has been lost in the church by endless meetings than wasted by ill-conceived initiatives. Churches are naturally cautious creatures, but Jesus could not have been more clear in his instruction to spread the Good News. Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine....

Let us Pray,
O Lord God, you are the Holy One that dwells in all the world, receive our prayers for courage and faithfulness as we respond to your calling. Give us the conviction of hope and love that is our calling in Jesus Christ. Inspire our actions with your spirit of wisdom, that all we do may work to the building up of your Kingdom. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

In Christ,

Father Matthew Presents: Ordination

Father Matthew has a new video out. This time he's doing a three minute take on the meaning of Ordination:

I'm planning to bring him up to Toronto this fall to give a talk about Evangelism in the Internet age, or something similar. He does have a knack for describing things in a way un-churched people can understand.


The Gospel of Judas

Remember a year or two ago when the Gospel of Judas was released with such hype? The people selling the books (in this case, the National Geographic Society) said that the recently discovered Gnostic text told the story of how Judas was really a good guy, the most trusted disciple, and turned Jesus over because that's what Jesus wanted.

Well, it turns out that the Gospel of Judas doesn't say that at all. In December 2007, April Deconick, a Professor at Rice, wrote a devastating piece in the New York Times based on her translation of the original coptic.

So what does the Gospel of Judas really say? It says that Judas is a specific demon called the “Thirteenth.” In certain Gnostic traditions, this is the given name of the king of demons — an entity known as Ialdabaoth who lives in the 13th realm above the earth. Judas is his human alter ego, his undercover agent in the world. These Gnostics equated Ialdabaoth with the Hebrew Yahweh, whom they saw as a jealous and wrathful deity and an opponent of the supreme God whom Jesus came to earth to reveal.

Whoever wrote the Gospel of Judas was a harsh critic of mainstream Christianity and its rituals. Because Judas is a demon working for Ialdabaoth, the author believed, when Judas sacrifices Jesus he does so to the demons, not to the supreme God. This mocks mainstream Christians’ belief in the atoning value of Jesus’ death and in the effectiveness of the Eucharist. (source)

So much for Judas being the misunderstood good hero. The latest chapter is that the National Geographic Society (NGS) team is now working with the community of scholars (including Professor Deconick) and have substantially revised the English translation that got so much attention:
Marv and Gregor's revised popular edition of the Gospel of Judas should be released any day, and it is a much more "neutral" translation. Marv and Gregor asked each of us at the Codex Judas Congress to take a look at it and give input. Of course, they made the final decisions on what was changed and what was not, and there is not unanimous agreement. But their willingness to ask other scholars to be involved is exactly how the best scholarship is accomplished. It is too bad that the NGS policy did not allow for this the first time around, but that is water under the bridge now. (source)

The whole thing is another example of how the media's quest for sensational stories about Jesus distort scholarship. Yet it's hard to ignore the money these organizations have to fund research.



Father Jake's blog tends to discuss to focus a lot on the current controversies in the Episcopal Church, but check out this entry that is a response to a recent New Yorker Article by Tobias Wolff on the power of aesthetics.
And what drew me back, some time later, toward the possibility of faith? Poetry. George Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins and T. S. Eliot. One night, I was reading the last lines of “Little Gidding” to a friend, my voice thick with emotion, and when I looked up he was staring at me with kindly amusement. “So,” he said. “You really like that stuff?” (Wolff as quoted by Fr. Jake)

That's the thing about aesthetics: different people respond to the same signs and symbols differently. When we make the decision to, say, sing one hymn and not another, we have already privileged a certain set of tastes over another.


Charlotte in Hawai'i

Here's a picture of my niece, Charlotte, at my dad's place:


Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Here's one for the ain't-ministry-odd bin.

A guy comes in (without an appointment, of course) and wants to talk to me about baptism. I say "Great, have a seat." Then he explains that he grew up Muslim (in Africa) but not particularly religious. Since coming to Canada, he sees that there is truth in all religions and has found great spiritual unity with the divine power and would like to be baptized. As we explored further, he revealed that he had no interest in going to church, and had never, in fact, been in a church before that moment. Nor had he read even a small part of the Bible, but he wanted to be baptized. Why not come to church? Because Christians aren't very good people, according to what he's heard on TV. Shouldn't he come and judge for himself? No, thanks, he just wanted to be baptized and get out of here.

He is then quite mystified that I won't just baptize him right then and there. Why does it have to be on a Sunday? He doesn't want to sign up for anything--he just wants to be baptized. In fact, he tells me, he's already been baptized by the Divine Spirit. Why does he need me? Because, he says, it's important to fulfill outward appearances. Umm, huh.

So I'm at a loss with what to do with this guy. Interestingly, he seems to think he knows what Christianity is and what baptism is, and is not convinced otherwise be me. I pull out the BAS and try to walk him through the sacrament so he can understand it better, but he's not really listening to me except to find loopholes. His desire for this sacrament is totally based on a selfish desire for some metaphysical benefit that he could not describe but expects to receive.

So I'm polite and give him water to drink and suppress my frustration that this guy could be so ignorant and presumptuous. I tried to tell him a parable about how foolish it would be for me to tell him things about his home country based upon rumors I had heard--that I must listen to people like himself to know the place. He counters that rumors I have heard about his country are probably correct, and that I know all I need to know about his country. I realize, by this, that he is just playing games with me and has no interest in learning anything new--he just wants this blessing.

Stalemate. I tell him that I'm not going to baptize him today--but I exhort him to come on a Sunday and meet people and see how the church feels. He goes away utterly unchanged in his opinions. Hard not to feel like I failed to give a good account of "the hope that is in me." Sigh. They don't prepare you for this crap in seminary.


The Pound

The other day, when Obama won the nomination, he touched fists with his wife in a gesture that's similar (but cooler) than the old high-five. Some people in the media (Fox news) called this a "terrorist fist jab" and then had to apologize when they realized what most people know: that the "pound" is gesture congratulations. I even do it with parishioners sometimes!

I love it.


David and Velma's Visit

Betsy's parents, David and Velma, drove up from Pennsylvania to be with us this past weekend. It's always nice to have them around. On Monday we went with them our neighbors to a baseball game.


Spring Fling Photos

The parish held a "Spring Fling" last weekend: about 24 of us gathered to clean up the gardens and plant things. Appropriately, it was also the 5-year anniversary of my ordination as a Deacon. Time for some servant leadership. A few pictures....

I was pleased that we had such a good turnout and that the planting turned out so well.


Sermon - Pentecost 4 2008

Last Sunday's lessons were pretty complex--but the thread connecting them seemed to be this notion that we grow by moving beyond our homes to "those regions which are beyond." I was reminded of my seminary moto: In Illa Quae Ultra Sunct. (yes, I'm sure that spelling is wrong.) I argued that this extends to the post-Christian world. What takes us into those places is a certain and sure faith.

Here's a direct link to the MP3 file...


Sermon - Pentecost 3 2008

This sermon was a call to return to the essentials of faith. I also talked about how the renewal of the Church of The Messiah begins with a sense of foundational truth--the love we have received from God--and then to the foundations of our church: community, building, worship, mission.

Here's a direct link to the MP3 file...



Matthew (the Director of Music and Liturgical Arts) and I are planning ahead for summer worship without the choir. One of the things we are talking about doing is chanting the psalms. It is difficult to assess, however, how easily the congregation will learn this style of singing. It is also tricky to think of good ways to teach it. I wonder whether anyone out there in the blogosphere has any ideas?


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More Publicity for the "Naked Truth" Calendar

The Calendar my Dad's wife and their friends made to promote the cause of 100% pure Kona Coffee has gotten more press. The Star Bulletin's article makes more of the feminist angle and makes it clear that the calendar "suggests everything but reveals nothing," as Mary Lou Moss is quoted saying.

Apparently they sold out of the first printing and are going to print another run. Good for them!


Monday, June 9, 2008

Birgenair 301

As regular readers of my blog know, I have a macabre interest in airline crashes. This probably stems for a healthy diet of such stories in my youth. Growing up as the son of a Boeing Project Manager and the grandson of a Pan Am Pilot will do that to you.

I saw a documentary about the sad case of Birgenair 301 the other day. The Boeing 757-225 had spent almost a month sitting on the Tarmac at the airport in Puerto Plata before being called into service in 1996. The Turkish crew was glad to finally be returning home, which may have been a factor in the Captain's decision not to abort takeoff when he and the co-pilot noticed that their airspeed indicators were disagreeing. Later, the investigation would determine that the pitot tube on the captain's side had been blocked and was giving false readings as a result. The co-pilot's system was correct all along.

At the point the two pilots noticed the problem, they still had room to abort, but instead the captain decided to proceed to acceleration and the take-off roll. Once in the air, he continued a string of mistakes that lead to the loss of the aircraft and 189 people. First, he activated the autopilot despite the faulty airspeed readings. By default the autopilot computer uses input from the captain's side pitot tube and therefore was misled. As the plane gained altitude, the pressure outside the blocked pitot tube went down, creating a differential between the inside and outside of the tube that was interpreted as data for the ASI (Air Speed Indicator). As they gained altitude the "speed" increased. The autopilot attempted to correct the problem by pulling the nose up and reducing power to the maximum of its authority.

In reality, the plane's speed was dropping precariously, but the pilots were being bombarded with warnings that they were traveling too fast. The pilots, confused about the source of the warnings, wasted precious seconds resetting the circuit breakers. This would only temporarily silence the alarms. Not trusting either ASI, the captain then made the critical mistake of pulling back on the throttles still further. This brought them to the edge of a stall. The computer sensed the stall and automatically disconnected the autopilot and made the pilot's control column shake as a warning of immanent stall.

Confused by the contradictory warnings (overspeed vs. stall) the captain failed to take action to avoid the stall. The co-pilot and a relief pilot in a jump seat behind the captain suggested that he maneuver to level flight. However, he maintained the nose-up attitude and the airplane began to enter the stall. Getting desperate, the pilot pushed the throttles to full power, but by that time the airspeed over the wing was too slow to support the setting and one engine failed. The asymmetrical power introduced yawl which exacerbated the stall. The airplane fell over on one wing and plummeted into the ocean. Everyone on-board died.

Several failures caused the accident. For one thing, the pitot tubes should have been covered to protect them on the ground. For another, the captain should have aborted take-off. Once in the air, he should have maintained awareness of what the aircraft was doing or delegate that task. Instead, he became preoccupied with the faulty instrumentation and failed to notice that the autopilot was taking them to the edge of the flight envelope. Then, once they were about the enter the stall, he ignored the advice of the two junior pilots. At that point, American crews are trained for the co-pilot to take over control. He should have taken hold of the control column and pushed forward. But remember, this was a turkish crew, and it is not culturally appropriate for a junior to usurp authority in this manner. These days, crews are trained in something called CRM (Crew Resource Management), which recognizes that crew members need to be smart about who pays attention to what as a crises looms. Too many people have died because pilots have been overwhelmed by the complexity of their aircraft.

To be fair to the captain, several crews put through a simulator failed this test. The contradictory warnings have a way of unnerving people. As a result, Boeing made changes in the warning systems and pilots are now required to go through at least one blocked-pitot tube scenario in simulator training.

That makes me feel better.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Vespers

As usual, Bede writes articulately about an experience I have shared, but haven't been able to articulate. Sunday afternoon the monastery after the guests leave is a special time. I find Sunday afternoons to have a similar feeling for me at COTM. It's one of the reasons I stay at COTM for a few hours after everyone has left--I need to feel the building relax around me. I need to know the place as quiet.

Here Bede is reflecting on the Sunday afternoon Vespers service:

Just last week I was thinking of the quality of my attention at Sunday Vespers, and it's quite an interesting thing. I'm not riveted on the meaning of the words, I haven't got the energy. Sunday Vespers is not the time for intense prayer, at least for me. It's a time for sitting in God's lap. I'm not absent from the words of the Psalms and the readings, but I'm not closely focused on them, either. The years have given me the Psalms as a part of my consciousness and they are never absent from me. But at this time I'm conscious of them pretty much in the way that I'm conscious of my bones or my toes. They are there, they are crucial, they carry me. But at this point, they aren't the center of my attention. My attention is more diffuse. I'm taking in the light, the smells, the sounds, whatever is there. (source)

I'm especially moved by his comment "The years have given me the Psalms as a part of my consciousness and they are never absent from me."

BTW, the Order is meeting in Chapter this week and a Superior will be elected on Saturday--so be sure to remember them in your prayers...


Sunday Notes

Attendance was just slightly on the soft side today. I suspect the intensity of Saturday's work day may have been a factor. More and more I'm itching to improve the signage outside. I'm eager to see Melana's latest plans on Tuesday. But I realized on Saturday that we could even put up some smaller flag poles jutting out diagonally from the building corners on the Avenue Road Side. We could hang the Anglican Church Flag and perhaps the Canadian Flag, etc. I can see brackets that once held flag poles, but like many things around COTM they have been neglected for many years.

No, I haven't forgotten about my desire the fix the flag pole on the top of the bell tower, but that's going to be a very big deal. Just rigging the safety line properly is going to take some careful effort. And once I get on top of the tower I have to haul up a ladder from the side of the building! I suppose a professional company would come in with a rented cherry picker, but I think the climbing approach is still okay as long as I find good hard points to attach my safety line. I also will need a spotter, of course. Anyway, it's still on my list of things to do.

In the mean time I need to see about getting those smaller poles installed. They need to be set up so that someone at ground level and raise a flag without a ladder. They would look good and they give a sense of activity. The new landscaping, BTW, is a huge improvement!


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Spring Fling

Friday was full of running around. That including preparations to receive Betsy's parents. We had supper with them at home.

Saturday morning was the "Spring Fling" at church--a day for exterior planting and landscaping. The turnout was good--about 20 or more. We did a ton of work. One of the Wardens and I ended up digging up some old, trashy beds on the south side of the church and replanting them. One of the long-time members of the church (pre-fire) told me that I was the first priest he remembers who ever got his handles dirty at parish events like this. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think laboring side-by-side on projects for the good of the congregation is a great way to lead from the front.

After working at the church for a few hours we headed to the house of a parishioner with a pool for a pool party. I did some massive canon balls into the pool, myself. The kids had a great time in the water and the adults enjoyed grilled meats and other summer pool-side delights.

I got a bad case of water in my ear--which became quite annoyed and inflamed. I tried the trick of putting in alcohol to get rid of the water. That didn't get rid of the inflammation and pain, however. So I went to the drug store and got something that did the trick. After letting the drops soak in during a nap I was mostly back to normal.

Church in the morning. I think the congregation should feel proud of itself for a job well-done today!


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Clergy Conference Recap

Two priests came over to our house at noon to start the road trip out to Guelph for the Conference. I asked one of them, a newly ordained Curate, to bring some "interesting" music along. The other is new to our Diocese from the U.S., and I've been helping him get acclimated to life in the Great White North. We barely listened to the CD's as we got so wrapped up finding common connections and friends. In fact, I even missed the exit off the highway and to turn around and try again.

I was initially overwhelmed seeing so many friends all at once. There were about 175 clergy at this event and lots of connections to reestablish or create. After check-in the first Plenary Session introduced our theme: "Passionate Leadership: From Beleaguered to Beloved." Essentially, we would hear stories throughout the conference of people going from feeling depressed and run down and transformed and passionate.
Jason telling me not to post his picture on "that blog of yours"

"Social Time" meant networking, talking about our various churches, and taking advantage of the over-priced bar. $5.50 for a beer? Yikes. Lots of people to talk to. Lots of stories to share.

Supper was followed by small-group discussions facilitated by the new Curates. Compline was said in our groups. Then there was another social time. In previous years I gather there were more plenary sessions and less social time, I'm glad that the balance was adjusted. Time in proximity with colleagues always seems to be the most important part of these events.

After the party was the after-party. 'Nough said. "What happens in Guelph stays in Guelph."

Slept in Tuesday. Rejoined the group for lunch in my kilt. A few people were familiar with Utilikilts before the conference, and one of two guys even told me they have a real kilt at home. Mine was much admired, especially by the ladies.

The afternoon was for scheduled free time. I opted to go on the beer tour. A bus took about two dozen of us to two local breweries for tour and tasting. Wellington Brewery, our first stop, was a smaller operation than I expected. They emphasize traditional recipes and ingredients imported from England in their brew. We saw beer in process and admired the pleasing stain-glass fermenting vessels. I recognized the yeast smell from my dad's home brewing adventures.

The second brewery, F and M, was even smaller. Their claim to fame is a kettle that heats the wort with direct heat. As it turns out, there is a lot of cross-pollination and cooperation between these microbreweries, and they often cooperate to find efficiencies. For instance, one plant will have a nice bottling line while the other will have a good canning line and then they'll trade services so that both breweries can offer cans and bottles.

Our last stop was a local pub where we sampled yet more beer, including some "real" style ales that have less carbonation and are served at a lower temperature than what most North Americans are used to.

Back on campus in time for supper. A word about the food: it was good, but not exactly calorie-counting-fare. In fact, I had gravy with every meal except one over the three days!

The day ended with another plenary session and social time. This night I went to bed early. One does get older year-by-year.

Breakfast, then the last Plenary Session. It was divided between a presentation by Bishop Elliot and a Q and A Panel with the bishops known informally as "The Bear Pit." It's a custom at Toronto Clergy Conferences, I'm told, for the Bishops to allow their clergy to ask whatever they want. The doors are closed, it's just the priests and deacons, so you can imagine how intense that could get. Yet this year most of the questions were soft-balls prepared ahead of time and asked by the moderator. Then there was only time for two questions from the floor, which was pretty disappointing. I know that was the only real complaint about the whole conference that any of us had, which is remarkable.

The Room for Our Plenary Sessions at the University of Guelph

But we had one of the real gems of the conference: a fantastic Holy Eucharist liturgy. The Prayers of the People were a magnificent example of how moving sung prayers of the people can be. The Cantor did an excellent job. The sermon was good, as well. But the real prize was the liturgy of the Table (everything after the Peace). We gathered around a large square table and chanted repetitively while the new Deacons did an elaborate offertory rite. It focused on preparing the Altar Table itself rather than on the gifts of bread and wine. When they were finished, Bishop Johnson sung an entire Canon of the Mass. The Word were unfamiliar, yet poetic, and singing them was the right choice. Communion was by stations arranged naturally on the four-corners of the Altar Table.

Bishop Johnson Presiding at Holy Eucharist

Many of us agreed that it was the best liturgy at a Diocesan event that we've seen in a long time. I paid my compliments to the planners and kept thinking of things we might try at COTM.

Lunch (more gravy). Then good-byes and the road trip back. We got stuck in traffic but didn't mind--we had a lot to talk about. New friends. New ideas. Funny things that happened.

I'm looking forward to the next such event in two years. In the mean time, my last Momentum Session is coming up in a week or two.


"The Naked Truth" Calendar

Regulars to my blog know that my dad and his wife grow and sell Kona Coffee in Hawai'i. Most of the "Kona" Coffee that you find around is actually a blend of real Kona Coffee and cheaper stuff, and loose labeling laws allow the big mills to be deceptive in their advertising. Needless to say, farmers like my dad are big into protecting the reputation of 100% real Kona Coffee. One of their efforts along these lines has produced a semi-nude calendar entitled, "The Naked Truth about 100% Kona Coffee."

A local paper has the scoop:
"A bold step was needed, and we took it," said Mary Lou Moss, a Kona coffee farmer who operates Holualoa-based Cuppa Kona and came up with the idea for the calendar.

The calendar, which sells for $12 on the trade association's Web site, aims to "tastefully" depict farming activity that takes place each month of the year on Kona coffee farms.

Eleven farmers agreed to be featured in the calendar, including "Miss May" Cecelia Smith of Smithfarms, who said participating wasn't easy but was helped by champagne consumption. (source)

I'm so proud. You can buy one of their calendars from this link...


Advice on Improv From Donald Schell

Donald Schell, former Co-Rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa and now Consultant and Creative Director of the All Saints Company, posted the following advice about improvising Gospel stories on a liturgy E-mail list-serve. I'm thinking that anything posted on a forum is fair game, so here's a repost:
I'm writing from Malawi, Africa where I'm spending three weeks assisting my wife's annual visit (she's international programs director for Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance). Through the wonders of wi-fi, I'm here reading this conversation. Responding to Margaret Lukens' reference to what we developed at Family Camp and Pamela's concern that it takes an auteur, I offer this description of a process for converting a Bible story into an improvised, participatory theater event where reflection on what people have done takes scripture into body memory.

I'm in the process of developing this as a replicable method, so am glad to answer questions, clarify, or pursue this in whatever detail would be helpful to anyone (and doing so will help my work as well). My only caveat is that I'm slower, at the moment, at email due to to travel -

The method doesn't work well with every Bible story. It takes a narrative that's more than just a conversation because the improvising structure is based on finding and communicating physical cues (blocking and gesture) in the text. Stories that work very, very well, so examples to hold in mind as you read through this would include the Prodigal Son, Zacchaeus, Jesus healing the blind man in John's Gospel (pretty substantial and a little long, but reach in physical detail), Mary Magadalene at the Tomb (John) and the double resurrection appearance in the upper room (John again). I've discovered John's Gospel stories (unlike the discourses) are remarkably rich in physical description of action, as though the writer had a dramatist's imagination, but any Gospel or other story with physical gesture and conflict and resolution can work.

Here's the description of the method as I've practiced it and begun teaching it - - -

1. read the story over several times (stories with a small to medium sized cast of characters work best and stories with real conflict work best).

2. find ANY physical (posture, touch, movement) cues embedded in the story (e.g. 'Mary Magdalene turned...' or 'Jesus reached out to touch...,' or 'Jesus knelt down to write in the sand...') The physical cues are the essential framework for the improv. (this is a powerful means for the 'preacher-director' to make discoveries including questions of possibly different interpretations in the text - for example, in the appearance to Thomas, does Thomas take Jesus's invitation to place his hands in the nail holes and in the wound in his side? Does he begin to make that gesture and then fall at Jesus' feet? And does Jesus leave him there or raise him up. These can be director's decisions or the director can frame them and leave them to the improvising actors, but I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

3. where the text offers choices about how to enact (does Jesus appear to Thomas in his sight or behind his back other disciples see him and he has to turn?) make a choice for directing the improvising actors. For this passage in John, I think it's interested to have Thomas first SEE the wonder on the face of the other disciples and then turn to face Jesus. If I'm making a choice that's not determined by the text, I tell people that as we're making the improvisation.

4. study the lines characters speak. Will the words work paraphrased or are there specific words or lines people need to get quite accurately for the story/enactment to make sense? in the later case, plan either to give people an index card (only when they need the line) or feed it to them a phrase at a time and have them repeat it.

that's the planning stage as I do it.

5. In the moment, read or narrate the story and then recruit volunteers from the congregation or group, usually starting with the least challenging roles ('I need three disciples of Jesus who will represent all twelve for us,' or 'we'll need four people to be a crowd of townspeople'), then moving on to more individual and challenging roles ('We'll need a Zacchaeus), to the roles that people might be initially reluctant to volunteer for - 'we'll need someone to be Jesus.') I nearly always find it works to trust who volunteers. I also do gender-blind and age-blind casting. Having a girl or woman play Jesus would be the most obvious example. Sometimes it's revealing and in parables, it's possible to adapt the story to the actors, e.g. the parable of the prodigal daughter or the prodigal son and the dutiful big sister.

6. talk them through the scene using the preparation work you've done ahead. This is something like a rehearsal. It may feel a little stiff, but discovery begins to happen (you'll see and feel it). When you've gone through the story beginning to end as an enactment ask the actors (and then the group) what they felt or saw (not 'thought'). Then invite group and then actors to provide other directorial choices and say, 'shall we try it that way?' and we do it again, concluding with a second conversation about what they felt or saw. Nearly always the second enactment takes on an sincerity, intensity and economy that is full of grace and discovery.

My goal is to get the text embodied and envisioned rather than interpreted. It's more wild and alive that way and stays with people (learning continues past the liturgical or teaching event).

I'm glad to offer clarification or addition to any of this.


Having participated in this kind of thing on several occasions even as a child, I can relate that it is very powerful and transformative work. I mean that it's not just pedagogically useful for conveying the content of the stories, but that it changes you as a person to participate.

If this kind of thing interests you, check out Systemic Constellations, which is a therapy methodology that takes advantage of the mysterious dynamics of drama to affect positive psychological change. I attended one such therapy session back when I was seminary and it was a real eye-opener. Sometime I'll do a long post to tell the remarkable story of that day. Suffice it to say that is not just psycho-bable: drama resonates with something deep in the human condition.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Clergy Conference Recovery

I just got back from a three-day Clergy Conference for the Diocese of Toronto. They usually hold these every other year. It's a chance for the clergy to gather to learn, share, pray, and network. I had a great time, and the general buzz was positive. I took some pictures and hope to be able to do a fuller report tomorrow. I think one of the highlights was introducing a new guy to the clergy of the Diocese. He's an American just called to a well-known parish. He started there last Sunday, so it his first big Diocesan event. What an introduction: three days living and eating with about 170 clergy!

Key memories: ordering pizza at 2 A.M., a table at lunch applauding the Utilikilt I was proudly wearing, and one of the best Diocesan-event Eucharists I've attended in years.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Secret Service Codenames

The American Secret Service uses codewords to refer to the dignitaries they protect. It's more for clarity and efficiency over the radio than secrecy, per se, so the codenames are pretty widely known. Here's a few current ones:

G.W. Bush: "Trailblazer"
Bill Clinton: "Elvis"
Hillary Clinton: "Evergreen"
Barack Obama: "Renegade"
John McCain: "Phoenix"


Prayer of the Week - Pentecost 3

Beloved Parishioners,

The Church of the Messiah is grouped with ten other neighboring parishes into something called a "Deanery." The clergy from each Deanery get together about once a month to discuss common concerns, hear about things going on at a Diocesan level, and gossip. This month's meeting of the Eglinton Deanery (where we belong) presented me with a stark reality: in the eyes of the diocese we are a "blue parish."

You see, the Diocese has assessed every parish in terms of it's strategic value and viability and given it a colour to correspond. Green parishes are "sustainable." Yellow are "static." Red is reserved for places that receive the dreaded "unsustainable" stamp. Our parish, however, is blue. On the official diocesan assessment scale blue means "God Only Knows." (Yes, they actually say "God Only Knows.") It seems our parish has fallen into that vague category of places that are beyond prediction. We have sailed off the map. Our situation is simply too complex, too fluid, to predict our future.

This is good news, actually. I was concerned that decades of falling attendance combined with our proximity to other healthy parishes would earn us the dreaded "red" status. That would make it difficult to get grants and other assistance from the Diocese. The strategic plan of the Diocese is to withdraw support from places judged "unsustainable" and invest it in up-and-coming parishes. But apparently there is enough potential here to offset the negatives. They haven't made up their minds about us.

Changing our colour to "green" will require some big changes of the kind that we have begun together. It will mean shifting the congregation's mindset away from maintenance towards mission. It will also mean becoming more attuned to the spiritual needs of our neighborhood. And yet these changes are entirely possible for us. We have the people and the resources to create a place of love and transformation in the city.

On the heals of last week's "don't worry" Gospel, this week our Lord spurs us to Kingdom-building action: "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock" (Matthew 7:24). The two things are connected: we proceed from a liberating confidence in God's providence to questing for Kingdom-come and righteousness. Join us in this work!

Lord God of Heaven and Earth, all things come from you. We thank you for sustaining our lives and providing all things we need. Inspire us, we pray, to continue your work in the world, building the Kingdom of God in all righteousness and Godly love. Give us courage to imagine and to explore and strength to plant and to build. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.


Me Kilt!

Check out my new "Utilikilt." It's basically a modern, casual version of a more traditional kilt. Some of it advantages over a traditional kilt include pockets, the fact that it rides on the belt line rather than the waist line, and it's machine washable. And just look at that manly belt! Of course it's comfortable as all hell. I'm not surprised, I've long since discovered how great Cassocks are.

From the Wikipedia article on the subject:
Utilikilt's commercial success is primarily from word of mouth, as the company does not pay for product placement or commercial endorsement and eschews professional models in favor of photos of actual customers. Despite this low-key approach, they grew from sales of 750 kilts their first year to over 11,000 three years later. The company received a big boost in recognition after Richard Hatch donned a Utilikilt on-screen in Survivor: All-Stars. (source)

I haven't tried mine with a clerical shirt, yet, but I'm sure it will look as good as it will feel. Ah, freedom, my brothers!


Spring on Farnham

Spring has sprung, sort of....


Wardens' Retreat

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.
31 He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. (Matthew 6:30-32)

Yesterday I took the COTM Wardens for an all-day retreat at SSJD. As it happened, it was also the Feast of the Visitation of Elizabeth to the BVM, so I was pleased to get my Marion fix while I was there. We arrived in time for Morning Prayer. Had two sessions after that, and then broke for Eucharist and Dinner (Lunch), and then had another session together after that.

Here's a learning: it's easy to over prepare for this kind of thing. That is, I went in a bit anxious about how it would go, so I planned out some stuff ahead of time. Most of that went out the window as soon as we started talking--and the results were better than my plans. So beware of over planning something like this.

As it was, it was plenty to do to spend the first session talking about own spiritual well-being, the second on the church's, and the third on plans and priorities for the next year. I think we came away with a better sense of each other and some ideas about next steps for the church.

SSJD, btw, was an excellent host as always. They told us the rules, put out the coffee and cookies, and left us alone--precisely what we needed!