Friday, October 31, 2008


Jeremy (of Buffalo Builders / Paul Hahn fame) pointed out Reactable to me. Reactable is an incredibly cool modular synthesizer that uses an amazing light-table interface which allows a user to create music by manipulating objects on the surface.
The reactable is a collaborative electronic music instrument with a tabletop tangible multi-touch interface. Several simultaneous performers share complete control over the instrument by moving and rotating physical objects on a luminous round table surface. By moving and relating these objects, representing components of a classic modular synthesizer, users can create complex and dynamic sonic topologies, with generators, filters and modulators, in a kind of tangible modular synthesizer or graspable flow-controlled programming language.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Madden '09 Ad

A friend of mine from College, Adam, now an Art Director for Ad Company, posted this very funny commercial for Madden '09 on his blog (I think that means he probably had something to do with its creation). Adam is a great guy.


Great ad for a great game.


Prayer of the Week - All Saints

Beloved Parisioners,

This weekend the church around the world celebrates the Feast of All Saints. This particular commemoration of saints probably began in Ireland in the early Middle Ages and spread from there to England and then Europe. Unlike the celebrations of particular Saints or Holy People (like the Feast of St. James or the Blessed Virgin Mary) or events in salvation history (like Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost), All Saints has a broadness that invites us to open our imaginations to encompass the millions of men, women, and children who have lived faithfully in the world before us. Those who have gone on "to their reward" enjoy everlasting peace and closeness to God--in that sense their life continues with God, and so does our relationship with those whom we love, but see no longer. But their joy is not perfected until "All God's friends have answered the invitation of Christ and arrived at the banquet of glory" (to quote Fr. Stephen Reynold's book _For All the Saints_).

In the Letter to the Hebrews the author (probably not Paul), argues that the Holy figures of the Old Testament died in the hope of the promise that is only fulfilled with the coming of Jesus. They abide with God awaiting the perfection that can only come when we have joined with them in the mystical communion of Christ. The yearning of the Saints for the consummation of the world's redemption is also recorded in Revelation, where the Bible tells us that they ask continually, "how long?" (Revelation 6:10).

Nor are the Saints alone in their desire to be reunited us with us in God's Kingdom. "Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so is desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of the patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors, and the choir of virgins. In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints" (St. Bernard of Clairvaux).

We celebrate All Saints because it reveals the deepest truths about the interconnection of all people of hope through time and space and proclaims the promise of that sweet union's perfection.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1a).

O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Adam McCoy, OHC

I have another blog to commend to you all: Br. Adam McCoy. Adam is one of the Holy Cross monks living at the West Park House. Here's the bio from his blog:
61 years old, early medievalist by training, monk for 35 years. Prior of 2 monasteries, Novice Master and author of the history of OHC in the 1980's. I was a monk-not-in-residence and parish priest 1992-2008, during which I was also a police chaplain and ministered in Spanish. I am now Novice Master for the Order of the Holy Cross, librarian for our monastery, and involved in financial oversight for our community. "Love must act as light must shine and fire must burn" (James Huntington, founder of OHC). (source)
Doesn't that sound interesting?


Dan Graves on The Fig Tree Parable

On his blog Fr. Dan Graves has a very thoughtful and concise take on the strange and disturbing story of Jesus cursing the Fig Tree in Mark 11. He points out that the story of the Fig Tree is a commentary on Jesus cleansing the Temple:

It has been suggested by many scholars that Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree is an enacted parable in which Jesus not only offers caution about the Temple establishment, but indeed passes judgment on it. Like the fig tree, so too with the Temple, not all is as it should be. Appearances are deceiving. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing (to borrow from one of the Matthean sayings of Jesus – Matthew 7:15). Of what sin is the Establishment guilty? Mark tells us that as Jesus approaches the fig tree he is hungry, but it has no fruit. The people of God are hungry -- hungry for the living God. The people of God are hungry – hungry for righteousness and justice. The people of God are hungry -- hungry for peace and reconciliation. Mark seems to be telling us that in all these things the Establishment failed. (source)

That's bad news for us and our institutions, except that Jesus doesn't end with a tale of woe. This is an opportunity for Him to preach about faith, prayer, and forgiveness....
Finally, Mark concludes the story with Jesus’ saying on faith and prayer. “Have faith in God,” he says. This is the kind of faith that moves mountains, because it is not our faith but the faith of Christ. It is the faith of Christ that moves the mountains of our lives and rolls the stones away from the tombs in which we are buried. What is more, it is the faith of Christ that calls to account, transforms and cleanses our human institutions. What should be judged as failures are redeemed by a loving God.

How does the story end? With words of forgiveness: “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses.” Forgiveness. He does not curse the fruitless vine of our lives but instead offers cleansing and forgiveness – to us as individuals and to us as a people. Thus, we stand not alone, withered to the root as if cursed, but as a temple to the Holy Spirit, enlivened through his abiding presence and through his faith, by his grace, offering his words of hope to a broken world. (source)

To be honest, I don't recall ever hearing the story of the Fig Tree explained so well before!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hospice Chaplaincy

There is a good article about Hospice Chaplaincy in the NYTimes today. It reminded me a lot of my very rewarding service as a Hospital Chaplain in NJ and then CT.

Apparently, the demand for Pastoral Care for patients is on the rise:
In the quarter-century since Medicare and some private insurers began picking up the bill for hospice care, it has become a common recourse for the terminally ill. With doctors, nurses, social workers and ample supplies of pain medication dispatched to their homes or nursing facilities in the final weeks and months, about 1.3 million Americans died last year in hospice care.

Spiritual counseling has always been an optional part of the service. But recently, the proportion of patients choosing to receive it, and the number of new chaplains entering the field to meet the need, have risen sharply.

Chaplain services in New York City have nearly doubled since 2004: About 65 percent of the city’s 4,000 hospice patients accept visits from chaplains today, compared with about 35 percent four years ago, according to the two major hospice providers, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and Continuum Hospice Care.

Nationwide, a study released two weeks ago by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control set the proportion of patients accepting a chaplain’s care at 72 percent in one sampling, as compared with the 59 percent another group found in 2000. (source)

I think the author of the article was somewhat surprised how "non-religious" chaplaincy looks. Perhaps he was expecting more talk about "saving your soul" and Jesus around the bed sides of the dying. Perhaps he assumed this was a modern phenomenon, part of the secularization of North American culture. But actually this is just the result of one of the first rules of chaplaincy, learn the patient's language! In a parish setting you teach people to use a religious vocabulary, but at the bed side you just have to use what is at hand. Thus talk about a tree that needs to be cut down in the back yard becomes the way to talk about the patient's upcoming death.

Two things really struck me. One was this excellent example of pastoral care...
The chaplains listen, mainly; and sometimes, like jazz musicians, pick up themes and try to bring them to new levels.

“I talked to my mother yesterday,” said Robert, an 83-year-old man with Alzheimer’s, whose mother died in the 1960s.

“How was she?” said the chaplain, Tom Grannell. “You haven’t talked to her in a while.”

“Pretty good,” said Robert. “She agrees with my father: I’m laying here too long. Time to get back to work.”

“Your mother always believed in you,” said the chaplain.

“Yes, she did,” said Robert.

Just a text book example of good Pastoral Care. Showing someone something that they always knew to be true, but they just didn't know it.

I was also impressed with the end:
As he hurried along, checking phone messages, scanning a subway map, he was asked if the daily encounter with other people’s deaths was ever too much. He paused, and said a chaplain’s own distress and sense of vulnerability to death were, in a way, part of the job. “It is my first bond with my patient,” he said.

In the best of worlds, he said, a relationship based on that helps a patient make peace.

“But many times, this never happens,” he said. “We are there to be there. That is the point. It is my job to stay when there is no answer.”

Yep, this particular Chaplain is definitely the Real Deal! God Bless the Chaplains!



The first snow fall is coming down in Toronto as I write this. I'm not sure if it will stick on the ground or roads, but I already see, glinting in the moonlight, a little accumulation on roofs and car hoods. A number of people are going to be surprised in the morning. I hope it doesn't stick around, I haven't built a wood cradle nor gotten a delivery of firewood to fill it! Mixed hardwood--save $50 stacking it yourself. I need to remember my leather gloves to avoid splinters--the stuff you learn as you inevitably transform into Middle-Aged-Man.

Still, the snow is comforting. It's quiet in the house--Betsy is asleep in the next room with a kitten curled up near her feet. I'm thinking about when I'm going to have time to get the wood delivered and the last of the apples canned. When did I become so domestic? An old friend (Kim from NJ) sent me pictures of her newborn. I don't know how long Betsy and I will last without one ourselves. We wait because money and time are scarce, but that isn't going to change. A mother I respect, one of my parishioners, told me a year ago, "Tay, there is never a right time." Sigh. The first snow and I get all mushy....

On my mind--a dozen different church programs that I need to get rolling. I need to raise a bunch more money before year end for the church. At the very least we need to finish paying for the Piano and the Mural. Ideas have arisen for various concerts and events, and they are good ideas. But they still require me to make phone calls and expend energy and good will to make happen. And I worry because there there are at least four pastoral visits I should make this week--it seems hard to imagine I'll do it all.

The good news is that I'm not alone. Just today I received promises of help from two very dear and competent people willing to volunteer their professional skills to COTM. Both are well known to me and love me dearly even though I hardly feel that I've earned it from either. One such gift came at the very end of the day. I had just finished meeting with the Daycare Board at around 8:30 PM when I ran into a friend who volunteered, cheerfully, to help with some big events coming up. I was so tired that I could only give a quiet and solemn "thank you." Nothing peppy or exuberant. I recalled words from my detailed pre-ordination psychological profile: "Projects affable and agreeable social facade." Well--I didn't have that to give just then, so I was understated in my relief, promising to myself that I would make it up to her later in a public way. Moments like that remind me that there is something bigger at work in the life of the church than anything I could ever accomplish by wit or charm or even skill. Humbling to do all that you can and realize it's insufficient and find others making up the difference.

And the snow falls silently tonight. Just enough of a dusting to remind people that it's time to stack firewood and finish canning apples.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feeling Better

I'm definitely feeling better today. All that's left of my flu is the stuffy nose and congestion that has been with me for weeks now. The worst of it passed by Monday morning, so in the afternoon I made a run to Home Depot to buy some supplies for small carpentry project Betsy wanted me to do. Working with the wood, getting into the right shapes and fit together, was very satisfying. I do like creating things with my hands. My next project is going to repairing some dining room chairs that have gone wobbly.

I came to work today with plenty of energy. Good thing, too, as there was lots happening. For one thing, our electrician and his assistant were here and managed to complete the entire list of little projects I had assigned them. They fixed things like the exterior sign lights (which hadn't worked in almost a year) and the exterior lights themselves. They also fixed a number of other little problems here and there. In the process they found a few safety problems. I really like this electrician, he knows exactly what he's doing!

Then there is our new photocopier. Photocopiers are an essential piece of equipment for churches--no doubt. Our old lease ran out and so Canon has set up with a new lease and a new machine (an ImageRunner 3225). Not only will it cost us slightly less, but we have a brand new machine with lots of bells and whistles. The new machine even has scan-to-email functionality that allows us to instantly e-mail (or fax) material to an entire list of recipients. I'm enough of a geek to get really excited by stuff like that. I know, I know, that seems weird. But when the old copier would die you can't imagine the headaches around here!

Lots of e-mails and phone calls. Then a solid staff meeting in which we came up with several good new ideas for things like fundraising and evangelism. I know it's a good meeting when I have nearly half page of notes of things to do.

Now I've got the Annual General Meeting of the Daycare Board. Luckily I'm just the Vice President of the Board, so like Palin I can just look pretty and say things that appeal to the Base....


Dead Sea Scrolls coming to Toronto

In a blockbuster that the Royal Ontario Museum compares to the 1978 King Tut exhibit, the museum plans to bring the Dead Sea scrolls to Toronto next summer.

Sixteen of the scrolls, which were found by Bedouin goat-herders and by archaeologists between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, will be on display.

The scrolls, written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek between 250 BC and 68 AD, had been hidden in the caves for more than 2,000 years.

"The Dead Sea scrolls are the earliest written record of much of the first testament or the Torah or the Bible plus a number of other texts about law and the apocalypse," ROM chief executive William Thorsell said in an interview with CBC News.

"They have been in those jars for 2,000 years, so when you look at Genesis, Deuteronomy, the Psalms, the Ten Commandments, these are the earliest written records that we have of these foundation documents really of a number of great traditions," he said.

The exhibit is the most ambitious planned by the ROM since the opening of its new Crystal extension designed by celebrity architect Daniel Libeskind.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit will run June 27, 2009, until Jan. 3, 2010, at the Royal Ontario Museum. (source)

Infidelity on the Rise

According an article in the NYTimes, adultery is on the rise among older men and young couples. One possible explanation, better sexual health among older folks:
Among older people, a host of newer drugs and treatments are making it easier to be sexual, and in some cases unfaithful — Viagra and other remedies for erectile dysfunction, estrogen and testosterone supplements to maintain women’s sex drive and vaginal health, even advances like better hip replacements. (source)
More troubling for me is the shift in relatively young marriages. "About 20 percent of men and 15 percent of women under 35 say they have ever been unfaithful, up from about 15 and 12 percent respectively." One possible cause, the Internet?
In younger couples, the increasing availability of pornography on the Internet, which has been shown to affect sexual attitudes and perceptions of “normal” behavior, may be playing a role in rising infidelity. (source)
Interesting, but totally speculative from a scientific point of view.

The news isn't all the bad. The article ends of the following optomistic note:
The General Social Survey data also show some encouraging trends, said John P. Robinson, professor of sociology and director of the Americans’ Use of Time project at the University of Maryland. One notable shift is that couples appear to be spending slightly more time together. And married men and women also appear to have the most active sex lives, reporting sex with their spouse 58 times a year, a little more than once a week. (source)

An aside: The Talmud (Jewish commentaries on the Law) includes a fascinating discussion among Rabbis about about sex (within marriage, naturally). It is the man's obligation to provide physical affection, not his right to demand it. Indeed, sex is one of the three basic rights guaranteed to women in Jewish law (the others being food and clothing). He cannot legally withhold sex, even if the couple has already produced children. However, she cannot withhold it as a form of punishment, either.

The frequency of sex recommended by the Talmud depends on the husband's profession (and may be modified by the marriage contract). Sailors, for example, were supposed to have sex rarely. But laborers were supposed to make love more often. Scholarly types, including Rabbis, were supposed to do it about once a week. So there you go! If you're interested in Jewish views about sex, check out the book Kosher Sex.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Real Flu

The Flu Virus

Uhhg. Woke up from fitful sleep. Threw up. Took shower. Fever: 99.9. Feeling terrible. Have to do church. Won't touch bread--use extra communion ministers. A real flu.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Quick Update

Still sick. Stayed at work Friday until about noon to accept delivery of a new copy machine (the old lease ran out, the new one is actually cheaper AND we get a new machine, wohoo!). went home, had a second herbal tea and went to sleep for a few hours. Woke up around dinner time. Now I'm just getting ready to go back to bed. -t

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Under the Weather

Yesterday after Celebrating the Contemplative Eucharist I felt like something that Denise might cough-up, so I went home and took a nap. I had a Deanery Meeting at lunch time and thought I'd get up that, but when the time came my body had other ideas and I kept sleeping until shortly before Betsy came home. Whatever it is seems to like living in my Respiratory Track: a nagging cough and sore throat are part of it. I got up for dinner, watched some TV, then back to bed. Slept fitfully. Strange dreams (including one that took me back to our old house in Kansas!).

Got up this morning feeling only somewhat better--but I had an important morning meeting and another at noon to attend. Right now I'm feeling achey and tired, but my Administrator brought me various herbal teas that seem to be offering some (perhaps temporary) relief.

So it goes.


Prayer of the Week - Pentecost 24

Beloved Parishioners,

As the temperatures drop with the first round of colored leaves, the busy season of the church year begins. With weekend cottages locked up for winter and kids back in school it seems entirely natural that our church becomes fuller. It's a season of new ideas and new programs and, yes, even new people!

I am delighted to see that some new folks have joined our community in the last few weeks. I hope that all of us would take the time to greet any newcomers on Sundays and to make them feel welcome. Research has shown that the most important factor determining whether the visitor to a church becomes a member is simply whether they are greeted by someone other than the clergy!

As we all get back into our non-summer Toronto routines, let's take a moment to pray that God will continue to bless our church with growth and vitality.

Go with us Holy Spirit, into the world. Mold us, make us, and shape us into the image of Christ; that people may take notice that we have been with Jesus, and so join with us in your house to glorify your name; for the sake of Him who died and rose again and lives to make intercession for us, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

RIP William Sibley, OHC

Br. William, OHC
Originally uploaded by Randy OHC

I mentioned the deaths at the Order of the Holy Cross. The latest is Br. William Sibley, who died in the hospital last week. I knew William, though not well. Bede has a really lovely post about his experience of the passing.
Then, when our vigil was over, we closed the casket and had a very simple Requiem Eucharist and expressed our faith and received communion together with the casket in our midst. After the mass was ended, the casket was taken to the door and put into the hearse and then we had a small ceremony that the funeral director has provided for us for many years in which the hearse drives away up our driveway very, very slowly, and I thought of all the years and all the times that I have watched that car go up the drive and disappear around that last curve... (source)


A Desert Fathers Morning

A brother collected palm-leaves in his cell. And as soon as he sat down to plait them, his mind suggested he should go visit one of the old men. He meditated on it, and said: "I will go in a few days." And then his mind suggested: "Suppose he dies during the next few days, what will you do?" "I will go now and talk with him, because it is summer time." And again he thought: "No, it is not the proper time yet." Then he said: "It will be time when you have cut the reeds for the mats." And he said: "I will spread out these palm-leaves and then go." Then he said: "But today it is fine weather."

So he rose, left his pile of palms, took his cloak, and went out. But nearby was another old man, a man of prophetic vision. When he saw the brother hurrying out, he called to him: "Prisoner, prisoner, where are you running to? Come here to me." He came: and the old man said to him: "Go back to your cell." The brother described to him the ups and downs and indecisions of his his mind, and then went back to his cell. And as soon as he entered it, he fell down and did penance. And suddenly the demons shrieked aloud: "You have conquered us, monk, you have conquered us." And the mat on which he lay was singed as though by fire, and the demons vanished away like smoke; and the brother learnt their wiles. (source: The Desert Fathers XI.51)

This passage came up at the Contemplative Eucharist this morning. I can relate.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit ill. I've been fighting a low-grade respiratory something for a few days now. Not pleasant. Cough and aches. No fun. And yet I have several things I want to do today.

My spiritual teachers would tell me that these kinds of bugs are not accidental. No doubt it is trying to "tell me" something. The Desert Fathers would no doubt say that such a demon is caused by grief, or some such thing.

Is it a coincidence that I interred the ashes of a parishioner on Monday or that 3 brothers have died in the span of five months in the Order of the Holy Cross? Death seems to be lurking around right now. Even the plants are affected: last night I picked the last of the peppers ahead of the first freeze in the back yard.

That's weird: even as I was writing this blog entry I got an e-mail from the diocese notifying me that a Deaconess whom I never met died. The funeral is on Friday.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sermon - Pentecost 23 2008

Christopher McCandless with the "Magic Bus" where he died

I preached this sermon on Pentecost 23 (October 19) 2008. The text from the Gospel included the memorable encounter in which Jesus was challenged about whether it was right to pay taxes. He replied by asking them to consider whose face was on the coin (Caesar's) and said, "‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s" (Matthew 22:15-22). Teasing out the meaning of this riddle is not as straightforward as it would appear, as it requires us to have discernment enough to look past things as they are in themselves and into our relationship with those things.

It's a complex theological dilemma that I attempting to explore. Lots of moving pieces. To make it easier I examined the real case of a man who renounced all worldy goods, yet seems to have been careless with his own life. I was speaking of Christopher McCandless, who starved to death in the wilderness of Alaska attempting to find wisdom in a Thoreau-like odyssey. I can see why this would be appealing, but his effort was flawed--not just because it resulted in his death, but because of the hubris inherit in the attempt. Consider this statement by a local Park Ranger (Peter Christian):
I am exposed continually to what I will call the ‘McCandless Phenomenon.’ People, nearly always young men, come to Alaska to challenge themselves against an unforgiving wilderness landscape where convenience of access and possibility of rescue are practically nonexistent […] When you consider McCandless from my perspective, you quickly see that what he did wasn’t even particularly daring, just stupid, tragic, and inconsiderate. First off, he spent very little time learning how to actually live in the wild. He arrived at the Stampede Trail without even a map of the area. If he [had] had a good map he could have walked out of his predicament […] Essentially, Chris McCandless committed suicide. (source)
What does it mean when a spiritual quest becomes so self-centered that it causes the kind of pain that only the death of a child or brother or friend can cause?

I'm reminded of Franz Khafka's short story, "The Hunger Artist." It's a parable about Art and the Artist but it also about the kind asceticism that is beyond self:
He might fast as well as he could—and he did—but nothing could save him any more. People went straight past him. Try to explain the art of fasting to anyone! If someone doesn’t feel it, then he cannot be made to understand it. The beautiful signs became dirty and illegible. People tore them down, and no one thought of replacing them. The small table with the number of days the fasting had lasted, which early on had been carefully renewed every day, remained unchanged for a long time, for after the first weeks the staff grew tired of even this small task. And so the hunger artist kept fasting on and on, as he once had dreamed about in earlier times, and he had no difficulty succeeding in achieving what he had predicted back then, but no one was counting the days—no one, not even the hunger artist himself, knew how great his achievement was by this point, and his heart grew heavy. And when once in a while a person strolling past stood there making fun of the old number and talking of a swindle, that was in a sense the stupidest lie which indifference and innate maliciousness could invent, for the hunger artist was not being deceptive—he was working honestly—but the world was cheating him of his reward.

Many days went by once more, and this, too, came to an end. Finally the cage caught the attention of a supervisor, and he asked the attendant why they had left this perfectly useful cage standing here unused with rotting straw inside. Nobody knew, until one man, with the help of the table with the number on it, remembered the hunger artist. They pushed the straw around with a pole and found the hunger artist in there. “Are you still fasting?” the supervisor asked. “When are you finally going to stop?” “Forgive me everything,” whispered the hunger artist. Only the supervisor, who was pressing his ear up against the cage, understood him. “Certainly,” said the supervisor, tapping his forehead with his finger in order to indicate to the spectators the state the hunger artist was in, “we forgive you.” “I always wanted you to admire my fasting,” said the hunger artist. “But we do admire it,” said the supervisor obligingly. “But you shouldn’t admire it,” said the hunger artist. “Well then, we don’t admire it,” said the supervisor, “but why shouldn’t we admire it?” “Because I had to fast. I can’t do anything else,” said the hunger artist. “Just look at you,” said the supervisor, “why can’t you do anything else?” “Because,” said the hunger artist, lifting his head a little and, with his lips pursed as if for a kiss, speaking right into the supervisor’s ear so that he wouldn’t miss anything, “because I couldn’t find a food which I enjoyed. If had found that, believe me, I would not have made a spectacle of myself and would have eaten to my heart’s content, like you and everyone else.” Those were his last words, but in his failing eyes there was the firm, if no longer proud, conviction that he was continuing to fast. (source)

You see, spiritually masterful seekers--people like the Desert Fathers and Thomas Merton and St. John of the Cross adopt a discipline such as fasting or silence with a detachment that makes their answers to the question, "Why do you do this?" difficult to hear. Ask a mystic that and they are likely to give you a shrug and an answer like, "I do it because it is there to be done." They aren't being flippant, and there is a certainly skillfulness and intentionality in their choices. And yet, and yet they value these practices little next to the surpassing value of knowing God. Do you see the difference between this approach and that of Christopher McCandless?

Here's another example. When you are teaching someone to shoot a pistol for the first time they inevitably hold the gun too tightly (for fear of dropping it with the recoil, I suppose). The tension makes the shooters arm shake a little, throwing off the aim. As the student gets used to shooting they learn to relax the grip and achieve a kind of relaxed firmness. Firm but relaxed. That's precisely the kind of way we should be holding best spiritual tool, our own lives, in our hand.

Christopher's mistake was becoming too attached his fantasies of how he would attain wisdom to pay heed to the several wise people who tried to give him advice that would have saved his life.

I guess you can tell this dilemma strikes close to my heart. I know what this struggle is like. I'm the guy that spent 24 hours naked in the woods once because I wanted to know "what is necessary." Well, in turns out that shoes are pretty damn necessary! Anyway, here's the sermon...

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


Clergy for Obama Blog

The Obama campaign has a blog for Clergy! It's complete with articles by various religious types talking about why Obama is a good choice, etc. As far as I can tell, there is no equivalent blog being maintained by the McCain campaign. This brings up something fascinating... ***CORRECTION: I've been told that the Clergy-for-Obama blog is actually not maintained by the Obama Campaign, just a group of clergy working at the grassroots level (see the comments to the post).***

A while back I gave a modest donation to the Obama campaign ($25). Doing so automatically set-up a "" portal. Anybody that gives the Obama Campaign can have their own little website with a blog and calendar of upcoming election events and news feeds, etc. But it gets better: you get a score (labeled "Activity Index") based on how much you've done to promote the campaign. There are a bunch of suggested activities you can do to raise the score--like volunteering at the local office or hosting an Obama-party in your home. This means that the Obama campaign has a HUGE database of potential campaign workers. In fact, they even have a way to quantify the level of commitment and preferred activities of these donors. It's obviously the front-end of a remarkably complex social-networking system applied to political organization.

The news media says that Obama has taken his campaign's organization to the next level, and I see what they mean. From the news accounts it sounds like the GOP is using the same ground game tactics as four years ago, while the Obama folks are totally reinventing the paradigm. You could say that this is what happens when you have raised $605 Million to date, but it's also true that the Obama campaign's extraordinary organizational skills were what won him the primaries against Hillary back when that seemed impossible given her fundraising advantage at the time. So this use of new technology (the model of a social-networking site) is just another sign of a very forward-thinking campaign staff. It would be fascinating to talk to the IT team behind Obama's machine.

Meanwhile, check out the hilarious appearance by Sarah Palin on SNL this weekend.


Bob's Play List for Tay

For you music fans, here's the Play List from the iPod that my brother-in-law gave me at the wedding:
Last Child3:25Aerosmith
Amateur4:55Aimee Mann
Satie: Gymnopédies - 1. Lent Et Douloureux3:03Aldo Ciccolini
Work To Do4:26Average White Band
Shadrach4:08The Beastie Boys
Get It Together4:06The Beastie Boys
Star Shaped3:27Blur
Ring Them Bells3:00Bob Dylan
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)5:48Bob Dylan & The Band
Else4:09Built To Spill
You Were Right4:46Built To Spill
Short skirt, long jacket3:28Cake
Stickshifts and Safetybelts2:08Cake
Monkey On A String2:33Cal Stewart
No Excuses4:16Alice In Chains
Since Your Gone3:30Cars
Muay Nee Ka (I'm Chinese)4:02China Dolls
Big Sky Country4:46Chris Whitley
Overkill2:19Colin Hay
I Know It's Gonna Happen One Day4:07David Bowie
Jamgrass 7416:29David Grisman & Sam Bush
Muleskinner Blues2:45Bill Monroe
With Body And Soul3:30Bill Monroe
Can't You Hear Me Callin'3:18Bill Monroe
What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul?3:13Monroe Brothers
Dancin' With The Angels4:04New Grass Revival
Spring Peepers3:27New Grass Revival
This Heart Of Mine2:21New Grass Revival
Four Days Of Rain3:44New Grass Revival
These Days5:46New Grass Revival
Vamp In The Middle3:47New Grass Revival
Model Church4:17Crowe,J.D. Et. Al.
Blow Yo' Whistle, Freight Train2:51Delmore Brothers
Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning2:47Hot Rize
A Voice In The Wind4:22Hot Rize
Working On A Building4:10Hot Rize
reenville Trestle High3:29Doc Watson
Let The Church Roll On2:58Doc Watson
Tennessee Stud4:50Doc Watson
Deep Elm Blues2:44The Lone Star Cowboys
Guitars, Cadillacs3:06Dwight Yoakam
Little Ways3:21Dwight Yoakam
Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose3:24Dwight Yoakam
A Thousand Miles from Nowhere4:27Dwight Yoakam
Crazy Little Thing Called Love2:22Dwight Yoakam
Heartache Spoken Here3:48Warren Zevon
Return Of The Grievous Angel4:24
In My Hour Of Darkness3:44Gram Parsons
Twelve Gates to the City1:56Ralph Stanley
You Don't Love God If You Don't Love Your Neighbor3:00Rhonda Vincent
Rank Strangers to Me3:06Stanley Brothers
Great Speckle Bird2:55Roy Acuff
Girl of the North Country5:18Sam Bush
Hungry for Your Love2:58Sam Bush
Sailin' Shoes5:11Sam Bush
Same Ol' River8:59Sam Bush
Red Clay Halo3:15Gillian Welch
Shining Star2:50Earth Wind & Fire
Check Your Bucket2:40Eddie Bo
I Thought About You2:30Frank Sinatra
Don't Like Goodbyes4:50Frank Sinatra
You Make Me Feel So Young2:56Frank Sinatra
Get Me To The Church On Time2:22Frank Sinatra
The Continental8:15Fred Astaire
Friend Of The Devil7:28Grateful Dead
Fountain Of Sorrow6:52Jackson Browne
Before The Deluge6:20Jackson Browne
But Not For Me3:04Chet Baker
Imagination4:55Chet Baker
Every Time We Say Goodbye4:48Chet Baker
William & Lil' Leigh7:49The Java Men
Izabella5:10Jimi Hendrix
Red House11:32Jimi Hendrix
Johnny B. Goode (Live)4:05Jimi Hendrix
Stepping Stone4:09Jimi Hendrix
Hey Porter2:14Johnny Cash
Get Rhythm2:15Johnny Cash
Big River2:32Johnny Cash
I Will Rock And Roll With You2:52Johnny Cash
Swing Set5:19Jurassic 5
My Old Kentucky Home3:34The Kings of Dixieland
Immigrant Song2:23Led Zeppelin
Misty Mountain Hop4:39Led Zeppelin
Tea For One9:27Led Zeppelin
Candy Store Rock4:08Led Zeppelin
Right in Time4:36Lucinda Williams
I Need A Woman ('Cause I'm A Man2:37The Mighty Hannibal
Trying To Make It Through2:22The Mighty Hannibal
I Just Want Some Love3:23The Mighty Hannibal
Meet Me At Mary's Place2:22The Mighty Hannibal
Freddie Freeloader9:36Miles Davis
Milestones5:42Miles Davis
80/817:34Pat Metheny
Jaan Pehechaan Ho5:29Mohammed Rafi
Roll Jordan Roll4:48The Nashville Bluegrass Band
All Apologies3:48Nirvana
John Brown's Body7:48Oscar Peterson Trio
Bop Gun (Endangered Species)8:32Parliament
Fantasy Is Reality6:41Parliament
Poor Man's House4:27Patty Griffin
Not Alone4:33Patty Griffin
El Clavo Y La Cruz2:58The Plugz
Gold Sounds2:40Pavement
The Sacrifice Of Victor5:41Prince & The New Power Generation
Your Love Is A Drug3:33PUFFY
Everything In Its Right Place4:11Radiohead
Egon, Edith & Wally Meet2:41Rachel's
Reflecting Light3:17Sam Phillips
Haymaker3:13Shipping News
Devil Got My Woman3:02Skip James
You Can Make It If You Try3:39Sly & The Family Stone
Que Sera, Sera5:20Sly & The Family Stone
Washing Machine9:34Sonic Youth
Tush2:16ZZ Top
Just Got Paid4:28ZZ Top
Jesus Done Left Chicago6:21ZZ Top
Charlie Freak2:44Steely Dan
The Fez4:00Steely Dan
Green Earrings4:09Steely Dan
As7:09Stevie Wonder
Soy De San Louis3:31The Texas Tornados
Dirty Drawers4:23Vassar Clements
After Hours2:14The Velvet Underground
Apache '653:12The Ventures
Pipeline2:20The Ventures
Searching For A Heart4:16Warren Zevon
Ponta De Areia5:18Wayne Shorter
I Can't Go To Sleep (featuring Isaac Hayes)3:35Wu-Tang Clan
True Love2:15X
Holly Up On Poppy3:04XTC
The Smartest Monkeys4:18XTC
Wrapped In Grey3:46XTC
This Is Cracker Soul3:40Cracker
Brokedown Palace5:42Grateful Dead

A really diverse mix that goes from rap to blue grass to rock...


Sunday, October 19, 2008

SMM Renovations Mostly Done

This morning included a really liturgy at COTM. Even just ten minutes before the service I was feeling anxious about how few people were there. What with the street closures for the Toronto Marathon, I expected attendance to be soft, anyway. And indeed, a number of regulars were missing--but they were replaced by a couple of visiting families! In fact, it was the highest attended Sunday since the summer! Wow. And they seemed to enjoy the service we did. Yippee. I can barely describe how rewarding it is to spend a year tweaking and honing and working hard to attract new people and to actually have some show up and indicate that they would like to stay! I suppose that the efforts that I put in along with Matthew, Kerrie, and the rest of the staff and congregation can only provide fertile ground on which a seed may or may not fall--but damn does it feel good to see a little fruit on the vine!

My sermon was interesting--I used the story of Christopher McCandless to explore the degree too which we may say either that our lives are our own or that we live in web of mutual dependency. Christopher McCandless was a young man that dropped out of conventional society looking to discover himself in a classic American road odyssey. Things did not end well for him--lacking proper equipment or wilderness survival skills he died in the wilderness in Alaska after about 120 days of living in the bush in 1992. In the end even something as simple as a proper hiking map would have been enough to save him. Was he a fool, or an adventurous soul who made a simple mistake? His biography, Into the Wild, is sympathetic, though many are not. It was a complex theological dilemma to preach about, and I was glad that it resonated with at least one person that heard it.

After worship I drove to the airport to pick up Betsy. She was happy to arrive home. We had time for some lunch and then went to St. Mary Magdalene's for the re-dedication of the church. They just finished the major portion of their renovations and were having a special service of Evensong and Benediction to celebrate. The bishop preached and God was adored. A very formal and beautiful liturgy. The renovations look great.

It felt great to see so many familiar faces. I think a year has been about the right amount of time to have my distance from SMM. I know it's hard for many to understand, but when you take a new call it's important to create good separation from the old place. Anyway, I'll post about SMM more when I'm less tired!


Friday, October 17, 2008

The Legal Recognition of the Sacredness of Marriage

Dr. Good blogged about a very interesting aspect of the recent Connecticut court decision on same-sex marriage:
The lengthy legal decision (cited in the article) includes the following paragraph:

Indeed, marriage has been characterized as ‘‘intimate to the degree of being sacred’’; Griswold v. Connecticut,381 U.S.479,486,85S.Ct.1678,14L. Ed.2d510(1965);see also Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 96, 107S.Ct.2254,96 L.Ed.2d64(1987) (‘‘many religions recognize marriage as having spiritual significance’’); and‘‘an institution more basic in our civilization than any other.’’ Williams v. North Carolina,317 U.S.287,303,63S.Ct.207,87 L.Ed.279(1942).

Marriage, therefore, is not merely shorthand for a discrete set of legal rights and responsibilities but is ‘‘one of the most fundamental of human relationships....’’Davis v. Davis, 119 Conn. 194, 203, 175A. 574 (1934).‘‘Marriage...bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family....Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution....’’Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 440 Mass. 309, 322, 798 N.E.2d941 (2003).

This is a perspective that needs a hearing in our faith communities. (source)

Interesting to come across such unapologetically spiritual language in a court decision.


CCC Update

A busy day--and not over. Before heading to work I did some house cleaning. Then we had a meeting of the CCC (Christ-Centred Character) Initiative. I have talked about that much lately, but our continues to develop an Anglican-Christian response to the Character Development Movement that has taken hold in the secular and Catholic school boards. Today we created a first draft of a grant application. We also ate doughnuts and spoke of our goals for the next year. One of the interesting things we want to create is a library (a real library, not just virtual) of Christian Education resources. Right now a lot of folks just head into the Anglican Book Centre and look at what's for sale. A much better approach is to have a Diocesan library where people can go and check stuff out and even talk to a live librarian. So far as I know, Toronto doesn't have one of those (yet).

After the meeting I attended to various phone calls and e-mails and paperwork. Then, gasp I cleaned off my desk. Most of the stuff on it simply needed to be either tossed or filed. The results (a desk mostly free of clutter) is extremely satisfying. How long will it last?!

I'm missing Betsy. Weird how different life at home is without her. It's kind of boring! She comes back Sunday afternoon...


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe Not a Plumber

After the debate between John McCain and Barack Obama a lot of people were saying that the real winner was "Joe the Plumber." This guy, Joe Wurzelbacher, is a real person that McCain offered up as a poster child for criticism of Obama's tax plans. We were told that Joe the Plumber was deferring plans to buy a plumbing business because he expected to pay higher taxes under Obama's plan.

Well, as usual the truth is a bit more complicated. I turns out that Joe is not really a plumber, at least he's not licensed, trained, or registered as one. In fact, the Plumber's Union has attacked him for claiming their profession as his own.
"When you have guys going out there with no training whatsoever, it’s a little disreputable to start with," Mr. Joseph said. "We’re the real Joe the Plumber." (source)

Now it turns out that Joe makes about $40,000 a year and the business he was talking about makes less than $250k and therefore he and his business would receive tax breaks, not hikes, under Obama's plan. He has no specific plans to buy the business he spoke of, this was just a hypothetical case. He does, however, owe about $1,183 in back property taxes! Ah well. You can read all about in in the New York Times...


Sick Day

I went home early yesterday as I was feeling like crap. I think I must have pushed myself too hard on Tuesday, but at least I did the Contemplative Eucharist on Wednesday morning. Around noon I headed home and slept until supper time. Stayed to watch the debate and then went back to bed. Obama is coasting into a nice victory. Today I'm feeling much better.

Reflecting on last Sunday's service--I'm still really enthusiastic about how it went. The feeling of the liturgy was just so warm and loving that I'm still blown away when I think about it. It's the sort of experience that you put in your pocket and pull out from time-to-time when you need "the memory of divine favor" (that's a phrase from St. Bernard). Good stuff. Really good stuff.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Quick Trip

After Church on Sunday Betsy and I rented a U-Haul van and drove down to New Jersey to my mom's place. On Monday morning we packed the van with her old dining room table and chairs. It had been in my sister Lynne's place since she graduated from college, but now that Lynne and Bob have moved to Manhattan she doesn't have room for it. Hence Betsy and I picking up the heirloom. Packing it gave me an opportunity to play with rope. Mom had some clothesline she didn't need, so I cut that up and used it to tie down the table and chairs. I mostly used bowlines and rolling hitches. I'm thankful that I've taken the time to learn to tie proper knots--it comes in handy.

After packing up the truck we headed into Manhattan to see Lynne, Bob, and Charlie. She is a first year student at Union Theological Seminary and enjoyed showing us around her new digs. I reminisced about my own seminary days. Bob cooked a great dinner and Betsy presented them with an edited version of their wedding video.

Betsy stayed overnight in NYC--she was going to see friends and then attend two conferences related to her field. Meanwhile, I spent Monday night at my mom's place and drove the truck back to Toronto on Tuesday.

The drive was long--more than eight hours thanks to some delays due to construction and the border. Crossing into Canada I had to renew my immigration papers. I sent my application in by mail back in August but still haven't received the reply, so I was forced to apply for renewal at the border. I qualify for a temporary work permit under two different categories and thus chose the more convenient option.

I arrived in Toronto with barely enough time to unload the truck and get it back to the rental place before they close. The friend I was going to call to help wasn't available, so I ended up moving the entire dining room set by myself--the table was especially difficult.

After I dropped the truck off near Queen West and Ossington I walked about half way home. Queen Street is one of the more interesting parts of Toronto and I enjoyed peering into the gallery and shop windows. At Spadina I started walking north through China town. This is a fantastically colorful part of time to be walking through in the evening. I think Betsy and I should probably spend more time enjoying this part of the GTA.

I hailed a cab at College Street and went home to play with the cats and recover from a long, long day.

Today I'm back at work doing the usual stuff: e-mail and contractors.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sermon - Pentecost 22 2008

I preached this sermon on Pentecost 22 (October 12) 2008. It was was a baptism, so I kept the homily short and on that topic. It had a very nice feel to it, however, and people really appreciated the warmth.

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


Adventures in Baptism

Wow, what a wonderful Sunday. The (immersion!) Baptism went off without a hitch. The parents were very pleased with everything and little Matthew seemed to enjoy himself.

I arrived extra early to prepare the tank. First I wiped out the inside to get the dust and bits of plants that were still sticking to the inside. Then I filled it with warmish-hot water with a garden hose hooked up to the facet in our broom closet. I thought we might have to use a water-heater gizmo to keep it at temperature, but actually the water stayed warm for several hours just fine. A good learning about the properties of that kind of volume (more than 100 gallons).

Rolling it into position near the chancel was a bit tricky. I had calculated the weight on each wheel but didn't believe it before I filled the tank (~250 lbs?). So I think I'll add another pair of casters to the base to make it easier to roll around. I put some muscle into and got her done.

Kerrie, our Director of Children's and Youth Ministry, arrived early with supplies to dress the font with fabric. She used double-sided tape, though we may switch to Velcro. The result looked pretty good, and I'll post a photo once I have one.

I put the pascal candle next to the font and a small table for odds and ends (oil of chrism, baptismal candle, etc.).

The service started out strong. I was thankful that the collect, prayer over the gifts, and prayer after communion all mentioned baptism--that was pure coincidence. I do believe in saving baptisms for special occasions, but in this case I made an exception so little Matthew's grandmother could attend. As the time came for he sermon I felt tremendous warmth and gentleness. The Epistle, with it's call to "Rejoice always," buoyed me to a wonderful moment of preaching that was extremely present to everyone present. It felt wonderful to be that extemporaneous zone on such a joyful day. I used words like "beautiful" and "love" a lot!

At the last minute (big) Matthew and I added an extra hymn to give me time to change into a stunt-alb. He lead the whole congregation is singing a rousing version of "Wade in the Water," while I feverishly changed.

Just before the Baptism itself the parents took the baby to the vestry where I had a changing table and extra towels standing by. They brought him back naked except for a towel thingy to stay warm. At the appropriate time I took him out of the towel. and put him gently into the water up to his arm pits. He seemed to like the water just fine. The temperature was perfect.

I got comfortable again and then cradled him in the water with my left arm. As I pronounced the baptismal formula I used my right hand to block his nose and mouth and just tipped him back for a second. He didn't really care for that, but I wonder whether it was my hand on his face, the tipping backwards, or the submersion that he didn't like. I think next time I would probably lower rather than tip the baby in--but once I had him out of the water and back into a towel he calmed down just fine. Learnings. Learnings.

Next was the anointing and then a hymn while the parents dressed him in the Vestry. When they came back he was righter than rain--spiritually bathed and clothed in Christ. In the mean time I switched back to my regular alb, as the stunt alb was predictably wet. I presented him with the candle and then the congregation greeted the newest Christian.

The rest of the service continued in the same theme of warmth and joy. Afterwards the parents and godparents told me how pleased they were with everything. The rest of the congregation was please, as well, and told me how much they liked it. As it turns out this is not the first time COTM has done immersion baptism. A member of the choir recalled it being done back in Desmond Hunt's day. Perhaps sometime I'll search for a record of that.

Someone said I was very brave to do such a service on such short notice. Yet I think it's one of the very special attributes of this church (COTM) that they are willing to "go there" whenever we try something new. They have a high tolerance for experimentation in this place that I am deeply greatly for. Man, I love these people!


Friday, October 10, 2008

"Stay Frosty"

Stay Frosty
A valediction which has come to mean "be cool," but which more properly understood is an admonishment to stay alert and on one's toes. See the quote below for the pop culture origin:

"Hey! I know we're all in strung out shape but stay frosty and alert. We can't afford to let one of those bastards in here."
-Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), in Aliens (1986) (source)

I'm pleased with how much I got done this week. I managed to tend to a lot of different projects as diverse as fund raising, pastoral care, construction, cleaning out my office closet, liturgical planning, editing, and a few other things. So naturally I'm kind of tired heading into the weekend, but tomorrow afternoon I'm doing pre-baptism counseling as well as getting my sermon together. Between thanksgiving and the parish's first immersion baptism I've got plenty to preach about!

As exciting as Sunday will be, I'm also deeply looking forward to sleeping in on Monday. Mondays are a good day.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Build Your Own Adult-Sized Font: Part I

One of the great and ingenious aspects of Sacramental Theology is that requires us to roll up our sleeves and dig our fingers into the messy materiality of God's created world. The moment we break bread, pour wine, or swear oil on someone's forehead we are saying something profound about our connection to this world of ours. We aren't just temporarily confused visitors passing through on our way to enlightenment beyond the flesh--we are co-creators with God capable of transforming all of creation into something holy and grace-bearing.

It seems to me that recovering the tradition of full-immersion baptism is both right and good. There is nothing wrong with the sprinkle-of-water variety, but if we can make this rite richer and more in keeping it's monumental spiritual importance, so much the better. So this Sunday at COTM we are doing a full-immersion infant baptism. As luck would have it, my first candidate for inclusion in the Christian family in this way happens to have a mother from Africa who is familiar with full-immersion and thinks it's great.

One problem, we don't have a font deep enough to submerge an infant (let alone anyone bigger). So in less than a week we are building our own baptismal tank:

Build Your Own Adult-Sized Font: Part I

Galvanized Steel Stock Tank, 6' X 2' X 2' works well
2 1/2' X 8' X 3/4" Plywood Sheet
4 3" Casters with brakes
16 1.5" X 1/4" Carriage bolts
16 Locking Washers to fit
16 1/4" Nuts
2' X 2' X 6' Stock Tank (167 Gallons!)

Saw horses
Orbital Jigsaw (Use Stardard Wood blade--medium speed)
Carpenter's Square
Hand-held drill (with 1/4" bit--self-piloting in even better)
Wrench (Crescent is just fine)

Time: 1.5 Hours

Skill Level: Basic

1. Put your plywood sheet (large enough to cover the base of the tank) on the floor. Put the tank on top and trace the outline of the tank bottom on the plywood.

2. Put the plywood on the saw horses and cut along the pencil line with the jigsaw.

3. Flip the plywood and write "bottom" on the plywood in pencil! Use the square to figure out where to put the casters. They should be symmetrical and not too close to the edge. Then place the actual casters in place and use the pencil to mark drill holes. Drill the holes.

4. Flip the plywood over and put the bolts through the holes. You'll probably need to tap them with the hammer (a snug fit is good).

5. Flip the plywood over again and put the casters in place. Secure with locking wasters and nuts. Don't over-tighten.

6. Put the chassis on the floor and put the tank on top! Done!

* Get a water heater for the tank to keep the water warm.
* The best place to fill the tank is from a facet that you can attach a garden hose to and get hot water from.
*I'm probably going to add L brackets to the wood chassis to keep the tank from sliding off the platform, though with water in the tank I think it will be okay.

Part II will involve dressing the tank with fabric to make it look pretty. I'm still figuring out what the best way to do that will be. One idea was S-Hooks, but Home Depot didn't have any big enough to fit for the rim. I thought about using a glue gun to attach a velcro strip, but I'm not sure it will adhere to the steel well. Any ideas?

It's a fun project. I pleased to have done it. It's going to make the actual Baptism on Sunday even more fulfilling.


Ceiling Fan

Monday I installed a ceiling fan in Betsy's office. This is a very satisfying item to cross off the Honey-Do list. Installation was not straightforward as the electrical junction box in the ceiling was merely attached to the side of a joist rather than under it--it was never meant to carry the weight of a fan. So on the advice of a friend wise in such things I ended up screwing the mounting bracket for the fan into the joist a few inches off center from the junction box. That left a nasty looking hole in the ceiling. So next I used scissors to cut a piece of cardboard to fit the hole perfectly. I took that downstairs and traced the pattern onto a piece of thin scrap wood. I cut it with a handy scroll saw that Betsy gave me for my birthday a while back. Betsy happened to be painting something white, so I had her paint the patch to approximately match the ceiling. Voila! She has a fan in her office. After that it's time to crack open a beer and watch football.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Church Relevance .COM

ChurchRelevance.COM is a blog I've begun exploring that takes a hard look at one of the most important ecclesiological issues of the age: the relationship between the church and a changing world.
I believe that cultural awareness empowers us to be more Christlike. It helps us empathize. It helps us be relational. Most importantly, it helps us realize that people around the world are experiencing problems greater than our own. (source)

Kent Shaffer, the blogger, reminds me a lot of Geez. There are really interesting things happening at the edge where popular culture and Christian culture meet. I wish I could spend more time learning about it, but just sustaining and building a community in the main-line model is nearly overwhelming.

Yesterday as I was preparing for the Trad Com I was sitting the Vestry collecting my thoughts. Across from me were a series of plaques on the wall memorializing gifts made to the church to celebrate this or that person's life. They are all pre-fire. I can't help but be intimidated by them--they show me that this place has been around a lot longer than I have, and I worry that if we don't grow all that those plaques represent will be lost. It's a nice image for the anxiety of modern main-line ministry. A priest alone looking at plaques with names he doesn't recognize, wondering whether his efforts will be sufficient to "save" this place.

It's pure hubris, of course, for any of us in ministry (lay or ordained) to think that we are responsible for such things. The fact is that I'm just the 13th in a line that have looked at stone memories of the past with similar anxiety. Nor am I likely to be the last. Here we are, inheritors of a tradition, a building, a particular community of people, and we are supposed to continue the kingdom-building work. What an impossible task! Always was. I can't imagine how discouraged the disciples felt--let alone some of favorite saints in their dark hours. Think of Blessed James Otis Sargent Huntington when he founded the Order of the Holy Cross. Or Francis of Assisi when he started rebuilding that little stone chapel as winter was coming. The absurdity of Mission is evident.

It was time to start the service, but I could hear the click of a cane on tile telling me that the people weren't quite ready. When the clicking stopped I got up and walking into the church, prayerbook in hand.


Liturgy and The Cloud of Unknowing

I'm very proud of the Contemplative Eucharist that we do on Wednesday mornings. It's a very special achievement to have gotten that baby off the ground. And now that it's gaining more momentum I'm beginning to see even more potential.

Margo Sawyer - Cloud of Unknowing, 2005

With the encouragement of my staff I've been gradually adding a bit more instruction and discussion at the end of it. Last week we talked about The Cloud of Unknowing--a 14th Century manual for contemplative spirituality. So this week I brought my copy and read the group a paragraph taken from random:
In this way you can see that we must concentrate our whole attention on this lowly movement of love in our will. To all other forms of sweetness or consolation, however pleasant or holy (if we be allowed to put it in this way) we should show a sort of indifference. If they come, welcome them; but do not depend on them, because they are weakening things; it takes too much out of you to stay for long in such sweet feelings and tears. And you may even be tempted to love God for the sake of having them. You will know if this is so by seeing whether you complain unduly when they are absent. And if you do, your love is not yet pure or perfect. For a love that is pure and perfect, though it admits that the body is sustained and consoled when such sweet feelings or tears are present, does not complain when they are missing, but is really pleased not to have them, if it is the will of God. And yet in some people contemplation is normally accompanied by consolations of this sort, while there are others who have such sweetness and comfort but seldom. (The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 50, Paragraph 1, Trans. Clifton Wolters)
So many people come to religion for an experience--yet if you strive for a more perfect love you must cultivate a "kind of indifference" to the consolations and sweet feelings that occasionally come with the spiritual life. I think of liturgies that are specifically designed to manipulate people emotionally in order to give them a feeling of catharsis by the end. The Contemplative Tradition teaches that such worship draws us further from God in that our faith becomes depending on what get out of it, emotionally. If you would have perfect love, then you must accept whatever spirituality presents itself in this moment, right now, and not lust after something else. It's a fantastically powerfully teaching that few are really to hear.

The bishop only gave me permission to do the Contemplative Eucharist until All Saints' (Nov. 1st). I'm hoping he will renew permission after that, but it's possible he may not. If he refuses I'll be upset, of course, and I'll argue vigorously on behalf of this group. But the System I'm a part of doesn't care for innovation, and that's a reality I have to accept, as well. So I'll have to write a letter to the bishop soon to plead for group to continue. Stay tuned...


Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I have to say that the opportunity to celebrate the Holy Eucharist is one of the great joys in my life. This morning we had our "Traditional Communion" (Trad-Com, as we sometimes call it) from the BCP. One of the advantages of the traditional liturgies, IMHO, is that they allow the celebrant the luxury of introspection. Because there is so much less interaction with the congregation, I find that I can really focus on what's going on internally. This is even more true with Eastward Celebration (back to the people).

One of the things I really miss about St. Mary Magdalene's was the 7:15 AM Holy Eucharist on Tuesdays and Thursday. It seemed possible, for once, to do a perfect liturgy: every step, every gesture, every little bit done in a precise, intentional, and planned way. When I was in "the zone" celebrating Mass that way I found that the formalism enhanced my ability to be present to the Holy Spirit. I'll never forget standing on the blue carpet in the lady chapel and elevating the chalice to the height where I could just see, in the reflection, the congregation behind me.

The sensibility of Sunday worship at COTM privileges an entirely different experience: we are willing to do church without even trying to attain any kind of perfectibility. We are all about the messy and fun encounter of God with a community of imperfect, sometimes crazy, always energetic people.


Talk About Inventive Liturgy...

It's good to be King. Mswati III of Swaziland recently presided at a ceremony in which "tens of thousands" (according to Reuters) of bare-breasted virgins competed in order to choose his 14th wife. As you might expect, Mswati is an absolute Monarch, the last in Sub-Saharan Africa.

You might think that having thousands of half-naked women parade by the king (dressed in a leopard-skin loin cloth) is part of some ancient and respectable tradition. Actually, the King instituted this "ceremony" in 1999! Lol.


Take-Your-Pet-To-Church Sunday

In honor of St. Francis of Assisi we celebrated "Take-Your-Pet-To-Church Sunday" a few days ago. We really weren't sure what would happen. As it turns out, it wasn't nearly as chaotic as I had feared it might be. The pets that came were very well behaved and the kids were mesmerized by the Parrot and the lizards and the wonderful dogs and cats. I would consider doing it again next year!


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Do-It-Yourself Audio

Lately I've been daydreaming about building my own stereo amplifier. In the process I stumbled on this website: DIY Audio Projects. It's all about the neat stuff you can make if you have a soldering iron and little bit of know-how. There is something deeply satisfying about these kinds of creations--having built my own computers, I know what that's like.


The "Last" Supper?


Friday, October 3, 2008

church nicknacks and whathaveyous

church nicknacks and whathaveyous
Dave Walker challenged his blog's readers to create pages to fill up the Google Results for "church nicknacks and whathaveyous"--here we go!

My favorite church nicknack is probably the table-top BBQ that we use for the Easter Vigil fire every year. Of course, it only gets used that one-time a year. For actual cooking we use a full-sized gas grill we keep out back.

What are your favorite church nicknack and whathaveyous?


The Church Office

From Dave Walker's cartoon blog. Ah, yes, we can relate!



I spent most of yesterday at Fresh Start, a Diocese-mandated continuing education program for priests taking up new appointments. This is my second year in the program, and after having been through most of this stuff already in three years of Momentum (also a Diocese-mandated program) I've about reached my fill. Certainly the didactic content is old hat. Three years of looking at PowerPoint slides with titles like, "Power, Authority, and Influence," gets a little old. The real value of these programs is the opportunity to share real ministry problems in an atmosphere of collegiality and trust. This kind of group problem solving really plays to the strengths of most pastor-types. Still, I think it might be helpful to condense or abandon most of the didactic material and replace it with prayer, discernment, and more "spiritual" stuff. I think most of us priests are more in need of that than more slides about dealing with parish conflict!

Came home--nursed Betsy (she has been feeling under the weather), made dinner, then watched the U.S. Vice Presidential Debate. It was a much better debate than the McCain-Obama debate last week--more substance and more civility. I was particularly impressed with the amount of time Palin and Biden spent talking to each other after the debate. They clearly enjoyed the exchange and have evident mutual respect. I'm very excited about this election. I even sent my (Absentee) Ballot off last week!


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Religiousity and America

Check out this chart created by the Pew Research Center that appeared on the New York Times the other day:

It appears to show that the wealthy of a nation is inversely related to how important people say that "religion" is to them. The United States in the one exception to this pattern--why? I wonder whether the way the question, "Is religion important to you?" is perceived in different cultures has something to do with it? On the other hand, I do know anecdotally that the U.S. is a much more "religiously" inclined country then, say, Canada. That doesn't mean more "spiritual," whatever that means, but at least it's more "religious."

Food for thought.


Sermon - Pentecost 19 2008

I preached this sermon on Pentecost 19 (September 21) 2008. It's a nice little homily, but I need to slow down when I'm preaching. It's hard to keep the pace down when I get excited, though!

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

BTW, I mention Rowan Greer in this sermon. I highly recommend his book Christian Hope and Christian Life: Raids on the Inarticulate. In it he explores Christian Hope (Eschatology) in particular as it manifests in two broad traditions of thought. He spends a lot of time with some of the Patristic Fathers and has a patience for understanding the mindset of others that is beautiful to behold.

What is the destiny of the human soul in this life and the next? Dare we hope to “see God face to face,” or will our vision of God remain forever filtered “through a glass, darkly”? In this remarkable volume, Rowan A. Greer turns to the New Testament, the church fathers, and later writers to throw light on their own visions of the human soul. He suggests that Augustine of Hippo and Gregory of Nyssa represent two distinct strands of Christian thinking that find expression later in writers such as John Donne and Jeremy Taylor. Greer, who has trained two generations of historians and theologians in the rich thought of the early church, has succeeded in writing a volume that is both full of original scholarly insight and, by virtue of his elegant writing, accessible to laypeople and non-specialists. (Publisher's blurb)

I see that he has a new book out, as well, about miracles and our perception of them: The Fear of Freedom. If I ever chew through my current reading list I'll make room for that one...


Homily for Lynne and Bob

Here's the recording of my homily from the wedding. I spoke about the meaning of love and the spiritual discipline of marriage. To do this I contrasted the cult of romantic love with the reality of long-term partnership. I ended with a challenge to have courage to always return again to the door of our hope and longing. By the end I was on a nice roll and feeling good.

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


Anglican Article Published

That article I wrote for the Anglican just got published:

I got a full color page, at that! I'm very pleased with the results. Many thanks to the Editor (you know who you are!) Life is good.

I learned so much in Turkey that I could have easily written an article twice as long. In the end I simply didn't have the space to talk much about the non-Anglican Christians in Istanbul and some of the neat things they are up to. Just as well, as I was a bit nervous about saying too much about these communities that try to stay under the radar. The Anglicans (as well as a few other groups) have a more "official" status that affords some protection.

Anyway, I'm very pleased about this. Funny how my two sisters and myself all have been writers to one degree or another. And at one time my mother was told by one of my teachers, patronizingly, that she should read to me more!