Sunday, November 30, 2008

(American) Thanksgiving

Not much blogging from me the last few days as friends have been in town for American Thanksgiving. It was a brief, intense, and great time. They left Saturday morning and I've been recovering ever since.

Nonetheless, church happened in a big way today and I'm glad for that. I was up at 5:15 this morning and moving ever since. Now the Lord promises me rest...


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fresh Expressions Workshop

Last Saturday I went to a one-day Fresh Expressions Visioning Workshop at Wycliffe. "Fresh Expressions" is an initiative coming out of the Church of England that seeks to create new expressions of the Gospel in contemporary culture. Rather than replace or compete with traditional ("inherited") models of church, they aim to create a mixed economy of old and new. You can see some powerpoint shows that describe the movement in more detail on my Mission-Church Toronto Blog. I know I haven't been updating that blog a whole lot, but I expect that to change as COTM gets more directly involved in this kind reorientation towards mission.

There were about 24 people at the workshop. Many of them were familiar to me from other Anglican church growth/evangelism/church planting contexts. Interesting how the same people tend to attend these events. Hard not to look around and think of the dozens and dozens of people that ought to be at these kinds of events if they want to grow their churches. I understand how clergy get focused on their own places to the point where they can't participate in the kind of strategic continuing ed/church development events that could really help--but to me the sacrifice of a Saturday for the sake of possibly growing my church is an absolute no-brainer.

As to whether Messiah will try to develop a "Fresh Expression"--I've got two on the burner. I think the Contemplative Eucharist is actually a Fresh Expression that could be taken to the next level. I also think that the Mom's fellowship group has such a potential. The key is to structure that group around the principle of being church and not just a peripheral sub-group of Messiah members that share affinity and common experience. I've also got some other ideas kicking around in my brain.

One of the is the ARC (Anglican Resource Centre) that would be a place to resource Christian formation/education in the whole diocese. Besides having a library of resources and conducting education of the educators--we* see the ARC as having a "church" community of its own. It's Mission and Ministry would be... mission and ministry. It's more intuitive than it sounds--it would be church for the post-church crowd, if that makes sense. You know the burned out ex-Warden, ex-choir, ex-chancel guild times that we are currently doing a poor job of serving.

*The "we" behind the ARC is the Christ-Centred Character working group that Catherine Keating and I lead. We meet weekly (in case anybody reading this) to talk how to promote strategies of Christian Ed. in our parishes that align with secular movements.

So good things happening...


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pastor's Advice on Marriage: More Sex

The New York Times has a great article about the trend in evangelical circles to encourage (married) couples to have more sex.
Mr. Young, an author, a television host and the pastor of the evangelical Fellowship Church, issued his call for a week of “congregational copulation” among married couples on Nov. 16, while pacing in front of a large bed. Sometimes he reclined on the paisley coverlet while flipping through a Bible, emphasizing his point that it is time for the church to put God back in the bed. ...

Mrs. Young, dressed in knee-high black boots and jeans, said that after a week of having sex every day, or close to it, “some of us are smiling.” For others grappling with infidelities, addictions to pornography or other bitter hurts, “there’s been some pain; hopefully there’s been some forgiveness, too.” (source)

There have been a few influential books published recently encouraging couples to have more sex--notable 365 Nights and Just Do It. Both of these are reportedly very funny and free accounts of couples committing to have as much sex as possible despite demanding jobs, children, and middle-age. From what I've heard (I haven't read either one) the embedded gender ideas are basically mainstream (not scary in the way some Evangelical notions of gender can be).

The biblical, theological, and pastoral convictions underlying the role of sex in marriage is, of course, substantial. God wants us to have sex. So why don't we talk more openly about this in Christian marriage? When I do pre-marriage counseling with couples I usually spend at least one session talking about it. One of the things I always mention is that sex inside marriage is very different that the sort of love-making that happens in courtship or even when a couple is living together. Something shifts when you actually get married. A therapist friend of mine (Mary Gates) told me once that when you get married suddenly all your family comes into the bedroom with you. The sex "means" something it didn't before. It has become, in an important sense, more sacramental now that it is contextualized by Word and Spirit.

The notion of sex-as-sacrament is pretty profound. As a sacrament, this "outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace" is a ritual that is what it represents: the union of two people "in mind, body, and soul." It has the power to accomplish that which we cannot do on our own--it takes us beyond ourselves and into a share of the bounty God promises us.

Like all sacraments, the best preparation for sex is forgiveness. Just like we ask God's forgiveness before touching Christ's body, we also need to have a similar spirit of openness and vulnerability when reaching toward our spouse. In fact, I have ever spent time in marriage prep teaching couples how to ask and grant forgiveness. If I teach them nothing else, this may the most important lesson in marriage prep. The sad thing is, many people do not know how to ask for forgiveness in this or any other relationship. Oddly, our culture right now has a hard time with this part of the sin-contrition-newlife cycle and that gets played out in marriages all the time.

Another problem for many couples has to do with the problems that arise from negotiating the tricky boundary between self and other. Psychologists call it "self-differentiation." Here's a scenario, Jane and Mike are married. They always have sex on Friday night, usually after spending time doing something as a couple going to the movies, dinner, or out with friends. Increasingly, however, Jane feels more distant from Mike. As a result, she feels less inclined to make love on Friday nights. Now, if she declines his advances this could be seen as a mark that she is living authentically and not just keeping up appearances. her actions will align with her desires. But, on the other hand it may not help her higher-level goal of having intimacy with her husband. If she has healthy self-differentiation she may be able to think something like, "I really don't feel like this right now, but I will do it for him." Poor self-differentiation might look like, "I really don't feel like this right now, what's wrong with me? I better do it anyway or Mike will get mad..." Note that having sex or not having sex in a particular situation could be the result of poor or good marital health. The key is whether your sacrificial offering of yourself is acceptable or not.

Note that in the Bible not all sacrifices are pleasing to the Lord. In fact, one has to be quite deliberate and careful about what is offered up and how. The wisdom here is that God doesn't want us to make sacrifice for His sake but ours! Thus, one must always examine that which is to be offered carefully.

I'm still learning how to do this this kind of discernment around self-differentiation. Something about the ability to be ones self and yet utterly connected to the other at the same time. Meditation helps, I think, as do the other typical spiritual disciplines: prayer, service to others, listening, study, etc. It's a lesson that takes a lifetime to learn.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Project: Wood Cradle

I made this wood cradle to hold the firewood delivered two weeks ago. It came just in time for the first real snow. It holds about half a cord of wood and has good air circulation and keeps the marks left on the deck to a minimum. It's made out of pressure treated, weather resistant 2"X4"s and weather-resistant deck screws. It took me an afternoon to put together with a circular saw and some other basic tools. I stapled a water-proof tarp to the frame to complete it. I could have just stacked the wood on the deck, but it might have left marks on the deck. So I'm very pleased with my little construction project.

A Number 5B Jack Plane

But it gets worst--one of my projects right now is making some new cutting boards from some left over wood I found in the wood scrap pile in the basement. I made the initial cut with a handsaw, but I couldn't get enough material off with a sanding block to clean up the cut surface, so I bought a Jack Plane and used that. Figuring out how to use the Jack Plane took some experimenting, but it's a really satisfying tool to use. It makes nice little paper-thin rolls of wood. It was so nice that I actually took Betsy down into the workroom and she got to try it, too!

I'm such a nerd.


Rock Eucharist

Today was a bit wild and wonderful at COTM. It was a "Rock Eucharist"--so lots of non-cheesy, interesting Christian Contemporary hymns supported by the choir, bass, and drums. And, of course, Matthew rocking out on the piano. Kids were in church the whole time. Attendance was excellent. And on top of all that we had a guest preacher: Bishop Abraham Ackah from Ghana and his wife.

Bishop Ackah is the first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Wiawso. He has about 15,000 Anglicans on the rolls worshiping in 70 congregations in 17 parishes served by 25 priests and 50 catechists. That means that the priests are stretched very, very thin among so many people and congregation. There are plenty of people who feel called to ordained ministry and plenty of opportunities to train them (including scholarships of various kinds, etc.). the problem is that Wiawso is rural and very poor and can't really pay many of their priests. Incidentally, the bishop told me that he has refused to accept payment, either, since he feels he can't be paid when his priests aren't. the lack of economy development is hindering his ability to create sustainable ministry.

So, he has come to Toronto (and COTM) seeking partnerships to help. The outlines of such a partnership are still up in the air, but I'm eager to hear more and gave him some advice about next steps.

So church was very encouraging and fun today!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Tale of the Prodigal Laptop

Remember when Betsy had her laptop stolen from her locked office at the University a year ago? Well the police recently found the laptop during a raid on an unrelated matter. The woman in possession of it claimed she bought it "on the street"--but the police were justifiably suspicious. Sure enough, the serial numbers matched. It seems the new owner did erase Betsy's personal info, but the applications are all still there. We are going to ask an uber-techy friend (hi, Justin) to see if he can recover any of the erased files. I think the odds are good that he may be able to recover some of the files--but how many is a mystery.

In the meantime, Betsy and I did amuse ourselves looking at the pictures left on the laptop by the woman the police confiscated it from. They didn't want to delete anything for fear of deleting Betsy's stuff, so we now have an interesting portrait of this person's life. We even have some of the lurid details. I'll leave that to your imaginations.

Believe it or not, my very Christian wife thinks we should burn all those pictures onto DVD and send them to her. Perhaps that is the charitable thing to do, but I call baloney on this woman's claim that she bought the laptop from "some guy on the street" and has no idea who he was, etc. More likely she knows exactly who this guy is and she may be willing to fess up when she's facing a charge of possession of stolen goods. I also suspect that this woman was the one that deleted Betsy's data, which is the real loss in all this.

As I was explaining the difference between Civil and Criminal proceedings to Betsy she asked, "Is it worth it?" and I replied, "It depends how angry you are!"

Ok, I'll start letting it go. Hey, we thought it was gone-gone, so that's something.


Blessed Are You Who Distrub the Customer...

Here's a very catchy anti-consumerism song by the crazy/fun Rev'd Billy titled "Beatitudes of Buylessness."

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


Friday, November 21, 2008

Happy People Don't Watch TV

From the NY Times comes this thought provoker:
Although people who describe themselves as happy enjoy watching television, it turns out to be the single activity they engage in less often than unhappy people, said John Robinson, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and the author of the study, which appeared in the journal Social Indicators Research. ...

“We looked at 8 to 10 activities that happy people engage in, and for each one, the people who did the activities more — visiting others, going to church, all those things — were more happy,” Dr. Robinson said. “TV was the one activity that showed a negative relationship. Unhappy people did it more, and happy people did it less.”

But the researchers could not tell whether unhappy people watch more television or whether being glued to the set is what makes people unhappy. “I don’t know that turning off the TV will make you more happy,” Dr. Robinson said. (source)

I would be curious whether the same holds true for playing video games...


Ummm... Gravy...

The New York Times discusses what makes the perfect thanksgiving gravy...


4 tablespoons butter, more if necessary for gravy, and for seasoning (optional)
6 turkey legs or other dark meat turkey parts (thighs, wings, etc.), to make about 6 pounds
Salt and black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and stuck with 3 cloves
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 stalks celery with leaves, trimmed and cut into large chunks
2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
1 cup white wine, Madeira, vermouth, dry sherry or water

12 tablespoons ( 3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
Salt and black pepper.

1. For the stock: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 4 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle turkey parts with salt and pepper, place in roasting pan and brush with melted butter. Roast 2 hours, basting with butter every 20 minutes or so.

2. Transfer roasted turkey to a stockpot and set roasting pan aside. Add onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves and peppercorns to stockpot. Add cold water just to cover, bring to a simmer and cook, slightly uncovered, about 6 hours.

3. Meanwhile, place roasting pan on top of stove and bring juices to a simmer over low heat. Pour in wine (or water), stirring and scraping to bring up browned bits. (If using wine, simmer at least 5 minutes.) Pour all liquid into a bowl and refrigerate. When deglazing liquid is cool, lift off top layer of fat; reserve fat. Add deglazing liquid to stockpot.

4. When stock is golden and flavorful, strain into a large container and refrigerate. When cool, lift off fat and mix it with reserved fat from deglazing liquid. Reserve 3 quarts stock for gravy and refrigerate or freeze the rest for another use.

5. For the gravy: In a deep skillet or large heavy pot, melt 12 tablespoons ( 3/4 cup) reserved turkey fat over medium heat. If you do not have enough turkey fat, use additional butter to make 3/4 cup. Gradually whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking, until golden brown and toasty-smelling, 3 to 5 minutes or longer for darker gravy.

6. Whisk in a small amount of stock (this prevents lumps), then add remainder more quickly and whisk until smooth. Simmer, continually whisking, until thickened. If too thick, thin with more stock or a little wine and simmer briefly. Season with salt and pepper. If desired, whisk in a few tablespoons cold butter to smooth and enrich gravy.

Yield: 3 quarts, about 20 servings.

To make ahead: Gravy can be made up to a month ahead. It freezes well in plastic containers or bags. Thaw in refrigerator or over low heat. Whisk in a little water if it appears curdled or too thick.

Note: Recipe can be halved to make about 6 cups gravy. Or for more gravy, use remaining stock and add 1 tablespoon fat and 1 tablespoon flour to the roux in Step 5 for each cup additional stock. (source)


Thursday, November 20, 2008


One of the striking things about the job of being a parish priest is how much the level of stress ebbs and flows day to day. One day I'll be relaxed and feeling great about life and ministry and then the next I'm feeling overwhelmed and even rude. Yet the stress is a king of gift that has wisdom to offer me if I could just sit with it and listen.

Doing that now... The stress isn't actually interested in whether I complete this project or have that difficult conversation. The stress is interested in whether I notice how my shoulders feel heavy and the back of my neck has a weird tingling. What's that about? Why is stress such a physical, bodily thing? hmmm.

I have a lot of candles in my office--I light them at times like this. Not to reduce stress, but to invite God to be with me in the stress. The stress is my friend. A weird friend, the sort of friend that makes me feel awkward--but a friend who faithfully comes to visit, still.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Church of Stop Shopping

You got to love this: Rev'd Billy (from the Church of Stop Shopping) on Fox News...


Vicar Has Unfortunate Potato Accident

From The Telegraph:

Vicar went to hospital with potato stuck in bottom

A vicar attended hospital with a potato stuck up his bottom - and claimed it got there after he fell on to the vegetable while naked. The clergyman, in his 50s, told nurses he had been hanging curtains when he fell backwards on to his kitchen table.

He happened to be nude at the time of the mishap, said the vicar, who insisted he had not been playing a sex game.

The vicar had to undergo a delicate operation to extract the vegetable, one of a range of odd items medics in

Sheffield have had to remove from people's backsides or genitals.

Others include a can of deodorant, a cucumber, a Russian doll – and a carnation.

Speaking of the vicar, A & E nurse Trudi Watson, of Sheffield's Northern General Hospital, said: "He explained to me, quite sincerely, he had been hanging curtains naked in the kitchen when he fell backwards on to the kitchen table and on to a potato.

"But it's not for me to question his story. He had to undergo surgery to have it removed."

She advised anyone tempted to use such objects in sex games to think again.

"It can be very dangerous and potentially life-threatening," she said.

"Surgery can lead to infection, nasty scarring, and it could possibly end up with the person having to use a colostomy bag as a result."

A hospital trust spokeswoman in Sheffield said: "Like all busy hospitals we do see some unusual accidents.

"But our staff deal with them in a discreet, professional and kind way." (source)

I love how the hospital admin is claiming that they provided this poor guy with "discreet, professional" care! Sure doesn't seem that way from the article...


Mt. Calvary Monastery Fire in the New York Times

Reed Saxon/Associated Press

The New York Times website has an article about the Mt. Calvary fire on the home page. It's a pretty fair and not overly sentimental account of how the community is reacting to the loss:

Monks Turn to Reflection With Monastery in Ruins

Published: November 18, 2008

LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday the monks met with their insurance agent.

Like thousands of other residents of Southern California, the seven Benedictine Anglican monks who lived at Mount Calvary Monastery and Retreat House, on a breathtaking ridge 1,250 feet above the Pacific in Montecito, were coming to terms with what they had lost in the fires that have swept across Southern California since Thursday.

Early last Friday, fire consumed most of the complex where the monks had chanted, studied the stars and welcomed guests from around the world. The next afternoon, they returned to survey the damage.

“We were very quiet,” Brother Joseph Brown recalled in a telephone interview Tuesday. “We just looked around. We were in shock.”

By the time the Tea Fire, in Santa Barbara County, was under control, all that remained of the 60-year-old monastery itself were a skeletal archway, a charred iron cross and a large Angelus bell.

Two small artist’s studios near the main building were intact. An icon of Christ that Brother Brown had been painting with pigments made from egg yolk and mineral powder was still on a desk. A cello sat a few feet away, unharmed. In the chaos of wind and fire, a sheriff’s deputy had moved another monk’s telescope outside, where it remained unscathed.

“In the midst of all this destruction,” Brother Brown, 46, said Tuesday, “miracles happened all over the place.”

“The feelings right now are difficult to describe,” he said. “One of the hazards of monasticism throughout the centuries is we become attached to what we have or where we are. This is simply a reminder that what we are called to is not our stuff. This is a cleansing by fire.”

Since the fire, the monks have stayed at St. Mary’s Retreat House, run by Episcopal nuns near the Santa Barbara Mission, as they searched for solace and prepared themselves to help others in the area who were displaced by the blaze.

Brother Brown said the monks, part of the Order of the Holy Cross, spent much of Tuesday meeting with an insurance agent and a contractor to discuss their options. Though the coastal mountains of Montecito were dear to their hearts, he said, they “need time to pray and discern” whether to rebuild there, and if so, how to go about it.

“And we’re like, ‘Hmm, how do we get a hold of Oprah?’ ” he added, speaking of another famous Montecito property owner, Oprah Winfrey, who was not there during the fire but who said on her show last week that she had made a plan to send her staff and dogs to stay at a nearby resort, and that her home was safe.

Residents of mansions and mobile home parks alike found the trappings of their communities devoured by the Tea Fire, the Sayre Fire in Orange County and the Freeway Complex Fire in Los Angeles County.

On Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an order waiving fees for those needing to replace driver’s licenses, birth certificates and other documents destroyed in the fires.

The state has spent $75 million responding to the three fires, which burned over 40,000 acres, and destroyed 858 homes, the state Office of Emergency Services said. In Santa Barbara County, the Tea Fire was 100 percent contained, state fire officials said Tuesday, though firefighters continued to battle hot spots. The other two fires were 70 to 75 percent contained, officials said.

When orange flames sprouted on a ridge below the wood and adobe buildings Thursday evening, the monks and 25 guests, leaders of local nonprofit groups, had just gathered for dinner. They continued eating for several minutes, Brother Brown said, but as wind-whipped flames grew larger, they decided to evacuate. He and the other monks rose from the table and told their guests it was time to go.

“We very calmly and quietly and efficiently and without great gravity got folks’ stuff out of their rooms,” and packed up their cars. The monks, he said, stayed a bit longer, grabbing what they could.

Brother Nicholas Radelmiller, the monastery’s prior, who has lived there for 18 years, carried a century-old painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe under his arm. Others grabbed two 600-year-old paintings, a cash box, laptops and a change of clothes.

Brother Radelmiller, 68, was the only one to get his habit, a white robe with billowing sleeves. The six-inch-long ebony cross he received at his ordination 38 years ago was tucked into the pocket.

The habit and cross, Brother Brown said, are a monk’s only personal possessions. The fire destroyed antique Spanish furniture, oil paintings, books and cherished photographs, he added, but the loss of their habits and crosses stung most. Even in that, though, he found comfort. “We are stripping away the outward symbols that eternally rest in our hearts,” Brother Brown said.

Brother Radelmiller confessed to being “still somewhat numb about the whole thing, and a little overwhelmed by all the stuff that has to be done.”

“I keep running into little things that I’d missed,” he said, “things I had not realized I’d lost.” He began to cry quietly, then took a breath, saying: “But I really do feel like the most important thing is that we’re all O.K. and together. If they’re memories, I’ll just have to remember them. The most important thing is us.” (source)

I love that line "If they’re memories, I’ll just have to remember them." That about sums it up. As for moving forward, it will be interesting to see what comes out the discernment and prayer to come. I can't help but think of the Los Angeles Episcopal Cathedral. Rather than simply build a giant neo-gothic Cathedral, the Diocese of L.A. decided to use money from leasing a downtown property that was the cathedral to create a "Cathedral Center" that had a smallish chapel (comfortably sits about 150, as I recall), diocesan offices, retreat space, residencies, a fantastic ministry resource library, space for a bunch of outreach programs, and plenty of parking. All that, and it's right next to Echo Park! Bishop Frederick H. Borsch, AHC, presided over the attainment of that vision.

Incidentally, I met Bishop Fred briefly when I lived in L.A. I also saw him preside over the best chaired Diocesan Convention ("Synod" they it up here) I have ever witnessed. After L.A. I moved to Connecticut to start seminary at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. Two years later Fred followed me and came to Berkeley as the interim Dean. Not only that, he moved into my house! I was one of the "house students" who lived in the Berkeley house and take care of the hospitality ministry. The house also contains the Berkeley chapel and the Dean's residence. So I used to see Fred down in the kitchen all the time. Nice guy.

More trivia: Fred is a "Companion" of the Order of the Holy Cross, which means that they have recognized his outstanding contributions to the Order's life. It's a very special and rare honor.

My last story about Bishop Fred: once for a class I had with him about the Parables of Jesus I performed a wicked-accurate impersonation of him. We share the same distinctive hairline (a sign of intelligence and virility) and are around the same height and build. So I simply wore the same clothes, borrowed his tie and glasses, and affected his mannerism ("and so on and so forth..." or "my wife Barbara reminded me..."). God bless him--that was fun! He took it in stride.

It really is a small church--everything and everyone is connected a dozen ways...


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fire at St. James Cathedral

I'm just hearing about it today, but apparently there was a fire last week at St. James Cathedral here in Toronto:

St. James Cathedral hit by fire

Sprinklers contain blaze at Toronto landmark
Nov 14, 2008 11:59 PM

Church officials are praying they'll be able to open St. James Cathedral for a worship service Sunday after the Toronto landmark caught fire Friday night.

"I would anticipate so. There's just a little bit of smoke damage," said Assistant Bishop Philip Poole of the Anglican church diocese of Toronto, adding no one was injured.

The damage is estimated at $20,000.

Just half an hour before an organ recital was to begin, fire broke out in a chapel off the main entrance of the more than 200-year-old cathedral at Church and King Sts.

Assistant sexton Ross Hopkins said he saw flames licking the dark walls of the unlit and minimally furnished prayer room about 7 p.m.

Hopkins said only three people were in the cathedral at the time, himself, the organist and one seated parishioner.

"The room had been in darkness . . . I saw the flames and called 911," Hopkins told the Star. "The sprinkler system went on right away."

Ten fire trucks arrived just after 7 p.m. and 10 minutes later the fire was out, said District Toronto Fire Chief Don Beam.

"The main body of the fire was held back by the sprinkler system, said Beam, after walking through the smoke-filled cathedral to assess the damage.

"The fire is still under investigation ," he said.

Toronto Fire Capt. Mike Strapko said it's not considered a suspicious fire.

In 1849, the cathedral was destroyed by fire, according to an account of its history on its website.

A rebuilt cathedral opened in 1853. (source)

I hear that the damage was mostly limited to St. George's Chapel. Despite what this article says, the thinking right now is that this was most certainly a deliberate act of arson. Thank God it happened when people were around and able to act quickly!

It's a tough balance to provide the public free and easy access to our church buildings and yet protect the buildings from this kind of catastrophic abuse. The Cathedral seems especially vulnerable--I know of at least two other incidents where people decided to abuse the Cathedral's hospitality. In one case, some guy tried to steal the collection from a U2charist I helped organize to help in Africa. One of my clergy palls actually chased the fleeing thief down with the help of the police.

In another incident, a man sitting in the front row exposed himself to the presiding priest and had to be forcibly removed by the Sidespeople (ushers)! On the other hand, whenever I stop by the Cathedral during the day I usually find people inside praying quietly. So the balance between access and safety needs to be found.

The ideal solution is to have volunteers on hand inside the church to answer questions and keep an eye out. Less ideal, but possible, is to have video cameras out and then to have some alarms in place like museums do.


The Advent Conspiracy

Here's a great video about Christmas...

You can learn more about the Advent Conspiracy here...


Apology Law

A new law proposed in Ontario makes is possible for doctors to apologize for mistakes without incurring liability. Often when a doctor or other medical care worker makes a critical error they are advised not to admit a mistake because it could open them (and their hospital/clinic) open to being sued. This law offers the chance to say "I'm sorry--I made a mistake" without that apology being taken an admission of guilt for the purposes of a law suit.

My own experience in the church and the health care industry is that many times people really will be satisfied with an apology. Many states that have adopted this kind of legislation have seen malpractice lawsuits halved as a consequence.

I remember a lecture by a clergy sexual abuse expert in which she told us that victims usually sue the church only after they fail to find resolution via a simple but honest apology. Therefore, she always urged Bishops to ignore the advice of counsel and offer apology when the situation warrants. In these cases, the victims are always more interested in seeing signs of repentance and reformation than simply getting money for damages. It's really not about the money--but money has been given the power to express things that are taboo to say otherwise. IMHO, this is a huge mistake. If Christians can't say their sorry and amend their ways, then we are in serious trouble.

So I'm heartened by the law here in Ontario which ought to free Doctors to be more honest about mistakes that are made.


Monday, November 17, 2008

More Mt. Calvary Fire Photos

The Chapel at Mt. Calvary

Br. Randy put together a little photo album on Flickr of Mt. Calvary. Mostly before the fire, but some afterwards, as well.

Also, there is this clip from a local newscast...

From the OHC, West Park, website:
Many people have asked us what they can do to help. Your prayerful support is always welcome, of course. You can also assist us financially by sending contributions to Mt. Calvary Retreat House, PO Box 1296, Santa Barbara, CA 93102 to help sustain the ongoing life of the Mount Calvary household and to help us in planning for the future. Contributions may be marked "Fire Fund". May God bless you. (source)

Br. Joseph among the remains

I'm reminded of one of Benedict's quotes, "And always we begin again."

Bede comments on the future in his blog...
Now we have a lot of thinking, and talking, and planning and meeting to do before we know what lies ahead. Many people assume that we will rebuild as quickly as we possibly can, but it isn't as simple as that. We need to take time to see what we want for the future of our community and where we are being led. We need to discern the way forward. We need to hear the still, small voice that will tell us where the way is.

It is very painful, but the way of God sometimes is painful. One thing I know, we are a good, solid, and very much alive community. We will know the way when we find it. (source)


Saturday, November 15, 2008

USA Today Reports on the Fire

Here is a link to the USA Today article about the burning down of the monastery.

Prudently the monks had drilled on what to do in case of a fire like this:
"The brothers were doing dishes. They saw the flames on the next ridge. They realized they better get their suitcases together," said Sevensky, who lived at Mount Calvary for 11 years and now supervises from New York.

The monks loaded up their cars and headed for a convent down the hill. They had practiced what to take in the event of a fire, to consume the sacrament, load up the main computer and the rarest art. Sevensky said he was told that a California Highway Patrol officer may have been able to save additional artworks and drive them down to Ventura before the fire consumed the monastery. (source)

I'm particularly touched that they thought to consume the sacrament rather than leave it behind. Makes me think that we should do drills like that elsewhere. The daycare a the church drills regularly for various scenarios, maybe we should do something similar downstairs...


Update on Mt. Calvary Monastery Fire

Holy Cross, West Park, has this information on their website about the fire:
Mount Calvary Monastery, in Santa Barbara, CA, destroyed by fire

We are sorry to report that it looks like we have lost Mount Calvary Retreat House and Monastery to the flames. No one has been permitted to see the damage, but the reports on the news and from the fire department is that is is gone (as the below aerial picture found on a news feed seems to attest).

Guests, Brothers and staff are safe. The brothers are staying at the St Mary's Convent of the Holy Nativity Sisters, in Santa Barbara, for which we offer deep thanks. We ask for your prayers for all of them and all those affected by the fires.

We may not be able to return individual messages on this situation at this time. Thank you for your understanding. (source)

I also came across this updated article released by the Episcopal News Service:
Mount Calvary Retreat House, 100 homes are lost in Santa Barbara wildfire

Episcopal Life Online
November 14, 2008

LOS ANGELES: Dangerous “sundowner” winds fan flames, destroy Episcopal monastery

By Pat McCaughan

November 14, 2008

[Episcopal News Service, Santa Barbara] - Dangerous 70-mile-an-hour winds known as “sundowners” exploded fire across parts of Southern California on November 13-14, injuring at least four people, destroying an estimated 100 homes, and leveling an internationally known monastery of the Episcopal Order of the Holy Cross.

Residents of the picturesque Montecito area of Santa Barbara were evacuated as firefighters battled flames after the winds had died down. The “sundowner” effect results from the violent clash of hot air from the Santa Ynez Mountains and the cool air of the Pacific Ocean.

Property losses were estimated in the millions and climbing in the scenic area, where many celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey and others, have homes.

Six monks of the Order of the Holy Cross who reside at the Mt. Calvary Retreat House were evacuated at about 7:30 p.m. on November 13 to St. Mary’s Retreat House, run by the Episcopal Order of Sisters of the Holy Nativity, according to Brother Nicholas Radelmiller, OHC prior.

He estimated that losses from the destruction of the 41-year-old Spanish-style monastery, which had hosted international conferences and retreat guests, were in the millions.

“We all feel kind of numbed, shocked, by the whole thing,” he said. About 25 guests who were staying at the retreat center, which sat atop a ridge 1,250 feet above Santa Barbara, left at 6:00 p.m. on November 13, Radelmiller said. Shortly afterwards, he said, “we looked out our refectory window and could see flames a ridge away. They were getting bigger and bigger. We did the dishes and decided we had better leave, so each of us packed a little suitcase and left.”

Penny Hurt, an assistant to Sister Abigail at St. Mary’s Retreat House, described the brothers as shaken by the ordeal. “We tried to get up there last night but the police weren’t letting anyone into that area. Shortly afterwards, they came down. All of that area is gone now, it’s terrible. We’re just so glad the sisters can offer them refuge.”

“It is a lovely gesture by St. Mary’s,” said Nancy Bullock, Mt. Calvary retreat house manager. She said the brothers were getting organized and she would like to get to a computer so she can “let everyone know we won’t be doing any retreats soon.”

She said the retreat house, established in 1947 by Fr. Karl Tiedemann, OHC, as the retreat and conference center of the Order of the Holy Cross on the West Coast, books two years in advance. The guesthouse is operated and staffed by six members of the monastic community and a professional staff and chef.

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, who is in close telephone contact with clergy leaders in the Santa Barbara area, has asked the prayers of the diocesan community and the wider church for all those affected by the fire. The bishop and staff of the Diocese of Los Angeles have pledged their support in assisting the coordination of fire recovery efforts. Checks, payable to the Treasurer of the Diocese and earmarked "Montecito Fire Recovery," may be sent to the Bishop's Office, 840 Echo Park Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90026.

Expressions of concern and offers of assistance are already pouring in to the diocese and to nearby parishes. All Saints’ Church in Montecito offered a noon prayer service on November 14 and the church is open, although the parish school remains closed as a precaution. There were reports that classrooms at nearby Westmont College had burned and the campus had been evacuated.

Staff at All Saints’ are working with other area churches to coordinate efforts to help those who were evacuated or potentially lost their homes.

“Part of the problem is, we just don’t know a lot yet,” said Bullock, whose husband, the Rev. Jeff Bullock, is rector of All Saints.

Melinda Carey, parish secretary at Trinity Church in Santa Barbara, said the office was staffed in case parishioners needed assistance, and that the Rev. Mark Asman, rector, is networking with Jeff Bullock and other clergy in the area to coordinate relief efforts as needed. As yet, they had not received many calls. “Part of the problem is, it’s still happening,” Carey said. “We don’t know which homes have burned yet, so those who’ve been evacuated don’t even know if their homes are standing or not.”

She added, “Bishop Bruno was on it right away--he called and talked to everyone.”

Dick Tiff, a Santa Barbara resident and associate of the OHC order, called news of Mt. Calvary’s destruction “devastating.”

“I usually go there every Friday morning for breakfast and Eucharist,” he said. “When I heard the news, I just gasped. I’ve been going there about 20 years.”

Meanwhile, Nancy Bullock was already focused on the next steps, of obtaining a computer, accessing the mailing list and notifying future retreatants. “People in the immediate area will realize that retreats are cancelled, but we get people from all over and we want to let them know they need to make other plans,” she said.

Staff of the retreat center at the Cathedral Center of the Diocese of Los Angeles, and Canon Peter Bergstrom, executive director of Camp Stevens in Julian, California, have already offered to work with the monks and their staff to accommodate cancelled retreats.

The company that carries Mount Calvary’s insurance policies has already been contacted, Bullock said, but added that many of the furnishings inside the 20,000-square-foot retreat house were priceless. “It’s in the millions of dollars. I just don’t know what to say,” she said. “There was the beautiful gold altar, from 17th century South America, and the 1652 painting of Jesus healing the paralytic, as well as the painting of our founder, as well as the brothers’ personal belongings.”

The brothers and staff at Mt. Calvary, were able to leave with some of the hilltop retreat house's valuable art treasures, as well as computer records, Bullock said, adding, "But so much is lost."

Radelmiller said that the monks intend to rebuild their ministry.

“We have great gratitude that we’re all safe and we’re very grateful for all of the expressions of concern, help and prayers that people have mentioned to us,” he said. “We’ve all lost personal possessions and all of the stuff at Mount Calvary including artwork--and in the end, that doesn’t really matter. The life and ministry of Mount Calvary will go on, maybe in another fashion, but it will go on. We’re confident in that.”

The Rev. Pat McCaughan is senior correspondent for The Episcopal News. Bob Williams, canon for community relations for the diocese, and Janet Kawamoto, editor of The Episcopal News, contributed to this report. (source)

You can look at a slideshow of images from the fire (including about 6 or 7 of the remains of the Monastery, by following this link.

Bishop Packard, who used to be the Bishop for Chaplaincies in the Episcopal Church USA, has a very thoughtful reflection on his blog:
For our often rootless population we have claimed it as a refuge and spiritual home. We, and a lot of other pilgrims do so. This is a very sad moment. Please join me in prayers for the all those who are now homeless. Pray as well for the firefighters, those who have been injured, and those who have died.

Of course we stand with the members of the Order of the Holy Cross in any intention they have for the future. Checks payable to the Treasurer of the Diocese of Los Angeles and earmarked, "Montecito Fire Recovery" may be sent to Bishop Jon Bruno, 840Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90028.

The inferno can't burn away the sweet memories of that place in our hearts and we each have them. Let's hope those recollections can be the intention to join in re-building for tomorrow. +gep (source)

The Cross still stands

One of the images that haunts me is the loss of that 17th Century altar from Latin America. I know that these are just things, but part of having an incarnational and sacramental spirituality is saying that in some sense stuff does matter. Our lives matter and our material world matters. That's certainly not the end of the matter or a license to materialism, it's just a way of saying that this loss is real and worth grieving.


How OHC Found Mt. Calvary

I don't have my copy of the history of the Order handy, but as I recall the finding of that house goes something like this. The Order decided to found a house out West in the 1940's. A brother was dispatched to scout properties. He searched in the Santa Barbara area but didn't find anything suitable. He went to a local barber to get his hair cut, and in the ensuing small talk with the barber described his search for a house suitable to become a monastery. Another patron overheard and told the monk that he was selling his house and it might work perfectly for the brothers. It was a Spanish-Style home with a central courtyard and a beautiful view of the coast. Sure enough, the place was perfect.

When people asked me to compare the two houses, I would say that the glory of West Park is in the morning as the sun rises over Hyde Park and the Hudson River. The glory of Mt. Calvary was watching the sun set on the Pacific Ocean. Light absolutely poured into that place from all the open windows and breezy doorways. I particularly liked the courtyard garden, the library, and the citrus trees growing around the property.

What a loss.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Mt. Calvary Monastery Burns Down

Calligraphy by Br. Roy, OHC

Terrible news from California: Mt. Calvary Retreat Retreat Center, The Order of the Holy Cross's house in Santa Barbara, burned to the ground this morning during the wild fires. From the Episcopal News Service:
(Episcopal News, Los Angeles) -- The raging Montecito wildfire has destroyed historic Mount Calvary Retreat House, staff and Santa Barbara County officials have confirmed.

The resident brothers, members of the Order of the Holy Cross, and staff are safe following evacuation, said Nancy Bullock, program director for Mount Calvary, speaking by phone from All Saints by-the-Sea Church in Montecito.

Bullock said that All Saints is currently working to determine if any parishioners have lost homes in the blaze, which has claimed more than 100 residences across 2,500 acres. Bullock's husband, Jeff, is rector of the parish.

Bishop J. Jon Bruno, who is in close telephone contact with clergy leaders in the Santa Barbara area, asks the prayers of the diocesan community for all those affected by the fire. The bishop and staff of the Diocese of Los Angeles have pledged their support in assisting the coordination of fire recovery efforts. Checks, payable to the Treasurer of the Diocese and earmarked "Montecito Fire Recovery" may be sent to the Bishop's Office, 840 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90026.

Mount Calvary's prior, the Rev. Nicholas Radelmiller OHC, is leading the brothers and staff in assessing next steps of response to the fire damage.

Bullock said the brothers and staff at Mt. Calvary, were able to leave with some of the hilltop retreat house's valuable art treasures, as well as computer records, "but so much is lost."

Mount Calvary staff will assist groups and individuals in seeking alternate locations for upcoming retreats, all of which are now cancelled owing to the fire, Bullock said. The Cathedral Center retreat center in Los Angeles is available to assist this process.

At Santa Barbara's Trinity Church, rector and deanery co-dean Mark Asman is meeting with staff and volunteers to assess the situation and crisis response. Further information will be reported through the Episcopal News email list as soon as it becomes available, Asman said.

Asman said Trinity Church's rectory and parish house were able to accommodate the brothers overnight November 13. St. Mary's Retreat House, an Episcopal Church site near the Santa Barbara Mission, has also extended hospitality, although it was subject to a temporary evacuation November 13.

Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared the fire zone a disaster area as fire fighters continue to work to contain the blaze.

Mount Calvary Retreat House, with its panoramic ocean views, was founded in 1947 by the Order of the Holy Cross, based in West Park, N.Y.

--Report filed by Bob Williams, canon for community relations, Diocese of Los Angeles.

I went on retreat there a few times when I lived in Los Angeles. I'm thankful that everyone escaped--but what a loss. Here are some pictures to remember the house by...

Of course our thoughts and prayers go out to the OHC community.


Sermon - Pentecost 26 2008

Here is the sermon Marili Moore preached on Sunday at church...

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


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Prayer of the Week - Pentecost 26

Beloved Parishioners,

Today I came to work resolved to write the Prayer of the Week. So I sat down in front of my computer woke it up, and checked my e-mail first thing. Satisfied that everything important was taken care of, I started drafting the Prayer of the Week. I opened up a window and got ready to type and then... nothing.

Not to worry, I reasoned, I'll expose myself to what other God-groupies are writing and then I'll try again. So I opened up my internet browser and read some inspirational stuff written on blogs I follow. Satisfied that I was up to date on what my colleagues on-line had to say, I tried again. Again... nothing.

So, last resort, I went into the sanctuary with one of my favorite devotional manuals and started praying. I prayed a litany to the Holy Spirit and then prayed for the people I know who have specific needs. Then I opened up psalms to a random page and started chanting them. Chanting the psalms is a very soothing sort of prayer. The Book of Psalms is the original Prayerbook.

I sat down again front on my computer and... nothing. I have no idea what to write about for prayer of the week. I have some sense of what I'm going to preach about on Sunday. I even managed to start an essay to be published in the Anglican newspaper in January. But as for a Prayer of the Week... nothing.

But, alas, all is not lost. I can hear the voice of my teachers in my head: attend to process. Notice what's happening. So that's why today I'm praying about praying:

Holy God, you make all our lives one prayer of thanksgiving and love to you, Creator of All. Send your Holy Spirit to your people to teach us to pray. Light our hearts on fire with your flame of love to brightly illuminate the dim pathways of grief and doubt. Inspire us with an awareness of your presence so that all that we do may be a gesture of affection to you, lover of all. We ask this in the Name of the One who died and rose again, Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.


Christmas Wish List

Family have been asking for a Christmas Wish list....
  1. A Portable Table Saw (like the Dewalt DW744XRS). I don't have room for a full-sized stand-alone table saw, but these compact job-site models would fold away nicely for storage.
  2. A Do-it-Yourself Tube-based Amplifier Kit. In particular I have my eye on the S-5 Electronics model 17LS. The tone-control module might also be nice, but the amplifier is a good start.
  3. Belt Sander
  4. Shop Vac
  5. Digital Picture Frames
  6. Pan-Am Memorabilia (for "man-town")
  7. Cuff links and lapel pins. Most of our Jewelry were wiped out in the theft awhile back.
  8. casual clothes.
  9. A weather monitoring unit
  10. A Triumph T-Shirt.
  11. Scotch or Bourbon


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Note the words on the embroidered cushions: "Then Moses said, 'I must turn aside and look at this.'"

At this morning's Contemplative Eucharist I was struck, again, by how much that service can change week-to-week. This morning I noticed (and then let go of) the fact that my voice was calmer and softer and the words came easier than usual. Someone commented afterwards that it felt "graceful" to him. I also noted that after I received Eucharist my body seemed to feel different. I've noticed this before, but I'm not sure to what degree this is simply a by product of eating and drinking that I simply have never noticed before, or whether it is something related to the special properties of the sacrament. I'm also not sure that this peculiarly Western and Modern kind of inquiry about the cause of the feeling is particularly useful. The simple fact is that when I consume the sacrament I feel a change in my body (if I'm ready to notice it, that is).

Incidentally, the Bishop approved continuing to use this experimental rite when I saw him last week. So I think in Advent I may offer it on Saturdays or some other time more convenient to working folks.


Just How Hypocritical is Palin?

McCain's aides are mounting a nasty little war to scapegoat Sarah Palin for their boss's loss. Besides the stuff they leaked about her ignorance of international affairs, they are revealing more about that $150k plus spending spree:
As Michael Shear reported in The Washington Post, on top of the $150,000 first cited in F.E.C. filings, Palin spent “tens of thousands of dollars” on more clothes, makeup and jewelry for herself and her family, including $40,000 in luxury goods for the First Dude. The campaign was charged for silk boxers, spray tanners and 13 suitcases to carry the designer duds, Shear reported, adding that one source said, “She was still receiving shipments of custom-designed underpinnings up to her ‘Saturday Night Live’ performance” in October. Silk boxers and custom-designed underpinnings? Sounds like Sarah and Todd were treating the vice presidential run as a second honeymoon. (source)
This from a woman that kept claiming that she would eliminate government waste. I can understand them buying this stuff on their own dime--but to charge the campaign that was struggling to keep up with Obama's record breaking fundraising? And remember her promise to give away all the campaign clothes to charity with the race was through? Does that promise extend to Todd's silk boxers? I swear you can't make this stuff up!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Church Blooper Reel

Here is a funny compilation of church bloopers that Kerrie passed on to me...


Service Dogs for War Vets

Here is a really neat article in the New York Times about service dogs helping vets disabled in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. From the article:
“These soldiers are a very young population; they do not want canes or crutches,” said Mr. Naranjo, who is also a specialist in the Army Reserve.

Many veterans, after suffering traumatic injuries, are “fighting to get their independence back, and dogs give them a sense of independence,” he added.

Service dogs are 24/7 companions that can retrieve and carry objects, open doors, call attention to safety hazards, help with stress and balance difficulties, and provide a bridge back to society. “Veterans can feel vulnerable walking around with these disabilities,” Mr. Naranjo said. “When they go out with a service dog, it draws attention away from the injury.” (source)

Amazing how intuitively our animal friends can adapt to our needs...


Tuesdays for Vision

As usual for Tuesdays I was returning calls and planning liturgies. Then we had our regular staff meeting. The day is ending with a very good Fundraising Meeting that was productive and useful.

One thing that came out of that meeting was the importance of developing Case For Ministry. Basically, I need to articulate, in writing, a vision for the future of this church. I've been working on this in my head and with the congregation for the last year with a variety of different strategies, so it makes sense to finally put in writing and be a bit more formal. I've learned a lot in the last year about the emerging sense of what COTM can be. I don't think it's over-stating things to say that I even some inkling of God's intention for this church. So I'll write some stuff down this week and then get some feedback from people.

Yesterday I started another woodworking project. I'm building a frame to hold firewood. I managed to almost finish the project but then I lost the sunlight and had to stop (working with power tools in the dark is tough even for a Ninja Priest). But if I hurry home now I ought to just manage to finish screwing the frame together....


Sunday, November 9, 2008


Church went well today. Good vibe and good attendance numbers. I had the Honorary Assistant, Marili, preach and preside. I did this for several reasons. For one, I've never seen her do either. For another, I want to the congregation to get used to having her around. Also, I think my preaching is better when I'm not the only one in the parish doing it. I like to listen to other people preach and respond to that, sometimes. It was also great to just be a "Liturgical" Deacon in my own church and step back and observe the service from that perspective for a change.

After church a person came to the door seeking help and I spent some time on that. Then I went home and watched some football while fading in and out of sleep. Around 6:30 I headed over to Belmont House (local Retirement Home) to do an Evening Prayer service there. I think next time I may bring a candle and do the whole "Service of Light" intro suggested by the BAS. Evening Prayer, like all the office, has within it some very powerful themes that never get old.

When I was young--around Confirmation age and on through High School and most of college--I would pray Compline every night from my prayerbook. I soon had it memorized. Compline is one of the traditional "Offices" of prayer said throughout the day. Like Morning Prayer (aka Mattins and Lauds) or Evening Prayer (aka Vespers) Compline is meant to be said everyday as a way to sanctify time itself for Christians.

As the last Office in the day before sleeping, Compline has strong themes of endings. It's the end of the day as well as preparation for death. The climax, for me, is the Song of Simeon and the Antiphons that go with it:
Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Lord, you now have set your servant free*
to go in peace as you have promised.
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,*
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A light to enlighten the nations,*
and the glory of your people Israel.
Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:*
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

I met a woman who told me that when she was in the hospital, once, her heart stopped and the Code Team revived her from death. Once she was recovered a bit, her roommate told her that her last words before the monitor alarmed were the words of that antiphon--"Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping..." She couldn't recall actually saying them, but she did have them memorized and could imagine herself saying them. How perfect that her dying mind would recall those particular words. I hope I have such grace.

Blessed James, OHC, the Founder of that Order, had some really graceful last words. he said, "I will pray for you always." After he passed away, the doctors marveled that he must have been in extreme physical pain, but didn't seem to show it at all.

So next time I go to Belmont to do Evening Prayer I think I'll let it be Evening Prayer with its themes of fading light and the end of the day and not some imitation of Sunday Morning.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Barack and the Bishop

During his campaign, Barack Obama consulted Bishop Gene Robinson (The first openly gay bishop) three times to learn about what it's like to "the first." From the times...
Bishop Robinson, in London as a guest of the gay rights group Stonewall for its annual “Hero of the Year” awards dinner at the Victoria and Albert Museum tonight, said that Mr Obama’s campaign team had sought him last year and he had the “honour” of three private conversations with the future president of the United States last May and June.

“The first words out of his mouth were: ‘Well you’re certainly causing a lot of trouble’, My response to him was: ‘Well that makes two of us'.”

He said that Mr Obama had indicated his support for equal civil rights for gay and lesbian people and described the election as a “religious experience”.

Bishop Robinson described his conversations with him as part of Mr Obama’s “extraordinary” outreach to all religious communities, not just Christian groups. Mr Obama, although not a member of The Episcopal Church to which Bishop Robinson belongs, is a committed Christian with the United Church of Christ.

He said that the Mr Obama was taller than he had expected and described him as “Lincolnesque”, both literally and metaphorically. They discussed the dangers both of being demonised by opponents and idealised by supporters.

Bishop Robinson said: “And I must say I don’t know if it is an expression here in England or not but he is the genuine article. I think he is exactly who he says he is.” ...

The bishop said: “He is impressive, he’s smart, he is an amazing listener. For someone who’s called on to speak all the time when he asks you a question it is not for show, he is actually wanting to know what you think and listens.” (source)
You can read even more about the reporter's interview with Bp. Robinson (and even listen to the audio clips) here.

This is a very interesting revelation about the way Barack solves problems: find someone who has been there, and ask them! But they didn't just talk about Robinson's unique history:
I pressed him on the Millennium Development Goals. I wanted to know whether he thought more about them than just they were a good idea but whether he had any intention of pushing for their full funding and so on.”
Of course, we are only finding out about this now that the election is over because some people would have been very upset to hear about this.


Annual Review

Yesterday I had my annual review with Bishop Yu. All the priests in the Diocese meet yearly with their bishop to touch base on how things are going and discuss various things. I thought that those who haven't been through it might be curious about what's involved.

First off, before the meeting I completed a two page questionnaire that asked me about what successes and challenges stand out from the last year. I was also asked to identify both personal and professional goals for the next year. When I arrived for my meeting with the Bishop he had already read the form and simply asked me to talk about whatever was on my mind. I told him about some of the changes that COTM has been through in the last year. I told him about the things that surprised me, the things that delighted me, and also the things that trouble me. He listened and gave his considered advice. He said he was pleased by everything that was going and that it sounded like we were on the right track.

Since the Bishop is really my pastor, we also discussed my own spiritual life and some of things happening for me personally. Again, he gave me some advice and expressed his support. The meeting was a little over and hour and ended with us praying for each other and for the church. I must say, it's unusual these days for someone to really pray for me one-on-one--usually I'm the one praying. People pray for me, of course, but rarely with me and about me in a detailed kind of way. So having the bishop do so felt very good. It made me realize that I've been missing this.

The whole experience was a nice way to take a pause and think about where I've been and how things are going. When I sit down and list everything going on it's pretty overwhelming. Yet I think I'm making the right moves--even when the move is to be patient and wait. So it goes!


Fr. Matthew on Marriage

Another video from Fr. Matthew...


ARC Seeks Ship Buiders...

I'm part of a team of people working on ways to work out the implications of the Character Development movement in the context of Anglican Christian Education. For several years now secular schools have shifting the way they do things to do a better job of teaching students "character." Interestingly, they seem to be basing what they consider "good" character on Judeo-Christian values which have been stripped from their religious roots. In other words, the schools are now teaching children to be generous and peaceful and forgiving and all that without making any reference to religious heritage.

Our group (which we call CCC--"Christ Centered Character") think that our children's ministries should reflect this shift in the secular school systems (and the Catholic School Boards, incidentally). Teaching virtue to our kids is more than just the responsibility of the schools--thus our efforts to help churches integrate their programs with whats happening in the schools.

Along the way our group has been recommending the creation of a library of resources for Christian educators in the Diocese. Indeed, this is the first Diocese I've worked in (out of five) that doesn't have a central library where people can go to thumb through Christian Education Resources. I'm told that Toronto had such a place once upon a time, but it was disbanded for lack of funds to support a librarian staff position.

I hear that support is building for a new library to be created, but it needs a new model. A traditional library maintained by the Diocese with staff attached just ain't going to fly in the current budget climate in the Diocese of Toronto. They simply do not have the operational funds to support it.

So... The CCC group came up with an interesting alternative. How about an "Anglican Resource Centre" (ARC, for short) that would maintain a library, provide education workshops and events, be a place to hang out, and even manage some evangelism? Imagine the Anglican Book Centre meets the Apple Store meets Star Bucks meets the Center for Religious Inquiry (a project of St. Bart's, NYC).

  • Store-front space with attractive, hip, and warm architecture
  • Coffee and treats for sale
  • Lots of hang-out space
  • Classroom space for regular programs
  • Programs offered include general interest and trainings/workshops designed to advance Christian Education in the Diocese
  • Staffed appropriately to be a place to come to talk to someone who knows what resources are available
  • After initial start-up costs, designed to be self-sufficient based on revenue from workshops

Ultimately, we want this to be a place where people can go to hang out and learn about how to do their education ministries better.

So we are kicking this idea around and getting the pieces together to come up with a business plan that shows how this can be self-sufficient, financially. Then we need to put together a grant application for the Innovative Ministry Fund in the diocese to see if we can get start-up money. I think that the need is so great that a good proposal will find support. But putting together the whole package will require a ton of work.

This sort of thing looks a lot like some of the down-town church plant proposals that have been made (I'm thinking particularly of an idea David Julien was talking about a few years ago) as well as the Fresh Expressions movement in England that has been a popular model for contemporary evangelism.

So if there is anybody out in blog-land who finds this idea compelling, please let me know! We need all the help we can get!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

November Anglican Column

Here is the column I wrote for November's Anglican. Many thanks, again, to Stewart for asking me to write it. I find writing a very rewarding part of my ministry (hence this blog)!


Trad Com Delight

Monday night, before Tuesday's Traditional Communion service, I had a dream that I was back at St. Mary Magdalene's teaching people how to celebrate Mass at the East-Facing Lady Altar. I miss doing that, I admit, and these days Tradcom (A BCP Holy Eucharist we do once a month here at COTM) is as close as I come to the precision and orderliness of SMM.

The dream foreshadowed one of the best COTM Tradcom Tuesdays since I've come. For some reason, the Spirit was really moving through the place that day. As a result, we had visitors (!) to the service including one lady who came right off the street on a whim. My sermon was better than usual for a Trad Com, as well.

For lunch we skipped the usual frozen lasagna and instead and enjoyed homemade Egyptian food provided by one of our parishioners. Discussion around the table was lively and fun. It was a very, very good day.

In reflection, I've noticed the last several weeks that the mood around COTM is very positive right now. People are leaving on Sunday feeling really good about church. One marker of this, besides my subjective feeling, is that coffee hour is lasting longer and several people who used to leave as soon as worship ended are now sticking around to enjoy conversation and coffee! It's an incredibly rewarding thing to notice. I remember a year ago when people were very anxious about the future and we had few newcomers. Now things are really taking a positive turn. Yipee!


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Me in Seminary

Here is a picture taken four or five years ago when I was in seminary. Look how relaxed I look! I can imagine the moment: a bunch of were probably hanging out around Evening Prayer time on the back deck of the Berkeley House. Mattie was feeling cuddly and was showing his usual curiosity about my rosary so I put it around his neck while we played on the floor. Those were good years! Since my sister started her seminary program a few months ago I've been thinking about how much that time changed my life. I do miss it.


Sermon - All Saints 2008

I preached this sermon on the feast of All Saints (November 2) 2008. I spoke about how the Saints not only inspire us to do good deeds, but that reflection on them puts us in touch with the profound reality that we are interconnected with all creation in its continual progression toward reunion with God.

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


Sermon - Pentecost 24 2008

Professor Marion Taylor from Wycliffe preached this sermon on Pentecost 24 (October 26) 2008. She concentrated her sermon on the day's reading from Deuteronomy 34:1-12 (The Death of Moses). A very good sermon for Theological Education Sunday. BTW, Professor Taylor and her husband went to Yale Divinity School, just let Betsy and me. We did the usual comparisons of what professors we had in common. Nice to find those kinds of connections.

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


The Heintzman

COTM's "New" Piano

Remember about a year ago when we started trying out new pianos to replace a clunky upright? Here's the one we finally settled on: a Heintzman Baby Grand. Why this piano? Well, for one thing, this piano sounds great in our space. It's more expressive and subtler than many of the others we tried. It has greater dynamic range (i.e. you can play very softly or very loud) and the tone quality is very rich and melodic. The action is very smooth and natural. It's also a better built piano than, for example, the Baldwin we tried a few months back. All around, this is a better instrument for both regular Sunday morning worship and concerts!

The concert application is particularly important to us as we continue to find people to rent out the space. In fact, just a few days ago we had a man looking for music recital space to rent for whom the fact that we had such a nice piano was the deciding factor. Heintzman might not have much name recognition in the states, but the Toronto maker studied alongside Steinway in Germany and what he produced in his workshop here in Toronto is every bit as good as what Steinway did in the states.

So we are very proud of our new piano and glad to have finally settled on one after a year of trying to find just the right fit. My thanks to Paul Hahn and Co. for being so patient with us. we've already raised quite a bit of money for the project, but we'll need some thousands more to finish paying it off. So if you're interested in supporting excellent music at the Church of The Messiah, please contribute!


A Great Night

Last night Betsy and I went to a friend's house to watch the election results. As they did, we all became increasingly jubilant. The climax was when Obama gave his acceptance speech--several of us cried. For us Americans living abroad, we know how much the esteem of the United States has fallen around the world in the Bush years. There was a deep hunger all around the world for an Obama to ascend to the Presidency, and now all our hope and optimism has been vindicated. Whew! and Hurray!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Saints Song

Doug points this out to me...


The Election

No secret I'm in the tank for Obama and have been since even before he started this run for the Presidency two years ago! It was something I heard about him on NPR shortly after it was announced that he would be giving the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. So naturally I've been following the campaigns closely, almost obsessively. To tell the truth, I've pretty much reached the limit of what I can handle--I want this to be over! Enough, already!

Yet I remain very confident about tomorrow. has been using some very interesting statistical methods to predict the outcome. Their latest set of 10,000 simulations based on poll data shows Obama winning 98.1% of the time. From the site:
McCain's chances, in essence, boil down to the polling being significantly wrong, for such reasons as a Bradley Effect or "Shy Tory" Effect, or extreme complacency among Democratic voters. Our model recognizes that the actual margins of error in polling are much larger than the purported ones, and that when polls are wrong, they are often wrong in the same direction.

However, even if these phenomenon are manifest to some extent, it is unlikely that they are worth a full 6-7 points for McCain. Moreover, there are at least as many reasons to think that the polls are understating Obama's support, because of such factors as the cellphone problem, his superior groundgame operation, and the substantial lead that he has built up among early voters.

McCain's chances of victory are estimated at 1.9 percent, their lowest total of the year. (source)

What's more, the vast majority of simulations that have McCain winning require him to win Colorado, which appears unlikely given Obama's lead in early voting and his 5.5 point lead in the latest polls. So I think this is going to be a convincing victory.

Betsy and I will be at a friend's house for an Election Night party to watch the results come in....

**UPDATE: As of Tuesday morning, the simulations are showing a 98.9% chance of Obama victory**


Monday, November 3, 2008


Betsy and I finished making our own custom drapes for the dining room. You can read Betsy's take on the project on her blog. The fabric was leftover from when my sister, Lynne, reupholstered the dining room chairs that now live in our dining room--so everything matches nicely. I made a wooden valance and Betsy sewed the fabric. That done, we combined the pieces and screwed in in place. Done!

Today I did some yard work in preparation for winter. I still haven't built a wood cradle, but since the car is acting up I'm postponing the trip to get the lumber. I'm going to go drop the car off at the Suburu dealership when I finish his blog. Since Friday it's been making a knocking sound in time with the rotation of the rear wheels. I'm nervous that this will be an expensive repair.