Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson tribute on organ...

Just to continue on the Michael Jackson theme--here is the organist at Trinity, Wall Street, doing a tribute postlude. Watch Robert Ridgell's fingers fly across that manual to combine "ABC" and "Beat It." I think our organ would break we tried that, here! For one thing, the Trinity instrument is actually a digital organ, whereas ours in real pipes and wind.

Lol. I love being Anglican/Episcopal. We have a great liturgical sense of humor.


Sermon - Pentecost 4 2009

As promised, here's the sermon that Marili preached on Sunday while I was upstairs with the kids. It's a really solid sermon that launches from an analysis of the problem of child prodigies (think Michael Jackson) who are raised to believe that love is a reward for performance.

Here's the audio...

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


the "blog" of "unncessary" quotation marks

Meg directs my attention to the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks. Here's one church related "gem":

There are other amusing examples, like this one:


Rainy Days...

My softball game was rained out on Monday night. Sailing will probably be rainy, too, but that won't stop us unless the lightening comes. It may give me a chance to try out the pair of rain pants I picked up from MEC a few days ago. Have I said that Mountain Equipment Coop is one of the best stores in Toronto? Good prices on excellent equipment. I was particularly impressed with their selection of bags and packs the last time I was there. Would be kind of nice to have a waterproof duffel bag specifically for sailing gear. Kind of a go-bag for water fun. Anyway, the rain has been much needed. Our tomato plants seem very happy.

But last night I had a disturbing dream. In it, I was told that the Diocese rejected my application for an innovative ministry fund grant to fund the ARC. In the dream I was furious. I mean, livid! I demanded a meeting with the Bishop in which I told him exactly how I felt. I knew I was jeopardizing my future in the diocese, but I really didn't care. I was that angry.

In reality, something like this may just happen. I give the grant application a 50/50 shot. If I don't get it, we can still proceed, it's just going to be a lot harder. And if we don't get it, it's really going to shift the way I think about the Diocese. So far I've really been trying to work within the structures of the diocese to grow my church, but what if those structures are working against the mission of COTM?

I really feel caught between two different worlds and modes of ministry. On the one hand, there is the traditional inherited church with its traditional models of ministry. It's beautiful and comfortable and holds the spirit. On the other hand is something new that is also spirit filled. I feel like I can see what this new kind of church looks like--I've seen compelling glimpses in many places. Yet I'm not quite sure how to make it over that tipping-point edge. Within my parish setting I've got lots of freedom--more than enough--to explore and experiment. But what to do?! I've tried to create networks and alliances to connect our mission to the larger mission of the church, but I'm encountering resistance and apathy. It's frustrating to put my heart into something like the Anglican Resource Centre and get a shrug from the very people that are supposed to be encouraging the kind of mission it represents. We parish priests are being told that whatever is going to happen has to happen at the parish level, yet I'm also told in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that I really don't have the permission to do a lot of the things that I want to do. It's a very confusing time to be a parish priest.

I feel as though a breakthrough is coming. I just have to be patient and hopeful and continue to develop the pastoral relationship and missional imagination of this church. That means more talk and more sharing.

Rain is predicted for this afternoon. Off and on. Maybe some thunderstorms....


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Children's Church

Interesting day at church. Every few months we like to do something called "Children's Church." When that happens, the kids stay upstairs in the children's chapel for the whole time. I send the sacrament up to them from downstairs and they receive communion among themselves. The advantage of this is that Kerrie (and I) can construct an entire service for the kids without compromising anything for the sake of appealing to adults. Now, keep in mind that this is just something we do occasionally, certainly not every sunday. But it's a nice treat for the kids because it gives them a chance to celebrate the Eucharist in a very special way.

I've always intended to take a turn up with the kids myself, and send the sacrament down to the parents! But the problem was always dealing with the sermon. I can't be in two places at once. But two things lead me to be with the kids this Sunday. First, it was the last Children's Church until the fall. The second is that Kerrie was not going be here!

Normally Kerrie has one of two Assistants, which allows her to split the group in two as necessary for age. But since Kerrie was gone we had both teachers on hand, plus myself. That worked out pretty well, as it turns out. Kerrie and I had discussed what I was going to do ahead of time, but I ended up having to improvise a lot! For instance, we one of the kids read the story from the Gospel I realized the rest really weren't getting it. So decided to take another shot at declaring the Gospel. I got the kids to take parts and act it out. Everyone had a role! It was engaging and it really worked well... especially towards the end when the kids were really enjoying themselves.

The only problem I ran into was that I ran out of stuff to do with the kids with about 20 minutes left! At that point the momentum was for the kids to go downstairs to be with their parents for the tail end of the service. I decided not to resist. But next time I'l remember the lesson: you can never have enough activities for the kids!

The whole thing gave me a new appreciation for what Kerrie does. There is a lot of skill in Children's Ministry!

Meanwhile... downstairs Marili did an excellent job with the adults. I've already uploaded the audio podcast to iTunes, so if you are subscribing to Messiah sermons via iTunes you should be able to get it now. Otherwise, I'll post it here and on the Messiah Website once I get the video edited.

Incidentally, a visitor to COTM this morning told me that he watched our videos on the website. He said that what he found in person pretty much matched what he expected from the videos. Good confirmation that it's worth my time to do them.


Betsy's New Blog

BTW, Betsy has a new blog to chronicle her adventures this summer: Betsy Abroad. She'll be in Athens taking more Byzantine Greek and then travelling around Greece and Macedonia looking at things relevant to her research. She won't be back in Toronto until August 15th.

In the meantime, until I go to Holy Cross in mid-July I'll be resisting the worst of my bachelor instincts to order pizza every night! Though, actually, I did manage to cook for myself last night (Fajitas). I can cook--but it's hard to motivate myself to cook for one!


Friday, June 26, 2009


Of course I've been uploading audio and video of my sermons for quite some time, but just recently I set up a feed for the iTunes store--so now you can automatically download my sermons (and soon my videos) onto your iPod. Sweet! It turned out to be easier than I expected--should have done it years ago.

Click on the image above or this link will automatically open up iTunes and take it our podcasts!


Straight out of Compline

In the "Anglican priests doing embarassing but funny things in cassocks" vault comes a new submission: The BCP Boys with "Straight Out of Compline."

Check out some of these fan Anglo-Catholic lyrics:
Straight outta Compline!

I'm a young priest who is fightin the beast
The only way to do it's when I'm facin' the east
I'm from the west coast of PEI
And I wantcha to know that my church is fly
I teach the Word as a rector
And I wear a biretta
For I gotta long cope with black rope
And it gives Anglos hope
My bells and smells are so dope
I'm not Johnny Cash but I dress in black
I got thirty-nine buttons in front of my back
My collar is visible
With a Spirit formidable
And I'm kissable
Well Hiltz was his name
A bishop who rose to fame
Put me in the game
He got me talkin 'bout the trinity
So quick you get sick of me
Straight outta compline!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

EARLY music...

Anthropologists in Germany are publishing on an ancient flute that dates to 35,000 years ago. It's the oldest such instrument, yet, and supports other musical instrument finds that suggest that human beings have been making music for a very, very long time. Interestingly, a replica of the flute was found to have a "very harmonic" quality.

It so happens that the Hohle Fels flute was uncovered in sediments a few feet away from the carved figurine of a busty, nude woman, also around 35,000 years old, noted Dr. Conard and his co-authors, Susanne C. Münzel of Tübingen and Maria Malina of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. That discovery was announced in May by Dr. Conard.

Was this evidence of happy hours after the hunt? Fertility rites or social bonding? The German archaeologists suggested that music in the Stone Age “could have contributed to the maintenance of larger social networks, and thereby perhaps have helped facilitate the demographic and territorial expansion of modern humans.” (source)

Yeah, or maybe they just liked how it made them feel to listen to the surreal musical sounds. Hard to imagine that this wasn't done with some mystical awe!


Sermon - Pentecost 3 2009

Here's the audio...

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


OB vs. Midwife

So... my wife, Betsy, is pregnant--15 weeks now. We had our first appointment with an OB/GYN two or three weeks ago, but I didn't really write much about it because, honestly, we were really disappointed by the experience. I mean, the doctor herself seemed to be perfectly competent, but she was extremely rushed. First, we had to wait 45 minutes. Then, we were rushed, rushed, rushed through a series of questions that were obviously intended to find red flags. There being none, the doctor and her nurse clearly wanted to get through the exam as quickly as possible.

I've worked in hospitals.... I understand about practicing defensive medicine and playing the odds and all that, but excellent care goes beyond merely doing what's necessary. A telling example, after betsy was told to put her clothes back on, the doctor knocked and let herself into the exam room before Betsy was even finished dressing. the doctor wanted us out, but I managed to sneak in a question anyway, "Since Betsy is traveling, can you prescribe some medicines that will be safe for her to take if she gets sick? Like an antibiotic, or something?" the doctor was strangely stumped by this question and told us to ask our "family doctor." But as we had explained several times before, Betsy doesn't have a "family doctor"--she uses the University Health Clinic. And really, shouldn't the OB be the expert on what medicines are safe for a pregnant woman?

There were a lot of other things that went wrong with that visit--I'm only using one of several examples of things that did not impress me. Afterwards I felt like a cow that had been forced through a series of cutes in an elaborate meat packaging factory: disoriented, ignorant, and ultimately stunned!

So after that we decided to go with a midwife. The doctor at the University Health Clinic never explained to Betsy that midwives work as an alternative to OB's in the Ontario Health system. One or the other manages the case, not both. So it was only after meeting with the OB that we were told we had an option to choose a midwife as an alternative to conventional care.

There was a waiting period. But after about a week or two a midwife practice in downtown called us to set up an appointment. We went. My... why a difference! To begin with, rather than meeting in the basement of the hospital, we went to a quaint house that felt like a home. There was air and light and even a library for clients to use. Toys kids and magazines for parents. Lots of baby pictures on the walls. The midwife's examining room/office was decorated in a warm and informal way. I noted two flutes hanging in a pouch on a door nob (when is the last time you saw music instruments in a clinic). the only medical equipment I could see was a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, sharps container, and box of gloves. A flat futton-like bed with pillows was in the corner. It felt warm and comfortable. I'm sure there was more gear in the closet, but the room was obviously design to make us feel comfortable, not to make it easy for clinicians to access gear.

We spent a whole hour with the midwife just talking about how midwives work and what sort of options are available. They really try to focus the care around the paradigm of women making informed decisions for themselves. Their role is to be guides. When we asked about pain control, for example, they said that although drugs are available, they prefer to control pain with "knowledge." Practically speaking, that means being smart about using all kinds of techniques like massage, positions, herbal remedies, etc., etc., to control pain. Another telling detail, when Betsy does begin labour they will come to our home to help us determine when it's time to go to the hospital. And once Betsy comes back home they will continue to visit us there to help us transition into caring for an infant. The OB, on the other, emphatically emphasized that once the baby is out she's no longer in the picture. I'm really glad we are going this way. The whole hour talking about what kind of experience we want to have--imagine that!

After the midwife appointment I went over to the Toronto Islands for my Wednesday night race. The start was delayed due to low wind. We may have won the start, but the committee boat couldn't see us due to a hair-ball of boats blocking the view. In the end the course was shorted to just one windward leg. We finished 6th out of 8 boats racing in our class. The most exciting thing that happened was a boat almost colliding with us as we rounded the mark defining one end of the finish line. I had to fend aggressively to keep the boats apart.

Also today--did more errands in preparation for Betsy's trip to Athens. Hard to believe she's leaving on Saturday for two months away! There is much to do in the meantime.

Now I'm tired. Bed beckons...


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Prayer Book is a Girl's Best Friend

The Rev'd Suzanne Guthrie, who often does workshops on monastic and mystical spirituality at Holy Cross, has this hilarious video on her blog. Suzanne is "good people"--I've known her for about six or seven years now through Holy Cross. These days she lives on "the edge of enclosure" with her husband as a resident companion of the Community of the Holy Spirit in NY. "The sisters at Bluestone Farm and Learning Center strive to live a life reflecting sustainable living, social justice, and spiritual fulfillment. Daily life involves organic farming, (maple sugaring, planting, tending, gathering and preserving food, raising chickens, ducks, and bees), as well as fellowship, "Eucharistic Living", service to others, and individual artistic pursuits. We chant the traditional monastic offices (Lauds, Noonday Prayers, Vespers, Compline), using inclusive language and an acknowledgment of how the “new cosmology” affects and informs our faith." Doesn't that sound like someone you'd like to hang out with?!

Go Suzanne!


Monday, June 22, 2009

A New Hammock!

Spent my day off doing errands with Betsy and my mom. Visited Henry's and MEC. Mountain Equipment Coop is the best place in Toronto to find anything outdoor, adventure sport related. But they also have a great selection of backpacks of all different types. Betsy picked up some stuff for her travels in Greece and Macedonia this summer. Meanwhile, I picked up some rain pants for sailing.

For Father's Day I was given a hammock. One of those canvas styles with spreaders--very comfortable. After a day of running errands I got to try it try it out with a nap. Big enough for two... and small third. Life is good.

After supper I played softball with the guys. my team won, though my hitting was not great tonight.


Captain Tay

Me as an 18th Century ship captain

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Post-Rathnelly Day...

Sorry for the lack of postings... It's been pretty busy since my mom has been here. Friday we picked up mom. Went to brunch, then grocery shopping and I picked up my costume. "Rathnelly Day" on Saturday was a lot of fun. Great to meet more neighbours and to spend time with them. My costume was a hit.

Church this morning was also intense. Full-on Gospel service followed by BBQ and then a softball game in Ramsden park. Came home and took a nap. I'll post some pictures tomorrow or the next day.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Random thoughts from a Thursday

Kind of an odd day. Slept in some. Still woke up with a sore shoulder. At work I attended to various tasks, but generally felt pretty unmotivated. By the time I headed home at 5:30 I was ready for the (short) day to be over.

The Fish House Punch turned out well--but will get better as the days go by. Slightly less lemon than the last time I made it, I think.

A friend wants me to preside at his wedding this summer. I'm pleased about this. It means going down to Virginia and catching up with some old college friends. Hard to believe I've been out of college for ten years!

On my mind: cloth diapers or disposable? They say in the first few weeks you can average more than 25 diaper changes a day! Yikes. Cloth options seem very attractive. Even with a service to do the washing they are still something like 40% cheaper than disposables. Modern cloth diapers are also much easier to use than the old fashioned style. Generally, you cloth diapers into a leak-proof nylon shell that keeps the absorbent cotton part snug with snaps or velcro. And, of course, there is no reason you can't still use disposables for trips, etc. The service picks up the soiled diapers and replaces them with a fresh set once a week. Hmm...


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sailing Stories

I got called to the church at 11pm last night to deal with an unpleasant situation that lasted a few hours and wasn't resolved until the police finally showed up. Not a disaster, just unpleasant. And then I had to be at church early this morning to say the Contemplative Eucharist, so I compensated by leaving work early to do some errands in preparation for this weekend.

My mom is flying in on Friday to spend a few days. And what a few days it will be! Saturday is Rathnelly Day--a big all-day block party held every other year where we live. It's going to be a blast. This year is a pirate theme--so naturally I'll be in costume as an 18th century ship captain. The food contest this year is rum-drinks, so I whipped up a batch of Fish House Punch this evening. The distinct combination of brown sugar, lemons, rum, and brandy stirs up a lot of memories for me.

One of the steps in Fish House Punch is letting it cool down for a few hours. I spent the time profitably crewing another sailing race. It's amazing how convenient it is to go over to the club on the 4:45 Tender and come back on the 9:30. Plenty of time for beer-race-supper-beer. It was rainy and cool, but the wind was strong (15-20 knots) which made for some very exciting racing. As we came up to the line we were doing some very close quarters maneuvering. I was pretty busy on the bow keeping the jib lines from getting tangled and watching out for other boats that the skipper might not be able to see through the sail. Our timing across the start line was almost perfect except that we crowded a boat that had right of way, which is a foul.

Moments after that the gun went off and we crossed the line and were caught up in a hair-ball of boats. Twice we heeled the 27 foot Catalina over far enough to put a gunnel in the water. in one particularly exciting moment mid-tacking I had mere seconds to untangle a jib sheet from a stowed jib spar before the sail would fill and pull the line tight. In the process of freeing the sheet I managed to cut my finger pretty good, but didn't notice until I saw the blood on the mast where I had been holding on! Keep in mind the deck was slick with water! shortly after we decided to put the spar below, but then the skipper calls out, "15 seconds to tack," so I got that spar unlashed and below deck pretty quick!

Not long after that the guy working the winches in the cockpit took a bad step and sent the stairs into the cabin flying. When I went down there later to get first aid for my finger the place looked like a war zone--fenders and stairs and rain gear everywhere!

It was blast sailing a reach from the second mark. But as we rounded the third we found a problem with our jib and had to withdraw from the race. Bummer. But the three of us learned a lot and will definitely do better the next time out. These races are a just terrific fun and good exercise on a windy day. Now we are just hoping to have both beautiful sun and good wind!

Back at the clubhouse we warmed up with Ale and Shepherd's Pie. I felt like I had earned it!

Tomorrow... I have a job description to finish and I need to start thinking about my sermon for Sunday. There are a couple of other projects of a non-emergency nature that I should work on as well. Sigh.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Mainenance

Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values is a well known book by Robert Pirsig which is part travel journal, part philosophy book, part novel. It's really a meditation on lessons learned both in academia and on the back of a motorcycle. Well worth the read.

It comes up in my mind today because Stanley Fish referenced it in his latest blog entry. In it, Fish summarizes Pirsig's phenomenological approach:
Pirsig’s example is describing the parts of a motorcycle, an exercise that has no natural stopping point. But, he insists, no matter how much data the exercise heaped up, true comprehension would still not have been achieved, for the motorcycle “so described is almost impossible to understand unless you know how it works.” Rather than building up from particulars to generals (the empiricist method), you must begin with generals — with an in-place, intuitive awareness of what motorcycles are for, of what can go wrong with them, of what can go right with them — and within that tacit knowledge you will know where to direct your analytic attention. You can’t just begin with analytic attention, with “mere” or “pure” observation, and expect to get anywhere; you must already, in a sense, be there.

The problem is that once the parts or facts are made to appear, they seem to possess an independence, and it is (literally) tempting to rest in them and to believe that they are the foundation of things. (In theology this mistake is called idolatry.) “The division of the world into parts,” says Pirsig, “is something everyone does,” but in doing it, “something is always killed” — and what is killed is an awareness of and contact with the world before analytic thought has done its (necessarily) reductive work. (source)

The paradox is that a phenomenological approach, where we begin with what can be grasped will necessarily limit us to what we are able to pay attention to. Inevitably, we will focus on the wrong things. In maintenance terms, when you have a problem you tend to want to make it into a problem you have experience with in the past, even though it may be an entirely new malfunction. Trying to solve this paradox drove Prisig nearly insane.

In Matthew Crawford's recent book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work also uses mechanical labour as a way to explore grand themes of both philosophy and father-son dynamics.
In time, this realization leads him to a position like Pirsig’s, but he holds it polemically and without anxiety: “To regard universal knowledge as the whole of knowledge is to take no account of embodiment and purposiveness.” We should not, he says, “separate knowing from doing,” and it makes sense that his model of the true “knowledge worker” is not his father the theoretician, but the mechanic or craftsman whose knowledge resides in his hands and in his hands-on experience.

It follows then that the modern tendency to move further and further from the site of physical labor (by, for example, designing automobiles on a computer or teaching people to fly in a simulated cockpit) is disastrously wrong. As computer diagnosis takes the place of fiddling around with the machinery, “we have too few occasions to do anything because of a certain predetermination of things from afar.” (source)

Again, a worthwhile read--especially as regards the nature of work and craftsmanship. Though he can be a bit polemical at times.

But we shouldn't loose sight of one of the other main points of these books: relationships between father and son mediated through metal. It's a trope so common as to almost slip into cliché. (Here is a picture of Prisig with his son, Chris, on the trip that became the basis for the book.) Yet I know a lot of men who bonded with their fathers in precisely this way. Indeed, the time spent with my father working on his old TR-3 are a very special memory to me. Other examples abound: a writer helps his son assemble a Shelby Cobra kit as a reward for good grades. A university professor learns to find joy in work again when he reconnects with his motorcycle mechanic father.

It's a form of benign triangulation--introducing a third party into a relationship between two tends to stabilize the emotional system and lower the anxiety in the system. (Cf. Friedman) Other father-son relationships might use sports in the same way. Really, any hobby can function to facilitate the father-son bond.

I don't know how this plays out in mother-daughter relationships. I suspect it is similar, but I've obviously never observed it from the inside. Maybe someone will comment about that.

This is on my mind for obvious reasons. Father's day approaches. And I've been thinking of what kind of father I will be by the time it comes again next year. Obviously, I hope to be a good one, but how does one go about becoming "good" at a thing like parenting without trial-and-error experience? Perhaps for this reason we should just start saving up for therapy now (advice someone gave me on Sunday), and focus instead on the second or third child. By then we may have learned something about the craft of parenting!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sermon - Pentecost 2 2009

Here's the audio...

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

This was a fairly tightly organized sermon for me, probably because it didn't take much digging to see where I needed to go with these texts. The Word was clearly about the relationship between us and the deeds we do. Jesus, Paul, and even the lesson from 1 Samuel were all about the need to "let go and let God" (as they put in some circles). The farmer casts the seeds, but he is asleep or awake, the growth comes from God! So I knew pretty much right away I was going to explore these themes.

Then it helped to read the excellent, excellent essays that are posted on the Disclosing New Worlds Blog. If you preach regularly, you need to read this blog every week as part of your prep. I kid you not, it's that good. Or, at least it really strikes where I am as a preacher in this stage of my preaching career. Your needs in sermon prep definitely evolve quite a bit, but this is where I am right now. Laurence Moore (that's his picture on the right) runs the blog and does a great job of including thought-provoking pieces. He has a great way of synthesizing the Lectionary and relating it to the current dilemmas of a inherited church on the edge of becoming missional church. Definitely worth a read when you're not sure where to take the upcoming Sunday's lessons.

Incidentally, some of you more tech-minded folks may find this website about recording and processing audio with your "home" studio worth reading: TweakHeadz. It's really oriented toward "pro-sumers" like myself that exist somewhere between professional A/V types and normal consumers.


A Little Surprise for the World...

Yep... This means what you all think it means...

The Mossling is due Dec. 14th. Mom and baby are doing great!


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sermon - Trinity Sunday 2009

Last Sunday I preached about the doctrine of the Trinity and argued that it's less important to understand this doctrine as a way of passing on the revealed work and character of God. We should avoid getting to caught up, as preachers, in describing what God is and instead go with what God does or what God is like. In other words, you can't talk about the doctrine of Trinity without also talking about salvation history and also about how at the heart of God is relationship. Then I explored ways this could point to the Mission of the Church...

Here's the audio...

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

*A tech note: I'm getting better at editing the audio for the video. This time I ended up using a parametric equalizer and a mult-band compressor to get the audio sounding nice and natural.


Thursday, June 11, 2009


Slept in a bit as yesterday was an extremely full day. Then spent the day doing a number of minor projects in my office. Among these was editing the video from Sunday's sermon. I'll post it when it's ready.

Yesterday evening I crewed a friend's sailboat in a rather relaxed (i.e. low wind) race in Toronto's inner harbour. It was fun to be sailing, but I wouldn't have minded a bit more wind! Being over on the Toronto Islands (where the boat club is) is a whole different place from the city, and it's sometimes easy to forget they are so close. It just has a whole different, laid-back kind of vibe. People are friendlier and the air is cleaner and the birds chirp happily. Amazing.

We lost the race, but consoled ourselves with beer, mussels, and chicken cacciatore from the club's post-race buffet. From the clubhouse we could see the sun setting beautifully behind the Toronto Skyline. And because it's just Toronto Islands, I got home before 10pm!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why George Herbert Must Die

The Guardian has a great Opinion piece this week about the need for people to get over the traditional image of the Vicar. Justin Lewis-Anthony argues that, "The image of the vicar as a kindly, smiling presence, ministering to all the various needs of an ideal community, is one we must ditch." Indeed, the romantic image of the country parson embodied by George Herbert is exactly that, a romantic image. Nor is it a helpful one, as it has produced ministry that is as anaemic as it is affable, the one quirk allowed is a kind of cheerful eccentricity. "As the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, put it, the parson under Herbertism is 'the anodyne divine who puts unction in your function' (source)."

This essay is so good that I'm going to reprint it here in it's entirety. You can find the source at the Guardian. I also recommend the essay series by Justin on the subject, Kill George.

Why George Herbert must die

Justin Lewis-Anthony
The image of the vicar as a kindly, smiling presence, ministering to all the various needs of an ideal community, is one we must ditch

Close your eyes and picture a vicar of the Church of England. Whether you are a regular churchgoer or someone who once watched an episode of The Vicar of Dibley, your mental image will more than likely be this: a smiling, benign, inoffensive and unworldly cleric. This image has its origins in the life and ministry of one man, George Herbert (1594-1633). The memory of priest, pastor, poet and polemicist is revered everywhere, inside and outside the church. A contemporary diocesan bishop sets as required reading for his clergy Herbert's treatise, The Country Parson. In September 2005 Country Life awarded the prize of "Britain's Best-Loved Rector" to a man whose ministry could be read directly from the same pages. The generations of "telly-vicars" in All Gas and Gaiters, Dad's Army, The Vicar of Dibley, and Jam and Jerusalem, are the direct successors of a half-remembered and half-digested picture of Herbert's exemplary country parson.

Herbert's abiding influence is explained by the way his life story is usually told. Born into an aristocratic family in the late 1500s, and destined for a glittering career in court, or Parliament, or the university, Herbert threw it over to serve in a distinctly unglamorous rural parish, where, beloved by his parishioners, he died in equal obscurity, having spent his time writing poems, hymns and teaching his parishioners in the ways of faith. This is not an entirely accurate account. Herbert's "obscure" parish was within walking distance of both Salisbury Cathedral close, and Wilton House, the country seat of his cousins, the Earls of Pembroke. His parish had fewer than 200 people, and he ministered with the assistance of two other clergy. When he died, having been a parish priest for less than three years, he had just completed a "character book", The Country Parson, which was an extended CV, an application for preferment. Like all good popular icons, he died young, and left a beautiful body (of work).

So why does Herbert play such an important role in the self-understanding of the Church of England? It's not just his poems, undeniably beautiful and important though they are. It is more to do with what sociologists call the "organisational culture" of the church, the unconscious answer to the question "why are we here, and what are we for?" The organisational culture of the Church of England is a complex amalgam of politics, culture, theology, history and sociology that can be neatly summed up this way: in the Roman Catholic church the source of all authority is the pope; in Protestant churches the source of all authority is the Bible; in the Church of England the source of all authority is the previous vicar.

For many reasons (to do with legitimacy after reformations, continuity after revolutions, and fearfulness in the face of industrialisation), George Herbert plays the role of ur-Vicar, the echt-Rector. He is the unwitting foundation stone of what I call "Herbertism". Under Herbertism, parsons are not just representatives of the Church of England, they are the Church of England in any given place (think what the common attitude of "say one for me, vicar!" betrays about the relationship of parson to institution). The parsons' workplace is the parish church, in which they are readily found at all hours of the day or night. They officiate at the rites of passage of a community, or a family or an individual: they will bless the opening of a cricket pavilion as readily as a marriage or a birth. The religion and god which they represent are both benign, and they, remembering the gentlemanly roots of their profession, will never behave in an impolite or upsetting manner. They are well-educated, highly-educated even, although they should never show it, because much education about God is the product of "ivory-towers" and therefore not appreciated in wider society. The only acceptable characteristic of their learning is a tendency to be unworldly, even eccentric. They are ubiquitous, present for every activity in a community, whether "church" or "civic", so they can affirm and encourage, marking especially worthy contributions to neighbourhood life by individuals or groups. As the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, put it, the parson under Herbertism is "the anodyne divine who puts unction in your function".

This has costs, for the lives and health of the church's parsons, and also for the ability of the church to fulfil its mission. Too often Herbertism gets in the way of Christianity. The solution must begin with ridding the false memory of Herbert, who he wasn't and what he didn't do. Much of our reverence for "George Herbert" is the worshipping of a fantasy pastor, an impossible and inaccurate role model, a cause of guilt and anxiety. Like the Zen Master, if we meet George Herbert on the road, we must kill him. (source)


America's First Black Woman Rabbi

Check it out--America's First Black female Rabbi. Alysa Stanton was ordained this week and will be taking her first position as Rabbi at a 60-family synagogue in Greenville, North Carolina.

Two decades ago, an African-American leader in a synagogue might have been about as likely as an African American in the White House. But Stanton's ascendancy reflects the slowly changing face of America's Jews. According to Diane Tobin, a demographer with the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research (IJCR), some 20% of American Jewry is now non-Caucasian. While there is no data specifically on black Jews, "a large percentage [of nonwhite Jews] are African American," Tobin says. "Most arrive via conversion, adoption or mixed Jewish-black marriages," she adds, "and are far from Judaism's fringes and part of traditional communities." (source)

I find it fascinating that she was able to beat out so many other candidates, especially in the South:

She beat out some half-dozen candidates for the position of rabbi at Congregation Bayt Shalom in North Carolina. Much of Stanton's appeal, says synagogue president Michael Barondes, lies in her ability to connect and communicate powerfully, both from the pulpit and face-to-face. Those are skills Stanton honed during an earlier career, before entering the seminary — as a psychotherapist specializing in grief and loss. She helped counsel victims of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. "She knows intuitively how to listen to people," says Barondes. "And as a one-synagogue town, we need a rabbi who can reach out to all of our members." (source)

Times are a'changin....


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Learning about the City

Yesterday I went to my second softball game with my new "league." Really it's just a bunch of guys that meet at a certain time and place with beer and gloves who organize themselves loosely into teams and play until it gets too dark to continue! I had a respectable day at bat, managing some nice hits. A lead-off double in the second inning, however, was my best play of the day. As I was coming up to second base I could see that the second baseman was about to catch the ball and possibly tag me, so without even thinking about the consequences I slid into the base to roaring applause. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea considering that I was wearing shorts. Nasty scape on my left thigh!

Looking up at the Toronto skyline, smelling the cigarettes and beer, I find myself thankful that I live in a very cool city. I find Toronto much more livable than, say, L.A. For one thing, as my new softball friends demonstrate it is much easier to get to know people in this city!

Today I spent most of the day at a "Pastors' Day" Workshop held at the Yonge Street Mission. We met in a brand new, immaculate community centre the Mission just built. Most of the workshop was taken up by a presentation by Dr. David Hulchanski analyzing demographic data for the last 39 years in Toronto. He and his team have done some amazing work just documenting trends involving poverty in the city. In a nut shell, since 1970 the income desparity in the city has gotten much greater as the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. But it's also true that the neighbourhoods have become much more segregated both by income and race. The well-off have established themselves in the core of the city (think everything south of the 401 between Bathurst and Leslie) while the poor have moved to the northeast and northwest of the city. Indeed, there are really three different cities in Toronto that equate to three distinct experiences and cultures of Toronto City Life.

This map shows the change of average income by neighbourhood from 1970 to 2005. Pretty interesting, isn't it, too see how much the city is changing. There was a time when some of those blue striped areas weren't upwardly mobile at all!

To learn more about this check out the Greater Toronto Urban Observatory or read Hulchanski's paper: The Three Cities Within Toronto.

It seems most likely that this trend of increasing income disparity is the result of lots of little policy changes that were made in the late 80's and kept through the 90's. In particular, the cuts to social services and various forms of "deregulation" seem to have had a role. But at Dr. Hulchanski pointed out, if this trend was caused by lots of little decisions it could also be reversed by lots of little decisions.

(Interesting factoid: 50% of all immigration to Canada settles in Toronto.)

After the presentation and lunch we spent a few hours brainstorming about possible responses our church could have to the problems arising from these patterns. After that I headed back to church. I felt very in touch with the city as I read the Metro on the TTC Subway and digested more of the presentation I had just heard.

Back at church... Ordered some business cards (for some strange reason I never got around to doing that before). Answered some e-mails and returned some calls. Getting ready to call it a day...


Sunday, June 7, 2009

If God Had Texted the 10 Commandments

Meg sent this to me--as seen on McSweeney's blog...

  1. no1 b4 me. srsly.
  2. dnt wrshp pix/idols
  3. no omg's
  4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)
  5. pos ok - ur m&d r cool
  6. dnt kill ppl
  7. :-X only w/ m8
  8. dnt steal
  9. dnt lie re: bf
  10. dnt ogle ur bf's m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.

M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl.

ttyl, JHWH.

ps. wwjd?



Spring Fling 2009

On Saturday the church held its annual "Spring Fling"--a day for planting flowers, cleaning up, and do the usual sort of landscaping necessary to keep the place looking beautiful in the neighbourhood. Lots of people, including kids, helped out. Mercifully, it wasn't as hot out as last year. There also wasn't quite as much catch-up work to do as last year.

After the garden work the church had a pool party at the house of one of our parishioners. Great fun was had by all, I even managed to do my famous, traditional cannonball! Just as the party was getting going I ducked back to church to do a service (the Healing Prayer Service) and then I came back for the rest of the party. Went to bed early, exhausted.

Today was a good church day. I'll share more once I get the video together. Alas, right now I have like three or four media projects to do, on top of my other responsibilities!


Friday, June 5, 2009

The Tay's....

People sometimes ask me where the name "Tay" comes from. Actually, it's a very old family name. I was named after William Tay, who came over to America in the 17th century. I assume he was Scottish given that "Tay" is both the name of a town, a loch, and the longest river in Scotland. A ship's register has his occupation listed as "distiller of strong spirits." We believe he was born in 1608. He married Grace Newell in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1644. She was 13 years younger than he (23 to his 36). Together they had eight children (Grace, John, Isaiah, Abiel, Peter, Nathaniel, Jeremiah, and Elizabeth). He lived to be 75. His wife managed an impressive 91 years!

Nathaniel married and had eight more kids. Among them, another William Tay, whom I believe is the William Tay that fought in the French and Indian Wars as an officer commissioned by Samuel Adams. This William married Abigail Jones and the two of them had one child, Samuel Tay.

Samuel fought on the Patriot side of the American Revolution, rising through the ranks. Quite a few other men with the surname of "Tay" are listed on the Patriots' Rolls as being from the town of Woburn, so I suspect they were all cousins and siblings. The Woburn Militia was one of the principal combatants at the Battle of Concord Bridge, which was the first Patriot victory of the Revolutionary War.

After the war Samuel and his wife had one son, another Samuel. Several more Samuels follow down the line until you get to Samuel Wright Tay, also known as "Tutu" (the Hawaiian word for "Elder." He moved to Hawai'i in 1910 with his wife. At that time Hawai'i was a U.S. Territory with lots of agricultural production. His skills an engineer were no doubt in demand! They had no sons, so "Tay" died out as a surname, however it continued as a given name.

Their daughter Alice Elizabeth Tay married my grandfather, William Washburn Moss, Jr., and the two eventually settled back in Hawai'i after spending some time in New England and having three kids. One of them was my father. I'm not sure how my parents chose "William Tay" in particular, other than it is a historic name in our family, but I'm glad they did.

So... That's the basic story of my name!


Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Feature about COTM

Many weeks ago Henrieta Paukov, who writes for the Anglican among other responsibilities, came by to check out the Contemplative Eucharist and ask me about some of the other projects we've started here at Church of The Messiah. It was nice to be able to share some of the excitement about the ministries we've started.

Incidentally, we've added a new regular to the Contemplative Eucharist group. That means I have about four regulars and a couple of people who come only occasionally. Perhaps this article will generate some more interest. I've also been thinking about adding another time for the service--perhaps on Saturdays before or after the Healing Prayer Service.


June Column for the Anglican

Here's my June Column for the Anglican. I went for humour, obviously. Apologies to Zen Flesh, Zen Bones and the Desert Fathers, of whom this is a parody...

Actually, I could come up with these quippy little stories all day. So perhaps next year I'll do another column along a similar vein!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Power Point about Children's Ministry

Here is the power point from the Workshop that Kerrie and I did at our Synod Workshop last weekend. Perhaps I'll have a chance to add synched audio later...

You can also download the file directly from the SlideShare website.


Monastic Enterprise

Bob points me to an article in the New York Times about some monks in Wisconsin that sell printer cartridges to raise the money necessary to keep the monastery going:

Ever entrepreneurial, the women also sell products made by other monasteries, including chocolates, pralines and a barbeque sauce called “Burnt Sacrifice.” They sell Benevolent Biscuits, dog treats the monks here make on cookie trays in the monastery kitchen.

Their latest product is a laser printer cartridge made with soybean oil instead of petroleum. Holding up a newly printed page, Ms. Caniglia said, “It’s environmentally safe, the print is great,” and it produces more pages per cartridge than an oil-based cartridge at a lower price. “It’s a no-brainer.” (source)

I think it's brilliant that most communities have to produce something that the ordinary world finds valuable. It helps keep such communities grounded. It's even more interesting, from my perspective, at least, when that enterprise involves the hands-on work of the monks. For instance, both the book store and the guest house at Holy Cross require a LOT of attention from the monks, which mean that the people that patronize those businesses get to interact with the monks themselves.

Monks and nuns around the world do all kinds of interesting things. I've always been fascinated by the Monks at New Skete raising German Shepherds. Or how about Mother Noella Marcellino, who did her Ph.D. and a Fulbright Scholarship becoming a world-renowned expert on Cheese.

Much has been written about the spirituality of such labour. Unfortunately, our society has lost something along the way when it comes to the meaning of creative work. A recent long New York Times feature on the meaning of work noted the rise in popularity of shows like "Dirty Jobs" and "Deadliest Catch" as evidence of a kind of nostalgia for the perceived meaningfulness of blue collar work. The feature article was written by Matthew Crawfrod, who adapted the essay from his new book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work.

This is about craft. I appreciate good craftsmanship in all it's forms because it shows a kind of a cooperation with creation. Shoddy workmanship suggests disharmony with creation. And I'm not just talking about crafts that involve physical stuff. Consider the craft of a well-delivered sermon or the craft of doing good liturgy!

Alas, the days when Shop class was a mandatory part of education are slipping. More and more kids are connecting on Facebook rather than under the hood of a car.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Air France 447

I've been tracking the tragic loss of Air France flight 447 in the news. As usual, the major news outlets are only reporting a fairly broad overview, while more details are available for those who look. For instance, what about these automated message coming from the airplane before contact was lost. One aviation blog seems to have an inside source about these:
Sources within Air France reported, that the automatic message did not only report an electrical short circuit, but also the loss of cabin pressure. This information has been confirmed by FAB, who also stated, that the position of the airplane was given as N3.5777 W30.3744 in that message.

New information provided by sources within Air France suggests, that the ACARS messages of system failures started to arrive at 02:10Z indicating, that the autopilot had disengaged and the fly by wire system had changed to alternate law. Between 02:11Z and 02:13Z a flurry of messages regarding ADIRU and ISIS faults arrived, at 02:13Z PRIM 1 and SEC 1 faults were indicated, at 02:14Z the last message received was an advisory regarding cabin vertical speed. That sequence of messages could not be independently verified. (source)

ACARS is the data-link that also carries all kinds of useful information between the airplane and the ground. Many news reports seem to be surprised to discover that this exists, though actually it has been around for a long time and is now being phased out in favor of even more advanced communications systems.

Anyway, this series of messages has caused a lot of speculation in online forums devoted to airplane stuff. Many people are pointing to some previous problems with the ADIRU (Air Data Inertial Reference Unit) on the airbus A330 (same type aircraft as this recent crash). In the previous incident, the failure of one of three ADIRU caused the flight computer on Quantas Flight 72 to pitch down violently. 72 passengers were injured, some badly, but the airplane was able to make an emergency landing. There are are three such units onboard so that flight can proceed normally even if two of the three are rendered inoperable. Part of the mystery of flight 72 was why the flight computer didn't recognize and ignore the faulty data.

There other incidents involving "uncommanded" maneuvers as flight computers reacted to faulty data from ADIRU units, so this is naturally the first place people are looking. Yet many other things could have caused this sequence of system failures and messages--a fire being an obvious example (Cf. Swissair 111). We probably won't know the real cause for many months.

Reflecting on this today I thought about how much attention air safety gets compared to, say, car safety. So much more could be done to lessen traffic fatalities. Yet something about the horror of airplane accidents make them much more provocative. I just pray for the families and all who work and travel in the skies....


Run, Forrest, Run!

That streak of light is actually me running toward home plate. Sweet.


Monday, June 1, 2009

My Day Off

Last night I picked up Betsy at the Buffalo Airport. Traffic on the QEW going back to the GTA was terrible thanks to the night construction. So we got back around midnight and went straight to bed. I slept in 'tlll noon. Felt great. Made lunch for the two of us and then watched a little TV. Made supper (Green Thai Curry with shrimp). Then Betsy and I went to a softball game. A friend of mine plays in a regular pick-up game and invited me to join him. I haven't played softball in a long time, but I sure did enjoy it tonight. I managed to get several base hits, and even got in for a run myself! Great. Next time I'll remember to bring beer--this is the sort of group that like to drink beer while they play ball. All good. Nice group of guys. Betsy watched from the sidelines.

Came home and enjoyed a very nice BLT. I've been feeling the BLT-love lately. What a great late night snack! Now I'm just watching the "Daily Show" and enjoying the end of my day off...