Monday, September 28, 2009

Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan, Greer, at a very important meeting. I think he's getting some surprising news.


Confirmations, Midwives, Ballcocks, and Pork Roasts!

Sunday was fantastic. Between confirmations and Back-to-Church Sunday we had 115 people in church (that's more than last Easter)! Eric brought in a soloist and a trumpeter. Bishop Blackwell preached and presided. He is a retired bishop with a long connection to Messiah. He was baptized, married, and ordained deacon in our church. So was his wife (they met at Messiah)! He was very pleased with what he found. "It has energy," he said, "so many churches I visit now are just dead." Yep, that's how I feel!

The confirmations went off without a hitch. One of the candidates has special needs (Autism) and didn't feel comfortable coming up the rail to being confirmed with the other candidates. So the bishop I went down to him. One of the members of the congregation remarked that it was one of the most moving things he had ever seen in church. "I had tears in my eyes. It was like, 'If you can't come to God, God will come to you.'" Indeed. We gave all the confirmands crosses and many congratulations.

Younger kids we ecstatic when we set up the "Bouncy Castle" during coffee hour. This is a huge inflated room that the kids can jump around in. We rent one for the kids once or twice a year. Always a hit.

But the confirmation joy isn't over yet. On Thursday we are taking the kids to Holy Cross. it's going to be amazing! we aren't going to be back until Sunday evening! We have great plans...

Also, the kids want to have a nice dinner together (just the six of them). It just so happens that a VERY nice restaurant near the church owes the church a free meal. The owner often parks in our parking lot despite many warnings not to. He said he'd give us free meals to make up for it. So I think I'm going to cash in that chit. I sent the owner a note yesterday. I feel pretty good about being able to give our kids that gift! Being the neighbourhood priest is all about that kind of opportunity.

An amazing day a church. Tons of people and a lot of happiness! It will be interesting to find out how that affects this upcoming Sunday. I won't be there (with the confirmands at Holy Cross), but the Rev'd Marili Moore will. I hear she is going to be singing one of the most difficult eucharistic prayer settings in the missal. The Marili is a trained opera singer, so this setting won't be hard for her.

I feel as though all the cylinders are hitting at Church of The Messiah. The machine is just purring in perfect time! There is still a lot to do. There is plenty to improve upon, but still, I'm extremely pleased with how things are going!

Sunday afternoon I had to stay until around 3:30 waiting for the the guys to come pick up the bouncy castle. After that I came home and watched football until I started falling asleep. Went to bed early--ah... the Sunday afternoon nap!

This morning the day started with a trip to the Midwife. This visit was with the "back-up" midwife. The practice assigns you two midwives, a primary and back-up. That way, if one midwife is tied up with a birth, you always have a backup. But if neither are conflicted than you have both with you (in such a case the primary deals with mom, the secondary with baby). Our secondary midwife turns out to be connected with us in a tangential way. She sings for the Pax Christi Choir--and I did their website! I know the Artistic Director, Stephanie Martin, well from SMM days! She even remembers Betsy taking pictures of one of their concerts last year!

We did the usual check-up measures (sugar/protein in urine, blood pressure, fetal heart rate, baby size and position). Everything looks good. In fact, our boy is now head-down in the womb, which means he will likely stay that way for the rest of the pregnancy. We asked about whether we could travel for American Thanksgiving (a resounding, "no") and about breast pumps and such things. At the end of the meeting I asked whether the midwife would mind praying with us. She seemed happy with that, so I said a prayer.

After dropping Betsy off at school I picked up a pork roast for dinner. Got it going in the crockpot and then started fixing a broken toilet. I replaced a broken ballcock and seat. Now I'm just chilling out with a little football recorded from yesterday.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Video of Union Station B2CS Event

Here is a video based on the bishops' event at Union Station this morning. If you are interested in knowing more about Back to Church Sunday in the Diocese of Toronto, I heartily recommend Rev. Michael Calderwood's blog. He discusses it in more detail than I've done in these pages! You might also look at the Diocese's Back To Church Sunday Resource page.


Operation MITRE

photo by Michael Hudson
Philip + with Fr. Michelle in background

photo by Michael Hudson
Colin + with Fr. Jeff in background

Regular readers know I'm one of the people in the Diocese of Toronto involved in making the Back to Church initiative happen. This is a programme coming out of the Church of England that encourages parishioners to invite people to church with them on a particular Sunday (this year: Sept. 27th).

The planning group met with Bishop Poole last week and decided that we needed to do something big to get some media attention and to encourage local churches and parishioners. So we decided to have the bishops stand in front of Union Station in Toronto handing out invitations to church! We ended up sending down four bishops (Colin, Patrick, Linda, and Philip) in full Regalia (alb, cope and mitre). Each bishop was given a chaplain in case the episcopal presence necessitated a major pastoral need. So Michelle Childs, Jeff Kennedy, Angela Emmerson, and I were there to field anyone who felt the need to have a longer conversation. We also had our Diocesan PR person (Stuart Mann) plus a consultant brought in to help with media relations.

First surprise: lots of media. Even before we left the Diocesan HQ at 6:40 A.M. Philip+ had done a radio interview for CBC. Two TV stations sent crews to meet us at the site. They cut live into Breakfast Television (a show on CityTV) for interviews with the bishop. We may be on CTV and CP24 tonight. For print media we had people from the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and The National Post.

Second surprise: the media lingered. The reporters seemed quite engaged with the scene and stayed the whole time (about two hours) we were there. They snapped pitures and took man-on-the-street interviews.

Third surprise: we were received well by the crowds. We handed out 2,000 invitations in about an hour and a half. We had very, very little negativity. Most people accepted the invitations we handed out. A few declined. Others went out of their way to receive our handouts. Some were really glad to see us and greeted us enthusiastically. Two or three asked us to pray with them. Very few had anything negative to say, and that is remarkable!

So we walked back to the Diocesan offices to debrief feeling pretty good about ourselves! Certainly we managed to create some buzz!

Early press: Toronto Star....
Bishops make pitch to startled commuters
Denise Balkissoon
Staff Reporter

Idling taxis, hot dog stands and four smiling Anglican bishops in full regalia. That was the sight greeting sleepy-eyed commuters leaving Union Station during this morning's rush hour.

Sporting long, damask robes of pearly white or sky blue, heads topped with pointed bishop's hats, the clergy passed out cards encouraging the Bay Street hordes to make their way to a house of worship this Sunday. Most people accepted the handout drowsily, without comment; others seemed startled or amused at the group's elaborate outfits. A few passers-by stopped for quick chats before scurrying along to their offices.

"You invite people to baseball games or to the movies," said Bishop of Toronto Colin Johnson. "Traditionally, we've not been good at inviting people to come to church." .... (source)

The whole thing felt very Ninja-Priest like. I mean, there we were right in on the busiest spots in all of Canada, saying, "Good Morning!" Naturally, I got some video. I'm working like a madman in Premiere Pro editing it together...

Here's some of the National Post's take:
In full regalia, Anglican bishops go to Union Station seeking parishioners
By Matthew Coutts

A sight more commonly saved for Sunday, or not at all, greeted commuters leaving Union Station this morning: Anglican bishops in their ecclesiastical vestments welcoming them with a smile.

Wearing the white pointed hats, or mitres, and flowing gowns reserved for the leaders in the Anglican community, several area bishops gathered to invite passerby back to church.

Four bishops, including the Bishop of Toronto Colin Johnson, and several volunteers, canvassed Union Station as part of an international Christian initiative that designated September 27 as “Back to Church Sunday.”

“People have been falling out of the habit of going to their churches or places of worship,” said Bishop Philip Poole, area bishop for York-Credit Valley as he handed out simple cards inviting the recipient to be a guest at their local church.

“This isn’t about Anglican proselytization, this is about promoting a return to your place of worship.”

Bishop Poole said while most people will rush past to get to work, many people stop for a brief chat. Some of the most receptive were people from other religions, he said, who were open to discussing their connection to the their faith.

Dressed in a flowing baby blue gown, known as copes, Bishop Poole caught the eyes of a number of pedestrians as Bishop Linda Nicholls chatted with a young man while wearing a similar white and red outfit nearby. .... (Source)

A great way to spend the morning!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

World's Youngest Preacher

Behold Kanon Tipton--"The World's Youngest Preacher." Also, a viral video star....


Paperless Alleluia Rough Cut

This is a rough cut of the paperless alleluia we did on Eric's first Sunday. when I get a chance I'll clean it up some, but I have to dash to another meeting in a few minutes...


The Bishop!

The bishops are much on my mind. I had a meeting with two last week, and I'll be seeing more of them this week, too. The bishops will be at Union Station here in Toronto on Thursday morning in full regalia to draw attention to the Back to Church Sunday initiative. Bishop Yu asked me to serve as his "chaplain." Each bishop will have on of us nearby to handle any pastoral needs that may arise from the situations. No doubt we'll get some crazies... and probably some people with pressing pastoral needs, as well! Having us around the bishops will also help people realize this the real deal, and not just three or four nut jobs.

I was planning to be there anyway, as I was asked to get a little footage for You Tube.

I'll seeing a bishop again on Sunday--Bishop Blackwell is coming to Messiah to do the confirmations.

All this made me think of some of my favourity Monty Python bishop skits. Behold this classic:

The central conceit of this skit is telling; the bishop and his cronies attempting to rescue hapless priests from being killed in comical ways. Alas, the days when I thought yelling "help" out the window would bring the bishop's assistance came to a close when I was in seminary. Back then I belonged to a different diocese (not Toronto) and I desperately needed the bishop's help and sent him letters. He didn't respond, or, for that matter, pass the letter on the Canon to the Ordinary or do anything else about my need. When I saw him about a year later I told him in person how disappointed I was that he didn't respond to me. He apologized and meant it, but it wasn't the first or last time he let me down. I remember thinking, cruelly, that that he apologized like someone who does it a lot. At the time I became a little bitter about my relationship to the bishop and the diocese, to be honest.

Years later I would find out that during this period the Bishop's wife had been suffering from a degenerative neurological condition. No one knew just how overwhelmed he was until after he took early retirement to care for her. He kept it from almost everyone, and it became understandably difficult for him to pay attention to some seminarian in trouble. He was a really nice guy, don't get me wrong, and I loved him, but I learned pretty quick that neither the bishop nor his staff were going to do much to help me.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Baby's Got Book

The RCL called for Proverbs 31:10-31 to be read today in church. This is the famous "good wife" passage that used to be read at weddings. It's easy to think that the gender role it prescribes to women is a bit old fashioned, but it's worth pointing out how progressive parts of the passage read. "She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong" (Prov. 31:16-17). It's actually a very beautiful passage that I would recommend to anyone.

Anyway, Proverbs 31 comes up in this funny video that came out a few years ago:


Thursday, September 17, 2009

How Top-Level Organists Get Fired

Two years ago Owen Burdick, Director of Music at Trinity, Wall Street, left abruptly. It was the said that he resigned, but neither he nor the church would elaborate. Now he has broken his silence to complain about his former parish, saying that they fired him because he was an out-of-control alcoholic, but that they are not giving him sufficient credit for his role in the parish's musical history. "'It was simple,' he said recently in his first interview since his disappearance. 'I'm an alcoholic. I was out of control. I needed to leave.'" (Source)

So now after living in a Buddhist Monastery for a while he is back on the scene, monk robes and all, claiming that Trinity isn't giving him proper due for his contributions. Interestingly, his claims that he is "ignored" on the website and not given credit for some performances don't really pan out:
The Trinity Web site,, does not currently ignore Mr. Burdick. The choir-page biography lists him as one of its last two directors. A small archive of concert videos includes one of his performances — but not the version of Handel’s “Messiah” that boosted his reputation, he notes, or his many other performances that used to be there. He receives credit in the section about radio broadcasts on WQXR and on the four recordings there, in contrast to some of the actual broadcasts where his name was omitted in the recorded announcement. (source)

So how bad did he get when he was "out of control"?
Confronted with complaints by choir members that he was at times abusive and erratic, he admitted that he could be cruel. He once spat at the tenors. (They came to a later rehearsal with raincoats and umbrellas, he noted.) He declined to discuss his drinking or inappropriate behavior further.

He also said friction with the leadership had grown, especially after the arrival of Mr. Cooper [the Rector], who took over in 2004. Mr. Burdick lived with a former choir member while separated from his wife. Mr. Cooper, he said, “wanted me to be divorced, to be legal about it.”(source)

Interestingly, something similar happened with Healey Willan at St. Mary Magdalene's many years ago. He was having an affair with a member of the choir and the Rector threatened to fire him if he didn't stop. Willan refused and was fired. About a year later he wrote a letter apologizing, promising amendment of life, and begging to be hired back. He was, of course, given his bench back.

Anyway, the Trinity thing is interesting. Honestly, it sounds to me like the Trinity leadership handled the situation very well and as though Burdick's current complaints are nit-picky at best. Even though he is violating his severance agreement, he is betting that the church won't sue him over it. Seems like his ego is still smarting from the dismissal, despite what he says.


Mapping Sin

Wired Magazine reports about a study of sin and geography. Researches at Kansas State made maps of where sin takes place in the US by creating statistical measures of sins like "Wrath" by looking at data like "Number of violent crimes per capita." They the made maps of the data.

Red in more "sinful"--golden-brown is more saintly...

Average income compared with number of people living below the poverty line.

Total thefts (robbery, burglary, larceny, and grand theft auto) per capita.

Number of violent crimes (murder, assault, and rape) per capita.

Expenditures on art, entertainment, and recreation compared with employment.

Number of fast-food restaurants per capita.

Number of STD cases reported per capita.

Aggregate of the other six offenses—-because pride is the root of all sin.

Hmm. The deep South doesn't do so well!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009


This is from a well-known social experiment done a few years ago by the Washington Post. It has been repeated in other cities with similar results. I often think of this when I see Buskers trying to make a little money on the street or transit system of Toronto:

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made.... How many other things are we missing?


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thoughts from a Tuesday

A busy day that started with some e-mails and phone calls and then the Trad Com (BCP Communion) service at Messiah. I regretted not transferring the Feast of Holy Cross to a Sunday, but at least I was able to transfer it to today! Not surprisingly, I had plenty to preach about on the Patronal Feast of OHC! A pleasant lunch with some of my parishioners followed.

In the early afternoon I drove down to Diocesan HQ for a meeting related to the Back to Church Sunday initiative. Bishop Poole was leading the meeting, but Bishop Johnson did stop by briefly to share some thoughts about the project. I couldn't help noticing that he was wearing a really flattering suit. And I admit thinking, "I wonder how many suits he had to buy when he became bishop?" Lol. He also shared that a new grand child was to be born immanently. Good for him.

After the meeting it was back to Messiah for a staff meeting. It went longer than usual, which I should have anticipated given that Eric is new on staff and it's the beginning of the church's programme year. We prayed briefly, then we debriefed last Sunday and planned for the next. Much of our time ended up focusing on the Confirmation Service/Bishop's Visitation/Back-to-Church Sunday marathon that will be September 27th! Now we've added a bouncy castle. Because everybody loves the bouncy castle! We also beginning to talk about the Christmas Pageant (yeah, really!).

In November Eric is going to the "Music that Makes Community Conference" in Atlanta. I've talked about paperless singing on this blog from time-to-time, and these conferences put on by the All Saints Company (the people that gave the world St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco) are the place to go to learn about that. I'm thrilled that Eric is going. In fact, he wanted to go long before he was called to COTM. It's a three day conference/workshop teaching the techniques of so-called "paperless singing." It's a method of congregational worship that recovers much older methods of making music in community. It uses techniques like call-and-response, lining, rounds, etc. to get a congregation singing together. Inevitably it feels much more organic, free, and intimate than head-in-hymnal, everybody-follow-the-organ, style singing.

Needless to say, I'd love to go to this conference. The only problem is that the same week I'm going to this year's Preaching College at St. Clement's. This is an invitation-only intensive four-day workshop for preachers. I'm wondering whether I can miss the last half-day and take the red-eye to Atlanta? The other option is to attend the same conference a few months later in January in San Francisco. I love San Francisco--but at that point I'll have a new baby at home and (probably) no desire to travel! Besides, there is a nice synergy that will happen if Eric and I are BOTH at the same conference. I had such a blast the last time I went to an All Saints Company conference, I'd love to share that with one (or more) of my worship staff.

One of the things I love about Eric that we have a shared language for talking about liturgy. I have yet to come up with anything (a term, a hymn, a resource, anything) that he doesn't know about. I suspect he may have a better liturgical library than I do! Going to a conference like this will only take that shared language to the next level: shared experience!

So I'm trying to figure out how to make that trip work!

Lots of other challenges at work. Many of which I just can't talk about for obvious reasons. Suffice it to say, my plate is full.

Meanwhile, Betsy's belly is getting bigger. She's feeling great except for a little bit of joint soreness in her hips. She's been getting good advice via Facebook about that. We are both reading and studying pregnancy stuff like the nerds we are!

The weather in Ontario is starting to turn cool. It makes me think about the need to schedule a firewood delivery and do more canning. Maybe we'll get the farmer's market again this weekend...


Classical Clerical Curfuffle #231

A priest friend of mine in another Diocese was showing off a newly baptized baby to his congregation when he remarked through the P.A., "Hmm, weighs less than my corgi..."


Sunday, September 13, 2009


This morning Betsy and I got up a little early than normal for a Saturday and headed down to the St. Lawrence Street Market. We were there to pick up ingredients for a BBQ we are doing. First things first, a delicious p-meal bacon sandwich! Next, we headed to the farmer's market side to see what they had. While I was there I talked to one of the farmers about when the hot pepper crop will be coming in. He said that the large amount of rain and consequent loss of sunlight has delayed the growing season for both tomatoes and hot peppers, but there should be plenty of peppers coming to market in a week or two...

Back at home we processed another 20 lbs. of tomatoes into sauce. It's very satisfying to put 10 lbs. of onions and a whole bottle of red wine into the pot! Wonderful kitchen smells! I went off to do a service at church and when I came back Betsy had already made a fresh Salsa for the BBQ. More boiling and sauce making and cleaning up the house. Then we went to a friend's birthday party.

On the way home we stopped at a grocery store to get some things that we couldn't get at the market. Back at home, more cooking. Betsy made special patties and I made, sauce, of course. Now that's over and I can start going to bed!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Alan Turning (Finally) Gets an Apology

Alan Turing

It's no exaggeration to say that Alan Turing was one of the greatest minds of the modern age. His work as a mathematician created the foundation for computer science. Even though crude computers were just being built, he came up with theories about Artificial Intelligence that are still influential. His contributions in other fields, such as Chemistry, that are also substantial.

His genius became essential to the Allied efforts to break the German Enigma Code in WWII. Working for the British Government, Turing created and refined methods to break the most complex cypher in use. it's difficult to imagine how difficult this problem was to solve, but to give you a sense: consider that there are 10 to the 22nd power possible combinations in the Enigma code. That means 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible codes. Turning figured out how to use a simple computer to test these possible solutions. To do this, he invented the logic behind "the bombe"--a cryptanalytic machine that tested possible Enigma code settings.

Professor Jack Good, cryptanalyst working at the time with Turing at Bletchley Park, later said: "Turing's most important contribution, I think, was of part of the design of the bombe, the cryptanalytic machine. He had the idea that you could use, in effect, a theorem in logic which sounds to the untrained ear rather absurd; namely that from a contradiction, you can deduce everything." (source)

Eventually his team was breaking 3,000 messages a day! We cannot underestimate how important this contribution was to the war effort.

Turing was relatively open about being homosexual during the war, but after the war was prosecuted for "Gross Indecency" and given the choice of chemical castration (through hormone injections) or jail. He chose castration and underwent the procedure. He was stripped of his security clearances. In 1954, a year after his conviction, he was found dead in his home from cyanide poisoning. The circumstances are ambiguous, which suggests that his death may have been accidental (from the careless handling of lab chemicals) or even murder. The assassination theory is based on the anxiety at the time of the KGB compromising people using homosexuality to entrap them. This was the time of the Cambridge Five, after all.

Suicide is the most likely answer. Indeed, he did report feeling hounded by the crown. The court-ordered hormone injections led to some disturbing side effects, like the growth of breasts, that he had to live with. He was only 41 when he died. Who knows what his contributions could have been had he lived longer.

Recently the British Government finally apologized for its treatment of Turing after the war. About time!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Peregrine wins the Jug!

Last night Skipper Dave pulled alongside the harbour pier city-side and trolled slow enough for Jonathan and I (his crew for last-night's race) to toss over our gear and then jump onto the boat. The wind was steady at around 12 knots and we knew we were in for a good race. We changed into our racing clothes and rigged the boat. I took the fore deck as usual while Jon worked the winches mid-ship. With about five minutes before our start (there are three start times to the races, our class starts second), we Jibed onto a starboard beam reach toward the start line. The key to "winning the start" is to be the first boat in your start to cross the line between the committee boat and the marker (i.e. "the line") after the horn blows to signal the start. If you cross early, the horn will blow and second time and the committee will announce over the radio who was over early. Violators must do a penalty turn.

So we were charging on a beam reach toward the line, and we reached the line with about 45 seconds to start. At this point we turned and started running down the line, parallel and about a boat length away. We dodged one boat by "dumping" wind from our Jib (letting it loose to flap around on purpose to slow down), but were windward of another boat. Now, in this situation the boat to leeward (away from the wind) has right of way over a boat to windward, so the guy could have turned up into into the wind (toward the start line) and forced us over early. But instead he started dumping wind from his Jib as well. In retrospect, we think he was afraid of going over the line early, too.

As it was, when the final 5 second countdown commenced Dave steered us into the wind so that we were close-hauled (i.e., wind coming at an angle of about 45 degrees to the front of the boat) and charging aggressively toward the start line. We were heeling heavily to port-side so that the rail of the deck was just inches above the water. I was on the bow trying to judge where the imaginary line was, and as the horn blew I was almost certain it would blow again to say we were over early, but it didn't. That means we were first over the start line. Pretty soon we were in the middle of the back, ducking and tacking the boats around us. As the race progressed we began to lag behind a bit. The fact is that the Peregrine was designed to be more of a cruiser than a racer, but there was still a lot of sailing to be done as we went around the triangle-shaped course four times.

Shortly after we rounded one of the marks we witnessed one of the larger boats (maybe 32 feet) collide with a smaller Star boat (about 20 feet) as they went around the mark behind us. No one was injured, but the skipper of the Star was rightfully furious. She had the right of way, and we suspect the larger boat simply didn't see her as we was dealing with two other boats in close proximity. After the collision he also hit the mark (an inflatable buoy in the water) which requires a penalty turn. He didn't do the turn, but perhaps he realized that he would be disqualified from the race for hitting another vessel, anyway.

The wind had been gradually tapering off as the race went on, so that by the time we rounded the last mark and headed to the finish line we were concerned that the race might end before we were able to cross the line. These races end at sunset, which was just minutes away. But when the time of official sunset came, there were no signals from the race committee boat. Indeed, as we crossed the line I could hear the committee call our time and saw one of the members write it down on a clipboard. Only after we had crossed did they blow the horn to indicate the end of the race, make an announcement over the radio, and hoist the end-of-race flag on the committee boat.

Yet when we arrived at the clubhouse were told that we had been given a "Did Not Finish" for the race! Naturally, we are protesting this as the race was not declared over until after we had finished. We'll see what happens. There was a another boat about five minutes after us and we would like to be scored ahead of them.

Still, because we were first over the start line we won the coveted "jug" of beer. We went for Wellington's Ale and drank it with glee!

There are two more races left in the season. I'll be out of town for one them, but am very much looking forward to the other.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Some Summer Pictures

Betsy at 24 Weeks

It was Betsy's idea for me to stand in the smoke

At the helm on a beautiful day doing 6.5 knots

Sailing with some kids from church


Monday, September 7, 2009

A Beautiful Day Sailing

Church went well on Sunday. Kind of an odd Sunday since we had a substitute musician to fill the one-Sunday-gap between Matthew and Eric. The fill-in was Kim Kendrick, our Cantor Laura's mom. I know Kim and her family from my St. Mary Magdalene days (she sings in the choirs there). She did well--it certainly is not easy to lead worship in music!

Attendance was good. Picking up now that summer is ending and kids are going back to school. My sermon was good, but short. But that's okay!

After church one of my parishioners invited out for a sail that afternoon. He was taking some kids out to see the Toronto Air Show from the water. We made arrangements for him to pick Betsy and I up at a certain pier on the city-side of the Inner Harbor. At the appropriate time the "nonsuch" sailboat pulled along side and we tied her up and Betsy and I got aboard. The wind was solid, so we didn't have to motor far before hoisting up the sail of the Nonsuch 30'. Once we got through the eastern gap of the harbor, the wind and the swells picked up. The F-18 jets from the air show were streaking overhead and skimming the water and trees. We ate sandwiches and enjoyed the air show. Pretty soon we were going between 6 and 7 knots (max 7.1 knts) and heeling pretty well. The surges were making it interesting as I took the helm. The skipper and his son were on the bow enjoying the surges and resultant sprays. Two of the girls were hanging onto the lifelines on the windward side in a way that made me kind of nervous. After heading south for a while I switched with the skipper and went up the bow. Lots of spray and ups and downs. Very fun. We headed back with plenty of wind all the way back to the harbor and near the channel to the boat slip inside the inner harbor. Back on land, we enjoyed a drink by the water's edge looking back towards the city. A lovely day on the water, to be sure.

Back at home, it didn't take long before I went down for a nap. Slept through 'till this morning. I managed to mow the lawn and do some minor errands. Betsy worked on some sewing projects. In the evening we had a baby shower with friends. A little TV and now thinking about bed. Tomorrow is a big day!


Friday, September 4, 2009

Wedding Procession

Check this out. Now, if I was the Presider at this wedding you know I would have danced my pretty ass off coming in!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sermon - Pentecost 13 2009

I was very pleased with how this sermon turned out. I was nervous to preach about sex. I thought about how I was really trusting the congregation not to freak out. Afterwards one person told me some stories about very personal anecdotes they had heard from the pulpit in years past. By comparison my little sermon was tame! So next time I could be more explicit without so much worry.

Still, one visitor told me that she came from a Pentecostal tradition and thought my sermon was just edgy enough for her! It's important to preach where people are at, ya know?

Preaching about something of such interest to me made this a very easy sermon to both write and deliver. Still, when I listen to it I can't help but think of all the stuff I could have/should have mentioned! Anyway, enjoy!

Here's the audio...

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


Study: Home Births as Safe as Hospital Births

A new study done in British Columbia comparing 2,889 home births attended by licensed midwives with 4,752 planned hospital births also attended by midwives and 5,331 hospital births attended by a physician found that, for low-risk pregnancies, home birth is just as safe as hospital birth.
Planned home birth attended by a registered midwife was associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of obstetric interventions and other adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned hospital birth attended by a midwife or physician. (source)

The study only looked at low risk pregnancies, but found that the rate of infant mortality was slightly higher for hospital births (0.35 per 1000 for home births vs. 0.57 for hospital births with midwife vs. 0.64 for hospital births with an MD).

The use of interventions during birth was much lower for the home-birth group:
  • 0.32 times less likely to receive electronic fetal monitoring
  • 0.41 times less likely to have an assisted vaginal delivery
  • 0.41 times less likely to suffer third- or fourth-degree perineal tears
  • 0.62 times less likely to have postpartum hemorrhage
Interestingly, even the women that wanted a home birth but ended up in the hospital still have lower instances of intervention.

Also significant, babies born at home were 0.23 times less likely to require either resuscitation or oxygen after 24 hours and 0.45 times less likely to have aspirate meconium.

Now, the point of this study is not to say, necessarily, that women should give birth at home, but rather to assess the risk of that choice. The researchers wanted to know, "is it safe to give birth at home under a midwife's care," and the answer seems to be "yes." This has as much to do with the screening midwives to on candidates for home birth as with the inherent safety of one environment over the other.

It's very important to recognize the self-selecting bias of this study. Inherently, women choosing to have a home birth are doing so because they are healthy and show no risk factors. But this study shows that this choice does not increase the risk to baby or mother. It's one of the largest such studies done to date, and it's a real landmark.

While it might seem like having all the resources of a hospital would reduce risk, it is also true that certain aspects of hospital birthing also increase the risk in an off-setting way. For example, the higher-stress on the mother, the tendency of doctors to induce labour unnecessarily, and the disturbing trend of medically-unjustified C-Sections (Current Canadian rate of C-Sections is 28% vs. about 31% for U.S. and about 15% for the rest of the industrialized world).

There are a lot of reasons why the rate of C-Sections is so high in the U.S. and Canada, and lots of Doctors and others are worried about it. Many of these seem to be C-Sections-on-Demand--requested by the mother for reasons of convenience, the perceptional that a surgical birth is "easier" than vaginal delivery, etc. It's a major surgery that has the potential to cause a lot of complications. Indeed, it raises the risk for future pregnancies substantially.

The infant mortality rate for the U.S. is terrible: 6.3 per 1000 ranking them 33rd in the world. Canada is a little better: 4.8 per 1000 ranking us 23rd. But this is still far behind countries like Cuba (5.1 per 1000), Slovenia (4.8 per 1000), the Czech Republic (3.8), and world-leader Iceland (2.9 per 1000) source. That's right, a baby is twice as likely to survive in Iceland as the U.S. (FYI, the C-section rate in Iceland is rising, too, from 13.1% in 1987 to 17.9% in 2006. source) I don't know of a study has conclusively linked c-section complications with the higher-than-it-ought-to-be mortality rate in the U.S., but it's all part of the same puzzle.

Here's an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Vancouver Sun recently:
[Dr.] Christilaw says the only thing preventing Canada from seeing "horrific" complication rates from C-sections is the fact women are not having as many babies as they once did.

"A C-section can be a life-saving manoeuvre for a mother or baby. Nobody is saying differently," she says. "What we're trying to say to people is, a C-section is not a benign thing. If you need one, that's different. But you should not be doing this unless you absolutely have to."

C-sections are frequently the end result of a cascade of interventions that often starts with inductions.

Tens of thousands of women in Canada have their labours artificially induced every year, often via intravenous infusion of artificial oxytocin. Oxytocin is naturally produced by the human body. It's what creates contractions in labour. Today in Canada, one in five women who gives birth in hospital is induced.

What doctors fear are stillbirths. But alarmed by the rising rates of inductions, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recently urged doctors not to consider an induction until a woman is at least one week past her due date.

Claudia Villeneuve says that women are getting induced "if they're two, three, four days overdue."

"Inductions are rampant," says Villeneuve, president of the International Cesarean Awareness Network of Canada. "You have a perfectly normal mom who comes in with a perfectly normal baby, and now you put these powerful drugs into her system to force labour to start."

The "humane" thing is to offer an epidural, she says. With an epidural, a woman can't feel pain in the lower half of her body. But epidurals slow labour, sometimes so much that labour stops. "Now you have to get this baby out," Villeneuve says. Two-thirds of first-time C-sections are done for "failure to progress."

[Dr. Michael] Klein says epidurals are too often given before active labour is established.

"The majority of women today get their epidurals in the parking lot."

So the cascade continues: epidurals increase the use of electronic fetal monitoring, where electrodes are strapped to the woman's belly to monitor her baby's heart rate.

"It's hard to change positions when you have a fetal monitor on, and an epidural with its little things taped to your back, and an IV in your arm," [Professor of Perinatal Nursing Ellen] Hodnett says. "Why would labour progress normally, if you're stuck in a labour bed with all this machinery on you?"

What's more, EFM is an imperfect technology. It detects subtle changes that can't be picked up by just listening to the baby's heartbeat after contractions, "and those subtle changes are often false positives," Klein says. "In other words, the fetus is OK, you just think it isn't OK." (source)

There are lots of other factors behind the high C-section rate, of course, including the fear of malpractice suits. I'm just trying to make the point that the fewer interventions on mother and baby, the better off both will be. This goes against some of the prevailing wisdom that more medical intervention means lower risk.

A wiser answer to this question--"which is safer"--may simply be, "It depends." If baby and mom are happy and healthy and want a home delivery, there seems to be no medical reason to prevent it and some to recommend it. If, on the other hand, complications seem likely, than you may be better off in a hospital.


Another Study about how Drinking can be Good for You

A new study just published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry analyzed the results of 15 previous studies to demonstrate the people over 60 who consume between 1 and 28 alcoholic drinks per week significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and other dementias. For male drinkers the risk was reduced by 45 percent. Women saw their risk reduced by 27 percent.

Causation is difficult to determine, but probably has to do with how alcohol increases good cholesterol, increases blood flow to the brain, and decreases blood coagulation.


The Mission-Shaped Muffin Pan

My latest column in The Anglican newspaper is out....

There is one typo. Where it reads "St. Luke's" I meant "St. Paul's."


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Monday Betsy and I went to the Canadian National Exhibition. This is kind a big-city version of the county fairs I used to go to in Kansas, except here in Toronto at "The Ex," there are a lot fewer animals and 4-H competitions and that sort of thing. I mean, they still have a few cows and chickens and milking demonstrations, but it's much smaller scale than even the smallest county fair in the midwest! Replacing the critters are lots of kiosk versions of various chain restaurants. Lots of fast food. But the grace comes from some of the independent outfits. One such operation providing some very nice BBQ ribs for our lunch. Another provided us with funnel cake for dessert!

We caught a show--an Ice Capades-style extravaganza of singing, skating, and acrobatics that was loosely themed on popular movies like "Top Gun" and "The Godfather." Mostly it was for the kids, but I still enjoyed it!

We picked some cat toys from a very enthusiastic vendor/maker and called it a day. A very enjoyable day.

Heck of softball game in the evening. My team lost, but I played pretty well, including making two nice catches of fly balls. After the game another guy and I started sparring Karate-style for fun. I haven't done this in MANY years, but I held my own pretty well. I got in some nice shots and even threw my opponent (who studies Karate currently) off balance and onto the ground. He came back and pretty soon we were grappling like Judo wrestlers. At that point it took him two or three attempted throws to return the favour! We decided to call it a draw after that. Fun, but exhausting. I also managed to skin my knee pretty badly when I went down. Oh, and I jammed one of my fingers pretty good. There is something very satisfying about having your wife dress your sports wounds! I was quite proud.

All-in-all, a very satisfying day-off!