Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Blessing Of The Animals / A Special Invitation

Ordinarily, the Feast of St. Francis falls on October 4th of each year and is a time set aside by many parishes for the blessing of animals. Since the 4th is a Sunday this year, and since all Sundays are feast days of our Lord, lesser feasts are "bumped" either to another date or until the next year altogether.

However, I want to combine events this Sunday and offer the following: Should anyone wish to have his or her pet or other animal blessed as part of this antique tradition, I will be on the front porch of the Rectory to provide that offering. I will do so from the conclusion of the 10:00am Eucharist until 12:30pm, at which time I'm off to see the tractor parade [I love the Roxbury life, by the way].

In addition, I want to invite all members of the parish at the coffee hours after each service to get something to eat and drink in the parish house and come over to the Rectory as it is finally in a marginally presentable shape.

So, this Sunday animals will be blessed and the Rectory will be opened. For those who read this weblog, please pass this information on to those who do not.

Celtic Harvest Prayer

We bless you, God of Seed and Harvest
And we bless each other
That the beauty of this world
And the love that created it
Might be expressed though our lives
And be a blessing to others
Now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Today is the feast of St. Michael, who is regarded in some traditions as "the captain of the archangels"

It's regrettable that archangels are rarely a feature in contemporary Anglican spiritual thought, but many in our communion find them to be too militant. Of course, a few too many in our communion render their faith in bland and timorous expression, so the very notion of archangels would be a theological challenge.

But, since challenge is the most powerful feature of the Christian life, a contemporary appraisal or archangels can't help but be fruitful.

Archangels are found in the sacred literature of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. They are generally charged with service as messengers [the archangel Gabriel informs the Blessed Virgin Mary of her pregnancy and commands Mohammad to recite the Koran] and were key to the defeat of evil in the battle that separated Heaven and Hell.

Michael is considered the "field commander" of the Army of God. He is mentioned by name in the Books of Daniel, Jude, and Revelation. In Daniel, Michael appears as "one of the chief princes" who, in Daniel's vision, comes to the archangel Gabriel's aid in his contest with the angel of Persia. Michael is also described as the "great prince who stands up for the children of [Daniel's] people".

Much of the historical understanding of Michael was brought to Christianity through the Book of Enoch. In late medieval Christianity, Michael, together with Saint George, became the patron saint of chivalry. St Michael is also considered in many Christian circles as the patron saint of police officers and soldiers, particularly paratroopers and fighter pilots. He is also a patron of Germany and the city of Brussels.

While we are to strive for peace, there is a pugilistic metaphor present in Christianity ["Fight the good fight" from the familiar hymn or the "mental fight" found in William Blake's Jerusalem, a poem filled with militant imagery, plus too many scripture references to list in this brief posting] that we cannot pretend is absent. Also, given that some Christians outside of the US do fight for common rights within their societies, with some literally fighting in order not to be slaughtered by their government or renegade elements within their countries, one cannot fail to note that, again from a familiar hymn, "the peace of God, it is no peace." While we are fortunate in our nation to have such freedom of religious expression that we may even permit ourselves complacency, the Feast of St. Michael is a prayerful opportunity to recognize that such a civil right is rare and that Christians in other lands do struggle, sometimes merely for the right to own and keep a Bible in their homes.

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

This week Queen Esther saves her people and introduces the festival of Purim, James highlights what is appropriate behavior on the part of the early Christians, and Jesus engages in some Semitic hyperbole. All this plus what I learned about poetic exaggeration from my Iraqi friend.

The lections may be found here.

Today In History

September 26, 1897: Charles C. Overton, a Sunday school superintendent at Brighton Chapel, Staten Island, spontaneously promotes the idea of a Christian flag. The Rally Day speaker hadn't shown up, so Overton gave an extemporaneous address on Christian meanings for the elements of the American flag. The red, white, and blue cross flag Overton later helped devise was first sewn around 1907 and continues to be used in some churches.

Friday, September 25, 2009

So, What Are You Reading? [Updated From September 3rd]

Folks often imagine that we spend our at-home evenings cracking open the Bible or perusing some obtuse work of theological lore. That's just on Thursdays. The rest of the time I read things such as the books listed below.

Now, here's the interesting news. If you have an account, or wish to create one [it's simple], then there is an easy way to contribute to the ongoing mission of Christ Church. After clicking on one of the individual books featured on the carousel, anything one buys from Amazon, and that's anything, will result in a 4% donation of the purchase price being received by our parish.

If you think this sounds simple, it is. In fact, the more that is purchased in this way, the higher the percentage of the donation. This, of course, does not cost the purchaser anything more than the list price for the item, which is usually a pretty good deal, anyway.

If you have any questions, you know of whom to ask.

Today In History

September 25, 1872: Peter Cartwright, a Methodist circuit rider, dies at age 97. Though he was characterized as rough, uneducated, and eccentric, his drive and physical stamina enabled him to preach throughout midwestern frontiers for 70 years. [Including to members of the Clements family in early Ohio, who tended to appreciate the rough and eccentric.]

Today In History

September 25, 1789: Congress amends The U.S. Constitution to prohibit governmental interference with the free exercise of religion.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Today In History

September 24, 1757: Jonathan Edwards, prominent among the early indigenous theologians, becomes president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton). He served as president until his death in 1758.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ah, Autumn.

As of now, it's Fall. I could put together some photos of leaves turning colors or sweaters or something, but I'd rather post a wonderful photo [really, a series of photos electronically stiched together] of Saturn recently taken by the Cassini spacecraft.

Click on the photo above to enlarge it and be reminded that God made the universe.

Today In History

September 22, 1692: Puritan magistrates hang the last 8 of 20 condemned witches in Salem, Massachusetts.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Today In History

September 20, 1224: On or about this date, on Italy's secluded Mount Alvernia, Francis of Assisi reportedly prayed, "O Lord, I beg of you two graces before I die—to experience in myself in all possible fullness the pains of your cruel passion, and to feel for you the same love that made you sacrifice yourself for us." Soon his heart was filled with both joy and pity, and wounds appeared on his hands, feet, and side. He reportedly carried these scars (called stigmata) until his death in 1226.

Sunday #3

Thanks to all who made this baptismal day what it was, particularly Tristan and his family.

Thanks to Sharon for figuring out how to create the new, tri-fold order of service on our parish computer.

Kudos to Margot and Jerry Judge for being recognized by the town this afternoon for their volunteer activities.

Again, thanks to the choir along with that familiar voice from the past.

And, just so you know, here's what attendance has been on the three Sundays of this month:

Sept. 6 - 53
Sept. 13 - 64
Sept. 20 - 77

Not bad, folks. And now, your rector will take Monday as his first day off. Look for Mrs. Rector to be painting away in the rectory. [I've suggested that she leave her signature somewhere on her masterpiece.] I'm off to get some of my tools so I can put those box springs back together.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Feast Day. Sorta.

Today is an Ember Day and also the Feast of Theodore of Tarsus. However, in our household, this is an even more important day of feasting. My faithful companion for many years is celebrating his fourteenth birthday today. He is pictured above surveying his new domain [and trying to figure out where those good smells are coming from. Parish House, buddy].

The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

This week Proverbs personifies the attributes of wisdom, James notes that wisdom has two sources, and Jesus begins to teach simplicity of παιδάκια. All this plus the necessity of the radical given.

The lections may be found here.

Today In History

September 19, 821: Theodulf, poet, scholar, secretary of education, and bishop of Orleans during Charlemagne's reign is buried. He wrote hymns, among which his best remembered is "Gloria Laus et Honor" or "All Glory, Laud and Honor / To thee Redeemer King.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Word About The Rector's Schedule

Mrs. Rector and I have been preparing the interior of the rectory in hopes of presenting it as the center of parish hospitality [the non-sacramental form, anyway]. To do so we have been painting and, in a few cases, repairing some of the woodwork. We have also been moving odds and ends to the rectory in preparation for our final move, which was to be this weekend. [I should note that the paint and the labor have been our gift to the parish.]

Weekend plans were somewhat complicated when U-Haul suddenly was unable to provide the moving truck for which we had arranged and, the piece de resistance, none of our box springs will fit up the stairs. Well, not short of the use of dynamite, anyway. Thus, plans have been adjusted somewhat. All part of the great pageant of life, you know.

However, I do want the parish to know that I have been keeping pastoral hours each and every day since I began. In fact, I have not taken a day off in three weeks, contrary both to diocesan policy and my agreement with the parish. Anyone wishing to arrange a time to speak with me may do so easily by calling either the office or rectory. While it is likely that I will be there to answer, at times you may have to leave a message. If so, I will hear it and respond.

Once residency is completed in the very near future, regular hours may be more obvious. However, please note, and as I made clear during the interview process, I'm not a sedentary pastor. Small parishes never function well with a desk-bound priest. The function of ministry is to be part of a community; and that requires dynamism; not to mention the support of the parish in this practice.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Archaeological News

This time of a nature more related to the interests of The New Coracle and its staff:

U of Wash student finds rare carved gemstone at Israeli archaeological dig

When I was about that age and working towards certification in field archaeology, we would all dream about being the ones to find something rare and wonderful. Nothing immodest, of course; just a lost city or two. [To be fair, we were Meso-American archaeologists and there was some precedent in the 20th century for finding lost cities.]

I'm willing to bet that contemporary students of the arcane continue to dream about such or, if not, they might begin to do so now as this really is a remarkable find.

This Week's Celtic Prayer

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Archaeological News

It's not Biblical archaeology, but certainly of interest to Nutmeggers:

Archaeologist: Bradley wreckage found

Our state archaeologist is a very interesting and engaging guy, btw, and if you ever have a chance to catch one of his speaking engagements, please don't miss it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More About Borlaug

I noted on Sunday the passing of Norman Borlaug, of whom more may be read here.

I've been waiting a few days for my buds at GetReligion to explore what was, to me, the big missing piece of his story. Namely, what drove him to do what he did. It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this that it was his Christian faith.

Borlaug: Not by bread alone

As one who once worked as a stringer for a newspaper chain, and dealt with some of the most strident editors in the history of American journalism, I'm surprised that this angle wasn't naturally explored in the composition of the articles that have been written since the weekend. I'm really surprised that the editors involved didn't demand it.

Do contemporary journalists really find American religion so off-putting that they wouldn't mention what would be for many the most interesting portion of Borlaug's story? Also, may we expect some committee to suggest Borlaug for a lesser feast day?

[Unfortunately, I think I know the answers to both questions.]

Another Reason I Left The Midwest

Family goes ‘crazy' for corn

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Use Reasoned Discourse With Mine

Man Arrested After Trying To Teach Cat A Lesson

Now That's An Opening Sentence

A parrot that appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean film, starring Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley, has attacked a police officer after its owner was pulled over for driving with the bird perched on her shoulder.

Hey, I Made One Of Those Once

Hattiesburg bomb scare false alarm: Officials said the object was a homemade bass amplifier.

Makes me glad I didn't eat that cheese I made.

Today In History

September 14, 407: Early church father John Chrysostom, the greatest preacher of his age, dies in exile.

September 14, 1321: Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy, dies.

September 14, 1741: George Frederick Handel finishes composing "The Messiah," begun only 24 days earlier.

September 14, 1814: Francis Scott Key, Episcopal layman and cofounder of the American Sunday School Union, is inspired to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the war of 1812.

An Obituary Of Note

Norman Borlaug, the man who saved more human lives than anyone else in history, has died

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

This week Proverbs discusses the role of wisdom in the public square, James tightens up the qualifications for holy teachers, and Simon Peter does that thing he does so well. All this plus what happened when the amplifier fell off the roof of the Oldsmobile.

The lections may be found here.

Weekend Surf Forecast [A Guy Can Dream, Can't He?]

Friday, September 11, 2009

Patriot Day

This morning Ted Dratch will be ringing Christ Church's bell at times evocative of the historic events of this day. Please remember in your prayers all those whose mortality was realized or whose loved ones were surrendered on this day eight years ago. The official press release may be found below.

To bring a Christian perspective to the helpful bidding of our local government, let us commit to many good works on all our days and dedicate them to the one who died and rose for us. Through Jesus' gift, victims of such tragedies will never be outside the embrace of God's love.

ROXBURY – The Town of Roxbury will recognize Patriot Day, Friday, September 11th with the tolling of church bells at the Roxbury Congregational Church and Christ Episcopal Church at 9:43 a.m. for one minute and again at 10:10 a.m. for one minute when there will be a town-wide moment of silence.

Town Hall, Senior Center and Library Employees, as well as the students from Booth Free School will step outside near their building’s flagpole while the 10:10 a.m. bells toll. Residents are encouraged to participate. Flags will also be flown on North Street to commemorate the observance.

Aside from the moment of silence at 10:10 a.m., the Board of Selectmen is requesting that residents do a good deed in memory of the thousands who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And Offline, Too

Christian couples staying faithful online

Today In History

September 10, 422: Celestine is elected pope. During his tenure, he called for the Council of Ephesus to combat the Nestorianism (the belief that Christ had two natures and two persons) and reportedly sent Patrick to Ireland as a missionary.

September 10, 1718: Founded in 1701 by Congregationalists who feared Harvard was straying from its Calvinist roots, The Collegiate School at New Haven, Connecticut, changes its name to Yale.

September 10, 1869: A Baptist minister invents the ricksha in Yokohama, Japan.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Broadening Definition

I have noticed for some time that the more extreme members of the climate change movement have been surrendering scientific terminology for that which is of a more religious nature. I assumed that this was because the scientific consensus about this issue seems so protean and, at times, anything but a consensus. It appears I wasn't the only one to notice:

In the first case of its kind, an employment tribunal decided that Nicholson, 41, had views amounting to a "philosophical belief in climate change", allowing him the same legal protection against discrimination as religious beliefs.

I find myself disturbed not by the fact that environmentalism has become, at least in the eyes of a UK court, a religion; it's that religion is regarded as a mere "philosophical belief".

I Knew I Was Doing It Right

Study: Days are for eating; night for sleep

Somebody's grant money at work, I guess.

The Martyrs Of Memphis

In the 1870's, Memphis, Tennessee experienced an epidemic of yellow fever which so depopulated the city that it lost its charter for fourteen years. Almost everyone who could afford to do so left the city and fled to higher ground away from the river. In the city were several communities of nuns, both Episcopal and Roman Catholic, who had the opportunity to leave, but chose to stay and nurse the sick. Thirty-eight were killed by the fever. One of the first to die, Constance, head of the Episcopal Community of St. Mary, did so on this date in 1878.

We give you thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and the dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death. Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.

Today In History

September 9, 1087: William I, "The Conqueror" of England in 1066 and founder of several monasteries, dies.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Today In History

September 8, 1157: Richard I (Lion-Heart) of England, leader of the Third Crusade, is born.

September 8, 1565: Settlers form the first Roman Catholic Parish in America in St. Augustine, Florida.

September 8, 1636: Massachusetts Puritans found Harvard College, America's first higher education institution, a mere six years after arriving from England. They founded the college to train future ministers.

September 8, 1845: English clergyman John Henry Newman converts to Roman Catholicism. Newman had been a leading member of the Oxford Movement, which aimed to reform the Church of England, but he became convinced that the Anglicans had lost their episcopal moorings and had wrongly severed themselves from apostolic succession.

Great Headline. And From A Local Paper, Too.

Dog in a car that crashed through front doors of central Conn. hospital bites cop, now on the lam

I Hope These Headlines Aren't Related

White House: Obama may detail health plans soon


Obama: Sneeze into Your Sleeve, Not Your Hands

Monday, September 7, 2009

Oh Dear

One of my heroes in the Episcopal Church was the 19th century priest William Augustus Muhlenberg [1796-1877]. Among other achievements, he founded what's now St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital, the Fresh Air Fund, one of the first pension funds, a couple of religious orders, pioneered new ways to use flowers and colors to enhance liturgical presentation, allowed people to sit in any pew they wished [as opposed to those that families had purchased for their own usage], and generally made more sense than any other cleric of his time. Naturally, he was never a bishop.

Oh, and he founded the Church of the Holy Communion in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The congregation could no longer support the parish as of the 1980's, so it was sold by the Diocese of New York. That's where the fun begins and, apparently, continues:

Church's third act: mini-mall

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

This week we receive the proverb of reputation, James reminds us to make the invisible visible, and Jesus does all things well. All this plus an appreciation of a tree, some stones, and a rock.

The lections for this Sunday may be found here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Some Friend

Alert over new wave of exploding fridges caused by 'environmentally-friendly coolant'

Celtic Prayer

This is your garden, Creator God
A thing of beauty
Beyond understanding
A poem that is being written
Not in words
But in colours
Wind's whisper
Soaring bird
Snowdrop's petal
Gentle rain
Sunlight's warmth
This is your garden, Creator God
A thing of beauty
Beyond understanding

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Politics" Threatens My Retirement Home

Saba threatens to secede from Dutch Antilles

Jenni and I once sailed to these smaller islands, places like Tintemarre and Lesser Spice Island and, well, Saba. Because of its size [small], water [cool for the Caribbean with lively diving], a prosaically named town [The Town] and main road [The Road], not to mention unique indigenous product [spice liquor], I thought I might retire here.

I wonder about that decision now. Next, they'll be arguing incessantly about health care.

Archaeological News

Bulgaria Archaeologists Find Relics of Medieval Saint at Perperikon

Today In History

September 3, 590: Gregory I is consecrated pope. Historians remember him as the father of the medieval papacy and last of four Latin "Doctors of the Church." He was the first pope to aspire to secular power, the man for whom Gregorian Chant is named, and one of the main organizers of Roman liturgy and its music. He was also one of the prime promoters of monasticism.

September 3, 1752: This day and the next ten never happen in Great Britain as the kingdom adopts the Gregorian Calendar (developed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582) to replace the inaccurate calendar created by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. Riots break out as the British argue that the government stole 11 days from their lives.

September 3, 1894: American neo-orthodox theologian H. Richard Niebuhr, professor at Yale University and author of Christ and Culture (1951), is born.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Today In History

September 2, 459 (traditional date): After spending 36 years on top of a pillar praying, fasting, and occasionally preaching, Simeon Stylites dies. At first he sat on a nine-foot pillar, but he gradually replaced it with higher and higher ones; the last was more than 50 feet tall. After his death, the Syrian ascetic—who had won the respect of both pope and emperor—inspired many imitators.

September 2, 1192: The Third Crusade, which had the mission of retaking Jerusalem (it had fallen to Muslim general Saladin in 1187), ends with the signing of a treaty. Though Christians had not won back Jerusalem, Richard I (later king of England) negotiated access to the holy city.

September 2, 1784: John Wesley consecrates Thomas Coke as the first "bishop" of the Methodist church by John Wesley. An indefatigable itinerant minister, Coke crossed the Atlantic 18 times, all at his own expense.

September 2, 1973: Scholar, novelist, and devout Catholic J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), dies at age 81.

The Martyrs Of New Guinea

The closest thing to an official history of the background of today's feast day seems to be very cautious about being as "correct" as possible with the circumstances of the martyrdom. These things should really be written by objective historians, preferably with no denominational political attachments to constrain their commentary.

I'll refer you here and simply note that, while unmentioned in the entirety of the article, it was the Japanese who executed the members of the Anglican mission. It's okay if we say that because, after all, it's history. I mean, real history as opposed to political history. Real history is the one with the facts; facts that carry no political weight but simply state what was.

Also, the martyrs were not "arrested". They were captured. This wasn't a police raid on some bootleggers or in a tatty burlesque house; it was a war. The mission leaders, eight clergy and two laity, were executed summary to their capture on this day in 1942.

An interesting note: A statue of Lucian Tapiedi, the only indigenous Papuan among the martyrs, is installed, along with other Christian martyrs, in the niches over the west door of Westminster Abbey. He's the one on the left in the photo above. No, that's not mentioned in the official piece, either.

[The one on the right is Wang Zhiming, martyred in his native China during the "cultural revolution" in 1973.]

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Good Morning, Roxbury

Ah, it's moving day. Again. How many of these have I had? Last night Jenni and I were talking about first days at new jobs when I realized that this is my seventeenth "first week", fourteen of which have been at parishes. You would think I would have it down by now.

Anyway, after an exciting [No, really] day shopping for furniture bits and pieces at a used hotel furniture warehouse ["Where Dante meets Holiday Inn"], and some vast Swedish warehouse in New Haven [Blurg or Nomso or something], I think I'm ready to start work now. Please.

Office hours will be held on Wednesday of this week. Pastoral calls begin on Thursday. Dinner with the vestry and search committee on Friday. There will be something on Sunday morning, I forget what. We'll see you all in church.