Sunday, March 28, 2010

Holy Week Schedule

Maundy Thursday: 7:30pm Proper Liturgy including the Stripping of the Altar. The lections may be found here.

Good Friday: The Way of the Cross at Noon and the Proper Liturgy at 7:30pm. The lections may be found

Holy Saturday: 7:30 pm The Great Vigil of Easter. The lections may be found

Easter Sunday: Music, Celebration, and the Festal Eucharist at 8am and 10:00am, wherein we will learn that well-made things, whether guitars or the Covenant, can always be restored. Lections are here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Free Palms Tomorrow

This week we experience the wonders that begin our holiest week as we engage in the Liturgy of the Palms. Remember that the 10am service will begin in the parish house.

The lections may be found here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Need Jesus! And Judas, Too

I need some folks to read some of the parts in the Palm Sunday Passion Narrative at the 10am service. It's not more than a few lines and allows parishioners to release their inner Olivier.

Let Kathy Krizan know if you're willing to read. Don't make me come after you.

UPDATE: We have a Jesus!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Many Thanks To Those Who Participated In Biblical Archaeology

From Spadework, by Sir Leonard Wooley, excavator of Carchemesh and Ur:

"...what I want to do is to show how very alive the science of archaeology is. As in all science there is in it a vast amount of laborious detail which is of interest only to the worker; there are any number of false trails that have to be followed and dropped when they are proved false, conclusions that at first seem absolute are later found to be but partially true; the dull routine, the mistakes and the disappointments are part of the day's work.... Spreading mortar and laying on it brick after brick would be a dull job if it were an end in itself, but it is the essential process of building, and it results in what may be a great work of art; so out of our broken pots and pans we hope to build up a vision of a vanished world. To that vision everything contributes, the pots and pans themselves, their position in the ground, their association, all that, but also the country with all its natural features and the men who today live in it and work for you; one can neglect none of these if the past is really to be recalled to life, and it is the all-roundness of field archaeology that makes it the fascinating study which I have found it to be."

[For an explanation of the photo, feel free to speak to someone who attended tonight's class.]

Tonight In Biblical Archaeology: Moving Islands! Invisible Steets! Ancient Christian Advertising!

We meet for our final session this evening at 7pm in the parish house [Remember to record "Jeopardy!"]

This time we will look at a variety of discoveries directly related to the spread of early Christianity; from Jerusalem to the United Kingdom to the middle of the Mediterranean. The common theme of tonight's session is that all these discoveries have been made in the last 56 days.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Feast Of Gregory The Illuminator

When I attended the General Theological Seminary in New York City, beginning nearly thirty years ago [!], the institution also served as the eastern seminary for the Armenian Orthodox Church in the US. Due to the many similarities between our branches of Christianity [Celtic Christianity is older than the Church of Rome; Armenia was the first nation to convert, before the Roman Empire did], it was a handsome fit. Also, the Armenians, many of whom were enjoying their first stay in the United States, were great friends and classmates as they were gregarious, generous, and full of life.

Two things I learned about them: they have a remarkably low regard for the Turks [see "Armenian Genocide"] and a terrific veneration for St. Gregory the Illuminator. The former is a matter of history, the latter of history and faith:

In the 3rd Century, Armenia served as a buffer state between the empires of Rome and Persia, and was often caught between the empires' competing needs and wants. Gregory was born circa 257. While an infant, his father pro-actively participated in politics by assassinating the King of Persia; family friends carried Gregory away for his protection to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was baptized and raised as a Christian.

About 280 he returned to Armenia as a missionary and anchorite, where he was originally treated severely. Eventually, by patience and through sound preaching and example, he brought King Tiridates III and his people to the Christian faith.

A generation later, Gregory was consecrated as the first bishop of Armenia. He died about 332.

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Jake Makes The News

Yep, that's my cat in the Register Citizen. If the snoopy photographer had bothered to ask, he prefers to be referred to by his name, which is Jacob Racket, rather than as a generic "feline."

For those counting, yes, he has six toes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Feast Of James DeKoven

A growing trend in the Episcopal Church is "innovative liturgy". In my curiosity, I attended a conference by that title of couple of years ago. [In my line of work, it's important to be "hep".] There, I learned that the liturgical traditions of the Church were a burden and unimportant in the life of the congregation, that having a loose, extemporaneous feel to the liturgy was preferable, and that the celebrant should wander around the altar and sanctuary with a facial expression like that I once saw on a surfer in Barbados after he had been hit on the head with a coconut.

So what I took away from this experience was that, save for the coconut expression, the best liturgy for Episcopalians is that of the Congregationalists. Personally, I've found that there are a great many things that one may do with liturgy that work, as long as the congregation understands why one is doing those things. That's something I learned from today's subject.

If you have ever travelled eastbound through Middletown on Route 66 [not the fabled one that begins, or ends, at the Santa Monica Pier, but the more prosaic namesake that laces across the Nutmeg State] and have come to a stop at the intersection of Route 9, there is a house that sits on the right side of the road named DeKoven House. You may note that there is an historic plaque on it that cannot, alas, be easily read from the road. That's a pity, because it is significant in the life of one of the most important Episcopalians in our ecclesial history.

Connecticut's James DeKoven was born in 1831 to a prominent maritime family and ordained at the age of 24. His early service to the Church was as a professor at Nashotah House, an Episcopal Church seminary in the wilds of 19th century Wisconsin. Later, he would also serve as Warden of Racine College, an Episcopal college on the frontier.

What makes DeKoven special, at least in the eyes of clergy such as your rector and the shrinking number of his compatriots in liturgy and theology, is that he was a champion and theological apologist for those who believe that the more intentional the Celebration of the Holy Communion, the more purposeful its experience and result.

For example, DeKoven emphasized the "real presence" of the Christ in the bread and wine, not in some superstitious sense, but as an obvious reaction to the teachings of the New Testament. To highlight this understanding, DeKoven resurrected for the American Episcopal Church practices such as bowing, kneeling, the use of candles, the making of the sign of the cross, and the "manual acts" engaged by the celebrating clergy [as seen every Sunday behind the altar at Christ Church].

Naturally, true innovation is so prized in institutions that DeKoven was labeled a "ritualist", slandered a dozen different ways for his "Romish" practices, and twice denied the office of bishop, despite having been elected such by the Dioceses of Wisconsin and Illinois, respectively. That notion of respecting the dignity of every human being can be a fickle thing.

However, his liturgical theology carried with it a logic and, not to be discounted, great ability to use non-verbal imagery to carry those understandings that are beyond words. Hence, he is recognized on this day for his contribution to our common life and, like many of the true innovators of the Church, his providential avoidance of the limitations of the office of bishop.

He died at the age of 48, after teaching that day's classes at Racine College.

Almighty and everlasting God, the source and perfection of all virtues, who didst inspire thy servant James de Koven to do what is right and to preach what is true: Grant that all ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may afford to thy faithful people, by word and example, the knowledge of thy grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Easter Flowers And Easter Offerings

I am occasionally asked when it was that flowers were first made a part of worship. Certainly they adorned the homes of the early Romans who held Christian services in their dining rooms, but that was simple hospitality and not something that was deliberately liturgical. The practice became less common as the Middle Ages progressed, especially during the long European winters. Candles, murals, stained glass and statuary were used as adornments, but not anything as simple or as lovely as a well-placed vase graced with a sprightly arrangement of flora.

I do know that it was in an Episcopal church in New York City in the late 19th century that flowers began to be purposefully used as a part of liturgy. Not only were they varied and numerous, but their acquisition and care was entrusted to a growing guild of tenders. From that point forward, the tradition, like the flowers themselves, grew.

A generation later, flowers became the standard liturgical decoration for the entire Episcopal Church, with parishes even adding floral color to their hangings and frontals. What was once unthinkable had become the norm, which seems to be the theme of Christian experience. One of my fondest professional memories is of the people of my first parish who decided, during their church’s redesign, to include a greenhouse behind the altar so that God’s glory might be visible to all who came forward to receive the sacrament.

Enclosed with a letter that will arrive later this week, you will find an envelope with which to make a donation for flowers to use in our sanctuary on Easter Sunday. I would ask that you consider this a gift to our common worship, as it represents the union of natural and spiritual beauty. It is especially appropriate to make the offering as a memorial gift for loved ones, especially those who taught us to appreciate this holy season. You will also find an envelope for any special offering that you wish to make as part of this season, in recognition and honor of what God has brought to you and yours. The flower donation may be placed in the offering plate, mailed to the parish, or dropped off at the office sometime before Easter Sunday. The special Easter donation may be given at any time during the Easter season.

With my abiding thanks and blessings for the season to come....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Fifth Sunday In Lent

This week [and, oh, what readings we have] Isaiah speaks for God when he reveals that "a new thing" is about to be done; Paul takes a trip to the experiential town dump, and Jesus enjoys a little nard, much to the vexation of Judas. All this plus the story behind Mary and Jesus' non-verbal exchange.

The lections may be found here.

[To the right is a modern sample of nard, which is produced from the spikenard plant, a member of the Valerian family.]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tonight In Biblical Archaeology: We Discover The Holy Grail! Sorta. We Discover Unknown Gospels! Sorta. We Discover Solomon's Temple! Well, You Know..

The final three of the ten great discoveries, plus a discovery not usually included in the list but interesting nevertheless, and what was once a great discovery but is now thought rather mundane, due to what has been learned through up-to-date technology.

Parish house at 7pm. You can record "Jeopardy", remember.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Feast Day Of The Great Scotsman, Padraic

We celebrate our church's Celtic heritage on this feast day, which honors the great Scotsman himself [yes, he was Scottish], the bishop and missionary Padraic.

Almighty God, in your providence you chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Short Vac

I realized recently that I haven't taken any of my contractually-mandated vacation days since joining Christ Church [working here makes every day seem like a vacation], so I will be out of the office [and out of town] from the end of business today until Thursday morning.

Please call the office in case of emergency.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Fourth Sunday In Lent

This week the Israelites feast not on manna but the produce of the land, Paul muses on what it is to be part of the "new creation", and Jesus frustrates every first-born child in any family.

The lections may be found here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Government Controls Time!

Or so said an histrionic e-mail I received this week from some "political action committee". Actually, I suppose the government does, at least this weekend, as we once again "spring forward" an hour during the Saturday to Sunday overnight.

Please join me Sunday morning at the new, government-approved hours of 8am and 10am for the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Remember: It's Rose Sunday [the Lenten one].


Divided appeals court rules Pledge of Allegiance doesn't violate Constitution

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Archaeological News

First, researchers are getting ever closer to understanding the Antikythera Mechanism, a device dated to c. 150 B.C., the discovery of which has been likened to finding a Buick in medieval Europe.

Decoding An Ancient Computer: New Astonishing Truths

Second, archaeology isn't just about the ancient past, but about discovering about more recent events and personalities, too.

Digging into Shakespeare's later life at New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Boys Skipping Stones! Bored Bedouins!! A Runaway Dump Truck!!! Even Some Archaeologists!!!!

This week in Biblical Archaeology: The Great Discoveries

We will review the major discoveries that have either reconciled or challenged Biblical beliefs. Interestingly, most of them were uncovered in the 20th century.

We will begin at 7pm on Thursday in the parish house. There will be slides, stories, and, if I can find it, an actual amulet from the middle east.

The World's Most Beautiful Campuses

No surprise that ten of the fourteen are in the United States, or that the list includes Princeton. Also, one of the Episcopal Church's colleges, Kenyon College in Ohio, is represented. Just not sure how Yale made it.

In Pictures: The World's Most Beautiful College Campuses

An Obituary Of Note

“We didn’t care. We just wanted to get radical.”

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Archaeological News [And Legal, Too]

Peru withdraws some claims in lawsuit against Yale

A Celtic Blessing

May the blessing of light be on you, light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine upon you and warm your heart till it glows,
Like a great peat fire, so that the stranger may come
and warm himself at it, as well as the friend.
And may the light shine out of the eyes of you,
like a candle set in the windows of a house,
Bidding the wanderer to come in out of the storm.
And may the blessing of the rain be on you - the soft sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit so that all the little flowers may spring up,
And shed their sweetness on the air.
And may the blessing of the great rains be on you,
that they beat upon your spirit and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there many a shining pool, and sometimes a star.
And may the blessing of the earth be on you - the great round earth;
May you ever have a kindly greeting for people you pass as you are going along the roads.
And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Third Sunday In Lent

This week, Moses converses with what appears to be flaming shrubbery, Paul sets into context the vastness of spiritual history, and Jesus gives a talk on agriculture. All this plus what happens when "eggheads dig up the dirt".

The lections may be found here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This Week In Biblical Archaeology

Session #2:
Pillars of the Arcane

Much of what we know and understand about scripture, beyond the work of translators and etymologists, is gleaned from the work of Sir Leonard Woolley, Max Mallowan, and Dame Kathleen Kenyon, who took the discipline away from the treasure hunters of "crypto-archaeology" and coordinated it with the scientific approach developed by the early Egyptologists. We will view maps of and artifacts from Ur and Jericho, meet Woolley's interesting assistants, and discover the fabled city of Ubar.

Also, we will be using large screen visual effects!

[Above is a photo of some silver frankincense. Those who attended the class will understand the reference.]

The Feast Of John and Charles Wesley

During one of the moribund periods in church history, namely during the first half of the 18th century when [surprise!] usage of the Book of Common Prayer had fallen into an indifferent lassitude, the Wesleys, along with fellow students at Oxford, began to re-discover prayerful harmony through adherence to the Prayer Book's structure. Because of this, they were referred to by their fellow students as "Methodists".

As time went by, they graduated and moved to the colony of Georgia, where John served as an Anglican missionary and Charles as assistant to the governor. Neither found those positions particularly fulfilling. Then, within days of one another, the brothers received a moment of epiphany. As powerful as the intellect could be in proclaiming the Gospel, so, too, was to be honored the emotional response one may elicit. Thus began this evangelical strain within our tradition.

John was the preacher and Charles the hymn-writer. John believed in the use of lay preachers, sometimes ill-educated, to create a Paul-Peter type of proclamation dualism. While this practice may have caused the Wesley's homiletics professors to shudder, it could be effective. Consider the following anecdote:

The early Methodist meetings were often led by lay preachers with very limited education. On one occasion, such a preacher took as his text Luke 19:21, "Lord, I feared thee, because thou art an austere man." Not knowing the word "austere," he thought that the text spoke of "an oyster man." He spoke about the work of those who retrieve oysters from the sea-bed. The diver plunges down from the surface, cut off from his natural environment, into bone-chilling water. He gropes in the dark, cutting his hands on the sharp edges of the shells. Now he has the oyster, and kicks back up to the surface, up to the warmth and light and air, clutching in his torn and bleeding hands the object of his search. So Christ descended from the glory of heaven into the squalor of earth, into sinful human society, in order to retrieve humans and bring them back up with Him to the glory of heaven, His torn and bleeding hands a sign of the value He has placed on the object of His quest. Twelve men were converted that evening. Afterwards, someone complained to Wesley about the inappropriateness of allowing preachers who were too ignorant to know the meaning of the texts they were preaching on. Wesley, simply said, "Never mind, the Lord got a dozen oysters tonight."*

Charles wrote over 600 hymns, including such favorites as "Oh for a thousand tongues to sing".

The Methodist Society was intended to be a part of the Anglican/Episcopal Church as a place for evangelical zeal and teaching. So ill-received was it by the bishops, yet so popular with laity and clergy with common sense, that the Methodist Church eventually developed into it's own denomination.

The lections for today may be found here.

[*from John Wesley's Sermons: An Introduction, by Albert C. Outler.]

Everything We Know Is Wrong

A temple complex in Turkey that predates even the pyramids is rewriting the story of human evolution.

This means the human race had an organized religious practice before we had an organized agricultural process. Wow. Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chilean Earthquake

While the president of Chile had originally stated that her country would not need aid from "outside sources", she has since reconsidered. Episcopal Relief and Development is currently organizing its aid efforts and is accepting donations on their website. The parish will be kept informed as information becomes available.

The Iglesia Anglicana de Chile is the corporate name of our dioceses/parishes in Chile. Their website is here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Feast Of St. David

I once asked Google to find some Welsh music to accompany a post, back when it was easier to find free sites that played music on weblogs. What Google sent me was Tom Jones singing "It's Not Unusual". Actually, Tom, I thought it was unusual, considering I was looking for Welsh spiritual music.

Since the Prince of Wales may be too busy flying tens of thousands of miles on his personal luxury jet delivering another speech somewhere about the evils of global warming and carbon production [when the people who tell me this is a crisis start acting like it's a crisis, I may be more prepared to listen] to represent the feast day of the nation he serves as titular leader, I thought I might, in my low carbon footprint manner, offer some information.

By tradition and necessity, the Welsh developed a Christian life devoted to learning, asceticism, and missionary work. They were quite passionate about it. Since there were no cities, the centers of culture were the monasteries, with most abbots also serving as bishops. David was the founder, abbot, and bishop of the monastery of Menevia.

The custom in Celtic Christendom was for bishops to have no clear territorial diocesan jurisdiction, but to simply travel about as needed [peregrination]. With that freedom, David was able to evangelize most of Wales, and his monastery was sought out by scholars from far and near. That tradition continues in the contemporary Church of Wales, as it not only keeps the faith but serves to maintain the particular language and culture of the Welsh people.

Almighty God, who didst call thy servant David to be a faithful and wise steward of thy mysteries for the people of Wales: Mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the gospel of Christ, we may with him receive the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.

More Archaeological News

Massive head of pharaoh unearthed in Egypt
[Please note that this is a head from a statue of a pharaoh....]


Master plan to restore ancient sites in Iraq

Good God, How Can This Be?

Scholar: Bible History May Be Correct