Monday, February 28, 2011

Obituaries Of Note

Despite a separation of half-a-century, it seems that two historic eras are now fading away:

Frank Buckles, Last World War I Doughboy, Is Dead at 110


’60s Muse Dies

Thanks To The Church School Kids

I'm not sure everyone heard about this, but the boys and girls, and young men and women, of our church school sent Valentine's Day cards to members of the Marine Corps' 1st Battalion/4th Marines, currently stationed in California and preparing for deployment overseas.  Also included were phone cards which will enable the Marines to call home, even from some ordinarily desolate areas.

They're good kids and I'm proud to serve them as rector.

[The dragon which appears on the patch above harks back to the days when the 1/4 Marines were known as the "China Marines", as that was where they were stationed from 1927 until 1941, until they were deployed to defend the Philippines in the early days of US involvement in WWII.  In recent years, they have been heavily involved in Iraq.]

An Update From New Zealand

Christ Church Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, which was significantly damaged in the recent earthquake [see a before and after photo here], will have to be razed and re-built. 

Always a symbol, now one of loss, cathedral to be rebuilt, Christchurch mayor says

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Eighth Sunday After Epiphany

This week Isaiah speaks of the eternal bond between God and the chosen, Paul refines our role as stewards, and Jesus reminds us that the Kingdom lives in the hear and now.  All this plus explaining what an "air mail letter" is to a 23-year-old.

The lections may be found here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Request From The Rector

As I mentioned on Sunday, please keep Jack Rowland, our music director, in your prayers.  There will be a brief prayer service for healing offered tomorrow at Christ Church shortly after Noon.

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in
time of need: We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit, and
relieve thy sick servant Jack for whom our prayers are desired.
Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort him with
a sense of thy goodness; preserve him from the temptations
of the enemy; and give him patience under his affliction. In
thy good time, restore him to health, and enable him to lead
the residue of his life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant
that finally he may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

My Brother-in-Law Will Be Happy To Hear This

"Redneck" Is Actually Considered A Religion

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Prayer For New Zealanders

God of mercy, comfort those who are grieving, give peace to those who have died and protect those who are working to save lives. Strengthen the Christchurch community for the long period of recovery and healing ahead. Help us to support them through prayer and compassion. Amen.

If so moved, Episcopal Relief and Development is accepting online donations for relief efforts.  Remember, this is the organization that presented us with a plaque last year for our work with their Haitian relief efforts.  One hundred percent of all donations is used for relief rather than shared with administrative costs.  Their website may be found at this link.
Above are before and after photos of our cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Appropriately, it is Christ Church Cathedral.

Today In Christian History

February 23, 155 (traditional date): Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, is martyred. Reportedly a disciple of the Apostle John, at age 86 he was taken to be burned at the stake. "You try to frighten me with fire that burns for an hour and forget the fire of hell that never burns out," he said. The flames, legend says, would not touch him, and when he was run through with a sword, his blood put the fire out.

February 23, 303: Diocletian begins his "Great Persecution," issuing edicts that call for church buildings to be destroyed, sacred writings burned, Christians to lose civil rights, and clergy to be imprisoned and forced to sacrifice. The following year he went even further, ordering all people to sacrifice on pain of death.

February 23, 1455 (traditional date): Johannes Gutenberg publishes the Bible, the first book ever printed on a press with movable type.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Today In Christian History

February 21, 1109: Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury recognized as the "founder of Scholasticism," dies. One of the most profound thinkers of the Middle Ages, his treatise Why Did God Become Man was the greatest medieval treatise on the atonement. He is also known for his ontological argument for the existence of God.

February 21, 1142: Medieval French philosopher, teacher, and theologian Peter Abelard dies. Abelard made his most important contribution in establishing a critical methodology for theology. Irritated with some of the unreasoning pietism of other monks, he wrote Yes and No, compiling the (sometimes conflicting) sayings of the Bible and church fathers on various controversial subjects.
February 21, 1173: Pope Alexander III canonizes Thomas Becket three years after the Archbishop of Canterbury's martyrdom at the hands of King Henry II's knights.

February 21, 1801: John Henry Newman, Anglican leader of the Oxford Movement, is born in London. The movement sought to reform the Church of England in a "high church" direction, but Newman left the church in 1845 to become a Catholic—a choice he explained in his Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864).

February 21, 1945: Eric Liddell, the Scottish Olympian whose story is told in the film Chariots of Fire, dies of a brain tumor. In 1925, he had joined the staff of the Anglo-Chinese Christian College in Tientsin, China (his birthplace). He was captured by the Japanese in 1942 and died just before his scheduled release.

This Is Probably Not A Good Sign

Egyptian Christians Enraged Over Court Acquittal in Christmas Eve Massacre

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Seventh Sunday After The Epiphany

I'm terribly late with this today, so I beg forgiveness.

This week we hear the Leviticus version of The Law, Paul warns of the errant craftiness of human leaders [like any of us don't know that by now], and Jesus takes that which people have heard and fulfils it in their presence.  All this plus when the waves change and how scientists just don't get it.

The lections may be found here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Today In Christian History

February 18, 1546: German reformer Martin Luther dies in Eisleben.

February 18, 1564: Michelangelo Buonarroti, the Italian Renaissance artist whose works include the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, dies.

February 18, 1678: Puritan preacher John Bunyan publishes The Pilgrim's Progress. The allegorical tale, which describes Bunyan's own conversion process, begins, "I saw a man clothed with rags … a book in his hand and a great burden upon his back".

February 18, 1688: Quakers in Germantown, Pennsylvania, issue America's first formal protest of slavery.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Feast Of Cyril And Methodius

While most people think of St. Valentine today, on the Episcopal Church's calendar we remember Sts. Cyril and Methodius, remarkable brothers who were priests, missionaries, and the creators of the Slavic language.  It's a good story, and well renedered at this link.

This Was Too Long To Fit On A Birthday Card

Besides, it would embarrass her.  So, you can read it instead:

Surfers know something about Valentine’s Day or, as it is known around our house, The Feast of St. Valentine. Valentine was an irregular saint, to be sure, dropped from the Roman martyrology for reasons that still seem unclear, but then I’ve never really understood the politics of canonization. But for all of the candy hearts and increasingly expensive greeting cards, there is something that happens in his octave that is the portent for all good things to come. Namely, in mid-February, the shape of the waves begins to change.

There will be many who will dispute this, but those would be people who limit their understanding of nature to the sciences of meteorology or physics or astronomy. Some of us still use the ancient art, so liminal as to be pre-verbal, of rud a bheithsa dĂșchas agat to understand tides and gravity. We so often watch the waves, are so often immersed in them, observant of their nature and their potential for transport, that, in a crude translation from the Celtic above, “their nature is in our blood”. We know that the waves have changed and that winter’s power is diminishing and, even if we should suffer still more snow and ice, it will be of shorter lease and far less strength. In short, we’re through the worst of it.

That’s the first, and least important thing, that I note on this day. The second is that it’s my wife’s birthday. While I’ve always been thankful that it falls on a memorable date, so that I don’t become like a grotesque situation comedy husband who forgets his wife’s birthday, I am particularly pleased that it is an event that carries far more importance and relativity than what may be expressed in an abstract Valentine. While I am the one socially bound to offer her a gift, today I also recognize a gift that I receive from her. Not only is her love as constant as that of the Almighty’s, but I have come to particularly appreciate the grace she displays when she fulfills the duties of her call to ordained ministry. There are times when I cannot fathom how she does it.

We were just married when Jenni became the first woman hired by a tony parish in Connecticut; later, upon the departure of the rector, she became the acting rector of the parish. Again, this was a first for the congregation and one that was not well received by all of them. In the 1980’s, there were still too many who believed that ordained ministry was not something for women. Those who held this prejudice were of both genders, I might add. Thus, every decision she made, every action in which she engaged, was strongly scrutinized. Despite that, she prevailed in ensuring that the parish prospered, the giving increased, a new assistant was hired [one who would later be a candidate for bishop], a lovely and appropriate memorial garden was built, a complicated wedding arranged by the more-complicated Martha Stewart was celebrated, and the burial office was read both for a U.S. congressman and for the teenage son of the senior warden, tragically killed in a terrible auto accident. The scrutiny relaxed after these events, especially since they were all squeezed into twelve months. Clearly, she could do the job.

She was then called to be the rector of a parish in the Berkshires. Again, the first ordained woman ever to celebrate the Eucharist and, again, the subject of scrutiny. A few people left the church upon hearing the news of a female rector; others came to see if they could find something, anything, about which to complain for the remainder of her tenure. The couple in the pew in front of me on her first Sunday muttered during the length of the liturgy about the inappropriateness of a woman behind the altar until, somewhere in the middle of the Eucharistic prayer, I told them both, in the name of our Lord and Savior, to shut the hell up. It didn’t matter as the parish prospered, new things were done, infants and adults baptized, couples married, and the faithful bid to the reaches of the Kingdom. When Jenni suffered a brain aneurysm while in the pulpit, and the best the doctors could hope for was a partial recovery of speech and motor function, with one physician even suggesting that giving her last rites “would not be inappropriate”, the treasurer of the parish held a meeting to convince the vestry to reduce her position to part-time. As he stated, her brain damage was actually good news for the budget. While this would have reduced me to a near-murderous rage, or at least a life-long Celtic grudge, Jenni’s response was to recover fully and return to work on a full-time basis. After six months, it was as if the aneurysm had never occurred. I seem to recall the treasurer moved out of town later that year.  I seem to recall helping him.

She has been in yet another parish for the past fourteen years. Again, the first woman and, well, you know the rest by now. Even after nearly thirty years of service in the Episcopal Church, there are some strains of narrow-mindedness that resist time, change, and reason. She still deals with the antics of those for whom sourness is the chief feature of their relationship with a parish. I was amused to hear that a male member of her vestry wanted to chair the vestry meeting the other day, as he believed that he could do so more efficiently than she, mainly by ignoring the Canons and eliminating any spiritual reference from the assembly. With her permission, he did so. The meeting took over two hours. I could have reminded him that my wife has been running vestry meetings since he was a pimply whelp, but that would not have permitted him to realize how well the words “hoist” and “petard” work together in a sentence. Well, history generates through people and their experiences, and some folks cannot be blamed for the simplistic provincialism that doesn’t permit them to see what is manifest in my wife’s long and eventful service in the Church.  Sometimes small towns in Connecticut seem a lot like small towns in the Ozarks.  Except with a country club, of course.

It is my lot as a husband to permit these petty sufferings to attract my attention, but Jenni never seems to regard them as anything other than unimportant portions of the curious responsibility to which we have been called by God. For her the job is about those who pray in strength and weakness, who fight the good fight, who keep the faith; for her it is the infant lofted above the font, the children who work the Epiphany puppets, the couple who kneel before the altar at their nuptials, the kind and good man for whom the burial office is read. Every congregation will bear those who have been rendered sour by their inability to truly hear the Word of God, even when it is revealed again and again through the positive life of a parish. But congregations, and clergy, live by the good works of the muscular Christians who ennoble parishes and invite all to come before the altar, even those who seem the least able or willing to comprehend it.

So, on her birthday, I thank Jenni for always presenting me with examples as to how to be a good priest; one who strives in grace and truth, one who sees the good inherent in any human undertaking, who suffers fools gladly, and who locks each day in prayerful intention. I also thank her for her love, without which I would never have known the good life we enjoy, the great achievements we have experienced, or the simple, plain fun that has marked our common life and our mutual service to God.

The Best Obituary I've Read In Some Time

Key quotes:  "Mr. Baumgartner had lived a long and passionate life dedicated to rambunctious performances and dairy products.", and "Baumgartner was prodigious with the movement of manure from an early age, and exercising these and other talents, earned recognition for his National 4-H Grand Champion Dairy Heifer, Clementine's Ramona....", and, finally, "Baumgartner disliked vegetables his whole life. Despite consuming more than 2,000 pounds of butter, he never suffered from any kind of heart disease. His last meal was ice cream."

Please read the whole wonderful obit here.  Oh, and he invented Heath Bar ice cream, to which I owe him much good favor.  I think I'll eat some for breakfast to memorialize his passing.

The Feast Of St. Valentine

An irregular saint, to be sure, but read this and also this.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Sixth Sunday After The Epiphany

This week we learn of the power of choice from Ecclesiasticus, Paul corrects the Corinthians as we hear the beginnings of what will be behind all problems in Christendom for the next two millennia, and Jesus continues to expand on how the Law is to be fulfilled not just by him, but by those who choose to live by it.  All this plus why titles are cheap.

The lections may be found here[Lectors please note: we have chosen the Ecclesiasticus as our first reading, rather than the Deuteronomy.]

Click the map above to see an enlarged view of Paul's journeys.

Today In Christian History: 'Shots' Mather, Stark Will, And An Early C-SPAN moment

February 12, 1663: Congregational minister Cotton Mather is born in Boston. The most celebrated New England writer of his day, he was a scientist (whose work included early studies of inoculation), one of the founders of Yale University, and pastor of Boston's Second Church (just as his father, Increase Mather, had been). He also wrote Wonders of the Invisible World, a description of the Salem witch trials.

February 12, 1834: German theologian and philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher dies. He made religion a matter of the will, defining it as feeling an absolute dependence on God in works including On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers (1799).

February 12, 1865: Presbyterian minister and militant abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet becomes the first African-American to address the U.S. House of Representatives.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Archaeological News

Yale, Peru University Sign Deal To Return Incan Artifacts

A New Hero For All Aging Watermen

64-Year-Old Kayaker Completes Trans-Atlantic Voyage

Today In Christian History: Friends, Peasants, and Il Duce

February 11, 1790: The Society of Friends (Quakers) presents a petition to Congress calling for the abolition of slavery.

February 11, 1858: Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant from Lourdes, France, experiences her first vision of the Virgin Mary. By July she had 18 similar visions.

February 11, 1929: The Lateran Treaty is signed by Mussolini and the Holy See, recognizing Vatican City as a sovereign state. At a mere 109 acres, it became the smallest nation in the world.

[Information courtesy of Christianity Today.]

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Today In Christian History: A Shipwreck, A Sailor's Widow, And Naked Anabaptists

February 10, 60 (traditional date): The Apostle Paul is shipwrecked at Malta.

February 10, 1535: A dozen Anabaptists run stark naked through the streets of Amsterdam. Such strange actions, usually by Melchoirite Anabaptists, led to the group's ridicule by Protestants and Catholics alike. Former Catholic priest Menno Simons (1496?-1561) was finally able to bring the group into a nonresistant, discipled, and disciplined vision.

February 10, 1751: John Wesley suffers a fall on the ice-covered London Bridge and is carried to the home of Mary Vazeille, a sailor's widow. Within a week, the two were married—with disastrous results. The unhappy couple spent so little time together that, in 1771, Wesley recorded this in his journal: "I came to London and was informed that my wife died on Monday. This evening she was buried, though I was not informed of it".

[Information courtesy of Christianity Today.]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Today In Christian History: An Existential Martyr; A Devout Author [No, Really]

February 9, 249 (traditional date): According to Dionysius (died c. 264), bishop of Alexandria, on this date, Roman officials "seized that marvelous aged virgin Apolloinia, broke out all her teeth with blows on her jaws, and piling up a bonfire before the city, threatened to burn her alive if she refused to recite with them their blasphemous sayings. But she asked for a brief delay and without flinching leapt into the fire and was consumed".

February 9, 1881: Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky dies. A devout Russian Orthodox Christian, the author of Crime and Punishment (1866) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880) once wrote "If someone proved to me that Christ is outside the truth, and that in reality the truth were outside of Christ, then I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth.

[Information courtesy of Christianity Today.]

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Fifth Sunday After The Epiphany

This week we get what may be the first "shout out" from Isaiah, some words from the "anti-lofty" Paul, and Jesus giving us a 1st Century version of "slam poetry", albeit in a less self-centered manner. 

The lections may be found here.

[Sorry this is so late, but it was a long and slippery day.]

If You Wonder Why Churches Don't Have Super Bowl Parties... you go.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Feast Of Cornelius

Cornelius the Centurion is referred to in chapters 10 and 11 of the Acts of the Apostles. He was the first gentile of whom we know to be converted to Christianity. His conversion by Peter causes the apostle to issue one of the most remarkable statements in the history of world religion and marks the point when Christianity begins its significant theological departure from Judaism in its practice of evangelism: "Truly I see that God shows no partiality." In other words, Christianity exists not for one single culture or geographic location, but is open to all regardless.

[A centurion was a soldier who was in charge of approximately 100 troops. The modern equivalent would be a captain in the U.S. Army or Marine Corps.  In fact, I'm told that the word "captain" is descended from the Latin.]

O God, by your Spirit you called Cornelius the Centurion to be the first Christian among the Gentiles; Grant to your Church such a ready will to go where you send and to do what you command, that under your guidance it may welcome all who turn to you in love and faith, and proclaim the Gospel to all nations; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

About The February Parish Newsletter,..

...we've had a brief delay in publication due to the weather [You've noticed that, have you?  It's the thing outside.]  We should be able to publish shortly.  Anyone desiring information about lay ministers' or lectors' schedules may feel free to call the office.

The Feast Of The Presentation [Or Candlemas}

"The Feast of the Presentation, often called Candlemas, commemorates the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the presentation of Christ in the temple, which took place 40 days after his birth as Jewish law required. According to Mosaic law, a mother who had given birth to a boy was considered unclean for seven days. Also, she was to remain 33 days "in the blood of her purification." Luke tells us, quoting Exodus 13:2,12, that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem because every firstborn child was to be dedicated to the Lord. They also went to sacrifice a pair of doves or two young pigeons, showing that Mary and Joseph were poor. Once in the temple, Jesus was purified by the prayer of Simeon, in the presence of Anna the prophetess. Simeon, upon seeing the Messiah, gave thanks to the Lord, singing a hymn now called the Nunc Dimittis:

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace,
your word has been fulfilled:
My own eyes have seen the salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Simeon told Mary, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against, (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." Simeon thus foreshadowed the crucifixion and the sorrows of Mary at seeing the death of her Son."

More may be read at this site.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Feast Of Bridget

Bridget (aka Brigid, Bride, or Bridey) of Kildare was born around 450 into a Druid family, and was the daughter of Dubhthach, the official poet to the king, a position of considerable social importance and political influence. At an early age, inspired by the sermons of St. Padraic [or Patrick], she decided to become a Christian and eventually took vows as a nun. With a group of like-minded women, she established a convent at Kildare. Bridget was later joined by a community of monks, as pre-Roman Celtic Christian evangelism [there's that word, again] was based on coeducational monastic houses. [Celtic monks and nuns did not include chastity as one of their holy vows and, as such, were permitted to live together in community, marry, and procreate. Roman Christianity, which would become the standard in the British Isles a century of so after the death of Bridget, would forbid such normal and sacramental relations between ascetic men and women.]

Kildare was a pagan shrine where a sacred fire was perpetually burning, and Bridget and her nuns, instead of extinguishing the fire, maintained it with a Christian interpretation. This was the evangelical practice of the era as Druidism gave way to Christianity with rare opposition, as the Druids understood their own beliefs were of a transient nature, recognizing in Christianity a completion of their beliefs.

As an abbess, Bridget participated in several Irish councils, and her influence on the policies of the Church in Ireland was immeasurable. She is thought to have died in the year 525. On the Irish calendar, this is the first day of spring, thus this date was assigned as her feast since her name, in both the druidic and Christian traditions, represents new beginnings.

Above is a cross made of rushes, called a "Bridget's cross", as she once wove such a devotional for a dying man.

I find her official Episcopal Church collect to be prosaic, but here it is:

Everliving God, we rejoice today in the fellowship of your blessed servant Brigid, and give you thanks for her life of devoted service. Inspire us with life and light, and give us perseverance to serve you all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.