Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost

Upon occasion, age and art combine to create something trancendent; this week Jesus combines the disciples with their historic literature to do the same.

The lections may be found here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Surfboard Tales: Of Aussies And August

Or, rather, Of Aussies and the august August in August:

No one could get anything to eat because the Australians were there. They were blond, blue-eyed, and thought to be wealthy as they were sponsored by one of the major surfboard manufacturers. All of the waitresses were hovering around them at the small combination sandwich shop/bar/surf wax dispensary, hoping to catch their eye; making sure they had refills of their iced tea, that their tofu burgers were to their liking, and, in one case, making sure that they didn’t have to cut their own food.  It was as if the waitresses were dreaming of being swept away to some Aussie future in exotic places like Bondi Beach, the Gold Coast, or Surfer’s Paradise.

We had gotten to the shop before the Australians, but were still waiting for our “fish taco supremes” forty-five minutes into what had now become a spontaneous autograph party organized by the wait staff.  Since I had been in the water for nine or so hours and had eaten nothing all day other than a Pop Tart, my blood sugar was around .0001 and I was genuinely considering mayhem. Dangerously, I was hearing the voice of my former drill instructor echoing in my head with his litany of the seven quickest unarmed methods to take out an enemy.

 My companions saw that I had almost reached the point of no return and made a helpful suggestion.  "Why don't you take a walk? Charlie Manson used to play guitar at the place on the corner.  Check it out.  Take half an hour; we won’t get anything before then, anyway."

 It was a weeknight in the late summer, which meant the streets in the main commercial section were crowded with shoppers, tourists and partiers.  I wandered a little bit past the restaurants and sidewalk cafes, tempted to snag someone’s half eaten meal.  I stopped at the place that had once hosted Charlie Manson as its folk music artist; now it had a different name and much, much different clientele.  I walked along the sidewalk decorated with the names of those who had been inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame, nodded to the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, the father of surfing, and steadily moved east, getting a little turned around on some of the side streets, where I found myself in the middle of a crowd of motionless young men and women who were silently, and rather eerily, staring off into the distance like seagulls pointing into the wind. 

I joined them, looking into the distance, not wanting to ask any questions to disturb what I thought might be some form of southern Californian spiritual experience.  As it turned out, I wasn’t far off.  They were watching a figure across the street, who was covered in stray bits of the Styrofoam-like material found in the center of surfboards, quietly working a sander as he patiently, quarter inch by quarter inch, shaped a new board before it was to be sheathed with fiberglass.  He was tall and well-muscled; somewhere between 40 and 50-years-old and completely absorbed in his work. 

One of the young men turned to me and said, “This is really something.  I never thought I’d ever….”  His observation was interrupted when the surfboard shaper, this obscure figure of adoration, noticed his audience, smiled and waved to them, and then turned off the lights to his workshop and closed the garage door.  The idolaters were ecstatic, saying the only thing to do now was to get back in the water and surf some evening glass.  I agreed, although to what I still wasn’t sure.

When I returned to the café, and blissfully to my fish taco supreme, I related the story to my companions, one of whom was a local.

“You know who that was, don’t you?  That was Robert August.”


“Yep.  His shop is just down the street.  He still shapes his own boards.  The kids like to gather there; they think it’s lucky to be seen by him.  That it means good surf.”

I should have recognized him, of course.  The whole reason I was in Surf City was because of him; because of a generation-old documentary film that followed August and his surfing companion around the world looking for the perfect wave; the film that I saw with my dad, on a rainy day in Ocean City, in the summer of 1966. 

My fish taco was gone in two minutes.

“I’ve got to get going.  I think I need to surf some evening glass.”  And, sure and behold, after such a “blessing”, the moonlight surf was terribly good.

[Excerpt from Reading Water, all rights reserved ©2011]

This Week In Christian History

October 24, 1260: France's Chartres Cathedral, the purest example of Gothic architecture, is consecrated.

October 24, 1648: The Peace of Westphalia ends central Europe's Thirty Years War. Extending equal political rights to Catholics and Protestants (including religious minorities), the peace treaties also marked the first use of the term "secularization" (in discussing some church property that was to be distributed among the warring parties).

October 25, 431: The Council of Ephesus replaces Nestorius with a new patriarch of Constantinople. Nestorius was anathematized for holding the belief that two separate persons indwelled the incarnate Christ.

October 25, 1400: English poet Geoffrey Chaucer dies in London, having abruptly stopped writing his famous Canterbury Tales some time before. Though not a religious writer, his characters aptly illustrate the best and worst of the church in his day. Chaucer was buried in Westminster Abbey, a high honor for a commoner, and became the first of those entombed in what is now called Poets' Corner.

October 26, 899: Alfred the Great, ruler of Wessex, England, from 871, dies. His defeat of the Danes ensured Christianity's survival in England, but he is also known for his ecclesiastical reforms and his desire to revive learning in his country.

October 26, 1529: Thomas More becomes Lord Chancellor of England. Though he defended religious freedom in his book Utopia, he strongly opposed the Reformation and wrote against Luther, Tyndale, and others. Because he also opposed Henry VIII's claim to be the supreme head of the English church, as well as the king's divorce, he was executed.

October 27, 1746: Scottish Presbyterian pastor and theologian William Tennant obtains a charter for the College of New Jersey, which is now Princeton. He had founded the school in 1726 as a seminary to train his sons and others for ministry. Presidents of the college later included Aaron Burr, Jonathan Edwards, and Reverend John Witherspoon, who led the school to national prominence.

October 29, 1562: George Abbot, translator of the Gospels, Acts and Revelation for the King James Bible, is born. He became head of the Church of England in 1611, but his popularity (and his health) declined sharply after he killed a man in a hunting accident in 1621.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

We Won. Again.

For the third year in a row, we have been awarded the trophy for raising the most donations for the Bishops Fund for Children.

Friday, October 21, 2011

First Bibles, Now This

Torrington Woman Stole Crosses to Pay Electric Bill: Cops

I Think I Played Bass With This Band

Surfing Snails

Word Of The Week: Diocese


A unit of church organization; the spiritual domain under a bishop. A diocese may contain many parishes and missions. When used as an adjective, the term is diocesan. The diocese is most often thought of as the primary and basic unit of the Church.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Thieves take Bible at gunpoint

This Week's Provocation

When Boomer Culture Finishes Its Suicide, What Will Rise Next?

"Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac, Cobain, Thompson, and Hendrix didn’t build anything. We writers and artists are an over-glorified, over-praised lot. We cast our little literary spells, throw up our paint, and dance across the stage."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A 2500-year-old Museum Of Antiquities

The story behind the world’s oldest museum, built by a Babylonian princess 2,500 years ago

Jesus Must Have Made Too Much Money

Church attacked, desecrated in Rome

This Week In Christian History

October 16, 1311: The Council of Vienne opens to decide if the Templars, a military order sworn to protect Christian pilgrims, are heretical and too wealthy. Pope Clement V decided to suppress the order. Its leader was burned and members' possessions taken by the church. That decision was adamantly derided by the poet Dante and by later historians.

October 16, 1555: English reformers Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley are burned at the stake at the order of Roman Catholic Queen Mary Tudor.

October 16, 1701: Unhappy with growing liberalism at Harvard, Congregationalists found Collegiate School, later known as Yale.

October 21, 1555: Finding that the recent martyrdom of bishops Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer had intensified Protestant zeal, Queen Mary launches a series of fierce persecutions in which more than 200 men, women, and children were killed.

October 21, 1663: Virginia colonist John Harlow is fined 50 pounds of tobacco for missing church.

October 21, 1692: William Penn is deposed as governor of Pennsylvania. His grateful overtures to James II for permitting religious freedom for Dissenters from the Church of England led William and Mary to charge Penn with being a papist. They were also troubled by his pacifism.

October 22, 4004 BC:: According to James Ussher, the well-respected and scholarly Anglican primate of the Irish Church in the early seventeenth century, God created the universe on this date at 9:00 a.m. GMT.

October 22, 1811: Pianist Franz Liszt, known for his Romantic orchestras and songs, but also the author of more than 60 religious works (including the song known today as "Fairest Lord Jesus"), is born in Raiding, Hungary

Sunday, October 9, 2011

This Week In Christian History

October 13, 1670: Virginia bans slavery for Africans who arrive in the American colonies as Christians. The colony repealed the law 12 years later.

October 14, 1066: William the Conqueror leads the Normans to victory over the English Saxons in the Battle of Hastings. William is also considered one of England's most important religious reformers; he spent his last days in intense Christian devotion.

October 14, 1633: James II of England, whose conversion to Catholicism in 1670 created a constitutional crisis in Anglican Britain, is born.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

Not sure about the sermon, but the lections may be found here.

The Word Of The Week: Fraction


The part of the Communion liturgy where the Communion bread is broken by the celebrant. According to the prayer book, a period of silence is to follow, and then can be said or sung, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." (prayer book pages 337 and 364)


I’ve discovered that when immobilized during convalescence, the mixture of soap operas, painkillers, and the Princeton Theological Review causes one to have dreams where Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are arguing with one another in a contemporary suburban living room about which one is more in love with the pool boy.  I’ll have to stop reading the PTR.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Today's Knee Update

Really, it's either this or a synopsis of yesterday's soap operas.  Yes, my days are filled with wonder.

I want to note that the folks at Litchfield Hills Orthopedic and its related surgery center were great.  They are punctual, always pleasant and smiling, terrifically organized with the paperwork, and tell me everything that I want to know.  [I've found that if I ask questions that are too specific, some health care pros bristle a little bit.  The LHO folks didn't mind at all.  In fact, the anesthesiologist gave me the breakdown of the local he was injecting into my knee without speaking to me as if I were brain-addled.]

The best part about Wednesday's surgery is that I was permitted to remain conscious and was able to watch the surgery, along with the surgeon, on their brand new hi-def TV.  Not only that, but the surgeon kept up a running commentary on what he was doing, showing me the various tools he was inserting in my knee, and even pointing out some areas to watch in the future.  [Turns out I had both new and old trauma to that knee; not to sound "macho", but there is a real downside to having a high pain threshold.]

Anyway, all went well and I don't think the actual surgery took more than 30 minutes.  I was released early, after exchanging war stories with the discharge nurse, a Gulf War vet who switched from the infantry to the medical corps because she couldn't throw a hand grenade far enough.

So, now I'm catching up on some theology books that have been published in recent years and with some murder mysteries, as well as a history of the so-called "Chitlin' Circuit", that collection of roadhouses and nightclubs that used to serve the "racial music" demographic and were the birthplace of rock n' roll. 

Today's big event: the massive dressing comes off.

An Obituary Of Note

No, he wasn't some computer billionaire.  Much to the relief of Chinese lithium miners, he was just a musician.

Marv Tarplin, Motown Guitarist and Songwriter, Dies at 70

Does The Government Really Need To Regulate What People May Bring Into A Church?

Really, haven't churches and their congregations been self-regulating since, well, about the 1st century A.D.?

Court considers gun ban in churches

Certainly, congregations may make such determinations for themselves without the government getting in their grill.  Again, why does it seem this whole "church/state separation" lark is a one-way street?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Many Journalists Don't Get Theism, Either

The Guardian Doesn't Get Atheism

Thanks For The Prayers, All

I am appreciative of the prayers that were offered before, during, and after my knee surgery yesterday.  I rode them like a really good wave.  All went well, which is especially important as I remained awake during the surgery and watched the work being done on the interior of my knee on a high definition television.  The surgeon was kind enough to describe to me what was being performed as it happened, which is a remarkable way to experience any kind of surgery.

I will be out for about a week, though, and a little challenged in my communication ability by the pain medication.  Please come out to support Fr. Bill Loring on Sunday and give Carol and Meg a hand should they need it.  The parish could not operate as well without their faithful care.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Just In Case You Were Wondering

Are Aliens Part of God's Plan, Too? Finding E.T. Could Change Religion Forever

I don't really see how the knowledge of extra-terrestrial life would "change religion forever" or, at least, change Christianity forever.  After all, our religion is predicated on the radical redefinition of community, and a close encounter would certainly be radical.

Then again, this is from a science journal and I've noticed that many contemporary science writers are theologically "simple".

Isn't This Special?

President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice will ask the Supreme Court this week to eliminate a long-standing legal precedent that protects religious organizations from government regulations.

Why does that whole "separation of church and state" thing seem to be a one-way street?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wait, This Is Against The Law?

Woman hurls Holy Bible at son's girlfriend

I was going to mention that it would be great if we could get Bibles for the church, but I think I'll wait until tomorrow.

The World Has Gone Mad

Marmite made illegal in Denmark

They'll be coming after my beloved Vegemite next.

"All the English people here are shaking their heads in disbelief and say that it is insane. I agree but it is the law. It's becoming impossible to run a business in this country. We are not allowed to do anything anymore. It is the way Denmark is going."

Which is why my sister and Danish brother-in-law now live in the USA.

This Week's Provocation

The Science is Settled: You’re Just Too Stupid to Live

I'm not familiar with the website to which I link, but the described method of government science is beginning to form an identifiable pattern.

Oh, Bull

Iranian State-Run Media Reports Iranian Pastor Facing Execution for Rape, Not Religion

I'm sure this sudden change in charges has absolutely nothing to do with the international pressure being placed upon Iran. شما می توانید راه خود را دروغ از سرنوشت

Maybe even the Episcopal Church of the United States will join in this discussion one day.

By the way, the top four stories from the Episcopal News Service are the same as they were the other day:

1.  Building relationships helps in the fight to end hunger, poverty

2.  Jerusalem bishop's residency permit reinstated after months of international diplomacy

3.  Episcopalians advocate to feed the hungry in America and abroad

4.  Restructuring discussions continue after House of Bishops meeting


1.  Wow, here's a real cutting-edge story

2.  A bishop gets to move back into his nice house

3.  See #1

4.  Other than members of the House of Bishops, here's a story that no one really cares about

Sunday, October 2, 2011

This Week In Christian History

October 3, 1226: Francis of Assisi, preacher and mystic who created monastic communities for men and women devoted to poverty and serving the poor, dies.

October 3, 1692: Puritan [that is, Congregationalist] clergy in Salem, Massachusetts, agree there would be no more executions resulting from the witch trials. More than 150 suspected witches had been put on trial in the previous year, and 19 had been hanged.

October 3, 1789: George Washington [Episcopalian] names November 26 as a day of national thanksgiving for the ratification of the Constitution. On the same date in 1863, Abraham Lincoln [Presbyterian] designates the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

October 4, 1582: Spanish mystic and founder of a reformed Carmelite order Teresa of Avila dies. A model of spiritual discipline, she experienced visions of Jesus, wrote several mystical books (including her autobiography), and possessed a genius for administration.

October 4, 1669: Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, known as the "painter of the soul" for his unsurpassed Christian art (including "The Return of the Prodigal Son," c. 1668), dies.

October 4, 1890: Catherine Booth, English "mother of the Salvation Army," dies of cancer. Besides preaching as a Salvation Army minister, she persuaded her husband, William, to make women an integral part of Salvation Army leadership and work.

October 5, 869: The Fourth Constantinople Council opens. During its six sessions, the council condemned iconoclasm and anathematized Constantinople Patriarch Photius. (It's a story too complicated to go into here, but basically, there was a strong disagreement over who was the "real" patriarch, and whether Holy Spirit proceeded from the Son as well as the Father). It was the last ecumenical council held in the East, but Eastern Orthodox Christians don't consider it a true ecumenical council.

October 6, 1536: English reformer William Tyndale, who translated and published the first mechanically-printed New Testament in the English language (against the law at the time) is strangled to death. His body is then burned at the stake.

October 8, 451: The Council of Chalcedon opens to deal with the Eutychians, who believed Jesus could not have two natures. His divinity, they believed, swallowed up his humanity "like a drop of wine in the sea." The council condemned the teaching as heresy and created a confession of faith which has since been regarded as the highest word in Christology.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

This week we hear Isaiah's love song [really?], Paul chest-thumps his way into humility, and Jesus employs yet another agricultural metaphor designed to hearten the faithful and terrify the complacent.  All this plus whether or not to bury that guitar [actually, a vintage Fender Telecaster].

The lections may be found here.