Thursday, March 31, 2011

Scenes From A Chip Shop

Well, actually across the street from a chip shop in Kinsale, our own Meg sends this photo of an Anglican Church sign in Ireland.  Click to enlarge and read the inscription.  Obviously, this is one of the newer congregations.

Lenten Wave #22

"Surfing, alone among sports, generates laughter at its very suggestion, and this is because it turns not a skill into an art, but an inexplicable and useless urge into a vital way of life." - Matt Warshaw

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Exorcism News

A surge in Satanism fuelled by the internet has led to a sharp rise in the demand for exorcists

Bob Feller, Cleveland Indian And Episcopalian

"...a public Memorial Service/Celebration of Life in honor of Bob Feller will be held Thursday, March 31 at 11 a.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cleveland Hts."

Thursday In Our Lenten Series

This Thursday at 7pm we will look at the Christian Church in the Middle East.  Think of it as a living form of archaeology, as these churches preserve many of the aspects of pre-Roman Christianity in their practices.

As ever, art, archaeology, history, current events and ideas about God will be blended in the presentation.

[The sign above is not the real road sign informing passers-by of the Lenten series.  It just made those of us in the office laugh.]

Lenten Wave #21

You visit the earth, and water it. You greatly enrich it.
The river of God is full of water. You provide them grain, for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows. You level its ridges.
You soften it with showers. You bless it with a crop.

-Psalm 65:9-10

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Archaeological News

Please take the hyperbole of this story with a grain of salt.  The tabloid from which it comes is notorious for exaggerated stories.  However, even if nothing particularly earth-shaking, it is an interesting find.

70 metal books found in cave in Jordan could change our view of Biblical history

Music News

Giant organ brings French sound to NY

I'm not sure why this is appearing now on the wire services, as the organ was being installed back in the autumn.  However, Ascension is one of the Episcopal parishes in Manhattan and this is interesting news for folks who are fans of organ music.  Certainly, the story of its re-construction alone is interesting.

The original story from the NYT may be found below:

Importing an Impressive Machine of Sound

Lenten Wave #20

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lenten Wave #19

"The desert is beautiful," the little prince added. And that was true. I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs and gleams.... "What makes the desert beautiful," said the little prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well...."

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944), The Little Prince

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lenten Wave #18

From Psalm 104:

5 You have set the earth upon its foundations, *
so that it never shall move at any time.

6 You covered it with the Deep as with a mantle; *
the waters stood higher than the mountains.

7 At your rebuke they fled; *
at the voice of your thunder they hastened away.

8 They went up into the hills and down to the valleys beneath, *
to the places you had appointed for them.

9 You set the limits that they should not pass; *
they shall not again cover the earth.

10 You send the springs into the valleys; *
they flow between the mountains.

11 All the beasts of the field drink their fill from them, *
and the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 Beside them the birds of the air make their nests *
and sing among the branches.

13 You water the mountains from your dwelling on high; *
the earth is fully satisfied by the fruit of your works

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Third Sunday In Lent

This week the Israelites find water, the Romans learn of justification, and we meet St. Photina.

The lections may be found here.

Lenten Wave #17

New advent of the love of Christ,
Shall we again refuse You,
Till in the night of hate and war
We perish as we lose You?
From old unfaith our souls release
To seek the kingdom of Your peace
By which alone we choose You.

O wounded hands of Jesus, build
In us Your new creation;
Our pride is dust, our vaunt is stilled,
We wait Your revelation.
O Love that triumphs over loss,
We bring our hearts before Your cross;
Come, finish Your salvation.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Today Is The Feast Of The Annunciation

"After the knowledge of God had been universally lost or obscured, one man from the whole earth (Abraham) is picked out. He is separated (miserably enough, we may suppose) from his natural surroundings, sent into a strange country, and made the ancestor of a nation who are to carry the knowledge of the true God. Within this nation there is further selection: some die in the desert, some remain behind in Babylon. There is further selection still. The process grows narrower and narrower, sharpens at last into one small bright point like the head of a spear. It is a Jewish girl at her prayers. All humanity (so far as concerns its redemption) has narrowed to that." - C.S. Lewis

Lenten Wave #16

A generous person will be enriched,
and one who gives water will get water. -Proverbs 11:25

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thank God For That

Alligator Not Expected At Sentencing

Biblical Archaeology Returns Tonight At 7 PM

Tonight we review the top ten discoveries and examine the most recent, legitimate discoveries of recent years.

I'll Bet

Christian pole dancing class creating controversy

I have a feeling this wouldn't work in Roxbury.

Lenten Wave #15

"Water is also one of the four elements, the most beautiful of God's creations. It is both wet and cold, heavy, and with a tendency to descend, and flows with great readiness. It is this the Holy Scripture has in view when it says, "And the darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Water, then, is the most beautiful element and rich in usefulness, and purifies from all filth, and not only from the filth of the body but from that of the soul, if it should have received the grace of the Spirit."

-John of Damascus

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

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.

It's That Time Of Year Again

Please go to this link and donate via the Christ Church page to the Bishops' 5K for Children.  We have won this trophy two years in a row and would very much like to go for the three-peat.  So, c'mon folks; many of my ordained collegues are coming for us.  That's what happens when your #1.

Lenten Wave #14

"Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries--stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded forever."

-Herman Melville

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Thirteenth Wave Of Lent

"Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure."
-Francis of Assisi

Monday, March 21, 2011

An Obituary Of Note

The last of the Clarksdale, Mississippi bluesmen has died.

He just won a Grammy last month.

Lenten Wave #12

"People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering." - St. Augustine

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Rather Nice Essay

I've been thinking about how little attention boys get in the world of education these days.  I am particularly appalled at the way that young men are regarded and treated in higher education, beginning with bizarre "sensitivity" workshops that seem to want to teach them how dangerous they are to the women of the campus; how potentially criminal are their actions, thoughts, and imaginations.

There is something similar with boys at elementary and middle-school age, too.  It seems that natural rambunctiousness and energy is now suspect and perhaps in need of some pharmacological address.  When I was a boy my life was in constant motion: bike-riding, running, playing either organized games or ones singular and mutable in their rules and applications; fishing, hunting, camping, helping Dad with household chores or in attempting to keep our poor, often-disabled, family car together.  In boyhood, I learned about the importance of rules, fairness, hard work, and keeping your rifle and fishing reel clean and ready.  Taking care of tools was of particular importance.

If I were a boy now, I'm not sure what I would do, except play video games.  If I were now entering college I think I would pull my baseball cap low over my head and keep my mouth shut in class.  One never knows when an opinion will be found "disharmonious".

This is one of the reasons I delight in hearing the boys of our parish speak of the sports they're involved with, the help they give around their homes, the outdoor activities they enjoy.  They seem to be wonderfully normal, which is a great testimony to them and to their parents.

I thought this essay linked to below rather nicely captured how the casual may be of lasting importance, especially when it connects one generation to another, or a veteran with a novice.

Something Greater Than Yourself

No Facebook? No Problem.

Some folks who don't do the Facebook thang asked to see some parade shots.  Since they mostly feature me, I will, of course, oblige.  They include a narrative, by the way.

"Now, were we supposed to meet on 43rd or 44th?"

If you're not sure where you belong in a parade, just follow some pipers.

Ah, here we are.  Right between Cork and Tipperary, with the unique windows of the New York Yacht Club in the background.

I actually started wearing a kilt and marching in parades at this age, too, so I'm appreciative of this little girl's discipline.

Ready whenever you guys are.  Can we please start to move? 
[The parade started at 11:00am; this photo was taken at 12:30pm].

Members of "The Midtown Mob", aka FDNY Engine 65, who are housed in the oldest firehouse in Times Square.  You can tell, because it looks to be only wide enough to fit a horse-drawn water wagon.

I was surprised at how many Glaswegians there were at the parade.  Because of my Glasgow Celtic Football Club scarf, I was greeted with a number of cries of "C'mon the Hoops!" [the Celtic nickname and title of their team song; the "hoops" refer to the green and white bands on their uniforms].  This fellow was especially cheery and greeted me in an accent I haven't heard since my grandparents died.  In other words, I had no clue what he was saying, but he was enjoying himself.  In the background is one the entrances to St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Well, no parade is complete without the Sanitation Dept. guys following the entire company.  I felt for the guys following those Irish hunters.

Lenten Wave #11

"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." - Thomas Merton

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Second Sunday In Lent

Abraham is called to the place of unknowing, as is Nicodemus in his quest for a conversation with Jesus. Hear what it meant to travel "by night" and learn how it relates to our own call.

The lections may be found here.

Lenten Wave #10

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." -- Albert Einstein

Friday, March 18, 2011

Big-wave surfer killed in wipeout off California

Mavericks, named for a dog who joined early surfers in the water, is a celebrated but hazardous surf spot just north of Half Moon Bay famed for waves topping out at over 80 feet.

Lenten Wave #9

"You chose the wave; now surf it."

An Addition To Our Uniforms

For those of us wearing non-military uniforms in today's parade, in addition to our badges and department and qualification patches, we were given the ribbon above to wear, as this Fall will be the tenth anniversary.  For those who may have seen the parade on television, I'm not sure that this ribbon would have been visible, so I share the photo above.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lenten Wave #8

The Lorica of St. Patrick

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lenten Wave #7

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

Aid For Japan [Updated]

The Episcopal/Anglican Church of Japan, or the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, will be coordinating with other agencies in the aid effort that is currently being organized.  Information will be found here as it develops.  Donations made to Episcopal Relief and Development will be used in their entirety for relief efforts; no percentage is shared with administrative costs.

Please continue to pray for those affected.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Today In Christian History

March 15, 1517: Needing money to rebuild St. Peter's basilica, Pope Leo X announces a special sale of indulgences. A Dominican named Johann Tetzel led the way in promoting the sale in Germany and erroneously declared that indulgences would cover future sins (Leo's forgave all past sins). The teaching angered monk Martin Luther, who soon posted his 95 Theses.

Lenten Wave #6

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by W. B. Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jesus Watch

Man claims pizza pan holds image of Jesus Christ

Lenten Wave #5

The following was post-dated a couple of days before the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami. As I was out-of-town and away from a computer when it auto-posted, I originally pulled this “Lenten Wave” as soon as I was able. There was something about it that seemed inappropriate given the increasingly tragic circumstances of recent days in Japan. I had also considered changing the header for these postings from “Lenten Wave” to something more prosaic like “Lenten Quotation”.

However, I have been reminded that my readers are a select bunch with intelligence and discernment enough to realize that there is no mockery or malice or maladroit meaning behind these quotations that are often about water and waves. I also know that all who read this weblog understand that the starting point for these quotations is the familiar surfer expression that “you learn something from every wave”. So, with that in mind, I have re-posted the quotation below, which seems all the more poignant having seen video displaying just what kind kinetic energy a wave may manifest.

My original point in posting this quotation [and I should note that I will usually offer some sort of commentary about the quote once I’ve given myself a chance to meditate on it] was to think about the manifestation of energy, however familiar the medium through which there are presented. For me, I have always noted that the energy manifest in a community of faith may easily become a spiritual lassitude when the sense of challenge as been removed from the experience of corporate worship and action.

When I was an interim rector, I once served with a congregation in Rhode Island. Upon first meeting the vestry, I gave them my usual spiel about what is now known as transition ministry. It focused on four points to accomplish during the 12-18 months of an interim experience. The final point was “challenge”, as in find ways to challenge the spiritual envelop, so that growth continues and energy remains free to move and expand. They were appalled. That wasn’t, according to them, what church was for. It was to be the place where nothing changed, where no one felt anything other than complete satisfaction with their spiritual life; a place where the great metaphysical quest had come to its conclusion. Their long-term assistant rector nodded serenely to all of this in a placid near-coma. Good Lord.

After the meeting I checked their attendance books and discovered that there was something that had changed. Their parish now had 1/3 fewer people attending than just five years before. If only our Christian challenge could so easily be finalized by sitting in pew for an hour a week somewhere on the east side of Providence. I seem to recall my first sermon was something about striving for “divinity” instead of “bovinity”. It was as popular as had been my vestry presentation.

The Lenten season is like a series of waves, certainly, in that its days serve to give shape to a form of energy. Our delight as Christians is to recognize the energy and ride it, even if we aren’t entirely sure of what it will be by the time we close on the beach.

From The Dawn Patrol, by Don Winslow:

"The physicists call it a 'energy-transport phenomenon.'
The dictionary says it's 'a disturbance that travels through a medium from one location to another location.'
A disturbance. It's certainly that.
Something gets disturbed. That is, something strikes something else and sets off a vibration. Clap your hands right now and you'll hear a sound. What you're actually hearing is a sound wave. Something struck something else and it set off a vibration that strikes your eardrum.
The vibration is energy. It's transported through the phenomenon of a wave from one location to the other.

The water itself doesn't actually move. What happens is one particle of water bumps into the next, which bumps into the next, and so on and so forth until it hits something. It's like that idiot wave at a sports event - the people don't move around the stadium, but the wave does. The energy flows from one person to another.

So when you're riding a wave, you're not riding water. The water is the medium, but what you're really riding is energy."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Americans Join The Rescue

Don't care much for cheap patriotism [the kind that is generally displayed by both political parties during election years], but I've always been proud to be a citizen of a nation that so quickly uses its wealth and power to come to the aid of others.

Los Angeles County USAR Team Activated For Japan Quake
[USAR stands for Urban Search and Rescue]

The LAFD personnel on this team had just returned from New Zealand.  As soon as I read the article, I wondered where the USMC was.  Here you go:

Military Gears Up to Help Japan

Above is the USS Essex, which is currently underway to Japan.

From Tokyo TV: Buildings Swaying During The Earthquake

Call Me Kreskin

As I knew this would happen.  [Of course, I rode the waves of Hurricane Belle back in '76.  I still limp from it].

California surfers waited in water for tsunami

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Word About Waves

A few years ago I worked with some members of the Christian Surfers organization [yes, there is such a thing; just look at my rear license plate frame] and we spoke of how one may learn something from each wave one rides. Actually, that also includes the waves one chooses not to ride.

Anyway, from that I developed a series of meditative "waves", each different and each using a quotation from sacred or secular writing as the springboard for a spiritual discussion and eventual meditative composition. [Episcopal and other colleagues: I know what you're thinking. This is copyrighted, so if you want to borrow or otherwise appropriate this idea, you better give me a call first.  I have monster attorneys.] It is also a good technique for those who wish to begin their days of Lent with some sort of meditative focus.

So, for the duration of the season, I will offer a daily "meditative wave" for that purpose. Again, one may learn something from every wave, even if that something knocks you around a little.

An Obituary Of Note

And also the recipient of one of Christ Church's charity guitars.

Eddie Kirkland, 87, Known as the Gypsy of the Blues, Dies

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ash Wednesday

The Imposition of the Ashes with Holy Communion will be offered on Ash Wednesday at 12:10pm and 7pm at Christ Church.

The lections may be found here.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner


The Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner will be held on March 8th from 5:30 to 7:00 pm.  $20 per family or $6 per adult and $3 for children aged 3 to 11.  This is a fund-raiser for the Altar Guild, so please come to ensure that we have ample candle oil and sacramental bread and wine for the remainder of the year.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Last Sunday After The Epiphany

This week we learn of the literary balance to be found in the Older and Newer Testaments, as Moses is transfigured on the mountaintop and Jesus is so before the eyes of the disciples, while Paul points out that Christianity is not a series of "cleverly designed myths".  All this plus type and ante-type in stained glass art.

The lections may be found here.

[The photo above is of the stained glass window in Christ Church's choir loft; it is often softly illuminated in the evenings.  For these and other photos of Christ Church's windows, please associate yourself with the Christ Church page on Facebook.]

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Irish Tenors - Be Thou My Vision

My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim
and spread through all the earth abroad
the honors of thy Name.

Jesus! the Name that charms our fears
and bids our sorrows cease;
'tis music in the sinner's ears,
'tis life and health and peace.

He speaks, and listening to his voice,
new life the dead receive;
the mournful broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.

A Belated Feast Day To The Wesley Brothers

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 yesterday may be found here.

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

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Today In Christian History

March 3, 1263: French cardinal, Hugh of St. Cher, dies. He reputedly compiled the first Bible concordance and was the first person to divide the Old and New Testaments into chapters.

March 3, 1547: At the Seventh Session of the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic church defines its theology of the sacraments. Arguing that seven sacraments are necessary for salvation—Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Orders, and Matrimony—the council rejected the teaching of most Protestants that only two were required: Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Adult Series for Lent, 2011

Adult Forum, Lent [Plus] 2011

As promised at the parish’s annual meeting, this Lent [plus one Thursday in Epiphany] we will present a variety of topics for exploration and discussion. All of these sessions will be held on Thursdays, beginning at 7pm and lasting for no more than one hour.

Thursday, March 3rd – Biblical Archaeology: The Newest Discoveries
[and new information about some of the older discoveries.]

A return to the subject of our popular 2010 Lenten program, we will examine some of the new discoveries made in the past year, re-visit some familiar sites that are favored by new theories about significance, construction, and cultural relevance, and take a closer look at the once-mythical city of Ubar.

Thursday, March 10th - Biblical Archaeology, Continued

Thursday, March 17th – No Series offering, as this is the Feast of St. Padraic.

Thursday, March 24th – Middle Eastern Christianity: The Copts, The Syriac, The Melkite, and The Armenian.

While we are familiar with Western Christianity, and perhaps less so with the Eastern Orthodox Church, there are a number of Christian sects in the Middle East that are of great antiquity and, like our own Celtic tradition, pre-date the Church of Rome, having resisted historic animosity, marginalization, and violence into the 21st century. We will examine their history as one would a time capsule, to see what early Christianity valued in its prayers and songs, and look also at what may be revealed about our own tradition and its development from this common source.

Thursday, March 31st – Christian Themes in Art, Music, and Literature

From the Catacombs to the WPA artists of the American Depression, from Gregorian chant to its juxtaposition with paganism in the opera of Richard Wagner, and from the early Passion Plays to Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Christian themes have presented themselves for artistic inspiration and interpretation. In a frolic across time and cultures, we will look at and listen to some of the deepest expressions of yearning, quest, and redemption experienced by artists and their audiences.

Thursday, April 7th - Art and Music, Continued

Thursday, April 14th - will serve either as a substitute for any cancellations due to poor weather or if we should, in our enthusiasm, overrun any of the previous topics.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Interesting Decision By The Supreme Court

I may get some tatty e-mail concerning what I'm about to say [in fact, some of my former students have already written to me about this], but it was a decision that ultimately protects even those of us from mainstream congregations, especially in regards to our right to engage in political discourse.

Personally, I think the Westboro Baptist Church about the most distasteful collection of puzzlewits ever to be organized under the remarkably broad umbrella of American Protestantism.  However,  I point to this rather eloquent quotation from the decision:

Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and—as it did here—inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation we have chosen a different course—to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate. That choice requires that we shield Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case.
During my lifetime, the Episcopal Church has spoken controversially about the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, nuclear proliferation,  gay rights, and has issued opinions in every conceivable forum.  It is common for the Presiding Bishop to write letters of concern to the President of the US and members of both the Supreme Court and the Congress.  In some congregations, it is not unusual on a Sunday to hear of the preacher's political ideology and how closely it resembles Jesus' imagined attitudes about American social experience.  Despite the veneer of spirituality, these are political statements.  To limit such statements, if legally engaged, from an organization with which one strongly disagrees would open the door to limit political speech from all churches and religious organizations, including those with whom one is in agreement.

I suppose this is why the vote was 8-1.

For Those Who May Think That Christian Martyrdom Is Some Distant Experience Of The Past

Mr Bhatti, the country's only Christian federal cabinet minister, was gunned down as he was being driven to work through the capital Islamabad yesterday morning and died on the way to hospital.

The Feast Of Chad

Chad was the bishop of Lichfield [the one in England without the "t"; not the one in Connecticut where the "t" stands for "touchy"].  Chad is best known for settling a potentially schismatic issue during the period of controversy following the Synod of Whitby in 663.  In Whitby, it had been determined by the British Church that the Celtic tradition would be surrendered in favor of that of the Church of Rome.  This did not rest well with everyone, including a couple of the bishops who had consecrated Chad.  Because they were non-conformists, Chad's installation as the Archbishop of York was held to be irregular and, instead of cracking the greater church in two over the issue, Chad humbly resigned the See of York.  His consolation prize was Lichfield.

And what a consolation it was, at least for those whom he served.  Chad is recognized as the "icon" of the peripatetic bishop: he was in constant motion baptizing, confirming, teaching, preaching and celebrating.  He did so on foot, because he did not wish to spend diocesan funds on a horse [the Archbishop of Canterbury gave him one as a gift, eventually].  Because of this familiarity, he was widely beloved by those of Lichfield whom he served.  This is even more remarkable when one considers that Chad served for only two and one-half years, before succumbing to exhaustion.  [Imagine, a time when bishops visited all their parishes not to have meetings, but to engage in the sacramental rites and abide simply with their flocks through meals and common fellowship.  "You may say I'm a dreamer,..."]

Chad died on this day in 672.  Subsequently, countless chapels and other structures in what was once Mercia [and is now the English Midlands of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire] were named for him.

Almighty God, for the peace of the Church your servant Chad relinquished cheerfully the honors that had been thrust upon him, only to be rewarded with equal responsibility: Keep us, we pray, from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, and ready at all times to step aside for others, that the cause of Christ may be advanced; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today In Christian History

March 2, 1415: At the Council of Constance, convened to end the Great Schism—during which three men claimed to be pope—John XXIII (one of the men) abdicated. Ironically, John himself had convened the council the previous year convinced that he would emerge victorious. Now he feared for his life and fled the city in disguise. It didn't work: he was brought back, condemned, and deposed. The council eventually healed the schism.

March 2, 1791: Founder of Methodism John Wesley, an Anglican priest, dies in London.

March 2, 1938: Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller, one of the founders of Germany's "Confessing Church," is sentenced to seven months in prison for opposing Hitler. "First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist," he said. "Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. They they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Now, In The Spirit Of Gomes, Let Me Inject A Little Controversy

“Identification of Christian social ethics with specific partisan proposals that clearly are not the only ones that may be characterized as Christian and as morally acceptable comes close to the original New Testament meaning of heresy.”

Please read the whole thing.

An Obituary Of Note

Rev. Peter J. Gomes dies at 68

He was a mighty preacher and one of the few to whom I could have listened all day.

Today In Christian History

March 1, 589 (traditional date): David of Wales, whose ascetic path of restraint earned him regard as the patron saint of that country, dies. His final words were, "Be joyful, brothers and sisters. Keep your faith and do the little things that you have seen and heard from me".

Almighty God, you called your servant David to be a faithful and wise steward of your 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 our heavenly reward; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.