Friday, November 30, 2012

This Is Terrific

the 42 worst nativity sets

This Little Darlin' Graced Our Life Today

"Reading Water: A Quiet Day of Transition" will be offered in the church on Saturday from 9am until Noon.

Bruce McLaren

John Fitch came to mind the other day, when I read his obituary in one of the local newspapers.  Of course, I could have read of him in the sporting press, too, as Fitch was a well-known figure in international motor sports, as well as an inventor of safety devices.  I mostly knew him as the octogenarian who tended to drive around the Salisbury/Lakeville area a tad too fast.  Shortly after his 90th birthday, I seem to recall that he made the local paper's "police log" for getting a speeding ticket.  Anyway, Fitch and his wife were members of an Episcopal parish that neighbored mine, but his son and grandchild were members of my parish, so our paths crossed periodically.

I forget exactly how I wound up in a car with him driving, but there I was trying to distract myself from noticing how high the tachometer was revving or how a man of nearly 90 was driving almost that speed on the winding roads of Litchfield County.  As we were in a car of Fitch's own design, we started talking about the desire of some drivers to build their own racing vehicles, and of their checkered history of success when they do so.  We both agreed, however, that the best example of driver/engineer/car builder was Bruce McLaren.

Some of the most successful racing drivers come from places that I never would associate with automobiles.  Juan Fangio was from the pampas of Argentina, Jimmy Clark was a rural Scotsman, and Jochen Rindt was an orphan from bomb-destroyed Hamburg.  Bruce McLaren was from New Zealand.  While nearby Australia has a fine tradition of producing racing champions, New Zealand was little more than bucolic farmland not known for its highways or its engineering or automotive industries; yet the country was to produce the most unique of competitors.

In an age where the drivers of the Grand Prix circuit tended to be flamboyant, as they included personalities such as Italian playboys, lesser members of the English peerage, and heirs of cosmetic fortunes, McLaren was remarkably unassuming.  In fact, he would have been all but invisible if not for the fact that he could win races.

At the age of 22, he became the youngest Grand Prix winner ever when he triumphed at the United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, New York.  When Henry Ford II wanted to challenge Enzo Ferrari's dominance in European racing, and prove that American cars were better than any other, he selected McLaren to drive Ford's entry in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, the famous endurance race.  McLaren won.

However, that wasn't what marked him as the sport's most innovative competitor.  In the late 1960's, he decided to design and build his own racing cars.  While he was not the first to do so [the American racer, Dan Gurney, had won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1967 in a car of his design named the "American Eagle"], it is safe to say that there has never been another driver who has so transcended in that role.

McLaren's cars became recognizable fixtures in the Grand Prix racing schedule, and in particular in the Canadian-American series that was tremendously popular in the late-60's and early 70's.  At a time when cars still carried the livery of their nation of origin [British racing green, French racing blue, Italian racing red, etc.], McLaren created the unmistakable "New Zealand racing orange".  The other reason that they were so recognizable is that they tended to put their drivers on the winner's podium.

[It should also be noted that, during the victory celebrations at the conclusion of any of the Grand Prix series of races, the driver's national anthem is played first, then followed by the national anthem of the car. Yes, that's right.],

Although no longer orange in color, as corporate sponsorships now trump national pride, McLaren cars are still familiar to racing fans and still tend to put their drivers on the winner's podium.  In fact, in the season that has just concluded, the McLaren cars were responsible for six seven of the twenty victories.  [Maybe seven, as this is being written the day before the Brazilian Grand Prix.  Yep, seven.] 

Not a bad legacy for a humble driver from the middle of nowhere.  My regret is that Bruce McLaren could not be a familiar sight at contemporary races, a sort of "grand old man" of the sport, relishing yet another victory in what many consider to be the most technologically advanced car, as he was killed testing one of his own racing cars [yes, he was also his own test driver] back in 1970. 

However, while alive, he proved that a driver was not just a grease monkey or a mildly bemused aristocrat, but a full, creative partner in the medium of motor sports; and, since his death, a testimony to the eternal aspects of a dedication to quality.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

No Bible Study Tonight

A Word About The Friday Feature

Originally, I had planned on offering on Fridays bits and pieces from the memory of a mid-century American, both people and places.  In part, this was because the generation after mine [and the next] has been so poorly educated about religious, literary, or social history that it's as if they're an alien culture come to our planet with only vague understandings of our world gleaned through the partial information included on board space probes. 

So, I started to think of those from whom I draw some form of inspiration.  These are people I know, have known, or of whom I have heard.  As I started to write of them, I was surprised to discover how interconnected they all are, despite whatever discipline may have served as their medium.

I intend on putting together a list of fifty such folks during of the year.  I appreciate that these people are probably of limited interest to those who read this; but I will be keeping this discipline as part of a weekly spiritual exercise.

Here's the list so far:

Bruce McLaren
Art Pepper
Jim Steranko
Barbara Crafton
Lou Kallie
Raimundo Panikkar
Rell Sunn
Thomas Merton
Charlie Parker
Alan Watts
Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky
James Harold Flye [and James Agee]
Maxwell Perkins
Paul Bigsby
Jane Scott
William Augustus Muelenberg
Duke Kahanamoku
Jacques Cousteau
Yukio Mishima
Robert Manry
Howlin' Wolf

Archaeological News

‘First declaration of human rights’ on tour

Advent Series

During the season of Advent, on Thursdays at 7pm in the parish house, we will offer a program open to all adults.  Since we learn our first "theology" from hymns and other types of church music, we will look at what the traditional hymns of the church say to us about our system of belief and the primacy of faith.

This will include hymns that are familiar to us, including those we learned as children, and those that we often sing during the course of the year.  As this is particular to the season of Advent, we will look especially at the theology of the Advent and Christmas hymns and carols.

Thursday's Prayer

O God, Who are the unsearchable abyss of peace, the ineffable sea of love, the fountain of blessings, and the bestower of affection, Who sends peace to those that receive it; open to us this day the sea of Your love, and water us with the plenteous streams from the riches of Your grace. Make us children of quietness, and heirs of peace. Kindle in us the fire of Your love; sow in us Your fear; strengthen our weakness by Your power; bind us closely to You and to each other in one firm bond of unity; for the sakd of Jesus Christ. Amen.  - 1st century Syriac prayer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Deanery Meeting Tonight

At 6:30pm in the parish house. Our own Christine Meyer will be offering the program, "The Stranger You Know", which concerns steps one may take to prevent child abuse.

Tuesday's Quotation

"The people of God are not merely to mark time, waiting for God to step in and set right all that is wrong. Rather, they are to model the new heaven and new earth, and by so doing awaken longings for what God will someday bring to pass." - Philip Yancey.

Monday, November 26, 2012

This Week's Lesser Feasts

November 28: King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma

File:Queen Emma and kamehameha4.jpg

Please note the this is Kamehameha IV and not I or V, as there was a clear superiority of #4 over the others, much like France's Louis XIV was of a quality greater than Louis XVI.  If this confuses you, blame your high school history teacher.  Also, it's pronounced Cam-May-Ha-May-Ha.

As opposed to the other Kamehamehas, in his role as king of Hawaii in the mid-1800's, #4 showed a true commitment to the principles of enlightened leadership, going so far as to convert to Christianity, as he was attracted to its notions of social service; ideas that were also a part of the Polynesian sense of a higher good.  As he had toured England as a young man, and had been in attendance at many services of the Church of England, he preferred Anglicanism as his form of Christian devotion, especially as he found the liturgies of the church to have a profound and lasting meaning.  Clearly, he was a man not only of spiritual maturity but also one of good taste.

Kamehameha IV even would, after his conversion, translate the Book of Common Prayer into the Hawaiian language, along with portions of the hymnal.

His wife, Queen Emma, is the unofficial patron saint of surfing.  This is not because she could shred waves like a champ, dude, but because she, above all others, embodied the "aloha spirit" that was, and for many still is, the guiding nature of that rather odd sport.  As such, Emma was devoted to the poor and the ill, built schools, a hospital, and what is now the Episcopal Church's cathedral in Honolulu.  She was much beloved by her people and even counted Queen Victoria I as a lifelong friend.  Some of their correspondence, which may occasionally be viewed on display at the ‘Iolani Palace, reveals the deep respect and shared wisdom of these two women.

[Elsewhere in The Coracle, one may read of Rell Sunn, the surfing champion who described the "aloha spirit" thusly: "The aloha spirit is real simple. You give and you give and you give from the heart, until you have nothing else to give."]

O Sovereign God, who raised up (King) Kamehameha (IV) and (Queen) Emma to be rulers in Hawaii, and inspired and enabled them to be diligent in good works for the welfare of their people and the good of your Church: Receive our thanks for their witness to the Gospel; and grant that we, with them, may attain to the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

December 1: Nicholas Ferrer, 1592-1637

Ferrer was a deacon in the Church of England who created one of the last communities of faith based on the Celtic, and pre-Roman, form of Christianity.  He and his companions took an abandoned church in Huntingtonshire, England, restored it and turned into a center for worship, education, and, as a form of early clinic, place for the address of community health issues. 

It worked well until Cromwell's minions destroyed it in the name of Puritanism.  Yes, what a gift that strain of Christianity has brought to our common experience.

Ferrer had died nine years before his community's forced dissolution, yet his vision, and the hamlet that housed his community, that of Little Gidding, has remained fixed in the spiritual imagination of subsequent generations of Anglicans.  Even that arch-Anglican, T.S. Eliot, would name a portion of his poetic work, Four Quartets, after Ferrer's community.

Lord God, make us worthy of your perfect love; that, with your deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may rule ourselves according to your Word, and serve you with our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Art Pepper

There is a moment, early in a recording by Miles Davis' The Rhythm Section, when the saxophonist seems to quiver a little, as if he were unfamiliar with the music, had lost the ability to read from the sheets, or transpose in his head, or wasn't quite sure where he was.  If you guessed all of the above, you'd be right.

Art Pepper, the saxophonist, had forgotten that he was to record in the studio that day; mainly because he was coming off of a heroin high and was not quite sure of the year [it was 1957], the place [it was Los Angeles] or the location of his instrument [it was under the bed in a rather poor state of maintenance.]  He managed to get to the studio, though, in some sort of condition; a studio filled with musicians of whom he had heard [everyone knew of Miles Davis by that time], but with whom he had never worked.  Since arriving at a studio in rather rough shape is not abnormal in jazz circles, they took it more or less in stride, as long as Pepper could play.

And play he did.  While a little rough at first, Art Pepper managed, on that long day in LA, to record one of the seminal works in jazz, "Art Pepper meets The Rhythm Section".

Pepper's life was not easy.  He struggled for many years with drug and alcohol addiction, lost out on gigs and chances for fame, went for long periods without employment and, seemingly, without friends.  But, talent will out, and he became a clean, sober, and trustworthy studio musician, and then, with no small amount of help from Davis and others, the originator of what's now recognized as the West Coast jazz sound. 

If you wish to read more of him, I cannot recommend more strongly his autobiography, Straight Life.

I could speak of him endlessly, but it's best to just listen to what he could do, while imagining yourself driving over the 6th Street bridge in LA in the middle of the night with the top down; or looking out over that sparkling city from Mulholland Drive.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thursday's Prayer

From the 5th century:

Make Your tranquility, O Lord, to dwell amongst us, and Your peace to abide in our hearts. May our voices proclaim your truth, and may Your Cross be the guardian of our souls. Account us worthy, O Lord, with boldness which is of You, to offer unto You of Your grace a pure and holy prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Something About The Arcane

A couple of years ago, when we first studied Biblical Archaeology during our Lenten series, we noted the popularity of Egyptian style during the 1920's, shortly after the discovery of King Tut's tomb.  Anyway, here's some more about it:

Egypt in England at Wellington Arch

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

This Week's Lesser Feasts

November 19: Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary, 1207-1231

I had a very pleasant evening once upon a time with the contemporary poet, Omar Pound.  His father was Ezra Pound, an even better known poet, as he appears even in high school text books [!], who had spent a portion of his life as a resident in the mental ward of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington D.C.  [Another resident was the young man whose name is still not known to us who spent some curious time being treated not only by staff psychiatrists but by official exorcists of the Roman church.  His real story became the basis for the plot of The Exorcist.  Interestingly, after the young man was treated and discharged, the hospital sealed his room and never opened it again.]

I mentioned to Omar that, upon reading Bennett Cerf's memoir [now out of print; the title of which I've forgotten], I was surprised to discover that Ezra was hospitalized not due to mental disturbance, but by his friends [Cerf was Pound's publisher] to keep him away from punitive government officials, as Ezra had made several provocative public comments about fascism during a time of great sensitivity about the issue.

"Well, I won't comment on that," he said.  "But, father did have many personal conversations with St. Elizabeth during that time."

I'm sure the conversations between the 20th century poet and the 13th century princess would have been interesting.  Not only was she dedicated to the arts, but St. Elizabeth's devotion to nursing and serving the health needs of the poor, even to the extent of selling her portion of the royal jewels in order to build a hospital, explains why there are so many hospitals in the world that bear her name.  She would later enter religious life as a lay member of the Franciscan order.  As one may imagine, she was not popular with the other members of the royal family, but we don't remember their names, do we?

She is also the subject of one of the more obscure recurring miracles of the Middle Ages, namely the "Miracle of the Roses", of which more may be read at the link.

Almighty God, by your grace your servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

November 20: Edmund, King of East Anglia, ? - 869

There is actually very little known of Edmund, less still if one relies solely on historically verifiable sources, however his spiritual importance must have been great in order not only to place him on the calendar of lesser feasts, but to maintain his placement even into the 21st. century.

What is known is that, well, we'll go to a source, shall we:
In 869, the Great Heathen Army advanced on East Anglia and killed Edmund. He may have been slain by the Danes in battle, but by tradition he met his death at an unidentified place known as Haegelisdun, after he refused the Danes' demand that he renounce Christ: the Danes beat him, shot him with arrows and then beheaded him, on the orders of Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubbe Ragnarsson. According to one legend, his head was then thrown into the forest, but was found safe by searchers after following the cries of a wolf that was calling, "Hic, Hic, Hic" – "Here, Here, Here".
Besides, any story that includes organizations such as the "Great Heathen Army" and characters like "Ivar the Boneless" is bound to be memorable.

O God of ineffable mercy, you gave grace and fortitude to blessed Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his people by nobly dying for your Name: Bestow on us your servants the shield of faith with which we can withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

November 23: Clement I of Rome, ? - circa 100

No, not another member of royalty this time, but the third non-apostolic Bishop of Rome, an office better known by the term "Pope".  As with many of these ancient characters, there is little that is known about him, save for a letter that he wrote in his official capacity to the church of the Corinthians.  Yes, them again.  They had so many issues that it seems a constant correspondence was necessary from the time of St. Paul until at least the time of St. Clement.  One of the things that's interesting about the letter is that it is so ancient, it was written either during the composition of the Gospel of John or sometime before it.  It is the eldest non-scriptural writing of which we know.

According to my late professor of scripture, Bruce Metzger, in his history of the formation of the Old and New Testaments as canonical literature [Canon of the New Testament {1987}]:
The letter was occasioned by a dispute in Corinth, which had led to the removal from office of several presbyters [an early name for "priest" - ed.] Since none of the presbyters were charged with moral offences, Clement charged that their removal was high-handed and unjustifiable. The letter was extremely lengthy — it was twice as long as the Epistle to the Hebrews — and includes several references to the Old Testament, of which he demonstrates a knowledge. Clement repeatedly refers to the Old Testament as Scripture.

New Testament references include Clement’s admonition to “Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle” (xlvii. 1) which was written to this Corinthian audience; a reference which seems to imply written documents available at both Rome and Corinth. Clement also alludes to the epistles of Paul to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and the first epistle to the Corinthians; numerous phrases from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and possible material from Acts, James, and I Peter. In several instances, he asks his readers to “remember” the words of Jesus, although Clement does not attribute these sayings to a specific written account. These New Testament allusions are employed as authoritative sources which strengthen Clement’s arguments to the Corinthian church, but Clement never explicitly refers to them as “Scripture”.
It appears, at least according to the world view found in the First Letter of Clement to the Corinthians, that the most compelling scripture for the very earliest Christian church was that of the epistles, as the Gospels are never directly quoted.

Almighty God, you chose your servant Clement of Rome to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability; Grant that your Church may be grounded and settled in your truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; reveal to it what is not yet known; fill up what is lacking; confirm what has already been revealed; and keep it blameless in your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Jim Steranko

It isn’t uncommon for young people to become bored or unfulfilled with their first career.  After all, it is during that first career that we learn to refine our strengths and reverse, or at least identify, our weaknesses.  Often, during that process, one realizes that the original career has been outgrown and new challenges are desired.

Now, imagine that your first career is that of escape artist.  Yes, just like Houdini or someone.  In addition to that pursuit, you also dabble in magic and fire eating.  Yet, somehow that isn’t enough; the niche you seek is still elusive.  So, you become a musician, a rock and roll guitarist, even befriending early rockers like Bill Haley, and that still doesn't seem to be it.

Then, one day, after experimenting with some free-lance work as an artist for an advertising agency and a third-rate comic book company, you are approached by the publisher of the fastest growing, and increasing popular, “intellectual” comic book company, Marvel.  Suddenly, being an escape artist seems rather bland.


It was as if someone handed Jim Steranko a multi-million dollar toy.  He served as an assistant to some of the leading, and most innovative, comic book artists of the 1960’s, was given a rather minor title on which to work as both artist and writer, and then took comic book art and storytelling to a level that had not been imagined.  Although it may not seem so to those who have never experienced high-minded graphic novels and their manner of re-working and re-imagining classic archetypes and tropes, the moment that comics made a jump into the realm of literature was with the advent of Steranko in the late 1960's.

[Steranko's story may sound familiar to those who read Michael Chabon's novel, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which was on the New York Times' list of bestsellers and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction back in 2001; Steranko was the inspiration for one of the protagonists.  Clearly, I'm not the only one to find his life and art interesting.]

While he started cautiously, he soon began to take elements from the burgeoning synthesis of surrealism and op-art, images familiar to the fans of Peter Max and Andy Warhol, and created something that had never been seen before.  Even to an eleven-year-old member of the Marvel fan club, it was clear that, as innovative as those comics had been, this was something shockingly new.  What was a minor title became a sensation; and its artist the one that was always sought out at the corner pharmacy’s comic book section.
He didn’t stay with one comic title very long, but continued to serve as an artist, writer, and inspiration to all subsequent writers and artists in the milieu.  The reason that he remains in my memory is that he revealed just how accessible art in all of its forms could be; and how an embrace of the new could inform even the most tired of forms.
More of him may be read and, more importantly, seen at this website.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday's Prayer

Grant unto all Kings and Rulers, O Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, that they may administer the government which You have given them without failure. For You, O heavenly Master, King of the Ages, gives to the sons of men glory and honor, and power over all things that are upon the earth. Do, Lord, direct their counsel according to that which is good and well pleasing in Your sight, that administering in peace and gentleness, with godliness, the power which You have given them, they may obtain Your favor. O You Who alone are able to do these things, and things far more exceeding good than these, for us, we praise You, through the High Priest and Guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ; through Whom be the glory and the majesty, unto You, both now and for all generations, and forever and ever. Amen.

-- Clement of Rome

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Advent Must Be Coming

The crew is spending the morning placing the lights on the town's Christmas tree.

Update:  And now with working lights.

Tuesday's Quotation

"Every life is a profession of faith and exercises an inevitable and silent influence."  - Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Monday, November 12, 2012

This Week's Lesser Feasts

November 12: Charles Simeon [1759-1836]

Every teacher hopes either to be a great scholar, whose written work is lasting and foundational, or at least inspirational to the subsequent generation.  While the lesser feast calendar is filled with those who have done marvelous academic and social work, behind them, somewhere in a small corner of history, is that teacher who inspired, encouraged, and directed them to that place of achievement.

Henry Martyn, the great missionary to India and translator of scripture, and William Wilberforce, the crusader who pushed for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, about whom we have written in The Coracle, shared something beyond just their Anglican heritage.  Both were students of Charles Simeon, the modest and long-time chaplain [55 years!] of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge University.

He was known for his zeal and passion about social justice, something that often made him the subject of humor to his contemporaries.  However, his students appreciated Simeon's world view and found in it an admirable perspective to emulate.  Charles Simeon rests on our calendar to represent all those teachers whose style and technique, while ridiculed during their working days, inspired mightily those who have changed the course of human spirituality and moral history. 

Much more of Simeon may be found here, at his eponymous website.

O loving God, we know that all things are ordered by your unerring wisdom and unbounded love: Grant us in all things to see your hand; that, following the example and teaching of your servant Charles Simeon, we may walk with Christ in all simplicity, and serve you with a quiet and contented mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

November 14: The Consecration of Samuel Seabury [1729-1796]

Seabury, the first bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, was consecrated as such on this day in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1784.  He was born, lived and died in Connecticut.  His election, the one that marks the birth of our branch of the Anglican Communion, occurred at Glebe House in Woodbury, Connecticut, a scant six miles from where these words are being composed.  There is much written about him, as you may expect, including this from the Anglican Calendar:

A crucial date for members of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America is the consecration of the first Bishop of the Anglican Communion in the United States. During the colonial era, there had been no Anglican bishops in the New World; and persons seeking to be ordained as clergy had had to travel to England for the purpose. After the achievement of American independence, it was important for the Church in the United States to have its own bishops, and an assembly of Connecticut clergy chose Samuel Seabury to go to England and there seek to be consecrated as a bishop. However, the English bishops were forbidden by law to consecrate anyone who would not take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. He accordingly turned to the Episcopal Church of Scotland. When the Roman Catholic king James II was deposed in 1688, some of the Anglican clergy (including some who had been imprisoned by James for defying him on religious issues) said that, having sworn allegiance to James as King, they could not during his lifetime swear allegiance to the new monarchs William and Mary. Those who took this position were known as non-Jurors (non-swearers), and they included almost all the bishops and clergy of the Episcopal Church in Scotland. Accordingly, the monarchs and Parliament declared that thenceforth the official church in Scotland should be the Presbyterian Church. The Episcopal Church of Scotland thereafter had no recognition by the government, and for some time operated under serious legal disablities. However, since it had no connection with the government, it was free to consecrate Seabury without government permission, and it did. This is why you see a Cross of St. Andrew on the Episcopal Church flag. In Aberdeen, 14 November 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated to the Episcopate by the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness. He thus became part of the unbroken chain of bishops that links the Church today with the Church of the Apostles.
In return, he promised them that he would do his best to persuade the American Church to use as its Prayer of Consecration (blessing of the bread and wine at the Lord's Supper) the Scottish prayer, taken largely unchanged from the 1549 Prayer Book, rather than the much shorter one in use in England. The aforesaid prayer, adopted by the American Church with a few modifications, has been widely regarded as one of the greatest treasures of the Church in this country.
We give you thanks, O Lord our God, for your goodness in bestowing upon this Church the gift of the episcopate, which we celebrate in this remembrance of the consecration of Samuel Seabury; and we pray that, joined together in unity with our bishops, and nourished by your holy Sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

November 16: Margaret, Queen of Scotland [1045-1093]

From Kiefer's Hagiography:

Margaret was the grand-daughter of Edmund Ironside, King of the English, but was probably born in exile in Hungary, and brought to England in 1057. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, she sought refuge in Scotland, where about 1070 she married the King, Malcolm III. She and her husband rebuilt the monastery of Iona and founded the Benedictine Abbey at Dunfermline. Margaret undertook to impose on the Scottish the ecclesiastical customs she had been accustomed to in England, customs that were also prevalent in France and Italy. But Margaret was not concerned only with ceremonial considerations. She encouraged the founding of schools, hospitals, and orphanages. She argued in favor of the practice of receiving the Holy Communion frequently. She was less successful in preventing feuding among Highland Clans, and when her husband was treacherously killed in 1093, she herself died a few days later (of grief, it is said).
O God, you called your servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance your heavenly kingdom, and gave her zeal for your Church and love for your people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate her this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

November 17: Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln [1135 (?) -1200]

Again, from Kiefer [I have included more than usual, as Hugh is not terribly well-known by contemporary Anglicans yet is an important, and rather interesting, character]:

As a sign of his remorse for his role in the murder of the Archbishop Thomas a Becket, King Henry II founded the first house in England of the strict monastic order called the Carthusians. Difficulties arose with the first two priors, and a French noble recommended Hugh de Avalon, who at that time had been a monk at the mother house of the order for 17 years.

On his arrival in England in 1176, Hugh found that the building of the monastery had not begun. Worse, no compensation had been paid to those who would have to lose their lands and property to make room for it. Hugh refused to take office until these persons had been paid "to the last penny." He intervened again on behalf of the builders, whose pay was not forthcoming.  Henry loved him for his plain speaking. "I do not despair of you," Hugh said to him at their first interview; "I know how much your many occupations interfere with the health of your soul." Henry, impressed by his frankness, swore that while he lived he should not leave his kingdom, and took so much pleasure in his conversation, and paid so much heed to his counsels, that a rumor arose that Hugh was his son. Hugh's biographer wrote that "of all men only Hugh could bend that rhinosceros to his will."  
When Henry was in danger of shipwreck, he cried out, "If only my Carthusian Hugh were awake and at prayer, God would not forget me."  This affection never diminished, though Hugh dared to oppose the king, particularly in the matter of keeping bishoprics vacant in order that their revenues might fall to the king's treasury.  
One of the worst examples was Lincoln, which, except for a few months, had been without a bishop for eighteen years. Hugh was elected to the post in 1186, and his monastic superiors ordered him to accept. After so long a period of neglect, there was great need of reform. Hugh employed priests of great piety and learning, and made the fullest use of his authority in disciplining his clergy.  
He took a stern view of the ill-treatment of the poor by the royal foresters, and when a subject of the church of Lincoln suffered at their hands he excommunicated their chief.  He also refused to appoint a royal favorite to a meaningless but lucrative post. Henry was furious, and summoned him to his presence. He came, and Henry turned away his face and would not speak, but by way of ignoring his presence took out a torn glove and began to sew it. At last Hugh said, "How like you are to your relations at Falaise." The king might have resented this allusion to the humble birth of William the Conqueror's mother, the daughter of a glove-maker, but he only laughed, and the quarrel was made up.       
Riots against the Jews broke out in England at the time of the Third Crusade. In defence of the persecuted, Hugh faced armed mobs in Lincoln, Stamford and Northampton and compelled their submission.  Hugh refused to raise money for the foreign wars of King Richard the Lion-Heart, calmed the king's rage with a kiss, and persisted in his refusal: this was the first clear example on record of the refusal of a money-grant demanded directly by the crown, and an important legal precedent. Richard said, "If all bishops were like my lord of Lincoln, not a prince among us could raise his head against them."  
His relations with King John were less happy. John showed him an amulet, which he said was sacred and would preserve him. Hugh replied, "Do not put your trust in lifeless stone, but only in the living and heavenly stone, our Lord Jesus Christ." The following Easter he preached at length on the duties of kings, and the king slipped out partway through.   
Devout, tireless, and forgetful of self, Hugh also had wit, a temper that he described as "more biting than pepper," and a great love and concern for children and the defenceless. He visited leper-houses and washed the ulcerous limbs of their inmates.  He was fond of animals, and they of him. Birds and squirrels came readily to his hand. He had a swan that would feed from his hand, follow him about, and keep guard over his bed, so that no one could approach it without being attacked.       
In 1200 the king sent him on an embassy to France. His mission was a success, but he took ill and returned to England to die on 16 November 1200. John Ruskin called him "the most beautiful sacerdotal (priestly) figure known to me in history."
O holy God, you endowed your servant and bishop Hugh of Lincoln with wise and cheerful boldness, and taught him to commend the discipline of holy life to kings and princes: Grant that we also, rejoicing in the Good News of your mercy, and fearing nothing but the loss of you, may be bold to speak the truth in love, in the name of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Friday, November 9, 2012

Blessed Virgin Mary Sighting

Image said to be Virgin Mary and baby Jesus found in Utah tree

Barbara Crafton

"I'm sorry I'm late.  I had to buy a dozen cartons of cigarettes."

With that, she introduced herself.  While I seem to recall that she smoked in those days, the cartons were not for her but for the captain and crew of a freighter that was to berth in New York harbor later that day.  She was, you see, the chaplain for the Seaman's Institute and would greet the foreign ships with a package of necessary items.  You know, Bibles and cigarettes.  It was, safe to say, an uncommon ministry, especially for a woman in the 1980's.

In my day at the original General Theological Seminary the first year students were assigned tutors.  This was based on the English system of education where one's tutor wasn't, as in the American system, there to help one through work found difficult by the student, but was instead to help sharpen the points that were being made in the classroom.  As the seminary instruction was heavily academic, the tutors were those from the parish world who helped show how theory could, or could not, become practice.  Barbara was my assigned tutor.

We would meet every other Friday afternoon, if memory holds, and I would read to her a paper that I had written on a topic that was assigned to all of the first-year students.  She would have me read it to her rather than read it herself as she said, "It always sounds better when it's read aloud."  That, and I don't think she had the time to read through a bunch of wannabe clergy's terribly prosaic ruminations on the life theological. 

Honesty, I don't remember any of the topics of those papers, which is just as well.  I do remember that this was in the days before computers and I had to plan a full day not to research or even write the paper, but to type it on my aged Sears typewriter.  Sometimes, I would finish the typing just moments before our meeting.

That never bothered Barbara, as she brought a rather casual atmosphere to the proceedings.  While I am grateful to her for her insight into parish ministry [she was also on the staff of a large suburban parish in New Jersey at the time], and for recommending me for a desirable intern position in a parish during my second year in seminary [the conversation about this possibility taking place when we happened to run into one another during an intermission at a Broadway theater], there is a another reason that I thank her presence in my life, and one of which I've only recently begun to realize.

It was Barbara who taught me how to preach.  Not in the cumbersome way that was still being taught in seminaries in my day, a manner of preaching that was already dated and becoming easy to parody, but one that was based less on a prepared script, carefully read with well-modulated tones, but more on a style that was individual and dependent on the connection between the preacher and the hearer.  She was often asked to preach in our seminary's chapel and was always one of the most popular of guest preachers, and it was through watching and listening to her that I learned a far better style.

From something I once wrote in a book review, and that captures what I learned from Barbara and what I have attempted to practice lo these many years:

The problem with sermons is that they are not the same as speeches, lectures, or any other form of public oration. As sermons are a form of proclamation, they are at their least interesting when written down and read later, as the chief feature of a sermon is the spontaneity of the connection between preacher and listener that exists in the moment of the preaching.

Thus, a sermon needs to be fluid and responsive to the expectations and perceptions of the congregation, as does the preacher. The same sermon preached on the same Sunday before different worship services should be different, as the different congregations have expectations and listening styles particular to them. This is why an experienced preacher watches and, more importantly, listens to the congregation during the sermon to monitor their responses.

For example, if there is some shifting in the pews, that means the congregation has digested the point the preacher is making and he or she should move on. Or, it means the preacher has made all of the points that he or she may make, has exhausted the congregation, and really needs to sit down. [A side note: If someone is reading the hymnal during a sermon, it means that they are determined not to listen to the sermon. Any sermon. Usually, this is done by visiting or vacationing clergy.]

This may be one of the reasons that it is very difficult for there to be an academic, historical appreciation of preaching, as its very liveliness cannot be maintained outside of the event of the sermon itself.

This was the most valuable lesson I took from my seminary days.  Ironically, not one officially taught by the professors but the one realized and related to me by my first-year tutor.

Barbara Crafton is also a writer of a number of collected works; she would occasionally write a column on the back page of the New York Times Sunday Magazine.  She is still a parish priest and active public speaker and writer.  While I haven't seen her in many years, nor exchanged a card or note in quite some time, I think I owe her one.  After all, it's that stray lesson in preaching that's kept me employed all of these years.

A collection of her written works may be found at this link.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This Should Not Be A Controversial Statement

Merkel: Christians Are the Most Persecuted

Hurricane Sandy Relief

For those who asked on Sunday, or those who meant to, I have more information now about Episcopal Relief and Development's Hurricane Sandy response.  Please click on the link below.

ERD: Hurricane Sandy relief efforts

Thursday's Prayer

In the 5th century, this prayer was said by Christians upon the conclusion of the working day:

Accept, we beseech You, our evening thanksgiving, O You Fountain of all good, who has led us in safety through the length of the day; Who daily blesses us with so many temporal mercies and has given us the hope of resurrection to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Right, Deny His Divinity And Then He'll Be Relevant...Why? And For Whom?

Secularise Jesus' story and watch his relevance grow

Take the Christ out of Jesus to make non-believers, well, not believe but at least have better feelings towards that which they can't believe.  I really can't make any sense out of this article's logic.

I had a [temporary] parishioner in another, and rather unfortunate, parish once upon a time furious about at the common Christian teaching that Jesus surrendered mortal existence on behalf of our sins.  "I didn't ask him to die for me", she exclaimed at a Bible study. 

"That's the whole point.  He did it anyway", I replied.  Jesus is divine whether we want him to be or not; whether we can accept it or not. 

Tuesday's Quotation

"The present life is the only opportunity that will be given me for helping others in this world. That is a privilege which even Angels are not allowed. We shall have Heaven for ever, but we have only a short time for service here, and therefore must not waste the one opportunity."
- Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929)

Despite his Sikh name ["Singh" is a common last name for Sikhs, as it means "lion", which is the symbol of the faith and the name of its founding philosopher], Sundar Singh was a Christian who served as a missionary to Hindus and others.  He disappeared in 1929, no remains were ever found, and some of his more strident contemporary followers think that he lives still.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Church Of The Holy Sepulchre To Be Closed Due To...A Water Bill?

A clergyman from the church built on the site where Jesus Christ is said to have been crucified said Friday that its bank account has been frozen as the result of a long-standing dispute with an Israeli water company.

Well, it is in a desert.

This Week's Lesser Feast Days

November 6: William Temple [1881-1944]

He was half-blind nearly from birth, which meant he had to read books and other materials so carefully that he memorized them.  As in, forever.  He was half-lame, so he had to overcome pain and discomfort in order to take part in the normal activities of his profession.  He believed that the best theological explorations were made by those not explicitly exploring theology, hence he was devoted to "secular" poetry and music.  Naturally, in the free-wheeling days of the early 20th century Anglicanism, such a man could become a bishop.

Temple was ordained a priest in 1910, but served in a variety of positions in both the academic realm and in that of social action.  He was well-known as, of all things, a labor negotiator, especially on behalf of the coal mining industry in England.  In recognition, he was appointed Bishop of Manchester in 1921.

There is a remarkable moment in his career, in about his tenth year as bishop, when he was leading a revival meeting [Yes, we have those.  It's surprising to some how rich is our tradition.].  He asked the congregation to pause in singing the hymn "When I survey the wondrous cross" and asked them to softly speak the final stanza, but only if they truly wanted to know Jesus better than they did.  Almost two thousand people whispered

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

It is recognized as one of the great moments in Anglican history, as it was meaningful not only to those present but to all who heard the tale.  Whispered hymns became rather popular for a time because of this.

When the Germans were bombing Britain, and the Church of England needed a new Archbishop of Canterbury, it was Temple who was appointed.  The health problems that vexed him since childhood were exasperated by the demands of his office in wartime, and he died just two years later.  Despite this, he is recognized by quite a few as the greatest Archbishop of the 20th century as he balanced liturgical action with social action and tempered the voices of vengence in his own society.

O God of light and love, you illumined your Church through the witness of your servant William Temple: Inspire us, we pray, by his teaching and example, that we may rejoice with courage, confidence, and faith in the Word made flesh, and may be led to establish that city which has justice for its foundation and love for its law; through Jesus Christ, the light of the world, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

November 7: Willibrord of Utrecht [658-739]

Willibroard was one of the earliest of the Celtic Christian missionaries not to be sent to the wild reaches of the British Isles, but to the countries that are now the Netherlands and Denmark.  He is noted on the calendar as he marks the relationship between these cultures in their pilgrimage from paganism to Christianity.

O Lord our God, you call whom you will and send them where you choose: We thank you for sending your servant Willibrord to be an apostle to the Low Countries, to turn them from the worship of idols to serve you, the living God; and we entreat you to preserve us from the temptation to exchange the perfect freedom of your service for servitude to false gods and to idols of our own devising; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

November 10: Leo the Great [391-461]

Yes, there are popes on our calendar, too; at least a few who were recognized before the Rome/England split of the 16th century. 

Leo the First had many accomplishments during his papacy, as he actively combated several heresies that threatened the unity of Christianity.  I've always thought his most interesting moment was when he met with Attila the Hun and successfully negotiated with the Eastern leader to prevent the latter's invasion of what's now Italy. 

Ironically for one on our calendar, he was significant in formalizing the spiritual authority and infallibility of the pope.  This is ironic, of course, as it was opposition to this authority that gave birth to the so-called "English Church", later to be known formally as the Church of England and all of its partners in the Anglican Communion, including our own American version.

[As I write this, I realize that the Episcopal Church has been known during my lifetime as "The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States", "The Episcopal Church of the United States", and nowadays simply as "The Episcopal Church".  Why three name changes in just half a century?  Power and politics, my brothers and sisters.  There is no practical reason.]

More of Leo the Great may be read here.

O Lord our God, grant that your Church, following the teaching of your servant Leo of Rome, may hold fast the great mystery of our redemption, and adore the one Christ, true God and true Man, neither divided from our human nature nor separate from your divine Being; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Friday, November 2, 2012

Lou Kallie

It was one of those hole-in-the-wall places that you can find in any city, although usually the discovery is accidental or coincidental.  Like the many, many other people who lived and worked on the east side of Cleveland, I had driven by Kallie's establishment many times and never noticed it.  It was, and I hope still is, in the most ordinary of buildings, shared with a beauty salon, a small bank branch, the office of some personal injury attorneys, and a McDonald's.  For a few years the sign out front was cracked and, if traveling east on Mayfield Road, unreadable.  It didn't really matter, though, as all of the aficionados knew where it was.

I learned of it from a colleague during my first year of teaching at a high school.  He lived not far from there and, one day when our faculty lounge conversation turned to jazz, invited me to hear his brother-in-law's band play there. 

"What's it called?", I asked.
"The House of Swing"
"Where is it?"
He smiled and said, "It's where jazz is king."

Lou Kallie was the owner/operator/bartender/disk jockey/master of ceremonies of the biggest of the small jazz clubs of the Mid-West.  In terms of floor space, I doubt that it made it much past 1000 square feet.  But, on live music Fridays and Saturdays, it would host as many people as it could hold [roughly two people for every square foot] and, for the young musicians of the area, it was the Cotton Club, Birdland, and the Aragon Ballroom all wrapped up as one.

Kallie was a jazz drummer who had worked with many of the small bands that toured the Midwest from Chicago to Cleveland, playing the ballrooms and small clubs in places like Detroit, Toledo, and Indianapolis. He once played with a big name orchestra. When tapping out the rhythm to "Tangerine" night after night got dull, he bought an old Irish bar, mostly to house his collection of jazz records and related accessories, installed a turntable, and opened the doors.

In addition to serving as the godfather of Cleveland-area jazz, Lou's most spectacular contribution was his record collection; in the late 70's it numbered somewhere around 15,000 volumes, all housed on shelving surrounding Lou's turntable in the center of what space was available between the storage area and the restrooms.  On the nights when there wasn't live music, Lou would sit from around from 5pm until 2am playing from his collection, looping together themes in the music selections that made sense only to him, and talking about jazz in all of its forms and styles to anyone who desired the conversation. 

There are two things for which I thank him.  First, he introduced me to the music of Art Pepper.  Second, he gave me the best advice ever about playing in a small club.

"When the power goes out, and it always does in those small places, just keep playing.  It'll come back on sooner or later and that way you won't have to drop any songs from your set." 

That latter bit of advice rescued me time and again during my playing days, and also served as the basis of a pretty good sermon.  Once, I think it saved me from being trampled in a small club fire.

Lou Kallie died suddenly in the mid-1990's at the age of 67.  His widow and son still run the House of Swing and still host live music and play Lou's record collection every night.  They probably feel they must, as Lou's ashes are sitting on a shelf behind the bar, as if making sure that everything is at it should be.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints' Day

In the faith's early days Christians solemnized the anniversary of a martyr's death at the place of his or her martyrdom. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. By the fourth century, neighboring dioceses began to transfer relics and join in a common feast. In the persecution of Diocletian, the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each so the Church, determining that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all.

This practice originally began in Antioch. At first only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were honored by a special day. Other saints were gradually added and increased in number when a regular process of canonization was established.

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Thursday's Prayer

For you, heavenly Master, King of the ages, give to the sons of men glory and honor and authority over those upon the earth. Lord, direct their plans according to what is good and pleasing in your sight, so that by devoutly administering in peace and gentleness the authority which you have given them they may experience your mercy. You, who alone are able to do these and even greater good things for us, we praise through the high priest and guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ, through whom be the glory and the majesty to you both now and for all generations and for ever and ever. Amen.

(From the first letter of Clement 61.1-3)