Thursday, October 31, 2013

Power To The People

People living under repressive regimes will soon be able to access the web using the internet connection of friends in censorship-free countries

If The Humanities Were Still About The Humanities, There Wouldn't Be A Problem

NYT: As Interest Fades in the Humanities, Colleges Worry

Plus a comment from a related source:
"There’s nothing wrong with the humanities, when pursued with rigor; the world needs more people who can read, write, and think critically. But the currency has been diluted for years, and consumers are finally catching on. And if you think that the problem is that “inequality and climate change” aren’t being addressed in the English departments, then you’re part of the problem."

Going into hock to student loans for the rest of one's life just to listen to four years of recycled and often half-accurate ideology from a tenured puffin with little real knowledge of anything useful does seem to be a questionable investment.  This is a pity, as once upon a time I would have argued that a humanities degree, as in my case, enabled a lifetime of employment and personal enrichment.  Now all one has to do is agree with the professor, claim to vote in the appropriate way, ensure that you know and hate the latest incarnation of Emmanuel Goldstein, and fork over six figures worth of borrowed money. 

I mentioned to an ordained colleague that I was glad that I majored in English as the degree has served me well during the years, whether I was a teacher, administrator, corporate buyer, educational consultant, business owner, or struggling musician.  Also, since clergy have to, essentially, write for a living, it has been invaluable in that regard.

She responded, "Well, I majored in Accounting and I can write."  I didn't say, and now wish I had, "Yes.  You write like an accountant."

At 18, The Govt Can Tell You To Kill, Die, Or Be Maimed At Its Command

You can also vote for said government.  You just can't be trusted to buy cigarettes.

New York City passes new smoking rules, raising minimum age to buy cigarettes to 21

Trick Or Treat

Thursday's Biblical Recipe: Roast Quail with Apricots and Pecans

1 lb. ground meat sausage (any kind)
1 cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup light brown sugar
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 cup flavored bread crumbs
2 sprigs fresh thyme, cut in pieces
1 cup chopped, roasted pecans
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 cup celery, chopped
½ cup spring onions, chopped
4 ripe apricots, chopped (without pits)
6 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
6 semi-boneless quail
salt and pepper to taste
handful of paprika
1 tsp. ground dried ginger flour coating
1 cup sunflower oil
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper chopped parsley cherry tomatoes

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Fry the sausage and set it aside; reserve the drippings. Mix the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, buttermilk, eggs, bread crumbs, thyme, and sausage drippings together, along with half of the pecans, carrots, celery, and onions, and spoon into a small loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes. Let cool completely.

Place a few large spoonfuls of the baked bread crumb mixture in a large bowl, and mix it well, mashing if necessary, with the sausage, the apricots, and the remaining pecans. Add half the Balsamic vinegar and stir well.

Wash the quail thoroughly and pat dry, inside and out. Season the inside of each quail cavity with salt and pepper; then stuff a few spoonfuls of the bread crumb mixture inside each bird. Season the outside of the bird with a little paprika mixed with ginger and tie the legs together with some twine or unflavored dental floss.

Mix a handful of flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl as a coating for each quail and see to it that they are well covered on both sides. Heat the sunflower oil in a large skillet and sear the quail, turning occasionally, until the entire bird has a golden tinge to its skin. Remove the quail from the skillet and transfer to a large, deep, ovenproof pan. Add the remaining vinegar to the pan drippings and bring to a boil; then spoon over the quail. Raise the oven temperature to 350° and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve over the remaining baked bread crumb mixture, surrounded by chopped parsley and cherry tomatoes.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hey, I Rode A Fifteen-Footer Once; Just Sayin'

Surfer rides "biggest wave of all time".

An Unlikely Couple

Lou Reed, the rock "icon" who died this past weekend, shared an unlikely friendship with Jane Scott, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's long-time music critic.  I wrote of Ms. Scott last year, as she had as much to do with my musical appreciation as did George Szell.  This article is from today's Plain Dealer and might surprise folks in the New York music scene, but seems rather natural for those of us who knew her.

Lou Reed and former Plain Dealer rock critic Jane Scott: A rock and roll love story

Tuesday's Wave

Embedded image permalink

"I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite." -G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Getting Ready For Halloween

International News

Italian police bust ring of corrupt morticians

One Of Our Cathedrals Violates Gun Control Laws In Order To Promote...Gun Control

D.C. police help get firearms to National Cathedral

Hahahaha. Harvard loses. Crimson is also the color of blood.

I Wish They Were Headed To Roxbury

Where Are The Boomers Headed? Not Back To The City.

More And More Often....

Montgomery County thieves steal credit card from church, buy $1,100 puppy
I just heard the best sermon I have ever heard in my career at a diocesan convention. Without question. It was offered by Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina. Lord, almighty, it made me glad about my job. I was especially fond of when he said the church needs more "bourbon drinkin', cigar chewin', cussin' witnesses". I never before realized my personal habits so handily fit a job description. See:

My Dilemma

I think wine tastes like vinegar.  All wine.
Starbuck's coffee is burnt mud.
I prefer German opera to Italian.
I prefer Frank Zappa to Mozart.
I know how to use a hammer.  And a saw.  Heck, I can weld.
I can also put a rifle bullet through the bulls-eye at 100 yards.
I've spent my life with monks, Marines, surfers, and East Village musicians, which means I'm bilingual: I speak both sacred and profane.
My French pronunciation is pretty good, especially when reciting the liturgy.
A clergy collar itches after awhile and I resist wearing them.

So, imagine what it's like for me to spend a weekend with clergy.  I have nothing in common with them.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Something That Will Not Be Discussed At Diocesan Convention

Bible study time.  The new diocesan HQ will be in a former ball-bearing factory at 290 Pratt St. in Meriden.  It appears to have a nice, large parking lot.
"The Way of Jesus: Growing in God's Mission"
The Bishop's address begins.
The introduction of new clergy.  I remember waiting to be introduced at the convention held shortly after my appointment to Roxbury, but my name was left off of the list.  Just goes to show how long I've been around; no one thought of me as "new".

Next year's convention will be in Waterbury.  Good news, delegates!
Numerous opening motions for the agenda, convention secretary, etc.  Unanimous votes; no discussion.
I now have both seat and vote.  Diggity.  323 clergy present at convention.  270 lay delegates present.
The bishop forgot to pray...oops.  Now rectified....
We just sang the convention hymn, set to the tune of Slane.  Lyrics will be forthcoming.
Three minute warning....

I Think They Meant "Pre-Convention"

The room is filling up; still don't recognize anyone.  Oh, there's the priest who told me last year that he's the "chaplain to the wealthy".  Yep, he really did.
Just so you know what I'm doing, I'm sitting in the large convention meeting room listening to the sound fellows test the microphones...for the past forty-five minutes.  "Testing.  One.  Two.  One.  Two."
Live-blogging of diocesan convention will commence today around 3pm with comments concerning the bishop's opening address and other matters.  I may ask people what they're wearing, but perhaps that's too Hollywood.  

A wistful observation: I used to enjoy conventions as I would see acquaintances whom I had not seen for awhile, whose spouses and children I knew.  Back in the primordial days, when all of the clergy were men, we would spend the hour before convention renewing friendships and organizing the evening's poker game.

Now I hardly know anyone; my former colleagues have either retired or moved to lusher dioceses.  I'm glad Jenni still comes to these, as I at least have one person with whom to speak.  

Friday's Church: The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham [aka Durham Cathedral]

Personally, I think it the loveliest cathedral in the Anglican Communion.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Relax, Let The Experts Handle The Guns

Remember, they'll protect you.

3 students hurt when cop's gun discharges at school safety demo

Guess The State

Student suspended for poem about school football team’s poor season
And now, a quotation from my diocesan convention materials: "Please PRINT and bring your ticket(s) and bring them with you to Convention for faster check-in."

Dear Divinity Students:

I appreciate how earnest all of you are.  Many of your statements reveal a zealous desire to serve at the altar.  All of you wish to make a difference in the world and in the life of the Spirit; that's something you share even with those of us who sought ordination in the rapidly retreating past.

I understand that you have been well-programmed to know which secular ideologies to promote to your congregations from the pulpit and the lectern.  You have obviously discovered the benefits of the obsequious charm to be employed before your bishops, archdeacons, canons, cardinal rectors, and even a stray adjunct professor.  You have knowledge of canon law, of the correct contemporary interpretation of scripture, and of the various rubrics that guide our liturgical life, as long as those rubrics are neither too fussy nor too "old".

According to the leaders of your churches and denominations, you have everything you need to spend the remainder of your lives [given that your average age is around forty-seven, I appreciate that life-long service isn't what it was] furthering the Kingdom through able and involved leadership.  Yep, that's the ideal, isn't it?

I have just one suggestion, or series of small suggestions, to offer:  Throw out everything you know.

Don't preach secular ideologies as they are transient and trying to fit them into the Christian life will, from time to time, make you a hypocrite.  You speak for eternal values that can be contradictory when placed against the mean needs of worldly expectations.  Any preacher who has attempted to be both pro-choice and against the death penalty, or vice versa, has discovered this conundrum.  Besides, people can get secular ideology from their politicians.  From you, they want something deeper and more resonant with the eternal.

During your career you will serve liberals, conservatives, gun-owners, vegans, laborers, educators, and a portion of every other demographic in our society.  To identify with just one group, and potentially alienate the others, would end your effectiveness as a preacher and pastor.  It would also display that you believe little of what Jesus taught.  There is nothing worse than listening to an ordained person speak warmly about how we must "respect the dignity of every person" and then turn around and confess how much they deeply and personally loathe the intellect, education, and wardrobe of a former Alaskan governor.  All healthy congregations want is a man or woman of God who is ready to listen and respond to them.  Unhealthy congregations may want a secular ideologue, but unhealthy congregations die and you don't want to be in on that.

As far as obsequity goes, while it may seem to have its usefulness, it does nothing but remind the authorities of your church of your subservience.  That's important for them; rather soul-crushing for you. There may be some superficial career advantages in repeatedly reminding senior clergy of your status as a beta male or female, but it does not serve the Gospel.

While you may find yourself spending a career in what others might regard as minor ministries, you will be true to your call if you are honest and forthright in all associations.  Yes, I know you don't see a lot of that on display among senior clergy these days, but that just indicates how much more it is needed. After all, it's not as if those who hold the reins of power in mainstream Christianity have done such a bang-up job of witness and evangelism, is it?

It is appropriate to know current Biblical interpretation; it is more important to allow your own experience to serve as the prism through which that holy light may shine.  You can quote from the great scholars throughout a Sunday sermon, but your parish called you to that pulpit; they want to know how these verses work for you and have you use that platform to explain scripture's relevance in their lives. Sometimes that means that you have to be bold enough to be original in your thinking.  I know that's something else you haven't seen much of, either.

But you should also know some things that aren't anticipated in your formal education.  First, know how to use a hammer, drill, paintbrush, mop, and broom.  You will have to do a lot of maintenance on your aging church buildings, and the work that you don't do yourself you will have to supervise.  You will come to know the term "deferred maintenance" and regard it as synonymous with "radioactive". Deferred maintenance has destroyed more congregations throughout history than have notorious and unrepentant sins.

If you have church-supplied housing, it will also be in need of repair.  That's a simple reality.  Even though the congregation owns the house, they don't like to think they do and, as they don't live in it, can be stingy about paying for it.  Appliances will be in need of replacement; plumbing, electrical, even structural work will have been neglected, perhaps for decades.  Knowing how buildings are constructed and the names and functions of the various parts will help you communicate with the contractors you will know over the remainder of your career.

Additionally, in the 21st century, you will have to be a fund-raiser.  If only to pay the utility bills for the parish, never mind costs related to staff, liturgical supplies, your insurance, pension, and salary, you will have to be raising money and encouraging donations every single day.  It is harsh, yet honest, to observe that every ministry and every activity will have to be judged as to its affordability and economic sustenance.  It may not seem so at this point in your education, but this is actually a sublime exercise in pastoral care.  Ministries that give the parishioners a warm feeling about themselves, but wreck the budget and discourage future giving, are superficial and ultimately worthless. Ministries that can be maintained for subsequent generations not only enrich the lives of those involved, but enable the parish to have an identity and role to which people are attracted.

The greater church produces more geniuses than a conclave of Nobel Prize-winners, at least if you listen to other clergy.  Every few years you will be introduced to "new" ideas in congregational development, parish organization, and who to place on top of the official list of the "socially aggrieved".  Each new bishop will eliminate the familiar and replace it with the products of his or her own vision, only to have those replaced with the next change in administration, a change that often occurs in the same decade.

Remember in the heart of all of this din you will see small, quiet pockets of ministerial service.  Do what you wish with the whims of the geniuses, but remember that it is in these pockets that your call may be realized and your obligation to the Holy Spirit fulfilled.  Remember, too, that it is in those moments that you will feel God's pleasure, knowing that you have added to the Kingdom.

If you are able to find these moments, then you will understand the glory that is ministry, and that will always sustain you and grant you what you need to be a clergy-person of substance and Godly service.

Thursday's Recipe: Lamb Pottage


½ cup olive oil
6 onions, diced
1 lb. lamb, cubed
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 green pepper
2 cups tomatoes
1 lb. lentils
2–3 cups water
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper

Heat the oil; add the onions and saute until tender but not brown. Add the cubed meat (it should be as lean as possible) and let simmer while washing and dicing the vegetables. Add the vegetables and lentils to the meat with 2 cups of water, and simmer gently until lentils are tender. It will take about 1½ hours. Add salt and pepper when the lentils are cooked. Shake the pot occasionally or add another cup of water to prevent sticking. * Serve hot in a bowl or on a plate next to a cucumber salad.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

At The University Of Colorado, The White People In Charge Won't Let Indians Wear Native Dress

The University of Colorado at Boulder is asking students not to wear Halloween costumes that might be offensive to others, including cowboys, Indians and outfits involving a sombrero.

More And More Often....Also, Guess The State

Self-described militant atheist violently attacks pastor following sermon

Why the Elite Attack Mainstream America

Only people who actually believe that Midwesterners are mute and moronic could think this movie portrays accurately or with sympathy the folks who live in between our coasts. Rather, the film paints small town America as culturally deprived, small-minded and venal – inhabited by folks “clinging to their guns and religion” as Hillary Clinton so famously put it. It’s hard to picture Johnny Carson or Warren Buffet emerging from such a bleak landscape.

[My only disagreement is that it was the current occupant of the White House who made the unfortunate comment about people unlike himself clinging to guns and religion, not the one who desires to be the next occupant.]

Surfing NYC

The city’s surprising subculture of wave riders

The fact the author seems surprised by this is a little dissapointing, especially as Manhattan has both surf shops and surf bars.  Heck, I was riding the subway with a board over thirty years ago.

World Council of Churches Stands By As Christians Perish

Who needs the WCC any more? Would the world, let alone Middle East Christians, be better off without it?

Wednesday's Art: I Corinthians 10:13 by Mark Lawrence

Nice work if you can get it, but I don't get it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday's Wave

"The first duty of man is the seeking after and the investigation of truth." - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Sunday, October 20, 2013

More And More Often....

Coptic Christian Church Shooting Kills Two At Egyptian Wedding

This Week's Lesser Feasts

October 26: Alfred the Great [849-889]

It is always interesting to note the reaction of the un-churched or the non-theistic to those historical personages who make up our lesser feast days.  As they only know of Christianity through inane presentations in popular media and entertainment, the reality can often be surprising; sometimes disquieting for them.

When I used to teach Comparative Religion, those students un-blessed with membership in any recognizable religious tradition would often be surprised that monarchs could be considered holy representatives of the Gospel.  Actually, they used to phrase it as, "I thought there was separation of church and state."

Yes, so piecemeal was their education that they not only thought that church/state separation was to be found in the U.S. Constitution [it's not], but that it formed some transnational, pan-historical practice since the earliest days of organized civilization.  Sometimes a semester could be very long.

King Alfred, who was and is the only English monarch ever to carry the appellation "the Great", was not only a king who was charged with protecting his people and territories from the ravenous tribes of Vikings, but a Christian who, through blood, perspiration, and faith, protected early Anglican Christianity from paganism.  It was a considerable amount of blood, now that I think about it.  He was, and not ironically, also committed to education and judicial reforms, thus laying the foundation for English common law and the British love of learning from which even this blogger has benefited in his own meager way.

The story of his times gives fascinating insight into the tension that historically existed between Roman and Celtic Christianity.  The history is rather complicated and the hour early as I write this, so I will use the great gift of the Internet.  Namely, I will link.

The official biography of Alfred and history of his times may be found at the official website of The British Monarchy, which is worth reading for hours, and not just about Alfred.

The official biography from the Church of Rome may be found here.

A British site offers a secularized history, which is what one expects from British academic websites these days, as they love to pose as non-theists.  However, it is a breezy read.

O Sovereign Lord, you brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people: Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world, and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday's Bible Recipe: Wilderness Loaf

  • 2½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup kefir (or buttermilk or yogurt)
  • 1 cup seedless raisins, chopped
  • 6 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.

    Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips. Slowly add the kefir (or buttermilk or yogurt) and the raisins and chopped rosemary until a nice kneading consistency is achieved. If you overdo it, then add more oats or flour. You must not knead this dough.
    Quickly make two round loaves. Put them on an oiled tray and with the back of a long knife mark lines across the tops. Divide each loaf into 6 sections. Bake for 20–30 minutes until moist but firm.

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Tuesday's Wave

    “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” - Flannery O'Connor

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    My Personality Type Explained In One Easy Graphic

    The Feast Day Of Schereschewsky

    Last year I tore the cartilage in my knee.  It required surgery which, in turn, required that I use crutches and a cane for about a month or so.  What was once a simple walk from the rectory to the parish became a rather laborious trek.  It was also, at least initially, a little exhausting.  Instead of walking, I found myself having things e-mailed to me from an office 50 or so feet away.

    I can't imagine what it would be like to have Parkinson's Disease and decide to translate the Holy Bible into the native languages of China with only the full use of one finger and using a turn of the century typewriter that required about twenty pounds of pressure to move a key.  However, that was the achievement of our Friday fellow, who served in the early 20th century as our bishop in Shanghai.

    Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky [his name always sounded to me like the title of a Tom Lehrer song], who lived from 1831 to 1906, was an Episcopal Church missionary to China at a time when most missions were funded by the missionary's wealthy family or trust fund. 

    [Rather like most of the "bi-vocational" clergy who serve as the "new" model for ministry, at least according to the still-existent (!) House of Bishops.  This notion amuses me as I have never, in my entire career as a full-time clergyman, been able to afford to have fewer than two jobs at any one time, but I digress.] 

    He was unusual in that he was born and raised a Jew, had studied to be a rabbi, and, after studying the messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible, converted to Christianity, studied at the original General Theological Seminary [I actually lived in what had been his room], and gained ordination in the Episcopal Church.  Since he was an orphan, I'm guessing that he didn't have to face much in the way of a shocked and disapproving family. 

    Since Schereschewsky had neither wealth nor a trust, he sought patronage for his work and found an innovative manner of raising funds by using his considerable intelligence and industry in translating scripture for use by other China missionaries.   As he was fluent in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, German, Polish, and Russian, the Chinese dialects did not offer him much resistance.  What did offer resistance was the crippling condition of his hands; a resistance that he overcame through pure stubbornness aided by faith. 

    In addition to his translations, Schereschewsky founded St. John's University of Shanghai, an institution of considerable quality and reputation that existed until it was "re-purposed" by the Communists in the early 1950's.

    Although he has his own feast day, and it may seem redundant to also feature Schereschewsky on a Friday, I offer him today as I've always felt some kinship with him, and not just because we shared a dorm room some 120 years apart.  Historically, the Episcopal Church's clergy have almost always been from the more elite portions of our society.  It was difficult in earlier times for those of no money and little pedigree to find a place in the church, let alone become ordained.  Schereschewsky cleared that hurdle through intellect and faith, not to mention prodigious hard work.  The stubborn Christianity that still exists in the "Godless" paradise of Communist China owes its life to his work.  As such, he serves as a model to those of us from modest origins; reminding us that when God calls, even the most unlikely of candidates can find a place, a role, a responsibility in the Church if we are willing to simply bring to it our positive and hopeful response. 

    [This was originally posted on this day in 2012.]

    Sunday, October 13, 2013

    This Week's Feast Days

    October 15: Teresa of Avila [1515-1582]

    St. Teresa is one of the "originals" from the calendar that was in place before the Rome/England schism, and we still address those from that calendar as "saints". 

    The Episcopal Church does not have a process or practice to assign sainthood to a particular individual; those who are saints are either those recognized in Christian tradition, such as the apostles and evangelists, or those of particular relation to the Celtic foundation of our distinct form of Christian faith.  While the Church of Rome has many, many saints on its calendar, we retained only those from prior to circa 1600, and even then not all.

    Teresa was a rather normal young woman of the 16th century Spanish gentry.  Her family were pious Catholics, and she a serious Christian who also enjoyed a broad friendship.  If she had lived in the 21st century, I imagine one would find her at the mall surrounded by giggling friends, all of them madly texting one another.

    During her teen years her beloved mother died and her father, as was the custom of the times, sent her to be educated by the Carmelite nuns.  The Carmelites were learned women known for their piety and academic ability and they found an apt pupil in Teresa.  She would eventually become a nun of their order.

    While still a young woman, Teresa was struck with malaria.  In her feverish state, wracked with considerable pain, Teresa summoned a unique and purposeful relationship with God through prayer.  As she would later write:

    “I bore these sufferings with great composure, in fact with joy, except at first when the pain was too severe. What followed seemed to hurt less. I was completely surrendered to the will of God even if he intended to burden me like this forever..... The other sisters wondered at my God-given patience. Without him I truly could not have borne so much with so much joy.” 

    This experience would lead her into ecstatic visions in the depths of contemplative prayer.  She was encouraged to suppress any mention of this outside of the convent, as the general population, and the leaders of the Church of Rome, still believed in demonic possession and would have been disquieted by revelation of these experiences.

    [A side note: I once had to drive John Updike, the author, to a hospital in Cleveland because his appendix began to burst during a lecture and recitation of his works at the Jesuit university where I happened to be a grad student at the time.  In the car, as we were speaking of saints like Teresa, he became quite jolly thinking what it would be like for a 20th century Lutheran pastor to suddenly announce to his congregation that he was having religious visions, hearing divine voices, and occasionally levitating.  His temperature was a little high, I guess.  We both laughed at what the reaction of his congregation and bishops might be.  The only difference from the time of Teresa was that he would be thought schizophrenic rather than demonic.  In a way, same difference.  I really did expect his next novel to address that scenario.  Alas....]

    However, the power of her connection to God was obvious to her fellow sisters and she eventually started her own offshoot order of nuns, much more dedicated to simplicity and contemplative prayer with Teresa as the unquestioned teacher of all things holy.  Of her leadership style, she wrote the following:

    “The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything."

    You really can't improve on that, can you? 

    In his book, On Mysticism, Sri Chimnoy notes the following:

    "...Teresa of Avila offered to the world something profoundly mystical. Her mystical experience is the most successful culmination of the divine marriage between the aspiring soul and the liberating Christ, and it is here that man’s helpless crying will and God’s omnipotent all-fulfilling Will embrace each other.

    Her collect in the Episcopal Church:

    O God, by your Holy Spirit you moved Teresa of Avila to manifest to your Church the way of perfection: Grant us, we pray, to be nourished by her excellent teaching, and enkindle within us a keen and unquenchable longing for true holiness; through Jesus Christ, the joy of loving hearts, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    October 16: Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer

    These three bishops were among the first in our distinctly Anglican tradition to be martyred.  Whenever contemporary Episcopal bishops and their remora fish begin to regard themselves as transgressive whenever they simply repeat the talking points of a secular political party that is favored by the majority of those to whom they "witness",  I think of what witness bishops used to offer to the faithful and how pale, wan, and sad is 21st century Christian bravery.

    Hugh Latimer [Bishop of Worcester] and Nicholas Ridley [Bishop of Rochester] were burned at the stake together on October 16th, 1555, on the orders of Queen Mary Tudor.  A year later, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury was also martyred.  Cranmer was the author of the original Book of Common Prayer; the source of all subsequent versions of our most seminal and unique worship aid.

    The site of Latimer and Ridley's martyrdom is commemorated in Oxford with the statue seen above.  There are many sources of information about these men, and I would encourage the readers to look here and here

    If you are wondering why learned, pious, and good men such as these were slaughtered, it was just simple politics.  It always is, isn't it?

    Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servants, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

    October 17: Ignatius of Antioch [?-107]

    Ignatius was an early Patriarch of Antioch in the 2nd century who had been a student of John the apostle.  The Roman government was getting a little tired of these Christians and their antics, so they arrested Ignatius and had him fight wild beasts in the arena, where he would inevitably meet his death.  However, on the rather long trip from Antioch to Rome, he wrote a series of letters that were so powerful, faithful, and true, that the early Christians were energized rather than defeated.  Take that, Rome.

    A comprehensive look at his writings may be found here.

    Almighty God, we praise your Name for your Bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, who offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that he might present to you the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept, we pray, the willing tribute of our lives and give us a share in the pure and spotless offering of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    October 19: Henry Martyn [1781-1812]

    Henry Martyn Forsook All for Christ

    Martyn was a missionary of the Church of England in India in the early 19th century.  He died at the age of 31, no doubt from illnesses received in the sub-continent, but during his life of service did much to bring Christianity to the poor, the helpless, and the needy.  One of the reasons that Christianity is so strong in India is that Martyn produced a translation of the New Testament in both Hindi and Persian, along with an improvement upon a contemporary Arabic version of the same.  A very nice biography of Martyn may be found here.

    O God of the nations, you gave your faithful servant Henry Martyn a brilliant mind, a loving heart, and a gift for languages, that he might translate the Scriptures and other holy writings for the peoples of India and Persia: Inspire in us a love like his, eager to commit both life and talents to you who gave them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

    Friday, October 11, 2013

    Asked the church HQ the other day if they had any coordinated statement about the plight of Christians in the Middle East and if we as a church have a formal response.  I was told information would be forthcoming.  Yesterday I received materials from them for National Coming Out Day.  I guess that's my answer.

    Friday's Church: Las Lajas Sanctuary In Ipiales, Colombia

    I'm very glad I don't have to maintain this property.

    It was built between 1916 and 1949 so, despite its Gothic style, it is a recent construction, at least by the standard of churches.

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Thursday's Bible Recipe: Pocket Bread

    This was a ubiquitous form of bread in the 1st century, similar to pita bread but with a more voluminous pocket.  It could and can be stuffed with meat, vegetables, quinoa and other grain-based concoctions, or even grape jelly.

    The complete recipe may be found at this link.

    Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    Wednesday's Art: Christ and the Abbot Mena

    Christ and the Abbot Mena

    This is a true and traditional icon, as it is painted on wood from a fig tree.  It is currently displayed at the Louvre in Paris.

    Tuesday, October 8, 2013

    What The Heck Do You Think A Funeral Is?

    "Stanzi did not want a funeral. Instead, she wanted us all to celebrate her life."

    [Quotation from an Internet solicitation for funds.]

    Why Don't You Just Leave The Kids In The Womb, Then They'll Never Ever Get Hurt

    ...officials at Weber Middle School in Port Washington are worried that students are getting hurt during recess. Thus, they have instituted a ban on footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, or anything that might hurt someone on school grounds...along with baseballs and lacrosse balls, rough games of tag, or cartwheels unless supervised by a coach.

    More From The Congressman Who Was The Only "No" Vote Against The Resolution Restoring Chaplaincy to Goverment Services And The Military

    Meet Representative Bill Enyart, a Democrat from downstate Illinois; I don't think he missed a Mensa meeting in order to vote "no" on the floor of the House of Representatives:

    As the former head of the Illinois National Guard, Enyart tells WSIL-TV the resolution was silly and that it does nothing to resolve Washington's bigger issues. Enyart calls Saturday's action "phony" and says it "didn't do anything."

    That's true, Enyart, it "didn't do anything" to address the bigger issues.  The resolution wasn't intended to do so.  What it did do is permit the men and women of the armed forces and other government agencies the opportunity to receive spiritual care without extraordinary hindrance and in accordance with such provision in the U.S. Constitution.

    I confess, though, that I'm disquieted at the notion that the minor role I play as a volunteer in the grand machine of government is one that can be used so readily by the powers that be as a political bludgeon, especially as it removes a source of comfort and serenity from a body of people who have gladly donated their lives to service to that same government.  I'm not sure it is a role in which I intend on participating for much longer.

    Tuesday's Wave

    "The devil's greatest wile is to convince us that he does not exist." - Charles Baudelaire

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    For those curious about my Friday evening adventure in confronting the power of the state, if you did not read it in earlier comments, I was able to pray on government property, mainly because the memo I received barring me from doing so was never shared with the port's security staff. I guess clergy were on the honor system or something; a system I happily and willingly dishonored and will do again whenever the government thinks it can tell any of us when and where we may pray and celebrate the Mass. Thank you for your support; it was and is appreciated. Curiously, I received no commentary or support in this from any of my ordained colleagues, save for my wife. They must be fulfilling the honor system in their own quiet way. 

    An update.

    Langston Hughes

    “Humor is laughing at what you haven’t got when you ought to have it.” 
Langston Hughes.

    Dream Variations

    To fling my arms wide
    In some place of the sun,
    To whirl and to dance
    Till the white day is done.
    Then rest at cool evening
    Beneath a tall tree
    While night comes on gently,
    Dark like me— That is my dream!

    To fling my arms wide In the face of the sun,
    Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
    Till the quick day is done.
    Rest at pale evening . . .
    A tall, slim tree . . .
    Night coming tenderly
    Black like me.

    Sunday, October 6, 2013

    I'm About To Go All Nathan Hale On These People. First The Govt Thinks It Can Tell Me When I'm Allowed To Pray, Now This.

    Due to the shutdown, the government just closed the ocean.

    Some News

    Silence on the Gender Degree College Gap

    More And More Often....

    Tennessee Church Vandalized With Atheist Themes

    Weekend Stories

    This Week's Feast Days

    Robert Grosseteste, [circa 1168–1253]

    One of the greatest intellects produced by our tradition, Grosseteste, who was the Bishop of Lincoln in what was the "English Church" [that is, the Church of Rome in England, the forerunner of the  Church of England], was a talented theologian, philosopher, and scientist.  As a bishop, he was also an able and active leader, pastor, and administrator.  Oh, for a bishop these days who is any of just one of those things.

    Here's a portion of his biography from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, no less:
    " of the most prominent and remarkable figures in thirteenth-century English intellectual life. He was a man of many talents: commentator and translator of Aristotle and Greek patristic thinkers, philosopher, theologian, and student of nature. He was heavily influenced by Augustine, whose thought permeates his writings and from whom he drew a Neoplatonic outlook. But he was also one of the first to make extensive use of the thought of Aristotle, Avicenna and Averroes. He developed a highly original and imaginative account of the generation and fundamental nature of the physical world in terms of the action of light, and composed a number of short works regarding optics and other natural phenomena, as well as works of philosophy and theology. As bishop, he was an important figure in English ecclesiastical life, focusing his energies on rooting out abuses of the pastoral care, which in later life he traced to the papacy itself. He made a powerful impression on his contemporaries and subsequent thinkers at Oxford, and has been hailed as an inspiration to scientific developments in fourteenth-century Oxford.
    O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Robert Grosseteste to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    Vita Dutton Scudder, [1861-1954]

    To be honest, I don't really know what recommends Scudder to the calendar as she seems a rather ordinary member of the Episcopal Church's gentry. She was certainly of an academic intelligence, as she was educated at Smith College and Oxford; she spent her teaching career in the English department at Wellesley College. She was an Episcopalian.

    Scudder was gay, or at least we are told so, although the notion of socially active gay women in Boston was a cliché even by the late 19th century. She was an avowed Socialist with an affection for Karl Marx, espoused pacifism, was pained by her class consciousness and attempted to atone for being privileged by working on behalf of what her educated, wealthy world regarded as the "underclass".

    She lived a long life filled with comfort. I'm guessing that, as with many recent additions to the lesser feast calendar, she serves to represent a political demographic in the Episcopal Church. Certainly, privileged white people who favor socialism and suffer from cultural oikophobia make up about half of those with whom I've worked over the last thirty years, so she does have some representation.

    I find her collect below somewhat bland, as if its author also didn't really know why she was included on a calendar of martyrs, high achievers, literary artists, church musicians, scientists, or cultural forerunners. Perhaps, one bright and shining day, one of those members of the "underclass" will be given a calendar date. Am I a dreamer or what?

    Most gracious God, you sent your beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Raise up in your Church witnesses who, after the example of your servant Vida Dutton Scudder, stand firm in proclaiming the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

    [It's always been interesting to me that the Episcopal Church is so remarkably faux populist that it not only hesistates to include the "underclass" on the calendar, at least among those who, like Scudder, were of ordinary acheivement, but the Church also would never consider giving J. P. Morgan, the Gilded Age millionaire and Episcopalian, a date on the calendar, despite the fact that he created the Church Pension Fund; an organization that greatly benefits each and every ordained person the Church.  Apparently, there is an area between too little and too much money that serves as the well from which to draw the honorees.]

    Rocket Fuel In Lettuce? Good God.

    The 9 nastiest things in your supermarket

    We've Had Trouble Figuring Out The Muslim World View Since Jefferson Was President

    The Tsarnaev brothers killed and maimed in service to their version of Islam. So did Major Hasan, screaming Allahu Akbar as he shot his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. The Middle East is undergoing the greatest religious cleansing of Christians of the modern age. This month, eighty Christians were blown up in a church in Peshawar, Pakistan — charged, tried, and executed in a nanosecond by Muslim suicide bombers. At about the very same time, gunmen of the Islamist terrorist group Al Shabaab from Somalia murdered nearly 70 shoppers — after torturing and mutilating many of their victims — in a Nairobi shopping mall during a children’s event. None of these massacres had anything to do with the West Bank, Americans in Iraq, maltreatment of Muslims in the U.S., unkind immigration policies, undue attention shown Muslim travelers, or much of anything other than the usual grievances such as fighting back against terrorists.

    Note that Europe and the U.S. are largely silent on the religious dimensions of this now almost daily violence. Apparently the EU and America believe that their own domestic security protocols have made it difficult for Islamists like the Tsarnaevs, Hasan, or bombers from Peshawar to harvest civilians with regularity in the West — or at least that terrorists can be kept out of Chevy Chase, the Upper West Side, Martha’s Vineyard, and Santa Monica.

    Friday, October 4, 2013

    This Is Really Getting Stupid

    I serve as an unpaid chaplain to members of the merchant marine community.  While a volunteer activity, I am granted status as a "civilian under government authority".  I also get a uniform which I wear on occasion, mainly for the annual photograph or for parades and such.  The reason that my colleagues and I do so is because the U.S. Navy can no longer provide enough commissioned officer/chaplains to cover the merchant service, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and U.S. Public Health Service.

    Due to this nonsensical and mostly unnoticeable government "shutdown", about which I place blame on the entire system rather than one political party or another, I was informed today that I may not exercise any pastoral or liturgical services to personnel of the maritime service.

    My other ordained colleagues who help in other branches of military/government service have received the same notice.  For example,


    This evening I'm travelling to the port of New London to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in defiance of a government order not to do so.  After all, if clergy start rolling over in the face of unfair and illegal commands from agents of the state, we reverse all of the traditional independence that we have earned in every country for the past two thousand years.

    Naturally, I will be joined by all of the Episcopal clergy of the diocese who are willing to stand up against ill-placed secular authority.  Yep, I'll be all alone.

    Friday's Church: Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool

    Frankly, I always thought it looked like something from a Soviet-produced science-fiction film.

    It also rather reminds me of the pyramid in Mexico I once climbed.

    Thursday, October 3, 2013

    Arcane News

    Rare Jewish prayer book predates oldest known Torah scroll

    Thursday's Biblical Recipe: Baked Sheep's Milk Cheese and Fresh Dates

    Preheat oven to 350°F.

    Place a mound of a creamy sheep's milk cheese in a small loaf pan, and spread a teaspoon of honey over the surface. Bake for 45 minutes. Scoop out onto a large dish and surround with fresh dates for dipping and eating.

    Wednesday, October 2, 2013

    Just Because I Had To Correct Someone About This Earlier Today

    Rector's News For October

    The First Thursdays group will meet this week with a continuation of our look at how the elaborate and advanced highway system of the Roman Empire enabled Christianity to grow and thrive as quickly as it did.  See you at 7pm on October 3rd.

    Confirmation will be held on Saturday, October 5th at 5pm.

    Most of the membership of the parish has expressed, to one degree or another, some disfavor with the original color of the front doors of the church.  Certainly, I was surprised to discover the painters’ interpretation of the “firehouse red” that was to have matched the interior of the doors.  While I was hopeful that one of those who felt strongly about this would come forward, paintbrush in hand, I addressed the issue myself this past week.

    As I am blessed with an abundance of guitar paint, due to one of my eccentric hobbies, I thought it might be nice to offer the parish and greater community something different.  Namely, we are now the only church I know that has doors in a classic rock and roll color.  If you think that Fender Guitar’s “fiesta red” looks great on a guitar wielded by Pete Townsend of The Who, Andy Summers of The Police, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, blues great Stevie Ray Vaughan, or even Eric Clapton, you should see what it looks like on a pair of church doors.

    By the way, the reason that Episcopal Church doors are red is because of the traditional offering of "sanctuary".  The sacred space behind those doors is understood to be holy and permits, under traditional English law, those inside of them to be safe from legal authority.  The red color so marked that understanding.  Of course, the rite of sanctuary only works if honored by those in pursuit, as the martyr Thomas Becket so learned, so in recent times the red doors have come to represent a less legal and more spiritual designation.  Those within the red doors are safe from spiritual harm and may freely abide in a place set aside for one’s pilgrimage.

    The Blessing of the Animals will be held during the Octave of St. Francis at noon on Saturday, October 12th at the columbarium.  All animals and their stewards are invited.

    What’s the most interesting feast day of the month, you ask?  There are quite a few, but I’ve always been partial to the life and witness of Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky, who was our missionary bishop in Shanghai until his death in 1906. His feast is on October 14th.  Despite a crippling disease that bent and disfigured his hands and fingers, he used an early model of typewriter to translate Holy Scripture into the languages of China.  That, and he and I shared a dormitory room in seminary, albeit 100 years apart from one another.

    O God, in your providence you called Joseph Schereschewsky from his home in Eastern Europe to the ministry of this Church, and sent him as a missionary to China, upholding him in his infirmity, that he might translate the Holy Scriptures into languages of that land. Lead us, we pray, to commit our lives and talents to you, in the confidence that when you give your servants any work to do, you also supply the strength to do it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    Wednesday's Art: Ethiopian Madonna And Child

    Ceramics-Black Madonna

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013


    Does the Connecticut O-care exchange have platinum plans? Absolutely. Also, definitely not.

    More And More Often....

    The FBI is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the person or persons who vandalized three churches in Bozeman, Montana. The FBI is investigating the matters as a hate crime due to the sheer volume of profane anti-religious graffiti and acts of arson discovered inside the churches. In addition, suspects are facing potential state felony charges associated with arson, burglary, and defacing a religious institution.

    Tuesday's Wave

    "I do not know you God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside." - Flannery O'Connor

    [For those curious about the photo, this is what happens when one rides up a wave instead of down it.  If you time it right, and the wave is powerful enough (this wave pattern is found in Newport Beach and is known as "The Wedge"), one gets launched into the air.  It's fun, certainly, but then you're faced with the tedious duty of finding your surfboard.]