Friday, January 31, 2014

14 Bricks

In terms of parish size, I think I've served the entire spectrum.  My first position as an ordained person was at a cathedral, the second was at a parish so small that it needed to be yoked with another small parish so that the two together would be able to share one priest.  For the better part of a decade, I served a parish that could only afford to have me work on Sundays.  Fortunately, I had a full-time job as a school chaplain at the time.  Our average Sunday attendance was 25 people.  I remember the senior warden complimenting me because he had never seen so many people in church.

When I became an interim rector [I believe it's now called "transition minister"; next year, it'll be called something else], I served in small and mid-size parishes, and then spent several years serving so-called "cardinal parishes": one in an upscale suburb, another the largest parish in a state capital, the next the largest parish in a neighboring state's capital.  Those three parishes supported a ministry to thousands, along with staffs of an appropriate size.  They also enjoyed a great range of races, cultures, educational backgrounds, and income.

At one of these parishes, it was determined by the vestry that we would build an addition to the building to support a growing church school and offer amenities such as an indoor basketball court and small theater complete with professional lighting and sound capability.  So, we organized a "building committee" to hire an architect, contractor, and construction crew, and began to solicit for funds.

One day, one of our wealthier members, from whom I had asked for the pledge towards the project, stopped by the office after having just returned from his beach house in Little Compton and asked me to accompany him to the parking lot.  There, he opened the trunk of his enormous, and brand new, Mercedes-Benz sedan to reveal a collection of bricks.

"We re-built our gatehouse and these were left over.  I thought I'd give them to the construction project.  This is more honorable than money."

So, I made two trips to the back of the parish house with an armful of bricks, thanked him for his support, and then wondered if there were any contractors who would build a multi-million dollar structure in return for fourteen bricks.  A structure, I might add, that wasn't even going to be made of brick.

This is not an uncommon gesture, especially as it makes the giver feel righteous and costs them nothing or next to it.  Unfortunately, it places the receiver in the awkward position of graciously accepting a gift that he or she knows is useless.  I suppose that's why I had a closet at that parish full of broken fax machines, obsolete desktop computers, and ruined musical instruments.  They were useless to those who gave them but, instead of pitching them, they gave them to the church, claimed a charitable tax deduction, and had a warm sense of relevance.  Me?  I had to spend time away from pastoral duties either to find someone who wanted an obsolete machine or instrument or arrange the appropriate disposal of them.

I have found this phenomenon in all of the parishes I've served, regardless of size.  There are always those who think that donating some token once a year is a gift that enables an active ministry, innovative programs, or comprehensive education for parish youth. In fact, it often amounts to about 35 cents a week and does nothing for the organic work of the parish.  The churches in which I've worked where over half of the membership preferred token gifts to planned giving are the parishes which are now closed.  If I were of a harsher nature, I'd say "Good riddance."  Instead, I'll simply observe that they received their reward.

There are four elements that a true communicant embodies: They attend worship services, they participate in dinners and continuing education programs, they offer gifts-in-kind, and, importantly, they pledge to the operating budget of the parish.  There will always be people who present a token gift and do not pledge, but as long as they don't form the majority, the parish will function and remain.  Heck, it may even grow.

But when a budget needs to be supported, and all the majority offer is irrelevant material that would be otherwise discarded, it's time to close the parish and permit the true communicants to shake that dust off of their feet and find a place that is worthy of true support.

A Meditation On Public Vs. Private Charity From An Interesting Source

"Mr. Speaker-- I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him. Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

Friday's Church: St. John's Episcopal Church of Tuckahoe, Yonkers





Thursday, January 30, 2014

Obit Of The Week

Read the whole thing, but savor the next-to-last sentence.

Gosh, Headline Editors Sure Are Original [Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal]

"The Incredible Shrinking Paycheck"--headline, Forbes.com, Jan. 21 

"The Incredible Shrinking American Retail Store"--headline, TheFiscalTimes.com, Jan. 23 

"The Incredible, Shrinking Charlie Crist Campaign"--headline, Tampa Bay Times website, Jan. 23 

"The Incredible Shrinking Relevancy of GDP"--headline, Demos.org, Jan. 27 

"The Incredible, Shrinking Blue-State Advantage"--headline, Washington Post website, Jan. 29 

"The Incredible Shrinking Yahoo, but 100 Percent More Show Biz in Q4 Presentation!"--headline, CNBC.com, Jan. 29 

"The Incredible Shrinking Presidency"--headline, New York Times, Jan. 30
"Through the pursuit of beauty we shape the world as a home, and in doing so we both amplify our joys and find consolation for our sorrows" - Roger Scruton.

In England, Young Rugby Players Are Being Taught That The Way To Win Is To Lose

As Stuart Lancaster makes his final Six Nations preparations, England's next generation of budding rugby internationals have been told that their competitions must have no winners and that if they are losing a match, the teams will have to be changed.

I guess it's "Zen Rugby" now.  This is a pity, as rugby was the only English sport that I ever enjoyed playing.  Football [soccer] was mostly running up and down a field for an hour and a half and getting hysterical with joy when someone finally scored a goal, and cricket...well, who could ever figure out cricket?  I don't think the players knew the rules, either. 

I always liked that, in rugby, once you were tackled you could still get up and potentially score.  In fact, I recall running down the field with the ball while also carrying three pasty Englishmen.  I was hard to tackle in my teenage years.  Nowadays, I trip over the cat.

Thursday's Music

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Exercise to Age Well, Whatever Your Age

Offering hope and encouragement to the many adults who have somehow neglected to exercise for the past few decades, a new study suggests that becoming physically active in middle age, even if someone has been sedentary for years, substantially reduces the likelihood that he or she will become seriously ill or physically disabled in retirement.

Son Of Man

Why would Jesus characterize himself as the Son of Man? I mean, sure, everyone in Palestine back then knew exactly what he meant in doing so. “Son of Man” was in the symbolic language of Israel another way of saying “Son of God.” But then, why should that have been so?

The Older Mind May Just Be a Fuller Mind

Since educated older people generally know more words than younger people, simply by virtue of having been around longer, the experiment simulates what an older brain has to do to retrieve a word. And when the researchers incorporated that difference into the models, the aging “deficits” largely disappeared.

Turn Your Smartphone Into a Digital Microscope!

For Those Who Long For The Victorian Era

In 2012 the parents of four-month-old Jayden Wray were initially charged with his death before doctors realised he had probably died from rickets. 

Before Jayden there had been only one death in 30 years. Yet in 2012 about 900 cases were diagnosed in hospitals in England.

Rickets?  Really?

Yet Another Use For Coffee Hour

Gossiping benefits society, study claims

Heck, I've Known This For Years

Some of the greatest thinkers of recent times have been avid nappers – Winston Churchill reportedly relied on regular short naps to help him lead the country through the war. 

And yet there remains a cruel stigma against those of us who wish to pop back into bed during daylight hours for a quick shut eye. 

But now, in a round-up of scientific research, there is evidence not only proving the real benefits of a kip, but detailed findings that show how varying lengths of snooze have different beneficial effects on the brain.

Wednesday's Art: "King David" by Frederick Leighton [1865]


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Sober Appreciation Of Pete Seeger And Real Folk Music

Huffington Post:

The thing to remember about folk music -- both in the common American sense, as meaning the music of the South and of Appalachia that goes back to the ballads of the British Isles, and in the larger sense, as any traditional music of a specific local tradition, such as the Delta Blues -- is that it is complex music by and for people who are not simple. Folk music is an oral tradition, which is why it is often thought of as the low music of hillbillies and sharecroppers. Literate culture looks down on what is not transcribable, and in doing so limns the limitations of snobbery. But griot cultures know and understand marvelous things. Morgan Sexton or Skip James expressed at least as much of the sense of life as Beethoven did.

[By the way, Seeger graduated from Avon Old Farms School in Avon, Connecticut. There are a lot of privileged Communists who have attended the New England boarding schools, I find.  I never understood why he could never have a hammer.  They're cheap and ubiquitous.]

Related article from Bloomberg Media: Pete Seeger: Folkie, Communist, Millionaire

America's top liberal arts schools skip U.S. history, report finds

For example, a student at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, can avoid a survey course in American history by fulfilling the general education concentration requirement by completing courses like “History of Electronic Dance Music” or “Decoding Disney: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Animated Blockbuster,” according to the report.

Again, all this plus over $90,000 in student loan debt.

So, All The Bishop Of Rome Has To Do Is Begin Sounding Like An Episcopalian And He Gets The Cover Of Rolling Stone


Waterman Of The Week. Maybe Of The Year.

Man fights off shark, stitches up own leg, goes to the pub

The End Result Of This Is Owing $90,000 To Sallie Mae

University offers course on Jay Z and Kanye West's relationship

Only #9? C'mon, People. We Can Do Better Than That!

The 10 Worst States for Taxes in 2014

Tuesday's Wave


"Respect is man's astonishment, humility and awe at a fact in which he meets something superior—majesty, dignity, holiness, a mystery which compels him to withdraw and keep his distance, to handle it modestly, circumspectly and carefully."  -Karl Barth

Monday, January 27, 2014

Told Ya

Federal Government to seek full cost recovery for Antarctic expedition rescue

Gosh, The New York Times Just Knows Everything

From a 1936 review of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film, "Swing Time":

"Right now we could not even whistle a bar of 'A Fine Romance', and that's about the catchiest and brightest melody in the show. The others... are merely adequate or worse."

This came to mind as I was listening to an over-the-hill rock star butcher that song.  Even though it should not have been in that artist's oeuvre, it's still performed, often and by many.  I can't speak for the long-departed NYT critic, but not only can I whistle portions of "A Fine Romance", but even sing some of the other "adequate or worse" songs from the film like "Pick Yourself Up" and "The Way You Look Tonight".

Which lead me to an appreciation of Dorothy Fields.  Who, you might ask?  The music from "Swing Time" is almost always credited to the composer, Jerome Kern.  But, as far as I'm concerned, what makes them special are the lyrics written by Fields.  Although you may not be aware of it, you have heard her lyrics many times, and may have even sung them to yourself.

They include:

BIG SPENDER
BY THE BEAUTIFUL SEA
CUBAN LOVE SONG
DINNER AT EIGHT
I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE
I WON’T DANCE
I’M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET
PORGY
SINGIN THE BLUES
TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, A

Note that she wrote the lyrics to memorable songs in stage productions and films from the 1920's to the very different world of 1969 ["Big Spender" is from Sweet Charity].  She won an Oscar and a couple of Tony awards for her work.

Watkins Glen, New York


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Which Is Actually Worse Than Explosives

Airport security suspect explosive, find haggis

So That's Why It's Called "Pot" Luck

Police: Teacher brought marijuana-laced food to after-work potluck

This Week's Feast Days


January 27: John Chrysostom, Bishop Of Antioch And Constantinople 

John was called Chrysostom (which means "Golden Mouth") because of his eloquence. He was a priest of Antioch known as an outstanding preacher. So much so that congregations were warned not to carry large sums of money when they went to hear him speak, since pickpockets found it easy to rob his listeners as they were too intent on his words to notice. His sermons were mostly unadorned expositions of Holy Scripture emphasizing literal meaning, even though the style in Alexandria in his day tended to the allegorical.

He loved the city and people of Antioch and they loved him. However, he became so famous that the Empress at Constantinople decided that she must have him for her court preacher, so she had him kidnapped and brought to Constantinople and there made bishop.* This was a failure all around. His sermons against corruption in high places earned him powerful enemies (including the Empress), and he was sent into exile, where he died in the year 407.

O God, you gave your servant John Chrysostom grace eloquently to proclaim your righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of your Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching, and faithfulness in ministering your Word, that your people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[*Yes, he had to be kidnapped to be made a bishop, so reluctant was he for the office.  This may mean that he is the one person in Christian history who actually should have been a bishop.]

January 28: Thomas Aquinas [1225–1274]


It seems hard to believe now, but there was a time, specifically in the 13th century, when the works of Aristotle had fallen out of common usage and were unstudied in the universities of Europe. Thanks to the Muslim scholars of Arabia and Spain, who were enamored of Aristotle's natural philosophy [Islam and its relationship with Western thought has really changed since then, eh?], Aristotle was ready for re-discovery when Thomas of Acquin, a Dominican monk of no small intellect, published a series of works re-presenting Aristotelian thought to his contemporaries and matching it with the theological framework of medieval Christianity. [It is helpful to remember, despite what trendy secularists would have one believe, that Christianity created the university model that educates the Western world to this day; not to mention also enabling scientific method to develop.]

As one with degrees in both philosophy and theology, I can testify to the continued influence of Aquinas in both fields. In fact, his popularity in secular philosophy continues to grow. All subsequent Western philosophy is in reaction to Aquinas's works. There is no greater figure in history whose accomplishments so strongly stand in the face of the errant belief that there is, or should be, a separation between theology, philosophy, and science.

Perhaps his most interesting contribution to human thought is through the field of natural theology. In an overly succinct definition, natural theology is the study of God as known not through sudden revelation, but through the application of observation and reason.

I would encourage readers to follow the links for more information. I will leave with this piquant quotation from G.K. Chesterton, the Catholic writer [and creator of the literary detective "Fr. Brown"] as to Aquinas's ecclesial abilities and ambition:

"His experiences included well-attested cases of levitation in ecstasy; and the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, comforting him with the welcome news that he would never be a Bishop."

Almighty God, you have enriched your Church with the singular learning and holiness of your servant Thomas Aquinas: Enlighten us more and more, we pray, by the disciplined thinking and teaching of Christian scholars, and deepen our devotion by the example of saintly lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

February 1: Brigid of Kildare [450-525]




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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Parish Notes

Despite the federal holiday, Lee Terwilliger and Meg Mongin were busy in the parish hall yesterday finalizing the 2014 budget report for Sunday, Mike Snowden repaired and restored the lantern above the front doors of the church [not an easy thing to do on an ancient building while he was atop a ladder], and Jim Lowe stopped by to lend a hand. Yet another reminder of how stewardship works at Christ Church. 

True giving continues as Ken Murphy came by this morning to help connect the church building to its new generator. We now have coverage in all buildings in case of power outages due to harsh weather, natural disaster, etc. We can truly offer a "shelter from the storm" to those in need. God is good, folks. All the time.

Tuesday's Wave: A Breaking Wave From Behind

 
"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Sense A New Liturgy Coming

Swiss company Algordanza takes cremated human remains and — under high heat and pressure that mimic conditions deep within the Earth — compresses them into diamonds.

"O Me! O Life!" by Walt Whitman

I heard a fragment of this on some commercial.  I'm not usually a Whitman fan, but when I am, I prefer the accessibility of poems such as this.  It ties in rather nicely to this morning's Gospel:

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

                                       Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

This Week's Feast Days

January 21: Agnes of Rome [292-304]

St. Agnes of Rome

A popular saint about whom little is known, Agnes is said to have been a beautiful, wealthy Roman maiden who had, in childhood, dedicated herself to God. Some say that a rejected suitor betrayed her to authorities; others say that she was asked at 13 to sacrifice to the gods and marry, both of which she refused. Legends tell of her being thrown into a brothel, where her purity was miraculously preserved. Having escaped that fate, she was martyred. In the IV Century, Constantia, the daughter of Constantine, built a basilica on the site of her tomb....Her emblem in art is the lamb because of the similarity between her name and the Latin word for lamb, agnus.

 Almighty and everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

January 22: Vincent of Saragossa, Deacon and Martyr [? - 304]



Deacon and martyr. Born at Huesca, Spain, he became a deacon and served St, Valerius at Saragossa until his martyrdom at Valencia during the persecutions under Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305). St. Valerius was exiled, but Vincent was cruelly tortured because he would not surrender the holy books. He converted the warden of the prison and then died. He was honored by Sts. Augustine, Pope Leo I, and Prudentius, and is considered the patron saint of vinedressers in some regions of Spain.

Almighty God, your deacon Vincent, upheld by you, was not terrified by threats nor overcome by torments: Strengthen us to endure all adversity with invincible and steadfast faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

January 23: Philips Brooks, Bishop of Massachusetts [1835-1893]



A member of a wealthy old Brahmin family of New England, Brooks attended Harvard University (1851–55) and taught briefly at the Boston Latin School before attending the Episcopal Seminary at Alexandria, Va., being ordained there on July 1, 1859. The following month he began his ministry at the Church of the Advent in Philadelphia, where his impressive personality and eloquence won crowds of admirers. Three years later he became rector of Holy Trinity in the same city. Except for a year of travel abroad in 1865–66, he remained there seven years, during which he finished the lyrics of his famous Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (music by Lewis H. Redner). In 1869 he accepted the rectorship of Boston’s Trinity Church, the nation’s stronghold of Episcopalianism, and retained that position until he became bishop of Massachusetts in 1891.

In Lectures on Preaching (delivered at Yale University in 1877), Brooks offered his most influential assay of his profession, defining preaching as “the bringing of truth through personality,” by which he meant a kind of radiant optimism. His own eloquence was matched by his commanding, handsome figure, standing six feet four inches tall and weighing (in his prime) 300 pounds. His charismatic preaching became so renowned that he was invited in 1880 to preach at Westminster Abbey in London and at the Royal Chapel at Windsor before Queen Victoria. In 1890 he conducted an acclaimed series of services at Trinity Church, New York City. Several volumes of his sermons were published during his lifetime and posthumously.

I would add to the "canned" commentary above that there was considerable competition for the title "greatest preacher of the 19th century", as it was a more pious and unapologetically Christian age, yet Brooks was undeniably such.  As his composition formed the content of our Christmas Eve sermon this past month, we know of the genesis of that simple hymn, "O Little Town of Bethlehem", and how it brought a sense of healing to Brooks and to his parishioners upon the close of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  If you weren't in church to hear it, you're out of luck.

O everlasting God, you revealed truth to your servant Phillips Brooks, and so formed and molded his mind and heart that he was able to mediate that truth with grace and power: Grant, we pray, that all whom you call to preach the Gospel may steep themselves in your Word, and conform their lives to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

January 24: Florence Li Tim-Oi [1907-1992]



Li Tim-Oi was born in Hong Kong in 1907. When she was baptized as a student, she chose the name of Florence in honor of Florence Nightingale. Florence studied at Union Theological College in Guangzhou (Canton). In 1938, upon graduation, she served in a lay capacity, first in Kowloon and then in nearby Macao.

In May 1941 Florence was ordained deaconess. Some months later Hong Kong fell to Japanese invaders, and priests could not travel to Macao to celebrate the Eucharist. Despite this setback, Florence continued her ministry. Her work came to the attention of Bishop Ronald Hall of Hong Kong, who decided that “God’s work would reap better results if she had the proper title” of priest.
On January 25, 1944, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Bishop Hall ordained her priest, the first woman so ordained in the Anglican Communion.

When World War II came to an end, Florence Li Tim-Oi’s ordination was the subject of much controversy. She made the personal decision not to exercise her priesthood until it was acknowledged by the wider Anglican Communion. Undeterred, she continued to minister with great faithfulness, and in 1947 was appointed rector of St. Barnabas Church in Hepu where,on Bishop Hall’s instructions, she was still to be called priest.

When the Communists came to power in China in 1949, Florence undertook theological studies in Beijing to further understand the implications of the Three-Self Movement (self-rule, self-support, and self- propagation) which now determined the life of the churches. She then moved to Guangzhou to teach and to serve at the Cathedral of Our Savior. However, for sixteen years, from 1958 onwards, during the Cultural Revolution, all churches were closed. Florence was forced to work first on a farm and then in a factory. Accused of counter revolutionary activity, she was required to undergo political re-education. Finally, in 1974, she was allowed to retire from her work in the factory.

In 1979 the churches reopened, and Florence resumed her public ministry. Then, two years later, she was allowed to visit family members living in Canada. While there, to her great joy, she was licensed as a priest in the Diocese of Montreal and later in the Diocese of Toronto,where she finally settled, until her death on February 26, 1992.

Allow me to offer some controversial observations, as I was active in the church upon the initial "discovery" of Li Tim-Oi's story.  Mother Li was so unknown that, upon the much-trumpeted occasion of the ordination of the first women clergy in 1974, we were not generally aware that the Anglican Communion had already ordained a woman to the priesthood more than thirty years before.  Once Mother Li's remarkable story was discovered, it deflated some of the self-importance of the newly ordained, all of whom were white and economically privileged; two things Mother Li was not.  The fact that Mother Li was nothing if not humble, even by Chinese standards, didn't make her story any more than grudgingly popular in the American church, as the ecclesial style of the day was stridently "ME"- oriented.  It seemed that it was only out of good Episcopal manners that she was initially granted a date on the calendar.

Anyone who met her in person, as I was so honored when we shared a lecture hall at the University of Toronto, would have recognized being in the presence of a true priest.  She lived to serve God, not self, and reached beyond culture to preach a quiet, simple message of faith.  I'm glad she was the first woman priest, as she set a standard that is inspiring, catholic and universal.

Gracious God, we thank you for calling Florence Li Tim-Oi, much beloved daughter, to be the first woman to exercise the office of a priest in our Communion: By the grace of your Spirit inspire us to follow her example, serving your people with patience and happiness all our days, and witnessing in every circumstance to our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Archaeological News

Bone found at English abbey could belong to King Alfred the Great

More about Alfred may be found in an earlier posting on The Coracle.

Credit Where It's Due

Middle East Christians being 'massacred': Anglican leader

I'm glad someone in the Anglican Communion is saying something about this.  I'd be happier if we were actually doing something, but baby steps....

Well, Why Not? Prison Should Be About Redemption, After All

Seminary in Prison?

There Seems To Be A Pocket In Society That Wants To Ban Some Things And Make Mandatory All Others

This is why Jesus taught that the ultimate liberation is be found in the Kingdom and not in the ham-handed realm of a government.  Give them what they want, but claim the Kingdom for yourself.

When trolling pressure groups cause real harm

Problems With The Reality Of Nature

NY Town spends $2,984 per deer in sterilization program

Really, there's a simpler way to control the population of deer; one that actually works and generates tax income instead of wasting it.  Although, I say so having just enjoyed a dinner of venison in red wine sauce.  And before any white people accuse the half-breed of being insensitive to animals, I'd suggest one take a walk in the deep woods and view the sad sight of deer who have died of starvation.  You will not have to go far to find some.  I find lingering, painful death to be far less humane than that caused by bullet or bow.

To be divorced from nature and attempt to deal with a natural problem never works, except when it appeases the delicate fantasy that the human race is not a part of a food chain.  Remember that next time you're taking a course of antibiotics for your Lyme Disease.

No Surprise To Anyone Who Pays Attention

A Six-Year High for Global Religious Hostility

This Is Interesting, Especially If You're In The Mood For Some Long Reading

The main focus of the Spiegel story is what it calls “the belief of unbelievers”—the persistence of all kinds of magical or superstitious practices among atheists or others with no avowed religious beliefs. It would appear then that there is a deeply rooted human propensity to believe in supernatural realities. The author (mercifully, in my opinion) does not ascribe this persistence to neurological peculiarities of our species or other vicissitudes of the evolutionary process. (One curiosity of the contemporary religious scene is that even some theologians find it plausible to look on religion as a variety of brain disease.) Various psychological experiments are quoted; I particularly like the one (conducted, of all places, in Helsinki), in which avowed atheists are asked to loudly petition the deity (in which they don’t believe) to burn down their house or to drown their parents: The unhappy subjects of the experiment evinced obvious reluctance and physiologically measurable stress (this can be done by analyzing the degree of sweating). The author of the story opines that this is nothing new, that it was always the case. In other words, he agrees here with what a Protestant theologian of my acquaintance has called “the eternal return of the Stone Age”.  Sweating Finnish atheists today thus stand in a long line of supernaturally terrified humans, going back to the dawn of history, uninterrupted by allegedly more Christian periods (such as the Middle Ages) or the alleged emancipations of the Enlightenment.

Non, Merci

Jessie Vetter's Team USA goalie mask required to remove Constitution

Yes, the whole notion of the Constitution must be terrifying to other countries' governments.

It's The 50th Anniversary Of The Release Of "Endless Summer"

This may not mean anything to you, but its my blog.


Above are Bruce Brown and Robert August, who have both been featured in The Coracle, signing autographs on posters for the movie.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Okay, This Is Scary

Increasingly students tell me that they “can’t understand” the reading.  If they referred to Plato’s Symposium, the confession would be easy to interpret.  Abstract argument, syllogisms, and the refutation of syllogisms pose difficulties for inexperienced readers.  However, the texts that students tell me they “can’t understand” are The Odyssey or a novel by Hawthorne or Melville or a short story by Ray Bradbury.  In the case of The Odyssey, I assign Palmer’s WWI-era prose translation, so as not to traumatize the readership by confronting it with narrative in verse.  Students are telling me that they can’t understand stories, where one thing happens which leads to another and so forth.  Students give voice to a different, a radical species of incomprehension that bodes ill for the culture, the society, and the polity that they will constitute.  Their bafflement harbingers the age of post-literacy.

An Obituary Of Note

Prolific California shaper passes at age 69

A Major Reason For Problems In Higher Education, The Economy, And, By Extension, The Church


Friday's Church: Bishop Edward King Chapel, Oxford, England


Thursday, January 16, 2014

And Now, A Happier Note

BBC: The mystery of why so many birds fly in a V formation may have been solved.

Obama to Renew Call to Limit Charitable Deduction

White House estimates new limit would generate $321-billion in revenue through 2021 

A tax hungry government [and what government isn't?] will always demand more and more "revenue", even if it imperils the arts, museums, private education and, or especially, religion.  After all, in its care for people and as a rallying societal force, religious institutions can appear to be a rival for the power of the government.  As history informs us, all rivals to government power must be eliminated.

I wish someone in government would read a white paper that I and a couple of colleagues wrote at Princeton eighteen years ago about the differences in government power ["hard power"] and that of religious institutions ["soft power"].  We found that when hard power and soft power cooperate, it's best for both institutions and society as a whole.  When hard power seeks to overrun, limit, or remove soft power, not only is it disruptive to the entire culture, but it weakens hard power and makes soft power more resolute.

Unfortunately, it appears that our ancient paper is not on line.  Maybe it's time to re-write it, anyway.

[By the way, $321 Billion represents what the US government borrows over a not-quite 27 day period.]


Teacher Tells Student Not to Talk About Bible in School: Lawyer

"The school assignment was for each student to bring to class something that represents a family Christmas tradition and do a 1-minute presentation on it."

I keep being puzzled by government schools that offer Christmas concerts but forbid "religious" music and, as in the case above, invite students to speak about their family's Christmas tradition but not permit them to quote from the source material.  It's an odd sort of schizophrenia, isn't it?  Is the assumption by the school that all people celebrate only a secularized form of "Christmas"?  If so, that bubble deserves to be punctured.

If you wish to keep the religious aspect of Christmas, which is admittedly all there is to Christmas, out of the schools, then don't have Christmas concerts or oriented class assignments.  Is this really that difficult to figure out?

In Search of Time’s Origin

It's like a combination of theology and theoretical physics.  In short, they're not so sure there is such a thing as "time".

Guess The State. Heck, Guess The Metro Area.

Two men robbed of their marijuana after practicing medieval swordfighting, police said

Don't Let The Answer To This Question Become Public. There Might Be Panic In The Streets.

Could it be that boys are different from girls…and that that’s OK?

Thursday's Music: Blue Money / Van Morrison

Postings will continue later this evening.

Monday, January 13, 2014

WHAT?

Jim Beam Is Turning Japanese

Well, there's still Jack Daniel's.

Well, That Explains Why My Favorite Beach Was Never Restored

Feds Investigating Christie's Use Of Sandy Relief Funds

This Is Why One Should Only Give To Episcopal Relief And Development

Haiti Quake: Four Years Later, We Still Don’t Know Where the Money Has Gone

[By the way, I learned last week that the $7000 raised by Christ Church for Haitian relief has been spent to re-build Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, an artist's conception of which is seen below.  Also, you may now address me as "Canon Rob", thank you.]

A proposed sketch of a rebuilt Holy Trinity Cathedral in Haiti. Photo courtesy The Espiscopal Church

America's Veterans May Be The Most Casually Abused Group In The Country

Privacy breaches in VA health records wound veterans

If you read the article, you will get angry.

You Can't Tell The Truth Here, This Is A University!

University of North Carolina learning specialist receives death threats after her research finds one in 10 college athletes have reading age of a THIRD GRADER

The More Resistant To Profanity, Too

The More Fires Firefighters Are Exposed to, the More Heat Resistant They Become

Do Tell

The Atlantic: Research indicates that lack of religion is a key reason why people in wealthy countries don't feel a sense of purpose.

Ever Notice How Rough The Stooges Were On Fords? Just Fords?

Surf's Up!

M6.4 - 57km N of Hatillo, Puerto Rico

[In other words, it's an underwater earthquake, the kind that makes big waves.]

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Timely Post

Winter Survival Tips From The US Marine Corps

That Darn Global Warming

USA saw fewest lightning deaths on record in 2013

This Week's Lesser Feasts

January 17: Antony of Egypt, or Anthony of the Desert [251–356]



"Who ever met him grieving and failed to go away rejoicing?"

It seems difficult to believe from the viewpoint of the 21st century, in a nation such as ours, rich beyond the ancient world's measure and with freedoms that never would have been dreamt of in prior generations, that, once upon a time, to become a Christian meant to become a kind of monastic.  Nowadays, of course, one may transit from heathen to Christian, and vice versa, without any apparent alteration to one's life.  The job stays the same, family membership is un-threatened, one's income and possessions are not surrendered. 

Such was not the case in the 4th century.  Becoming a Christian wasn't so much a "lifestyle choice" but a total and complete commitment to something far greater than one's life.  Early Christians would sometimes lose their families, their roles in society, their possessions would happily be given over to their faith community.  [Remember that next time we hand out pledge cards.]  Their lives would become dedicated to God in a manner that would be found worthy of an intervention in contemporary times.

In the midst of this zealous Christianity, Antony of the Desert was its most ardent practitioner.

"Most of what is known about Saint Anthony comes from the Life of Anthony. Written in Greek around 360 by Athanasius of Alexandria, it depicts Anthony as an illiterate and holy man who through his existence in a primordial landscape has an absolute connection to the divine truth....

This "absolute connection" served, through Antony's private and public practices, as the foundation for monasticism and what is known as "ascetical theology".

It was a common practice at this time for fervent Christians to lead retired lives in penance and contemplation on the outskirts of towns, and in the desert, while others practiced their austerities without withdrawing from their fellow men. In even earlier times we hear of these ascetics.  Origen, about 249, wrote that they abstained from flesh, as the disciples of Pythagoras did.  Antony lived in his tomb near Coma until about 285. Then, at the age of thirty-five, he set out into the empty desert, crossed the eastern branch of the Nile, and took up his abode in the ruins of an old castle on the top of a mountain. There he lived for almost twenty years, rarely seeing any man except the one who brought him food every six months.

In his fifty-fifth year he came down from his mountain retreat and founded his first monastery, not far from Aphroditopolis. It consisted of scattered cells, each inhabited by a solitary monk; some of the later settlements may have been arranged on more of a community plan. Antony did not stay with any of his foundations long, but visited them all from time to time. These interruptions to his solitude, involving as they did some management of the affairs of others, tended to disturb him. We are told of a temptation to despair, which he overcame by prayer and hard manual labor. Notwithstanding his stringent self-discipline, he always maintained that perfection consisted not in mortification of the flesh but in love of God. He taught his monks to have eternity always present to their minds and to perform every act with all the fervor of their souls, as if it were to be their last.

Heathen philosophers who disputed with Antony were amazed both at his modesty and at his wisdom. When asked how he could spend his life in solitude without the companionship of books, he replied that nature was his great book. When they criticized his ignorance, he simply asked which was the better, good sense or book learning, and which produced the other. They answered, "Good sense." "Then," said Antony, "it is sufficient of itself." His pagan visitors usually wanted to know the reasons for his faith in Christ. He told them that they degraded their gods by ascribing to them the worst of human passions, whereas the ignominy of the cross, followed by Christ's triumphant Resurrection, was a supreme demonstration of His infinite goodness, to say nothing of His miracles of healing and raising the dead. The Christian's faith in his Almighty God and His works was a more satisfactory basis for religion than the empty sophistries of the Greeks. Antony carried on his discussions with the Greeks through an interpreter. His biographer Athanasius tells us that in spite of his solitary life, "he did not seem to others morose or unapproachable, but met them with a most engaging and friendly air." He writes that no one in trouble ever visited Antony without going away comforted.

O God, by your Holy Spirit you enabled your servant Antony to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil: Give us grace, with pure hearts and minds, to follow you, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

45 Years Ago This Month: The Final Beatles Concert



And it was free, too.

I don't know what I enjoy more.  Either it's a rare performance on lead guitar by John Lennon on that big Epiphone Casino [Lennon usually played rhythm guitar and George Harrison would play lead] or that fellow in the trilby with the pipe casually walking on the roof of a neighboring building reminding me of Monsieur Hulot.  Maybe it's McCartney playing that Hofner "fiddle bass" that he preferred in those days as, being a southpaw, it could easily be played either by right- or left-handers.

By the way, that's Billy "Fifth Beatle" Preston on keyboards.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dear White House:

This is what you wanted me to promote from the pulpit of my parish?  Really?

Obamacare Glitches Forced Connecticut Woman To Postpone Cancer Surgery

Related: Humana says mix of Obamacare enrollment worse than expected [Reuters]

Stand By For A VERY Strongly Worded Letter About This From The Episcopal House Of Bishops

Christians killed for faith nearly doubled in 2013, group finds

In The 21st Century, These Might Be Fightin' Words

We professors at Providence College have for two years now been working in the midst of invisible men, men who once might have been like Gwilym Morgan, but who in these times are almost as insane and as morally blinkered as the professors they serve. The men have built a large and handsome Center for the Humanities, out of brick and stone. They have had to transform a hill and a parking lot to get the project started. They have turned an old field into a new facility for soccer, field hockey, and track, complete with bleachers and a press house, and eighty foot tall lights for events at night. They have laid hundreds of yards of concrete pathways. They have cleared out a useless hill thicketed with scrub trees and made it into a decorative border for the campus. They have built temporary parking lots and torn them out again and replaced them with sod. They have dug out stumps and planted trees. They have worked with jackhammers, drills, chisels, backhoes, saws, scaffolding, trowels, wheelbarrows, sledges, and the indispensable hands, arms, legs, shoulders, and back. They have done all this while remaining as quiet and unobtrusive as they could be.

They work hard, at work that takes its toll on their bodies, in all seasons and in all but the filthiest weather. Yet I doubt that the feminist professor – and most professors are feminist – gives them a passing thought. Without men like them, we would have nothing; nothing to eat, no metal for our cars, no bricks, no stone, no wooden planks, no houses, no roads, no public buildings, no clean running water, nothing. They do work that is more than desirable. It is absolutely necessary. I teach English poetry; that is not necessary. I will not trouble to discuss sociology, feminist or otherwise.

Regardless Of How You Feel About This Issue, This Is A Reminder That Ours Is A Country Founded On Resistance To Govt Authority

Gun ownership surges to 39%, ending 4-decade slump

Historically, the stronger the "control", the stronger the resistance.

[I'm not one to complain.  My grandfather, after arriving in the US from Scotland, earned his way out of debt and into home ownership by helping off-load small boats from Canada that were loaded with illegal whiskey, and all thanks to politicians and their Prohibition.  That's why he and I love this country.]

On my last trip across the breadth of New York state, I was amazed at the sheer volume of business in the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products on the Seneca reservation.  The cigarettes are tax-free, you see, so they cost approximately 80% less than they do in Manhattan. Seeking to control human behavior through punitive taxation also works great, doesn't it?

On a related note:

If Bill de Blasio keeps going the way he’s going, the Sunshine State’s going to put up a statue of him. Not since Ponce de Leon discovered the place has any one man done more to guarantee future inflows of wealth and investment to Florida than [New York City's] new mayor.


Why I Love The Bass

Friday's Church: St. George's Anglican Cathedral, Jerusalem


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

And Now, For Something Different

Secular issues, ideology, and commentary have me feeling a little soiled.  Here's something really interesting, especially for thinking Christians:

The Steeple and the Gargoyle

Sigh

CBS News: Teacher Seized Christmas Candy Canes, Told First-Grader ‘Jesus Is Not Allowed In School’

You see, kid?  It's okay to "worship", just don't be religious, at least not in a government institution.  Go behind closed doors in a special building for this worship stuff, but don't you dare let it spread beyond there to a school dedicated to the free exchange of ideas and historical perspective.

Not related at all:  Litchfield High School Principal Charged With DUI, Police Say

It's About Time Someone Said This

As the source is a "conservative" magazine, then most of the enlightened with whom I work, call colleague, or share a worship space will leave it unread.  That's a pity, as it addresses some very real issues that are absolutely destroying the university system in the United States.  Once again, I am reminded of that fellow dinner party guest who exclaimed to me a number of years ago over our bleu cheese and pear tartlets [yes, mine is not exactly the life of a Christian martyr] that "the country is better the more secular it becomes".  Well, universities have long since surrendered even the fey pretense of religious foundation, and look at how wonderful they now are.

The Outlaw Campus:  The university has become a rogue institution in need of root-and-branch reform.

As a former part-time university lecturer, all I can say is that I'm glad it was never my main source of income or ambition.  I always had the Church.  However, my colleagues who were attempting to secure full-time and even tenured employment were among the most exploited people I've ever seen, which is especially ironic given that higher education is supposedly the most enlightened aspect of our society and the one that assumes the mantle of moral arbiter in all opinion.

Something I've Noticed Just Lately

The White House administration, the president and his various officials, as well as the media sources whom they favor, no longer speak of "freedom of religion".  Instead, they use the term "freedom of worship".  It's an interesting choice, for not only is religious freedom plainly stated in the Constitution's amendments, but because there is a difference between "religion" and "worship".

Worship is that done in a limited time frame and generally behind closed doors in a place set apart for such activity, be it a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple.  Worship is an extension of faith, the actual practice of renewing the tenets of one's religion and its story.

Religion is, to put it flatly, the basis of one's entire life; our choices and practices.  Worship is a tool of religion, but religion is the transformative experience that infuses our existence.

When a government sees religion as mere worship, it is not recognizing the chief feature of this particular freedom.  It's as if the government is telling us that they will be supportive as long as we practice our oddities behind closed doors and for an hour or so a week.  If we expect to permit religion to serve as the source of our world view, that may be officially less supportable.

Certainly, some of the legal efforts being advanced through the Affordable Care Act make that official perspective seem apparent. 

Now, to really complicate the matter, I don't view Christianity as a religion.  Instead, I see it as a culture, but that's a whole other discussion.

Wednesday's Art: 3-D Virtual Tour Of The Sistine Chapel

Just follow this link for a memorable experience.  It includes music, too.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Theological News

Schaeffer wore a colander (a strainer typically used to drain water from spaghetti) while Town Clerk Allison Dispense administered the oath of office to him before the board's reorganizational meeting. When the OBSERVER asked afterward why he wore a colander on his head, Schaeffer said he was a minister with an even more unique organization - the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

"It's a religion without any dogma," says a guy with the metal pasta strainer on his head.

I Don't See What The Problem Was. It Was A Sweet Potato.

Zambian opposition leader charged with calling president a potato

Where's The ACLU When You Need Them?

Fargo Man Arrested For Clearing Snow With Flamethrower

I think this guy's my hero.

Yes, In The Winter, It Will Be Cold

In the winter of 1978-79, it got so cold in northeastern Ohio that my anti-freeze froze. It was rated for  -40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Now, was that climate or was that weather?  And, whose fault was it?  Humans?  Industry?  Cows?  Breathing?

Ah, the good old days:


Here's what a Princeton physicist has to say about it all.  Clearly, he's a heretic who should be publicly shamed.

Princeton Physicist Dr. Will Happer refutes claims that global warming is causing record cold: ‘Polar vortices have been around forever. They have almost nothing to do with more CO2 in the atmosphere’

The Media Should Stay Away From Reporting About Religion, Firearms, and Weather [Or Is It "Climate"?]

Really, on those topics they just string words together like that bizarre sign language "interpreter" at Mandela's funeral.

Please Don't Tell The Media Or Govt Bureaucrats

This would break the narrative, and we can't have that.

Walmart health plan is cheaper, offers more coverage than Obamacare

As Anyone Familiar With The Episcopal Church's Misconduct Policy Knows, Resolute Laws Tend To Be Unequally Enforced

There is always an "in group" that isn't bound by such common constraint.  For example, the obtuse and draconian gun laws of New York apparently can be ignored if you are close to the governor's office.

Jerome M. Hauer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's director of homeland security, took out his handgun and used the laser sighting device attached to the barrel as a pointer in a presentation to a foreign delegation, according to public officials. It happened Oct. 24 in Albany at the highly secure state emergency operations center below State Police headquarters.  These officials, one of whom claimed to be an eyewitness, said that three Swedish emergency managers in the delegation were rattled when the gun's laser tracked across one of their heads before Hauer found the map of New York, at which he wanted to point.

Dear Clergy Colleagues,..

Next time you want to prang on about how we should adopt the European Model in, well, anything, read this first:

Unemployed in Europe Stymied by Lack of Technology Skills

On This Day In 1925

Hiram Bingham, the historian/anthropologist who discovered the ruins of Machu Picchu, was sworn in as governor of Connecticut only to serve one day, resign, and become a senator.


Cabin Fever? Here Are Two Links To Enjoy

1.  50 Bodyweight exercises you can do at home without equipment.

and

2.  Beau Foster surfs the world in 18 minutes.

Tuesday's Wave



"You may not be interested in reality, but reality is interested in you." - Alan Watts

Monday, January 6, 2014

I Used To Play Bass For The Polar Vortex

I love it when the media learn a new term and then use it repeatedly and ubiquitously.  This is the best one since "brutal Afghan winter".

45 Hobbies For Men

"Back in the day, leisure time was not thought of as a chance to “veg out,” but as opportunity to pursue one’s passions and interests, an outlet for the sides of a man that were not stimulated in one’s career. Unfortunately, we now often spend our leisure time camped out in front of the TV or computer. We say that modern life has become too stressful, that when we have free time, laying on the couch is all we can manage. 

The truth is that spending our leisure time in satisfying pursuits, “fun work,” will refresh us far more than a non-stop marathon of playing Call of Duty. Hobbies can bring you joy, increase your eye for detail, keep your mind sharp, expand your creativity, and help you meet friends and learn valuable skills. They add interest to your life and help you become a more well-rounded man. If you’ve been feeling depressed, restless, or apathetic, the problem may be the lack of having something in your life you feel passionate about, something that brings you needed fulfillment."

Well, I can testify to the usefulness of ham radios, reading, guitars, woodworking, car restoration [although it's been awhile], marksmanship, fishing, bowling, archery [I mean, c'mon, you saw that one coming], martial arts [again, it's been awhile], blogging, and adventure racing.  Jenni's lately taken up knitting and it seems kind of relaxing and useful [I mean, I now have a 10 ft. scarf] and I wish I were better at chess.  Noticeably lacking were any specific water sports, though.

Small Clown With A Cigarette

Embedded image permalink

One of the most disturbing photos I've come across; I can't stop looking at it.  I feel like a German absurdist.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Yeah, This Is Still Going On

COPTIC CHRISTIAN MAN MURDERED BY MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IN CHURCH ATTACK ON NEW YEARS EVE

Maybe the House of Bishops can write a strongly worded pastoral letter about this.

An Important Safety Note From The Mounties

Don't set your car on fire, Pincher Creek Royal Canadian Mounted Police advise.

News From My First Parish. They Sure Knew How To Party.

A northwestern Pennsylvania couple has been charged with drunken driving after police say the man’s wife arrived drunk at the police barracks to pick up her husband following his arrest earlier New Year’s Day.

I Used To Play Bass For The Tweeting Sharks

Tweeting sharks help keep swimmers safe

This Week's Lesser Feasts

January 8: Harriett Bedell, Deaconess and Missionary [1875-1969]



A newer, and very welcome, addition to our calendar, Bedell was a member of a now-forgotten order of Episcopal nuns, the Order of Deaconesses, who offered ministry similar to that of the nursing/teaching sisters of the Church of England.  She was an interesting woman who, in her early thirties, initially became a missionary to the Seminole tribe in Florida and later to the Inuit in the far reaches of Alaska.  She is credited with convincing the Seminole to use their native arts to raise money for the tribe's education and health-care needs, thus beginning that tradition among American Indians.  She founded schools and clinics in both Florida and Alaska, and was a popular writer in Episcopal Church publications up until her death.  [She also could tell a story.  She once told the taciturn, long-time rector of my home parish about the ordeal of having to catheterize a rather surprised Inuit man; a story that reduced my rector to tears of laughter.]

Holy God, you chose your faithful servant Harriett Bedell to exercise the ministry of deaconess and to be a missionary among indigenous peoples: Fill us with compassion and respect or all people, and empower us for the work of ministry throughout the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

January 9: Julia Chester Emery [1852-1922]



"Emery was the National Secretary of the Women's Auxiliary of the Board of Missions for forty years, from 1876 to 1916.  Emery's father was a New England sea captain. Two of her brothers became priests. Her sister Mary preceded Julia as National Secretary of the Auxiliary and served from 1872 to 1876. During her time as National Secretary, Julia visited every diocese in the United States, coordinating and encouraging work in support of missions. She traveled to London as a delegate to the Pan-Anglican Congress. She traveled to Japan, China, Hong Kong and the Philippines to advance missionary work there, and to be able to report on it to the Episcopal women in the United States.

She founded the United Thank Offering (UTO), which gave each woman a small box with a slot in the top and encouraged them to drop a small contribution in to it whenever they felt thankful for something. Once a year, the women of the parish presented these at a Sunday service. The money was sent to national headquarters to be used for missions."

[Personal note: When I was a monk we had a van that was used throughout our diocese for mission work that was purchased through a UTO grant.  It was painted like one of the well-known "blue boxes" and included a black stripe on the roof, symbolic of the coin slot on the actual boxes.  It's a fond memory as the sight of the van used to elicit smiles among members of tiny congregations scattered through the hills of western Pennsylvania.  I also recall my mother dropping coins in her UTO box whenever I brought home a reasonable report card.  The UTO didn't get rich off of that, though.]

A further note: At its height of influence, the UTO was the single most successful fund-raising group in the Episcopal Church.  Not bad for a bunch of women who weren't even allowed to vote in parish meetings or serve on vestries.

God of all creation, you call us in Christ to make disciples of all nations and to proclaim your mercy and love: Grant that we, after the example of your servant Julia Chester Emery, may have vision and courage in proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our light and our salvation, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

January 10: William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury [1573-1645]



Laud was one of the "Caroline Divines", those clergy of the Church of England who opposed the horrid and oppressive theology of the Puritans, thus rallying around the authority of King Charles I in his role as "defender of the faith".  [Note: Charles in Latin is "Caroline".]  He was martyred by the Puritans, of course, because that's what they do...er, did.

There is rather a lot to discover when one takes a voyage around Laud, and a good place to start would be here.

Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servant William Laud, 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, for ever and ever. Amen