Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lights and fogheads

We are reconnecting with friends and family, Sacramento, Berkeley and the City by the Bay. It is good to be here, good to reconnect. 

I was looking through the many gifts of poetry from our friend, Karen, in Tennessee, and I came across this one by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who is a legend in these parts. 

As owner of the City Lights Bookstore in the City's North Beach, Ferlinghetti gave a place for poets like Alan Ginsberg and Gary Snyder to read their poems. City Lights is still a mecca and worth wandering through for an hour at least, and when you do, that will make you a Foghead like me. 

May you all have many New Years blessings. Enjoy:

The Changing Light
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The changing light
at San Francisco
is none of your East Coast
none of your
pearly light of Paris
The light of San Francisco
is a sea light
an island light
And the light of fog
blanketing the hills
drifting in at night
through the Golden Gate
to lie on the city at dawn
And then the halcyon late mornings
after the fog burns off
and the sun paints white houses with the sea light of Greece
with sharp clean shadows
making the town look like
it had just been painted
But the wind comes up at four o'clock
sweeping the hills
And then the veil of light of early evening
And then another scrim
when the new night fog
floats in
And in that vale of light
the city drifts
anchorless upon the ocean

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Holy Land: Becoming voices of reconciliation

With all of the escalating violence and military action in the past few days in Gaza, I think it incumbent upon us as Christians to speak as voices of reconciliation and peace and deescalation. Blessed are the peacemakers, Jesus tells us, and they would be us.

My former bishop from the Diocese of Northern California, The Rt. Rev. Barry Beisner, recently returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his wife, The Rev. Ann Hallisey. Both are treasured friends and helped me in big ways and small through the ordination process and beyond into our transition to Virginia.

Barry shared this message with the Diocese of Northern California on Christmas Eve, and I share it with you:

Dear Friends in Christ:
Grace and peace to you this holy Season, and in the New Year.

As you may know, Ann and I took some vacation time mid-Advent to accompany a group of Oxford seminarians on pilgrimage to the Holy Land . She and I had each been there before, but this was our first opportunity in nearly eleven years of marriage to share such a time of encounter with the land of our Lord.

And with its people. We were blessed to have significant time with Palestinian Christians. One especially meaningful visit was to a Lutheran ministry named International Center of Bethlehem. One of their programs is an arts and crafts center that trains and employs young persons in creative and meaningful work. At ICB, I purchased some leaded stained glass Christmas ornaments, a collection of stars, wreaths, angels, and the like. An accompanying leaflet explains: “These art pieces were made out of…fragments of broken bottles thrown away or glass destroyed during the Israeli invasion of Bethlehem . Human hands pick them from among the rubble, then assemble them together by some of the poorest of the poor in the Bethlehem region at the ICB art workshops. These art pieces tell all about ‘the hopes and fears of all the years’ that people have in Bethlehem today. The broken glass pieces are a sign of the brokenness of our world, and it is also the reason for God to incarnate. Through His incarnation he brought the divine and the human back together; He picked what seems to be worthless and hopeless and transformed it into a beautiful and whole creation. It is this incarnation, which took place here in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, which gives us the strength to continue to look for broken lives and hopes and to transform them through art into angels and different art pieces, messengers of justice, peace, and dignity.”

So it is that a sign and symbol of one of the most moving encounters of our pilgrimage now hangs before me on our Christmas tree, reminding me of the urgent work to which we all are called: Christ’s ministry of reconciliation—in our homes, our communities, in the Church and in the world. Remember this Christmas that we are partners with Him in this work. We truly are His messengers of justice, peace, and dignity.

May the blessings of this Season and the joy of the New Year strengthen and encourage us all in our mission partnership with the Incarnate God.

Yours in the love of Christ,

Good day, good friends

Today we got reacquainted with All Souls in Berkeley, sneaking in unannounced before the 10 am service. Oh, I had so much fun! It was good to be with wonderful friends. Then Lori and I spent the afternoon visiting the newest member of All Souls, Jasper Krantz, newborn son of Associate Rector of Kristin Krantz. Tonight we headed into The City (aka San Francisco) where we discovered that you can buy a votive candle with Obama's likeness.

Here's a few photos.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Christmas story: Get the kid his peaches

Here, friends, is a Christmas story worth telling. This is an old column that ran in the Los Angeles Times by Al Martinez, who I think is one of the greats for a lot of reasons. I love this column every time I read it and I hope you will, too.  And explains why a lot of us went into newspapers back in the days before cell phones, the internet and focus groups. And if you want to know why I think the priesthood and journalism are closer than many people think, this has something to do with it. My newspaper buddy Bob Schmidt sent this around again tonight, so thanks Bob!  Here goes. Enjoy:

Christmas Story
By Al Martinez

IT happened one Christmas Eve a long time ago in a place called Oakland on a newspaper called the Tribune with a city editor named Alfred P. Reck.

I was working swing shift on general assignment, writing the story of a boy who was dying of leukemia and whose greatest wish was for fresh peaches.

It was a story which, in the tradition of 1950s journalism, would be milked for every sob we could squeeze from it, because everyone loved a good cry on Christmas.

We knew how to play a tear-jerker in those days, and I was full of the kinds of passions that could make a sailor weep.

I remember it was about 11 o'clock at night and pouring rain outside when I began putting the piece together for the next day's editions.

Deadline was an hour away, but an hour is a lifetime when you're young and fast and never get tired.

Then the telephone rang.

It was Al Reck calling, as he always did at night, and he'd had a few under his belt.

Reck was a drinking man. With diabetes and epilepsy, hard liquor was about the last thing he ought to be messing with, but you didn't tell Al what he ought to or ought not to do.

He was essentially a gentle man who rarely raised his voice, but you knew he was the city editor, and in those days the city editor was the law and the word in the newsroom.

But there was more than fear and tradition at work for Al.

We respected him immensely, not only for his abilities as a newsman, but for his humanity. Al was sensitive both to our needs and the needs of those whose names and faces appeared in the pages of the Oakland Tribune.

"What's up?" he asked me that Christmas Eve in a voice as soft and slurred as a summer breeze.

He already knew what was up because, during 25 years on the city desk, Reck somehow always knew what was up, but he wanted to hear it from the man handling the story.

I told him about the kid dying of leukemia and about the peaches and about how there simply were no fresh peaches, but it still made a good piece. We had art and a hole waiting on page one.

Al listened for a moment and then said, "How long's he got?"

"Not long," I said. "His doctor says maybe a day or two."

There was a long silence and then Al said, "Get the kid his peaches."

"I've called all over," I said. "None of the produce places in the Bay Area have fresh peaches. They're just plain out of season. It's winter."

"Not everywhere. Call Australia."

"Al," I began to argue, "it's after 11 and I have no idea . . .”

"Call Australia," he said, and then hung up.

If Al said call Australia, I would call Australia.

I don't quite remember whom I telephoned, newspapers maybe and agricultural associations, but I ended up finding fresh peaches and an airline that would fly them to the Bay Area before the end of Christmas Day.

There was only one problem. Customs wouldn't clear them. They were an agricultural product and would be hung up at San Francisco International at least for a day, and possibly forever.

Reck called again. He listened to the problem and told me to telephone the secretary of agriculture and have him clear the peaches when they arrived.

"It's close to midnight," I argued. "His office is closed."

"Take this number down," Reck said. "It's his home. Tell him I told you to call."

It was axiomatic among the admirers of Al Reck that he knew everyone and everyone knew him, from cops on the street to government leaders in their Georgetown estates. No one knew how Al knew them or why, but he did.

I made the call. The secretary said he'd have the peaches cleared when they arrived and give Al Reck his best.

"All right," Reck said on his third and final call to me, "now arrange for one of our photographers to meet the plane and take the peaches over to the boy's house."

He had been drinking steadily throughout the evening and the slurring had become almost impossible to understand.

By then it was a few minutes past midnight, and just a heartbeat and a half to the final deadline.

"Al," I said, "if I don't start writing this now I'll never get the story in the paper."

I won't forget this moment.

"I didn't say get the story," Reck replied gently. "I said get the kid his peaches."

If there is a flash point in our lives to which we can refer later, moments that shape our attitudes and affect our futures, that was mine.

Alfred Pierce Reck had defined for me the importance of what we do, lifting it beyond newsprint and deadline to a level of humanity that transcends job. He understood not only what we did but what we were supposed to do.

I didn't say get the story. I said get the kid his peaches.

The boy got his peaches and the story made the home edition, and I received a lesson in journalism more important than any I've learned since.

I wanted you to know that this Christmas season.

Al Martinez is a former reporter and columnist for The Oakland Tribune, from 1955 to 1971, The Richmond Independent and Los Angeles Times to now. Born in Oakland, he also has written several novels, for television and the movies. This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 25, 1986.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry, Merry Christmas

Here are a few photos taken by Lori last night at our family Christmas Eve service. The kids brought beany-baby stuffed animals for the baby Jesus at the manger.

May you all have a blessed Christmas and joyous New Year!

Love to all,

Jim & Lori

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Starry night

Some say that ever,
`Gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome,
Then no planets strike,
No fairy takes,
Nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.

Hamlet – Act 1, Scene 1

Christmas in the Heavens 40 years ago

From today's New York Times editorial page:

Forty years ago today, the crew of Apollo 8 gave the planet what this page called “an ennobling Christmas present.” The astronauts — Frank Borman, James A. Lovell Jr. and William A. Anders — orbited the Moon, beaming pictures home in two live broadcasts, one in the morning and one later that evening. They read the first verses of Genesis, then signed off. “Goodbye. Goodnight,” Colonel Borman said. “Merry Christmas. God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

Much has been made of the well-timed solace that the broadcasts gave at the end of a horrific year. From Vietnam to the Middle East to the streets of Paris, Mexico City and across the United States, the view from the ground was bloody and bleak. But not the view from afar.

“To see the earth as it truly is,” wrote Archibald Macleish on Page A1 of The Times, “small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now they are truly brothers.”

Ah, optimism. This page felt it keenly, likening Apollo 8 to the discoveries of fire and the wheel. Our editorial looked ahead to the moon landing in 1969, then to the building of moon bases that would be a steppingstone for manned voyages to the planets, “even to distant Pluto.”

It hasn’t worked out that way. Humans have outdone themselves with unmanned spacecraft, of course, sending probes far beyond distant Pluto. But manned space flight quickly went down a dead end, with an aptly named shuttle making trips to an orbital parking lot about 240 miles up. (Apollo 8’s voyage to the Moon was 240,000 miles, one way).

War, poverty, disease, genocide are still with us. Humans have not evolved beyond greed and foolishness.

The world may never again be able to gaze at its photo with awestruck wonder. But two startlingly fresh images of our planet come to mind. The first is the virtual globe that appears when you open Google Earth. The planet as information tool, waiting to fly you anywhere you choose. The other is a haunting image from the movie “Wall-E” of a brown husk left lifeless by consumption.

The real Earth seen from the Moon is surely as lovely as ever, even with thinner ice caps, smaller forests, fewer gorillas and tigers and a few billion more people. We are still brothers and sisters in the eternal cold, but increasingly connected by invisible threads, able to see — and hear and understand — one another as never before. That, at least, is reason for optimism.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jasper Theodore Krantz

Here he is! Jasper Theodore Krantz, born last Thursday to Kristin and Brian. Yeeees! 

More warmth

And for a little more warming of the heart, check out Lori's blog entry on jelly doughnuts as favorite holiday fare. Click: Lori K's Cafe.

Christmas babies

The weather is getting cold in Charlottesville, so  I thought something to warm the cockles of the heart would be in order. Here is a photo of Canon Grant Carey holding baby Katie Dunham (Katie's dad, Nicholas, used to work at Trinity Cathedral and put this photo on his Facebook). And congratulations to Kristin Krantz, my former associate at All Souls (aka The Rev. Mama), upon the birth of baby Jasper a couple of days ago!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rick Warren and the inaugural prayer

A number of you have asked for my reaction to President-elect Obama choosing Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County (Calif.), to give the invocation at the inaugural. I have heard from many friends who feel hurt and even betrayed by this, and those feelings are real and need to be taken seriously. 

We especially need to be hearing the voices of our Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters. Warren is particularly well known in California; he was prominently in favor of Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage. Many who worked hard for Obama - not just LGBT people - are angered or puzzled. I have heard words like "disgusted" or "thug" in describing Warren. 

That said, I am not surprised at Obama's choice. Obama has spoken at his church during the primary and then later in a joint appearance with John McCain. A clue to how Obama thinks can be found in Warren's book The Purpose Driven Life (more so perhaps than in the book most often mentioned of late, Team of Rivals). Warren has broken with the far-Right over issues including global warming. Warren is not James Dobson or Jerry Fallwell. And Unlike some in that crowd who denounced Obama as the anti-Christ, Warren was conspicuously friendly to Obama in both the primary and general campaigns. And I believe Obama when he says he wants to be the President of all Americans, so that must include even those with whom I deeply disagree.

And yet...

The choice of Warren is troubling. Obama could have done better, and that needs to be said without apology. The response I have seen that resonates with me the most comes from my friend, The Rev. Susan Russell, who is the President of Integrity, the organization that works for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Episcopal Church. Here, in full, is Susan's "Open Letter to the President-elect":

Dear President-elect Obama,

I'm sure you're hearing from a great many voices around the country this week about your choice of Rick Warren to offer the invocation at the upcoming inauguration. I am writing today to add my voice to those expressing regret at the choice and concern that the message being sent by the elevation of someone with Pastor Warren's values of narrow exclusionism to the "bully pulpit" of Inauguration Day.

I believe that reaching across the divide to include a strong, evangelical voice in the opening moments of your presidency is not just a good political move, it is a considered policy choice that helps bind up the wounds of a divisive campaign and eight years of polarization, preparing us as a nation to move forward together to solve the many problems that challenge us. This effort to begin your administration by representing differences of opinion in the selection of a pastor whose theological perspectives are different than your own is something I enthusiastically applaud.

The choice of Rick Warren is not. I agree with my Episcopal brother Bishop Gene Robinson, who said yesterday, "I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table, but we’re not talking about a discussion, we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history."

Rick Warren is a not only a vocal opponent of LGBT equality who does not believe in evolution, he has compared abortion to the Holocaust and backed the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His views are far outside the religious mainstream and his credentials are steeped in an “Old Time Religion” of narrow exclusionism that ill prepares us for the challenges of the 21st century.

There are many fine, strong, evangelical voices in this country who do not carry Warren's baggage of having been one of the generals in the culture wars. Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren and Jim Wallis are names that come immediately to mind -- pastors who have balanced the challenge of bridging differences while standing firmly in their evangelical tradition.

It is true that the unfortunate choice of Rick Warren is particularly painful to LGBT Americans who have experienced first-hand the destructive impact of pastors like Warren who preach “family values” while practicing discrimination against gay and lesbian families. But it should also be a cause for concern to any American concerned that the exclusionism represented by Rick Warren is antithetical to the core values of inclusion, tolerance and the celebration of difference that so historically mark your embryonic administration.

I'm still setting my Pacific Standard Time alarm early on January 20th to make sure I don't miss a moment of Inauguration Day. I'm still profoundly hopeful at the new beginning we will celebrate together as Americans on that day as we work together to become a nation where “liberty and justice for all” is not just a pledge but a practice.

But I pray that as we make that journey forward together, as you make the considered choices you will make about who prays God's blessing on America you will consider ALL Americans as you make those choices -- and you will consider that we can do better than Rick Warren. Yes we can. Yes we can.

The Reverend Susan Russell
President, Integrity USA

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Celebrating David McIlhiney's ministry among us

Dear Friends,

I hope those of you can will join us tomorrow Dec. 21 to celebrate the ministry of David McIlhiney. He will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He has shown much devotion and care to people of all ages at St. Paul's and I greatly appreciate his support and friendship in this time of transition in our parish. And I do hope he will serve with us for many years to come.

David will preach at both the 8 am and 10 am services, and we will have a festive reception for him after the 10 am service.

Blessings to all,


Friday, December 19, 2008

Water's edge

I haven't given you much poetry here of late. So I looked through the past offerings from our friend Karen in Tennessee, and found this. It made me smile:

An Ill Wind
By Louis Jenkins

Today there's a cold northeast wind blowing, piling up ice all
along the water's edge.

The Point is deserted, no one for five
miles down the beach.

Just the way I like it.

The sand is frozen mostly, so the walking is easy as I pick my way through the
wrack and drift. 

Today I don't even leave footprints. 

Wind, sand, sun and water. A simplicity that defies comprehension.

The barest essentials for the imagination's work. This shore has
been pretty much the same for ten thousand years. 

Countless others have been here before me, musing and pondering, as
they walked down the beach and disappeared forever. 

So here's what I'm thinking: wouldn't it be great if one of them dropped
a big roll of hundred dollar bills and I found it?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Circles, drums, centering

I am up a little late today; too many late evening church meetings this week. My little corner of the world this week was dominated by work on the St. Paul's budget for the coming year. We will have good year, but there are choices to be made. More on that in another blog. Oh, and Christmas is almost here. How did that happen so suddenly? A little centering quiet prayer and meditation might be in order.

Let me take you somewhere far away for that. 

I don't know how many of you have been to a pow-wow. I have. The clans and tribes come together for a few days of sharing flat bread, meals, talking and drumming. Mostly drumming, near as I could tell. I went to a pow-wow a few years ago in central Nevada with the Shoshone-Paiute tribes. The picture here is of a Shoshone drum. Below is an old saying from Black Elk to bring you to the center.

From Black Elk Speaks
By Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa), Oglala Lakota Sioux, 1863-1950

Perhaps you have noticed that even in the very lightest breeze you can hear
the voice of the cottonwood tree; this we understand is its prayer to the Great Spirit, for not only men, but all things and all beings pray to Him continually in differing ways.

For the Great Spirit is everywhere; he hears whatever is in our minds and hearts,
and it is not necessary to speak to Him in a loud voice.

Since the drum is often the only instrument used in our sacred rites,
I should perhaps tell you here why it is especially sacred and important to us.
It is because the round form of the drum represents the whole universe
and its steady strong beat is the pulse, the heat, throbbing at the center of the universe.

It is as the voice of the Wakan-Tanka, and this sound stirs us
and helps us to understand the mystery and power of all things.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas message from the Presiding Bishop

I thought this might be a good day to bring you this from my friend Bishop Katharine...

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5).

The world settles into winter, at least in the northern hemisphere, and life to many seems increasingly bleak. Foreclosures, layoffs, government bailouts and financial failures, continuing war on two fronts, terrorist attacks, murders of some identified only by their faith -- this world is in abundant need of light. We know light that is not overcome by darkness, for God has come among us in human flesh. Born in poverty to a homeless couple, to a people long under occupation, Jesus is human and divine evidence that God is with us in the midst of the world's darkness. Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Divine Counselor is come among us to re-mind, re-member, and re-create. A new mind and heart is birthed in us as we turn to follow Jesus on the way. The body of God's creation is re-membered and put back together in ways intended from the beginning. And a new creation becomes reality through Jesus' healing work. Christians tell the story again each Christmastide, and the telling and remembering invites us once again into being made whole. Our task in every year is to hear the story with new ears, and seeing light in the darkness of this season's woes, then to tell it abroad with gladsome hearts to those who wait in darkness. Where will you share the joyous tale of light in the darkness?

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church

Monday, December 15, 2008

Swinging on the trapeze

Last week, I went to Fresh Start, which is an Episcopal Church program for clergy who are (1) newly ordained or (2) new to "cure," the churchy word for new-on-the-job. Each time we are new we are supposed to go through Fresh Start, so this, by my count, is my third go at Fresh Start in the last 10 years. Maybe even fourth, because I was in a pilot program as a transitional deacon before the launch of Fresh Start. No jokes about my being remedial, please.

The best part of Fresh Start is making new friends and connecting with priests and deacons who are in transition like me. We meet once a month to mostly yack and hear a presentation about something. Here in Virginia, I am not the only Californian in my Fresh Start; there are three others from the Golden State whom I've met, and their presence is immensely important to me in ways I cannot articulate. I've also made new friends, like Peter Carey of Richmond, and his welcome means a lot to me (and he has a cool blog: Santos Popsicles).

Last week we heard The Parable of the Trapeze, by Danaan Parry. It is a story of how the most growth-filled passionate moments of our lives come as a we swing out from the familar and into the unknown. I am repeating the parable, in full, here, and linking it to the copyrighted website from whence it comes. See if this parable rings true with you.  And, I would suggest, there is truth in this parable not just for us as individuals, but for us as as a congregation at St. Paul's, or for my friends at All Souls, or at Trinity Cathedral, or the Episcopal Church writ-large, or our nation under a new president, or the economy, or wherever you may be or whatever your situation.

Here it is. Enjoy. Feel free to lend your comments. Oh, by the way, I have taken circus lessons and swung on the trapeze. The hardest part for me was the launch...

By Danaan Parry

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I'm either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I'm hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I'm in control of my life.

I know most of the right questions and even some of the answers.

But every once in a while as I'm merrily (or even not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It's empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won't have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.

Each time, I am filled with terror. It doesn't matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it. I am each time afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between bars. I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. So, for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of "the past is gone, the future is not yet here."

It's called "transition." I have come to believe that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.

I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a "no-thing," a noplace between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that's real, too. But the void in between? Is that just a scary, confusing, disorienting nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible?

NO! What a wasted opportunity that would be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A few more photos from the bell ringing...

Here's more photos from Dudley Rochester, including a shot of Meredith ringing the bell, and her dad, John, and brother, Max, to the right. 

Lori is ringing the bell in the photo below:

More photos from 350 bell ringing day

Here are four more photos from Saturday's bell ringing on global warming. One shows me pontificating about something, another shows Janet Legro and friends; and another shows our first bell ringer, Mary Struble, getting things going. and another from the steps. Thanks to Dudley Rochester for the photos! And check out when you get a chance.

Thanks for Friday

Just a quick word of thanks for everyone who pitched in Friday evening to make a success of our first celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We had 50 people at the service, gamely trying to sing the Spanish songs, and the dinner by Lori and her helpers was a smash success. An we raised $978 for PACEM, our homeless ministry. Thanks for your generosity!

 Some have asked for Lori's recipe for the dinner. She posted the recipe on her food blog. Read it here: Lori K's Cafe.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Big day at St. Paul's

Not exactly a quiet Saturday at St. Paul's. The Altar Guild prepared for Sunday, and had a big meeting; the children rehearsed for tomorrow's Pageant; the Flower Guild did their work and made wreaths for Christmas; and we rang the bell 350+ times to sound the alarm for global warming (and hung a few banners). And I've probably left something out. Here are photos from this morning.

Ring the bell today

Today we are ringing the St. Paul's bell 350 times. We are joining other faith communities around the world in sounding the alarm on global warming. We don't pretend that ringing the bells will solve the problem, but it might help get the attention of our community. We are doing this to keep the issue in the forefront of the issues commanding the attention of the world's leaders. You can read more about this at -- and why that number is important.

Come join us at 10 am Saturday to ring the bell. And thanks to the St. Paul's Green Team for getting this organized.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

Nearly 500 years ago, an Aztec with a Spanish name – Juan Diego – saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary. The local Spanish bishop, Juan de Zumárraga, did not believe him and told him to bring back proof of this vision. Juan Diego came back with his tunic full of flowers – Castilian roses – and the roses were blooming in winter. When Juan Diego poured the roses from his tunic, an image of Mary was imprinted on his tunic. 

That image has become probably the most copied and venerated image of Mary in the world.
Today is her feast day - Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, la Virgen de Guadalupe – the Virgin of Guadalupe. This day in 1531 marks when an Aztec brought roses to the bishop, and the bishop had to believe him.

Whether you believe in the story, or believe it happened exactly that way, is less important than what she represents primarily to the people of Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. Her shrine near Mexico City is the most visited Marian shrine in the world.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is sometimes known as the brown virgin – her skin color is that of the indigenous peoples of America. She is the Mary of the poor and the outcasts and those left behind or wiped out as Europeans colonized, industrialized and regimented the Americas.

Even the word “Guadalupe” has roots in native Aztec language, and many believe the image is
 filled with Aztec symbols. She is the Mary of hope to the poor of the Americas.

There is another level to this that I would commend to you: The Holy comes to us not just in male imagery (God the Father) but in female imagery. 

The Holy Spirit is like a wind that will blow where she will, and will show her face in ways that speak to people in the depths of their soul, and give them strength and courage when they most need it. The Virgin of Guadalupe does precisely that for so many, and I have met them (and they weren't all Latino).

Tonight we will celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Paul’s. Come join us tonight at 5:30 pm for a Holy Eucharist with a little Spanish music, and then for a Mexican dinner in the Parish Hall at 6:15 pm. The dinner is benefit for PACEM, our homeless ministry. Come celebrate Guadalupe and be generous.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why printed Sunday programs?

Several people have asked me about why we are publishing service programs on Sunday instead of a leaflet listing page numbers. After all, don’t we all know how to use The Book of Common Prayer

Well, no, not everyone does.

The first and most important reason for the programs is that we have many new people who are not accustomed to going back and forth in the pages of the prayer book. Many are not Episcopalians, or are not familiar with our liturgical style of worship. Many others have no church background at all. If we are to be truly an inclusive and welcoming congregation, we need to find ways to help people enter into our way of worshipping and this is the first step. Printed programs are a tool not just of worship, but a tool of welcome.

Some people have expressed worry that we are somehow not worshipping out of The Book of Common Prayer. In fact, our worship is still from The Book of Common Prayer. The book is not the binding; the book is the printed words on the page. The printed programs are copied from an electronic version of The Book of Common Prayer, and then printed in a leaflet formatted in the order of our worship. We are even using the same fonts and rubrics as in the red book in the pews. And you are still welcome to use the red books – the books will remain in the pews.

The Book of Common Prayer is an extraordinary book, and you should think of it as more than just a worship book for Sunday mornings. The book is a resource for living. I would encourage everyone to purchase their own book, explore it fully, and learn how to use it in your daily life. You can also access the Book of Common Prayer on line by clicking here:  I would be happy to guide you through the wonders of the prayer book, and we will offer a class next year on The Book of Common Prayer as a book for living. I would also love to show you my collection of prayer books, including one published in 1776.

Isn’t this a lot of extra paper? Not as much as you might think. Before we began printing programs we were giving you announcement sheets, music sheets, a two-sided biblical lessons insert and a service leaflet with page numbers. With the printed programs you are getting all of that in a logical format, and it is taking, on the average, one or two extra pages per week, mostly because we’ve occasionally added extra music that is not in the blue hymnal.

To mitigate for our paper consumption, the Green Team and the Youth Group are teaming up next year to plant trees to replace those that are cut for paper pulp. We are also using recycled paper, and we have placed blue recycling cans around the church for you to discard your used programs (please use the blue cans for recycling paper, and not for trash).

Thank you worshipping at St. Paul’s and for adjusting to a few new ways of doing things.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Guadalupe, bells, pageants

A lot is going on at St. Paul's this weekend. We have the Christmas Pageant by our kids at the 10 a.m. worship on Sunday. And no sermon! But before you get to Sunday, here's what is happening Friday and Saturday:

On Friday at 5:30 pm we are doing a special service marking the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, followed by a Mexican dinner at 6:15 pm in the parish hall as a fund-raiser for PACEM, our homeless ministry. The feast day of Guadalupe is the major Mary feast in Mexico. Guadalupe is particularly iconic for the poor and destitute in our world, so it is especially appropriate that we donate to PACEM this time of year on this day. Our suggested donation is $15, and Lori is making tortilla soup.

And on Saturday at 10 am, our Green Team is leading us in ringing the St. Paul's bell 350 times to sound the alarm on global warming, and joining other faith communities across the nation in a campaign called “Sound of Hope and Spirit.” The idea is to ring each church bell 350 times to spread the call to action, in conjunction with founded by environmentalist and author Bill McKibben. is a coalition pushing for effective action to address the global warming crisis and encouraging action that will result in recognition of the goal of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide from 385 parts per million to 350 ppm.

The bell at St. Paul's Memorial Church was installed in 1957 and has been rung every Sunday morning since to call the faithful to worship – and has also been rung to celebrate joyful occasions such as weddings or to signal attention during times of national crisis such as 9/11. “Such a crisis is now upon on us, threatening devastation of our environment, economy and creation as we know it,” said Gwynn Crichton, organizer of the event for parishioners at St. Paul’s.

While ringing the bell on Dec. 13, parishioners will be served hot drinks and cookies and will also be encouraged to write Congressional representatives and the White House to urge support for reductions that will meet the target goal for 350 ppm carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

St. Paul's is a member of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, a non-profit initiative working for a more just, sustainable and healthier creation by reducing global warming. Those of you from California will recognize it as part of the network of Interfaith Power & Light, founded by the Rev. Sally Bingham of the Diocese of California, offering concrete opportunities for congregations and individuals to protect the planet.

I hope you can join us for some or all of these events this weekend.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Advent waters

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned on this page Advent Conspiracy, which is raising awareness about safe drinking water in poor nations. If you haven't checked it out, please do so by clicking Advent Conspiracy or by looking at its partner organization, Living Water, a Christian organization that is drilling wells in poor countries.

Martha Loach Webber also brought this to my attention: Proctor & Gamble has a program to raise money for delivering water purification packets to villages and other places that lack a clean water supply. The technology is simple and cheap. The website is definitely worth a few minutes of your time and your giving consideration. Click here: Children's Safe Drinking Water.

One more idea in this season of giving: Gifts for Life through Episcopal Relief and Development. Check out the on-line gift catalog for gifts that make a difference to those in the most needs.

Finally, friends at the convention of the Diocese of Los Angeles last weekend talked with some of the Holy Cross brothers about the recent devastating Santa Barbara monastery fire (highlighted on this blog last month). The brothers, ever modest, mentioned that without the monastery retreat guest house, they have no income. Donations to the Order of the Holy Cross would be gratefully accepted to help them get back on their feet: 

Mount Calvary Retreat House
P.O Box 1296
Santa Barbara, California 93102

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Anglican melodrama one more time

I promise not to blog overly much on the melodrama of the Anglican Communion. Last week I chipped in a few words on this blog, and I’ve enjoyed hearing the responses. A few additional thoughts and observations to expand on some comments I made today at a Rector’s Q&A after our worship:

First, let me offer a bit of factual perspective: There are four dioceses which have declared their secession from the Episcopal Church – four out of 110 dioceses. The four that have gone are small. How many people do they represent? Judging by total reported attendance, the breakaway dioceses boast, at best, about 20,000 people, and that is assuming everyone in all four dioceses have left the Episcopal Church, which they have not.

To put that in perspective, the total attendance for the Episcopal Church is about 804,000, so the breakaways represent a bit more than 2 percent. In terms of membership, we are at about 2.15 million, and the breakaway churches have about 49,000 members (again assuming all 49,000 are seceding, which they are not). To put it another way, the total communicants of the Diocese of Virginia is considerably larger than the four breakways dioceses combined. Again, do the math – they may be loud, but the breakaways aren’t large.

Many churches within the breakaway dioceses have declared they will remain in the Episcopal Church regardless of what their bishops and diocesan conventions do. The Cathedral for the Diocese of Quincy, in Peoria, Illinois, voted to remain in the Episcopal Church. The Diocese of San Joaquin, in the Central Valley of California, has 19 of its churches – nearly half – staying with the Episcopal Church.

Next, let me offer a few observations about all of this:

The breakaway bishops agree on one thing: they don’t want gay people in the church. Beyond that, they are already finding it difficult to find common agreement, much as they label what they are doing as a “common cause.”

There are already schisms within the schismatics. Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth, who has for years been vocally against the ordination of women, has already said he is in a state of “impaired communion” with another of the breakaway dioceses because that bishop is ordaining women.

And just because a group of disaffected former Episcopalians wish to call themselves “Anglican” does not make them Anglican any more than it makes them astronauts. The definition of what makes an Anglican an Anglican has to do with being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The breakaway bishops have not been recognized by the Archbishop and they’ve given no indication that they even wish that recognition.

Lables aside, those who are following these bishops ought to pause and ask how some of these bishops got to be bishops. Although some were bishops in the Episcopal Church, others were not elected by any convention of laity and clergy. Some, like Martyn Minns of Virginia, were ordained bishop in an irregular, unorthodox manner by Anglican bishops from Africa, Singapore and elsewhere. It is unclear how bishops in this new so-called “Anglican province” of North America will be selected; by whom and how? My friends in the Diocese of San Joaquin, whose bishop took the diocese into the province of the Southern Cone (Argentina), have been asking for months to see the canons for Argentina, to no avail. The rules appear to be what these breakaway bishops say they are.

Although the breakaway bishops and their followers have created layers of organizations with important sounding names, that does not legitimize them as Anglicans, nor does it makes their actions legal. David Anderson, who heads one of these self-appointed organizations, the “American Anglican Council” (and he is another of these irregularly consecrated bishops), gave a description today in his weekly on-line newsletter of the organizational structure and how the organizations are interrelated. If you can sort this out, you are doing better than I am. Here’s Anderson on this:
“The formation of ACNA, which is a coming together of Anglican judicatories under an Archbishop, leaves two of its sponsoring organizations in a here-and-there position. Both Forward In Faith-North America (FIFNA) and the American Anglican Council (AAC) are advocacy and affinity organizations that overlay actual ecclesial judicatories, and although both are presently headed by bishops, the bishops and the members are all embedded in separate actual church structures.”

Huh? Who got to decide all that? Were the regular church-going pledge-paying faithful people sitting in the pews on Sunday in Fresno or Fort Worth or Quincy ever asked if it was OK with them to be shunted into one of these “ecclesial judicatories” and be summarily ex-communicated from the Episcopal Church? And if just one person objected to leaving the Episcopal Church, by what authority did a bishop, or a “ecclesial judicatory,” decide that a majority had the right to tell that one person he or she could no longer be an Episcopalian?

Finally, there is paranoid secretiveness to the breakaways. Anderson in his weekly missive noted yet another new organization, this one to have secret membership. To quote Anderson again:

“Because some TEC [The Episcopal Church] bishops are hostile to members or congregations joining or remaining a part of the AAC because of our clear stand against the increasing heterodoxy of the Episcopal Church, a new type of membership is available, called ‘In Pectore,’ which means in the heart. It will be an unpublished list of members who individually know that they are members, and we know that they are, but no one else but God knows that. This list will be treated as Top Sacred [sic], realizing the danger that is present for the orthodox today in many TEC dioceses.”
Amidst all of this murkiness and muck, there is an important challenge to all of us: We should not be letting the princes of negativity hijack the language of orthodoxy, the authority of Scripture, our voice in speaking out against evil and sin, and most especially our embrace of the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Our Lord and Savior challenges us to make room for all people at the Table, sinners and saints alike, and to be the hands and feet of love, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation in the world. We don’t get a pass on our mission because of the distractions of church politics.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Our Day of Prayers for Peace

Our prayers for peace are concluded for today. We have prayed respecting many traditions, but the well is by no means dry. Thanks to one and all who participated here at St. Paul's or far away on this blog or in whatever way you could. I leave you with a classic from Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) which we prayed this afternoon:

In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss. In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving. You are our mother, brother, and savior. In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace. You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us. You are our maker, our lover, our keeper. Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen.

A prayer for peace for the California State Senate in 2006

Here is one of the prayers I wrote for the California State Senate in 2006. I wish it was out-of-date: 

Almighty God, we pray that the leaders of all nations will work unceasingly for peace and reconcilliation in the many troubled lands of this earth. We pray especially for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we ask that all who are serving our nation will be protected by your embrace and will return safely home soon. Amen.

A prayer by Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Lord, open our eyes, that we may see you in our brothers and sisters.

Lord, open our ears, that we may hear the cries of hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed.

Lord, open our hearts, that we may love each other as you love us.

Renew in us your spirit, Lord, free us and make us one. Amen.

A Jewish Shabbat prayer for peace

You have given us the power, O God, to bring peace and justice into the world. May we always love peace and pursue it, and love our fellow creatures. Fill Your children with kindness, wisdom, and love. Then shall they learn to live at peace.

Blessed is the Lord, Teacher of Peace.

A Muslim Prayer for peace

God made this universe from love

For Him to be the Father of.

There cannot be

Another such as He.


What duty more exquiste is

Than loving with a love like His?

A better task

No one could ever ask.


Rahman Baba

Buddhist prayer

May all beings have happiness, and the causes of happiness; May all be free from sorrow, and the causes of sorrow; May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless; And may live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion, And live believing in the equality of all that lives.

Prayer by Leslie Middleton at St. Paul's

Our own Leslie Middleton wrote this prayer this morning and shared it with us a few minutes ago with a piece of art she created. Here is her prayer:

Dear God

Peace is messy. Peace is bloody.

Peace in my heart is not something I know.

In my mind, I think “Peace. This could be a good thing.”

In my heart, I cry to be free.

I cry to be free of all that is un-peaceful in my heart.


I can barely look across the desert and see the

       Dark children with swollen bellies, walking slowly

       Until they can no longer walk.

I can barely look at the women in my town,

       Black, overweight, alone with their children’s

       Children, eating day-old sweets and hot dogs.

I can barely see the ground beneath bulldozers,

       Plowed under for concrete and cars.

I can barely see the green that splits the

       Pavement wide, the power of soil and light.


I can, barely, in this quiet,

       Except for the peace that eludes me, the bloody

       World, the place within my heart where unrest resides.

But God, below me is light. I think.

Was there first, I believe.

Comes with the dawn, I must trust.

Ever more, I pray.


Quaker prayer by Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845)

O Lord, may we be directed what to do, and what to leave undone, and then may we humbly trust that a blessing will be with us. Enable us, O Lord, to feel tenderly and charitably toward all. Help us to have no soreness toward any. Let us think no evil, bear all things, hope all things, endure all things. Let us walk in all humility before all we meet, and into your sight. Amen.

Jewish Prayer for Peace

Grant us peace, Your most precious gift, O Eternal Source of peace, and give us the will to proclaim its message to all the peoples of the earth. Bless our country, that it may always be a stronghold of peace, and its advocate among the nations. May contentment reign within its borders, health and happiness within its homes. Strengthen the bonds of friendship among the inhabitants of all lands, and may the love of Your name hallow every home and every heart. Blessed is the Eternal God, the Source of peace. AMEN

Gates of Prayer (Jewish), p. 695