Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Holy Unions and our own "generous pastoral response"

Much ink and considerable heat has been expended on the topic of same-sex unions. Most of the words are abstract arguments about interpretations of the law, morality and interpretation of Scripture. Such arguments have their place as we work our way through this issue.

Rarely, though, do we hear from the people most involved: those loving couples of the same gender who have committed themselves to each other and ask for God's blessing through the Church. Their stories are rarely told.

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to hear from several couples at a forum hosted by St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Richmond. I went with two members of our St. Paul's congregation, and we went primarily to listen.

Those who spoke were the rector and several members of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Dupont Circle, in Washington DC, which has been conducting Holy Unions, as they call them, for several years among people of the same gender, and with the sanction of that diocese.

We heard stories that were touching, poignant, sometimes funny, and sometimes very sad. We heard about parents, grandparents, and great aunts who accepted their gay children, and others who just could not. These were very human stories, stories of love, and stories of courage in the face of societal and family opposition. These were also ordinary stories in that they were told by people who really just want to live quietly as families, earn a living and be with each other and their friends, and go to church on Sunday.

As I listened, the words of our General Convention this past summer came immediately to mind: We are called as Christian people to provide a "generous pastoral response" as community of faith to all the people in our community.

In the months ahead, we will be engaging in conversation as a congregation, and with our new bishop, Shannon Johnston, about what this generous pastoral response will look like. I do not presume to know what it will look like. It is my prayer that before we talk, we will listen; before we jump to theological abstractions, we will first see the faces of the people whose lives are most on the line. I pray we will be generous with each other not just when we agree, but when we disagree.

And then I pray we will come to the same table, share in our bread and wine, share our blessings, and be as one with Christ and each other as Christ is one with us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Perhaps the only question we will have to answer: "What can you tell me about September?"

Sorry, friends, we had an internet outage at the homestead, so I am very late posting today.

As September draws to a close (wasn't it just January?), our friend Karen from Tennessee sent this poem about the month drawing to a close. I rather like it, and I especially like the ending...
September Meditation
By Burton D. Carley

I do not know if the seasons remember their history or if the days and nights by which we count time remember their own passing.

I do not know if the oak tree remembers its planting or if the pine remembers its slow climb toward sun and stars.
I do not know if the squirrel remembers last fall's gathering or if the bluejay remembers the meaning of snow.
I do not know if the air remembers September or if the night remembers the moon.
I do not know if the earth remembers the flowers from last spring or if the evergreen remembers that it shall stay so.
Perhaps that is the reason for our births -- to be the memory for creation.
Perhaps salvation is something very different than anyone ever expected.
Perhaps this will be the only question we will have to answer:
"What can you tell me about September?"
Photo "Oak Tree Sunrise" by Ansel Adams.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Monday Funnies: But did he text too?

As newcomers to this corner of the country, oozing with American history, we continue to make many surprising discoveries. Today, after much research and study, I can reveal to you a major historical discovery.

As you know, Charlottesville is the home of Thomas Jefferson. He built Monticello up on a hillside overlooking our town, and he is the founder and architect of the University of Virginia. Jefferson was also known as an inventor and tinkerer; he built writing devices and clocks, and all manner of gadgets.

But I'll bet you didn't know this fact: Thomas Jefferson invented the cell phone.

That's right, my friends, the cellular mobile telephone. You don't believe me? Go to the lobby of the University Virginia Medical Center, look near the reception desk and there you will find a bust of Mr. Jefferson. Now, look closely. Notice something?

He is talking on his cell phone, probably with Benjamin Franklin.

Historians are still trying to unearth whether the first draft of the Declaration of Independence was done by texting.

Enjoy your Monday.

Photo by Anthony Ramirez.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Today's sermon: "Have salt in yourselves."

Today's sermon is from Mark 9:38-50

“Have salt in yourself, and be at peace with one another.”

When I was a teenager, I raced small sailboats on San Francisco Bay. Our favorite stretch of water was near what we called “the Salt Pile,” which technically speaking is the Cargill Saltworks.

The salt pile was as big as a mountain and could be seen from 20 miles away on San Francisco Bay.

Huge salt evaporation pools ring the Bay. Salt water fills the pools, the water evaporates,
and then the remaining salt is scrapped up and deposited on a big mound that can be loaded onto ships. At its peak, the Saltworks shipped 350,000 tons of salt a year.
That is a lot of salt.

We used to race our sailboats around the salt pile, and it gave me a lot of time to think about salt and what the pile of salt represents.
Salt is life, and the salt from San Francisco Bay went to every corner of the globe bringing life.

I am not sure Jesus ever saw a salt pile like this one, but he knew exactly what he was talking about when he mentions salt.

Jesus is not talking about salt as a condiment on your French fries, although he cracks a little joke along that line: “If salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?”

Jesus is talking about salt as the essence of life. Our life is dependant on salt. Seawater is about 3.5 percent salt. That is same proportion as salt in your blood. We are literally from the sea, and we cannot live without salt.

But go a little deeper than that. Jesus is talking about more than just maintaining your biological functions.

Jesus is declaring we should live our life to its fullest promise, as God gives us this life. Life is supposed to be salty, not stale. Jesus throws all kinds of images our way to make the same point. He is practically shouting at us:

“Everyone will be salted with fire.”
“If your hand causes your to stumble, cut it off.”
“If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off.”
“Better to be lame than to be thrown into hell.”

None of these word images make the slightest sense if you take them word for word, as literally true. Jesus is certainly not advocating self-mutilation. Salt does not come from fire. Your hands are not what make your feet stumble. Cutting off your feet will not make you more stable when walking.

Rather, Jesus is telling us to live, and be bold about it. Sprinkle some salt on it. Maybe a little pepper, too. Spice it up. Do not be bland.

God gives us this tremendous gift of life. We greet this gift of life one day at time. Use your gifts, use them vigorously. Put some salt in it.

Throw away the things that get in your way from living life to the fullest as God would have you live. If you need to make changes in your life, make the changes. If your salt has lost its saltiness, find new salt.

This is not about self-indulgence. It is about honoring God by honoring your health, and bringing healing and hope to all who need it. Live a life that brings life to yourself and all those around you. You are never too old or young to start.

How? The clues are right here with you. “Have salt in yourselves,” Jesus says.

“Have salt in yourselves.”

All that you need is within you. God has given you and I everything we need, all the salt we need to live fully, abundantly, joyfully. God provides, we lack nothing, and blessings upon blessings are ours forever.

Yet, sometimes we don’t notice what is in front of us.

Sometimes all we need do is pause long enough to notice the salt right here. The idea of slowing down, resting – noticing – is the idea of Sabbath. The idea is to let the salt pile up a bit and then we might see it.

Sunday – today – by the way, is not the Sabbath day. It is a feast day, and the first day of the week. The Sabbath day is traditionally the seventh day, and that would be yesterday, Saturday. I hope your Sabbath yesterday was wonderful and full of saltiness.

As Jesus points out elsewhere in the gospels, Sabbath is not meant as an obligation; Sabbath is a gift to us so that we might notice our blessings.

Let me suggest we give ourselves Sabbath every day. Look for the gifts of Sabbath along the way in your daily travels. Take moments to look, to listen for the Holy. Slow down, pause, ask yourself: What gives me life right now? Where is the salt? Take stock.

If there is something not giving you life, get rid of it, cut it off. And then embrace that which gives you life. Salt is all around you and inside you:

“Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” AMEN.

Fog and the City

Good morning! Here is a short film that I hope will brighten your day. Turn up your sound, enjoy, and then go to church. The sermon will be posted here later in the day.

Thanks to Nat Lewis for sending this along. Enjoy...

Another Cloud Reel... from Delrious on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Saints of Autumn: Lancelot Andrewes

Today is the feast day of one of the greats of our Anglican tradition, Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626). Born in Barking, England (I love the name of that town), Andrewes oversaw the translation of what became known as the King James Bible (Authorized Version, as it is officially called). Andrewes did much of the translating himself and was the chief editor of the overall project.

He was made bishop successively of Chichester, Ely and then Winchester. He served in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I with great distinction.

Yet is not just for his political and church accomplishments we honor him today. He should be chiefly remembered as a writer. He crafted prayers that still set the bar high in the English language. Anglicanism's soul is in our prayer book and our poetry, and that is no small measure a credit to Andrewes.

Other Protestant churches produced lengthy statements of doctrine, or "confessions," with towering theologians like Martin Luther and John Calvin setting forth the intricacies of Christianity as they saw it.

We produced poets.

The English reformers set their course by a different compass: their theology was in the music of the words, in the poems and prayers, and they crafted hundreds of them. Sonnets sang to people in ways that doctrinal petitions could not. Andrewes shared the stage with John Donne, William Shakespeare, Richard Hooker and other luminaries of English letters.

He was certainly an accomplished scholar, and his preaching carried heft. But the words did not have to be turgid. Theology did not need to be measured in run-on sentences.

Many of the prayers and phrases in our contemporary prayer book have their origins with Lancelot Andrewes. Here is one of his prayers:

Blessed art Thou, 0 Lord,
Our God, the God of our Fathers;
Who turnest the shadow of death into the morning;
and lightenest the face of the earth;
Who separatest darkness from the face of the light;
and banishest night and bringest back the day;
Who lightenest mine eyes,
that I sleep not in death;
Who deliverest me from the terror by night,
from the pestilence that walketh in darkness;
Who drivest sleep from mine eyes,
and slumber from mine eyelids;
Who makest the outgoings of the morning
and evening to praise Thee;
because I laid me down and slept and rose up again,
for the Lord sustained me; because I waked and beheld,
and my sleep was sweet unto me.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Shrines and records of our prayers

Last week, I wrote here about roadside shrines marking Holy moments in our lives. As a friend in Southern California pointed out, we are surrounded by roadside shrines in our daily life: markers of the sacred that tell us of God's presence.

Sometimes these shrines are so obvious we don't notice them. In her book, An Altar in the World, author and preacher Barbara Brown Taylor notes "the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it."

And that got me to thinking about the roadside shrines in my life. There are many, and some of them we share together as a community of people though you may not know it. Some of these shrines are quite simple. One of these shrines is in the sacristy of our parish, the room where the clergy vest before worship services. The shrine I speak of you might miss, but you will find it in the sacristy of every Episcopal Church: The Register of Church Services. I hope you will find this shrine in every house of worship, most churches keep a register of some sort.

We record in the Register every worship service we conduct at St. Paul's. Every single Sunday service, every baptism, every wedding, every funeral, every weekday service no matter how large or small. We record every prayer service whether in the church, the chapel, on the lawn outside, in a hospital or someone's home. Every one goes in the record book.

I learned how to record services in the Register from a living saint, the Rev. Canon Dr. Grant Carey, who has lovingly and faithfully tended to the record book at Trinity Cathedral, Sacramento, for at least three decades. I learned from him not just how to put numbers in columns, but how recording the prayers in the book is a prayer itself.

The staff at St. Paul's thinks me somewhat obsessive about the Register. The reason I am is not out of accounting compulsion (I have none), but because the Register is to me a roadside shrine. It is a way of honoring the sacredness of our prayers. We are sacramental people, we do things physically -- incarnationally -- and that includes writing things down.

To me, each entry in the Register is a sign of eternity. Our prayers continue to live in the ink on the page. Older Registers are locked in a vault at St. Paul's. I must admit I enjoy looking through the yellowing old books, touching the pages, examining the handwriting, imagining the worship that each entry represents, and the people who prayed these prayers. Our record books are shrines of the Holy and shrines made by the hands of holy people.

My friend Anthony Ramirez took this photo of the Register in the sacristy at St. Paul's, and I would be happy to show you the book next time you are at St. Paul's.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Catholic bishops back health care reform; let's encourage them

As the health care debate reaches a crescendo, the faith community needs to have its voice heard. Recently I've been among those concerned that the Roman Catholic bishops in the United States seemed to be back-peddling on their long-standing commitment to universal health care. At best, the Catholic bishops have been a big question mark in the health care debate.

In recent days, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published a statement by Maria del Mar Muñoz-Visoso, Assistant Director of the Office of Media Relations, entitled "Make Your Voice Heard." I think it is an important statement, and I hope it portends more active support from the Catholic bishops. I think this is an important statement, not because I necessarily agree with everything in it, but because if the Catholic bishops will truly get behind health care reform at this critical stage, health care reform cannot fail. Let's encourage our Catholic friends to encourage their bishops. Here is the statement:

Does thinking about health care reform give you a headache? Are the rhetoric, the cross messages, and the overflow of information — and misinformation — tempting you give in to the pessimistic thought that the sick who are most in need of health care, the poor, the marginalized, the immigrant, don’t stand a chance, “as always,” in front of powerful financial and political interests? Do you question getting involved at all?

The task seems daunting, but this is not the moment to give up or disconnect. The debate has reached a critical moment when the Catholic voice needs to be heard clearly and strongly.

The US Catholic bishops have spoken with one voice on the principles that should guide the discussion. They have been advocating for decades for the reform of a fragmented health system, one that is currently expensive, filled with inefficiencies and leaves too many people out.

The introduction of several bills in Congress this session (there are several different versions circulating in the House and the Senate as this is being written) acknowledges this reality. This has provided the opportunity to present the Catholic teaching on this issue and, in light of the tensions and complexity of the debate, has made the clear outlining of certain basic moral principles more necessary than ever.

A Catholic in good conscience cannot blindly vow support for one proposal or another without first measuring it against the fundamental principles of subsidiarity, solidarity and the common good.

Following Catholic social teaching, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

* Supports universal health coverage which protects the life and dignity of all, from conception to natural death, especially those who are poor and vulnerable.

* Opposes any efforts to expand abortion funding, mandate abortion coverage, or endanger the conscience rights of health care providers and religious institutions.

* Supports effective measures to safeguard the health of all of society by expanding eligibility for public programs such as Medicaid to all low income families and vulnerable people, and by offering adequate subsidies for cost-sharing of insurance premiums and out of pocket expenses. Legal immigrants and all pregnant women and children, regardless of immigration status, should be included.

The urgency of the matter has seen many bishops present these principles in order to educate the faithful and the public, encourage them to get involved and also ensure they are aware of the dangers, subterfuges and subtleties hidden in the different proposals.

Locally each bishop has put emphasis in that which concerns him the most but, in the end, the message is always the same: it is urgent to reform the US health system, but don’t do it at the expense of the poor, the children in their mother’s womb, or the consciences of doctors, nurses and other health workers. We can do better than this.

There are different ways to achieve access for all. We can debate and compromise on the proper role of government.

Let us find solutions where all the stakeholders can play a role and do it according to their religious convictions.

Let us stop the noise and the finger-pointing and turn to the issue at hand: the health of the nation. As one of our veteran Hispanic bishops, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, New Mexico, put it recently: “in our public discourse, let us not allow anger to suffocate wisdom, nor let slogans replace solutions.”

If there is a country where the means exist to remedy the health care crisis, it is this one. But, is there a will? Solidarity and the common good come at a price.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Everything about ourselves is necessary to the story

It is only Wednesday but it feels like an already too long week, at least for me. So it I am grateful that Karen sent along this poem this afternoon, and so I share it with you...

My Life Before I Knew It

By Lawrence Raab

I liked rainy days

when you didn't have to go outside and play.

At night I'd tell my sister

there were snakes under her bed.

When I mowed the lawn I imagined being famous.

Cautious and stubborn, unwilling to fail,

I knew for certain what I didn't want to know.

I hated to dance. I hated baseball,

and collected airplane cards instead.

I learned to laugh at jokes I didn't get.

The death of Christ moved me,

but only at the end of Ben Hur.

I thought Henry Mancini was a great composer.

My secret desire was to own a collie

who would walk with me in the woods

when the leaves were falling

and I was thinking about writing the stories

that would make me famous.

Sullen, overweight, melancholy,

writers didn't have to be good at sports.

They stayed inside for long periods of time.

They often wore glasses. But strangers

were moved by what they accomplished

and wrote them letters. One day

one of those strangers would introduce

herself to me, and then

the life I'd never been able to foresee

would begin, and everything

before I became myself would appear

necessary to the rest of the story.

Join us for Community Night this evening

Community Night Returns!

5:30pm Evening Prayer in the Chapel
6:00pm Community Dinner
6:45pm Small Groups, Classes and Youth Choir (all these begin on Sept. 30th)

Come to all or any part of the evening.

Wednesday Evening Adult Small Groups: 6:45pm - 7:45pm beginning Sept. 30th

(1) Centering Prayer: meets 6:30pm - 8pm in the Youth Rooms

(2) Book Circle: Meets from 6:45pm - 7:45pm in the Library

Where is God in all this? – Have you ever struggled to find God in the ups and downs of life? Barbara Brown Taylor has authored an extraordinary book, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, about her own search for God in the ordinary moments of life, and her search in those harder times of pain and difficulty. She is among the most gifted writers on spirituality today, and she offers both practical advice on finding the sacred each day, and a commentary on her own challenges in doing so. Rector Jim Richardson will lead a discussion circle on Wednesday evenings on her book. Participants can purchase the book at most bookstores or a on-line booksellers.

(3) Listening as Spiritual Practice: Meets from 6:45pm - 7:45pm in the Lounge

In this series we will explore the Christian practice of "listening" -- to one another, to our own hearts and to God's leading. Please join us for any evenings you are able.

Sept. 30 & Oct. 7 Levels of Listening -- video and discussion led by Janet Legro

Oct. 14 - 28 The Listening Parent -- Led by Melissa Dean-Mckinney

Nov. 4 Active Listening in Communication & Mediation -- led by Phil LaMar

Nov. 11 - Dec. 11 Centering Prayer - the prayer of "loving attentiveness"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Important information that could save your life in Charlottesville

This was brought to my attention by Janice Dean in response to my post about drinking at the University of Virginia. She contributed this as a comment earlier today, and this is important information so I want to make sure you see it:

- There are no charges for services provided by the Charlottesville/Albemarle Rescue Squad.
- Parents will only be notified if student is under 18 or if they might not make it.
- Police will respond to a 911 call, but only to ensure safety, not to report or arrest anyone.
- Bringing a friend to the hospital will not put you at risk for punishment if you are underage. It is better to come in so the doctors know exactly what happened; they will be better able to treat your friend!

The culture of drinking at the University of Virginia: Enough already?

This is important, and I hope you will keep reading.

Yesterday I went for a walk on the grounds at the University of Virginia and I came upon these flags (in photo) planted in the lawn in front of the library. I was dumbstruck by what it represents.

Each flag is planted in the ground for a young adult who drank himself or herself to death on a college campus this past year.

There are 1,700 flags on the lawn. The carnage is higher than in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The flags were put there by the National Gordie Foundation. This Thursday is National Gordie Day, commemorating Gordie Bailey, who died from alcohol poisoning in 2004 after a drinking binge that was part of a fraternity hazing initiation at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Gordie had been on campus only three weeks.

Tonight, the National Gordie Foundation will be showing a film, Haze, in Newcombe Hall at 7:30 pm. The film is free. If you are a student, please go, and tell your friends. The film will be shown again Thursday at 7:30pm in Wilson 402.

Let's stop pretending: Drinking is a plague here at the University of Virginia. I am a recent newcomer to Charlottesville, and I am overwhelmed by the brazen open drinking by students, and the culture of drinking that is pervasive in this community.

Our church parking lot, back alley and front yard are full of cans and bottles every Sunday morning. Our Sunday morning ritual begins by cleaning up the mess; we sometimes need to hose down the steps from the vomit.

And that is only the physical residue. I am told the emergency rooms at the UVa Medical Center and Martha Jefferson Hospital regularly receive students who are close to death from drinking.

This should be unacceptable to all of us.

It is way too easy to get cheap beer near the places where students live and study. A half-block from St. Paul's is Cohn's Corner, a convenience store with cheap beer, and lots of it. Walk inside the door and you will see suite-case size cases of Bud Lite stacked high for sale. I checked the prices Monday: A 24-pack costs $17.89, less than a dollar a beer. A sign proclaims that if you buy 10 cases you will get a $1 off per case. Could we find more ways to encourage binge drinking if we were trying?

I am no prude or angel on this subject. I enjoy beer and wine, and when I was a college student at UCLA I availed myself of the many opportunities for free beer at "keggers" all over Westwood. I don't think I ever bought a beer my entire four years at UCLA. I didn't have to; it flowed free. I am not claiming my generation was any better, and maybe we were a whole lot worse. It was part of college life, everyone did it, no one seemed to say anything otherwise.

But is that any reason to allow this slaughter to continue? Is that any reason to look the other way as multi-national corporations get rich by providing cheap beer at the expense of the health of young lives?

I am not sure what we can do about this. Maybe you have some ideas? If you are a student, please think about this. Go to the film, take a friend with you. If you work for UVa., maybe it is time to talk with the Administration about being more forceful on this topic. If you work for the local media, maybe you ought to cover this story and not let up. If you are a lawmaker, maybe it is time to take a hard look at the availability of beer so close to university campuses and fix a few laws.

Maybe it is time for all of us to stop thinking that this is an acceptable part of "life on the Corner" in Charlottesville. It is time to say enough of this.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Today: Peace One Day; Prayers for Peace

Today is the United Nations Peace One Day -- a day of ceasefire, a day to pause, a day to pray, a day to stop sniping with bullets and words, as our Associate Rector Ann Willms reminded us Sunday in a hugely powerful sermon.

A year ago we held a day of "Prayers for Peace." I'd like to offer a few of those prayers we offered a year ago. First, though, please watch this three-minute video. I found it hugely moving. The prayers follow underneath the video.

Prayers for Peace

Prayer by Julian of Norwich (1342-1416):

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 the California State Senate

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.

Shalom, Salaam, Peace

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Peace One Day: Let's do something

This Monday is Peace One Day, a day set aside by the United Nations to declare a ceasefire the world over, to pause in the violence, to attempt considering what we are doing to each other and to this planet. One day.

Peace One Day began in 1998 as the dream of a British filmmaker. The UN endorsed the idea, and it has spread from the streets up from country to country.

I invite all of us to stop Monday, pray for peace, to do something concrete that will spread peace, if only for a moment. And please join us Monday for our noon Prayers for Peace at St. Paul's, or stop wherever you are at noon and pray for peace. I will offer a few prayers for peace in this space on Monday.

And please, watch this video. It is only 60 seconds. Take a minute to watch, and then take a day for peace.

The Monday Funnies will return a week from Monday.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Take your life personally

Our friend Karen from Tennessee sent this. I like it a lot, it reminds me again to notice.

I hope you will pause at week's end and take a few things personally...

by Tony Hoagland

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with

like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:

trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.
Painting by Mandy Weathers.

Friday, September 18, 2009

As Real as it Gets: My friend Phoebe

Today I am bringing you an item I hope will warm your heart, and demonstrate that there really are people who God brings to us as agents of hope and healing and wonder.

One of my young former parishioners from All Souls, Berkeley, served in the Sojourn Chaplaincy at San Francisco General Hospital last summer.

This is as hard-core urban a hospital as it gets; gunshot wounds, HIV/AIDS, car wreck traumas and more are all part of daily life at San Francisco General.

Her name is Phoebe Dixon, and she is now starting her second year at Bates College in Maine. By any outward measure, Phoebe is young to be in such a chaplaincy, and many an older person I know would have wilted in such a setting.

Yet, if you know Phoebe, you would know that this chaplaincy was meant for her, and her for it. Her inner spirit shines forth, and she has an extraordinary way of touching the heart of everyone she meets. I was very honored to be asked to write a letter of recommendation for her to Sojourn. She served this past summer at San Francisco General soon after the completion of her freshman year in college. She wrote this description of her experience and sent it to me earlier this week. She gave me permission to share this with you:
A couple of months ago, when I started volunteering as a chaplain intern at Sojourn, the multi-faith chaplaincy at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH), I noticed people wearing sweatshirts that had “As Real as it Gets – San Francisco General Hospital” written on the back. This tag line has stayed with me all summer. SGH is the public hospital for the City and County of San Francisco and is located in the Mission District of the city. Given that SFGH is a public hospital, there is a very diverse set of patients, including the marginalized, the homeless, and those who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse. It also is the Trauma 1 center serving everyone from northern San Mateo County to Napa County.
During the months I was a chaplaincy volunteer, I witnessed a wide range of illnesses, wounds, and other crises. At first I was afraid that the open sores or missing limbs would be the hardest obstacle I would have to overcome; however, I was wrong. For most patients the physical pain is eased with medication, but the emotional pain is left untouched. As a chaplain intern, my role was to help ease the emotional burdens that patients carried. Like all chaplains, I listened to patients tell their life stories. I heard their frustrations, the sadness and the loneliness they face, and the fear many of them hold about their futures. Chaplains take everything the patients will give—pain or fear or regret—and we hold it for them. Imagine going into a hospital room and carrying an empty basket. You sit down and are ready to fill your basket with whatever the patient gives you. The patient may give you anything from leg pain to fear about death. You gather all of that pain and fear and hold it in your basket, relieving the patient for a short time. Besides offering an empty basket, so to speak, we chaplains help the patients incorporate the injury or illness they are suffering from into their life story.
After a week or two of being a chaplain I realized how much I enjoyed working in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). I loved the urgency of the unit and, more importantly, I loved hearing the stories from the patients and their families. It was from the people I met in the ICU that I learned the most about being a chaplain. I learned that the simple act of listening can do wonders for a family member whose child is comatose. I learned that for some patients, just hearing a voice is comforting and reassuring. One woman I visited frequently had been intubated; that is, a tube had been placed down her throat so that she could not speak. Every time I went to see her, she would greet me with a big smile. At the end of our visit, after I had prayed aloud for her, she would not let go of my hand, and when I had to leave, her eyes would tear up. That woman also taught me that sitting with someone in silence can be just as helpful and comforting as a conversation can be. The stories I heard from family members in the ICU were humbling. The frustration I felt from that morning’s traffic jam would disappear when I heard from a family that was faced with taking a loved one off of life support. I heard lots of grief from family members in the ICU, but never before have I seen such strength in someone who was faced with such hardship. These families were so hopeful; they could see a light in a tunnel that most people would consider completely pitch black.
I later learned that all those sweatshirts, the ones that read “As Real as it Gets – San Francisco General Hospital,” are for a fundraiser for the ICU. The ICU is pretty ‘real’ and I definitely got a taste of reality when I was there. I am not saying that car crashes, head injuries, or the terminally ill are the only things that define what is ‘real,’ but rather, those things play a role in what reality can hold. Throughout my summer as a chaplain, I had the privilege of learning about a whole new world: a world of compassion and listening, of hope and faith, of strength. I saw a world that has light in even the darkest places imaginable.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Saints of Autumn: Hildegard of Bingen

Today we celebrate the feast day of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), an abbess on the Rhine who was hugely influential in her own time and whose work continues to touch and inspire in our own time.

She is among the giants of Christian spirituality in the 12th century, a time of flowering of art, music and religious fervor in Europe. Most unusual for her time, Hildegard was a renowned preacher. Her advice was sought by paupers and kings. In 1141, Hildegard had a vision, and at its end she wrote:
And it came to pass ... when I was 42 years and 7 months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming... and suddenly I understood of the meaning of expositions of the books...
She continued to write about her prayers and meditations, using both male and female images of God. She also composed a great deal of music, much of it we still have. Her mystical chants are mediations on her prayers, and her music has been rediscovered in our own time. The group Anonymous 4 has several recordings of Hildegard's works that I have long enjoyed. Here is a sampling from one:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

St. Paul's Youth Events this Sunday

9:45AM Breakfast for all in the lounge Rite 13 (6th & 7th Graders) will leave by 10AM to help in the community garden and learn about the goodness of creation. Parents can pick up youth at the garden at 11:30 and are welcome to stay for the celebration we will have there. If are a few parent drivers who can help out please reply to this email -- we would love help getting everyone to the garden. The address of the Garden is 421 "10 1/2 Street" (near Grady Ave.). Drive up Rugby Ave. away from the church. Turn right on Grady Ave. and then another right on 10 1/2 Street. You can't miss it.

My Faith, My Life (High School): Meets upstairs after breakfast. Topic: Belief: What is it and how do we talk about it? We will look at various creeds and covenants of the church and talk about the ongoing task of putting our beliefs into words (and actions). We will also begin the process of articulating our personal beliefs.

Pilgrimage Slide Shows SPY Evening Youth Group: 4 - 6:30PM All 8th Graders - 12th graders are invited to the parish lounge for the unveiling of our Pilgrimage slide shows. Both the So. Dakota and Mississippi groups will show photos. Parents are welcome to stay for the first hour, then the youth will have pizza and prepare for the worship service on Sept. 27th. We need to meet at 4PM to have access to the TV in the lounge. If you participated in one of the pilgrimages, you need to attend this meeting.

***6th & 7th Graders -- the older youth will also share these slide shows with you at a later date.

Save the Date: Next Sunday, Sept. 27th Youth will be leading the 10AM worship service, sharing stories from their pilgrimage to South Dakota and Mississippi. There are no classes and all youth and invited to worship.