Saturday, January 30, 2010

Our feast tonight

Tonight was wonderful. We had 200+ souls brave the snow and converge at Alumni Hall, dressed in their finery. We were treated to a great meal, and a documentary film about St. Paul's. More on that in a few days.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori then spoke; she challenged us to see our lives together as transforming, not just of ourselves but of the world around us and the world beyond our shores. She also challenged us to care for the earth, and to care for each other.

Sunday she will be preaching at our 8 am and 10 am worship. Please do join us if you can.

Bishop Katharine with us in Charlottesville

We had an incredible day yesterday with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori here in Charlottesville. First, she met with our University of Virginia Canterbury students for about a half-hour. Next she spoke in the Dome Room of the Rotunda to a packed room. Professor Margaret Mohrmann interviewed her, with questions coming from the audience on index cards.

Bishop Katharine gave us a sweeping view of The Episcopal Church as being truly a multi-national, multi-cultural church in 19 countries. She took difficult questions about the conflict in the Anglican Communion. Among the insights she offered is that one of the difficulties in dealing with the Church of England is that it tends to work out the theology before acting; the American church tends to work out the theology as it goes along.

Later in the evening, Bishop Katharine shared a mac-and-cheese dinner with about 40 teens from various youth groups. She shared with them some of her life journey leading her to become a scientists, priest and then a bishop.

Tonight we are planning a centennial banquet at Alumni Hall. But it is snowing. Stay tuned to this space for further developments of what we might do tonight. We do expect the snow to be cleared in time for our regular worship services Sunday morning at 8am and 10am, and she will be our preacher and celebrant.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Our centennial celebration begins

Sorry I haven't posted anything new here in a few days. I've been attending to the final details for the visitation of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for our centennial celebration. Many people have been working non-stop for days, and this weekend promises to be wonderful.

Our resident parish meteorologists have kept close tabs on the weather, and the prediction is for snow Saturday. We will have our banquet, but we advise that you only come if you can drive safely. The snow should be cleared for Sunday services.

Bishop Katharine has arrived safely in Charlottesville, and she will be speaking in the Dome Room of the Rotunda at 4pm. Come if you are in the area; seating is limited, so you should arrive early. Earlier this morning she installed Shannon Johnston as our diocesan bishop, and challenged us to feed the people with the bread of God.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Presiding Bishop to Visit St. Paul's Memorial, Charlottesville

Join us as we celebrate our Centennial at St. Paul’s Memorial Church with our special guest

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church

Jan. 29-31, 2010

A full weekend of activities is planned for the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori in Charlottesville on Jan. 29, 30 and 31 as she helps St. Paul's Memorial begin a year-long celebration of 100 years of ministry at the University of Virginia.

Friday, Jan. 29 - The Canterbury University Fellowship will host the presiding bishop at a talk entitled "The Episcopal Church in the Global Community." Bishop Jefferts Schori is the first and only woman to head one of the 38 national provinces of the Anglican Communion. A former oceanographer, Bishop Jefferts Schori is committed to the Episcopal Church's mission priorities, including the Millennium Development Goals to end world and domestic poverty and climate change. Professor Margaret Mohrmann will moderate this session. Open to the public, seating is limited. 4 p.m. in the dome room in the Rotunda of the University of Virginia.

Friday, Jan. 29 - Bishop Jefferts Schori will join youth groups from Region XV for a potluck supper. Attendance limited to teens and their leaders. Contact St. Paul's at 434-295-2156.

Saturday, Jan. 30 - St. Paul's will host a dinner to celebrate their centennial, with the presiding bishop as the guest of honor. 5:30 p.m. at Alumni Hall. Cost is $35/person. Call St. Paul's for reservations, 434-295-2156.

Sunday, Jan. 31 - Bishop Jefferts Schori will be the celebrant and preacher at the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. morning worship services. All are welcome

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Media coverage of our centennial events

We've been getting local media attention the last few days about our centennial celebration, and the visit this weekend of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to St. Paul's Memorial Church. The Charlottesville Daily Progress wrote a front-page story, which you can read by clicking HERE; and Channel 19, the CBS affiliate, aired a segment last night. You can see it by clicking HERE.

Haiti bishop: "In the wilderness but safe in faith."

In Haiti's 'new era' Episcopalians around the world offer help

'I extend my arms to the thousands without shelter,' Duracin says

[Episcopal News Service] In a letter titled "One is in the wilderness but safe in faith," Episcopal Diocese of Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin says the destructive Jan. 12 earthquake began a "new era" in the history of that impoverished nation.

"This is also a new era in the history of humanitarian aid because the catastrophe has dealt a terrible blow to more than 10 million living beings -- inhabitants who have lost their homes and their way of life," the bishop wrote in a letter posted in French here (ENS received an English translation Jan. 24). "The capital [Port-au-Prince] is transformed into an immense refuge camp. They call desperately for water, food, and medicine."

Elsewhere in the Episcopal Church, dioceses and congregations are continuing to respond to the calls for help from the church's largest diocese.

"Most of our churches are destroyed," Duracin said. "Many schools are only piles of stones."

To read the full story, click HERE.

To contribute to Episcopal Relief and Development's Haiti fund, click HERE.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Monday Funnies

Time for a joke or two, and a cartoon by Dave Walker. Enjoy your Monday. . .

* * *
An elderly woman walked into the local country church. The friendly
usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps.
"Where would you like to sit?" he asked politely.

"The front row please," she answered.

"You really don't want to do that," the usher said. "The pastor is
really boring."

"Do you happen to know who I am?" the woman inquired.

"No," he said.

"I'm the pastor's mother," she replied indignantly.

"Do you know who I am?" he asked.

"No." she said.

"Good," he answered.

* * *

The Wednesday-night church service coincided with the last day of hunting season.
The pastor asked who had bagged a deer. No one raised a hand.
Puzzled, the pastor said, "I don't get it. Last Sunday many of your wives said you were missing because of hunting season. I had the whole congregation pray for your deer."

One hunter groaned, "Well, it worked. They're all safe."
* * *
There's the old one about the person who was out walking and slipped over the
edge of the cliff.
As he was going down, he managed to grab on to a branch. He was hanging there
sure he was going to fall any moment and he shouts, "Is anyone there? Help me!"
A booming voice comes from above saying, "This is God. Let go of the branch!"
There is a long pause and the person shouts, "Is there anyone else there?"

Sunday, January 24, 2010

We are the Body of Christ

Today's sermon is based on 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a and Luke 4:14-21

“Though many, we are one body, so it is with Christ.”

Today, as we mark our centennial year in this place we call St. Paul’s Memorial Church, I want to begin a yearlong conversation about our role – our mission – in the body of Christ.

It probably is a good idea to have this conversation at least every 100 years, so today is a good day to get started. How we have this conversation, I would suggest, will unfold in many ways, over meals, in small groups, at big gatherings, informally and formally, and I hope, especially in our prayers.

Each of us has a role in this mission because each of us is a vital part the Body of Christ, just as each of us is connected to this amazing proclamation we hear from Jesus in this morning’s gospel.

Hear it again: the “Scripture has been fulfilled today in your hearing” to bring good news to the poor, to free the captives, to give sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free.

That proclamation nothing less than the definition of salvation that begins now in this world and does not wait the next; salvation especially for those in the greatest of need, the poor, the destitute, the people of Haiti and other troubled people of this earth, either far away or just around the corner.

The good news, and there is lots of good news, is that there are many members of the body Christ; many branches, many vines, many to make the yoke easy and the burden light. We are many, and we are one body.

The namesake of our parish, the apostle Paul, went to great lengths in his letters long ago to remind a sometimes crabby bunch of people called Christians that they are connected to each other through Jesus Christ, and each of us is given special gifts to carry out this mission of salvation.

The fact Paul wrote a lot of letters with this theme means that a lot of his listeners struggled with how to live as faithful people especially in those times when it was hardest, and that makes them not much different than many of us.

We are also sometimes contentious; we have different ideas on just about everything from faith to politics, from creeds to music, and if I have learned anything about you in the last year, it is you are usually not shy in expressing what you think.

I would suggest to you that is not a weakness, but is one of the strengths God has given us. As St. Paul reminds us, “all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”

All of us have need of each other, everyone is valuable, every gift counts.

As Paul tells us, “The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

We share together in the tenderness of life’s joys and sorrows. “If one member suffers,” Paul tells us, “all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

With that comes responsibility to be gentle with each other, to be careful how we speak to one another, and how we speak about one another. When we are mean or cynical, we hurt the whole body.

Paul reminds us of who the head is, and it isn’t us.

I’d like you to open a prayer book to page 854. Note the question, “How is the Church described in the Bible?”

Answer: “The Church is described as the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head and of which all baptized persons are members.”

We are the members, but not the owners of the church; we are the builders, not the architect.

Yet it takes all of us, with our many perspectives on the truth, shared together, to discern what the architect -- Jesus -- would have us do.

I find a certain freedom in that. There are many branches of Christ’s Church in many places, many languages, many ways of worship, and it is not up to me to say who is better than whom.

This branch of the Church, the Episcopal Church, has its own history, and its own peculiar ways. We come from an old root, the Church of England, born of the 16th century in the tumult of the Reformation. Our American branch split off two hundred years later, during the American Revolution.

Yet we maintain a spiritual connection to the parent church, and all the churches of the same rootstock that remain connected through the Anglican Communion, which is the third largest branch of Christianity in the world.

We are called Episcopal because we are formed around bishops – the word “episcope” is Greek for bishop. The name signifies we are formed around bishops. That is not merely an administrative structure or a franchise name. Bishops are human symbols of our spiritual unity across geographic and chronological boundaries in the Body of Christ.

Bishops connect us to each other, and to all those who have gone before, and all those who will come after. Bishops especially connect us symbolically through the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist.

That makes an Episcopal parish different from some other brands of church.

The basic unit of our church is the diocese, not the local congregation. We are connected through our diocesan bishop, Shannon Johnston, to each of the 180 congregations of the Diocese of Virginia.

Sometimes this structure is described as hierarchical, with bishops at the top, then the priests, deacons, and people.

I’d like to think of this a different way: as bishops at the center of a baptismal web, all connected to each other symbolically by our baptism through the bishop.

The bishops are connected to each other, and that connects us to a larger baptismal web: the other 109 dioceses of The Episcopal Church. At the center of the larger web is one bishop: the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, who as the Bishop of Nevada was elected by her peers in 2006 to lead this church for nine years.

Bishop Katharine is the first woman to lead our church, and the only woman to be the chief bishop of any province of the Anglican Communion.

Next week we will mark a major event in the life of our parish: Presiding Bishop Katharine will come here to St. Paul’s to help us inaugurate our centennial year. I hope you will be here and avail yourself of the opportunity to meet this extraordinary woman.

Yet, her presence will be more than an honor for us.

I expect that she will challenge us, and challenge us deeply. It brings us back to that proclamation by Jesus that: “Today the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

How will we fulfill that Scripture? How will we live out our mission of salvation as a member of the Body of Christ in this time and place? That is for all of us to discover, and to discover together as God grants us the wisdom and grace to do so. AMEN.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Amid the grimness, a smile

Haiti bishop describes conditions as "grim"

Haitian bishop briefs Episcopal Relief and Development on diocese's priorities

Headmistress says 'the tragedy was incredible to me'

[Episcopal News Service] The Haitian diocese suffered greatly with the quake. A number of the diocese's other 254 schools, ranging from preschools to a university and a seminary, were destroyed or heavily damaged, including the Holy Trinity complex of primary, music and trade schools adjacent to the demolished diocesan Cathédrale Sainte Trinité (Holy Trinity Cathedral) in Port-au-Prince.

A portion of the St. Vincent School for Handicapped Children, also in the Haitian capital, collapsed, killing between six and 10 students and staff. Many of the students are living at the camp while arrangements are being made for them to be housed elsewhere.

More than 100 of the diocese's churches have been damaged or destroyed, [Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché] Duracin has said.

As many as 3,000 quake survivors, including many members of the diocese, have congregated on a rocky field next to College Ste. Pierre, a diocesan primary school that the quake destroyed. Duracin, who was left homeless by the quake, has led the effort to organize and maintain the camp, where conditions are described as grim.


Friday, January 22, 2010

My sermon from our Service of Prayers and Remembrance for Haiti last night

History matters.

The history of the earth matters. The surface of the earth is alive, made of what geologists call tectonic plates. The plates move as surely as the sun shines, and when the plates move, mountains are formed, islands rise, rivers are moved. Earthquakes show no partiality to those living atop the land or by the sea.

The history of people matters.

When Christopher Columbus came to this continent where we now live, among the first islands he found came to be known as Haiti.

Haiti became a French colony, and to call it a colony is to sanitize what it really was: a slave camp, producing sugar to make rum for Europeans. At its peak in the 18th century, France imported 50,000 African slaves a year into Haiti to boost the profits of its sugar trade. If anyone made a pact with the Devil in Haiti, it was the French imperial slave power.

In 1791, the slaves revolted – the only successful slave rebellion in the Americas. Haiti became the second independent republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States, and the first independent black republic in the world.

But Haiti paid a terrible price for its independence and geographic isolation. France blockaded Haiti in 1825, threatening to re-enslave the entire population unless the Haitians promised to pay for their freedom.

Haiti paid tribute to France for the next 122 years, and in fact, paid one-third more to France than the United States paid France for the entire Louisiana Purchase.

By 1900, eighty percent of the gross national product of Haiti was being paid to France. To pay the debt, Haiti harvested almost all of its trees; today only 2 percent of its forests remain.

The debt was not paid off until 1947, and it left Haiti completely destitute. With such poverty and such a distorted economy, it is little wonder that Haiti came to be ruled by a series of corrupt despots.

Last week’s earthquake tore open for all the world to see how badly Haiti has been neglected by the developed world and its former slave masters.

The death toll is horrific, now estimated at 200,000 people. With the infrastructure destroyed, medical and relief teams are having a tough time reaching those the most in need. The scale of this disaster is mind-numbing. So far, 80,000 people have been buried in mass graves, roughly10,000 a day.

There are reports of amputations being done without anesthetic. There are an estimated 2 million who are homeless, and many will die from lack of clean drinking water, food and medicine.

Many will die of injuries that are treatable but the treatment will not arrive in time. Medical teams from the University of Virginia will soon depart for Haiti, and our prayers go with them.

Our own Episcopal Church is shattered. There are 100,000 Episcopalians in Haiti; it is our largest diocese; there are 200 Episcopal schools, churches and a university. Nearly every building is demolished. Tonight Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin sleeps in a tent, his house and cathedral destroyed.

And yet, his spirit is not shattered. “What is important is to keep the faith knowing God is with us,” he said in an interview with a Wall Street Journal reporter [the interview can be viewed in a video posted at the bottom of this sermon].

It is tempting to ask, where is God in all this?

Of this I am certain: God is weeping; God is present in the light and in the darkness, on the mountaintop and in the depths of the sea. God is with those who are hurting, and God is with those who are tirelessly working to bring aid and comfort, and dress every wound and wipe every tear.

And God is with all of you who are giving generously to this effort, and God is with you in your prayers and your remembrances tonight.

I am also certain to the bottom of my soul that those who have died are now healed, their pain is no longer. God has brought them out of their pain and bound their wounds. The God I know, the God of Haiti, is a God of limitless love.

“In my house are many dwelling places,” Jesus says. Many dwelling places – a place for you, a place for me, a place for the people of Haiti. Heaven is taken care of, that is the promise that is ours forever.

The question for us to ask tonight is what kind of dwelling places will we build on this earth? This earthquake, I pray, has shaken us out of whatever compliancy we may have about a place called Haiti, and other abandoned islands and neglected peoples.

Before the earthquake, the economy was already a shambles, the land deforested, the government unstable. The national debt of Haiti is $840 million. It would be doubly tragic if Haiti emerged from this earthquake only to have its recovery crippled by the debt of dictators. That debt, $840 million is no larger than an accounting error to many governments. But to a place as small as Haiti, it is a crushing mountain.

I pray this earthquake has shaken us into a realization that the poor of this earth are our poor, their debt is our debt, their work is our work.

It is among the living where pain now dwells. You demonstrate by your being here tonight that you share in that pain. You demonstrate that we are connected to each other and to the grieving people Haiti.

We are connected to each other, no matter where we live, the color of our skin, the language we speak, or the condition of the building where we dwell. We are connected to each other here tonight by our prayers, by our friendships, and we are connected to the people of Haiti.

And we are especially connected by our loving God in whose image we are created.

Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

And so it is to us to live as God would have us live, to love as God would have us love, and to get on with the work God would have us do to bind the wounds, and build the dwelling places that will last not just in heaven, but on earth. Amen

Please give generously to Episcopal Relief and Development. You can do so by clicking HERE.

Photo above by the Associated Press. This sermon was based on reporting in The Times of London and a column in The New York Times by Nicholas D. Kristof.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed our bishop in Haiti, the Right Rev. Jean Right. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin. The interview and pictures can be seen below:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Update from Bishop Shannon Johnston on Haiti

Electronic Letterhead

January 21, 2010

Dear Diocesan Family,

Our hearts remain heavy this week amid the reports of mounting loss and dreadful suffering from Haiti. The Diocese of Virginia and its parishes are deeply committed to mission work in Haiti. This is true now more than ever. Our Haitian brothers and sisters need our prayers, our time, our talents, our treasure, and most especially our love. I urge you to give all of this freely.

Right now we can do three things for our brothers and sisters in Haiti:

  • Be steadfast in prayer. Every single contact we receive from Haiti asks first for prayer - and that we must do.

  • Give, and give generously, to Episcopal Relief & Development. The Rt. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, has communicated that he is working closely with ERD to help direct their efforts, and that he is pleased with their work. Bishop Duracin is working hand in hand with ERD to help direct the relief and support to where it is most needed. While the media is full of reports of the ineffectiveness and inefficiency in the relief effort, ERD is ensuring aid goes where it is most needed fairly, promptly and effectively. The efforts may not make the news, but from those on the ground, we know ERD is working well with our sister diocese in Haiti. You can make donations online.

  • Keep up with developments and needs on the ground. The Rev. Lauren Stanley, a priest of this diocese and a missionary of the Episcopal Church to Haiti, is in constant contact with those working currently in Haiti and will be serving as a clearing house of information. I urge you to keep a close eye on her blog.

The people of Haiti are in need of help and support, but volunteer relief workers in the near future will more likely be a burden than a help to those on the ground, and run the risk of hindering current humanitarian efforts. The Presiding Bishop has requested that dioceses postpone parish mission trips to Haiti until such time as we hear from the Diocese of Haiti that they are ready for us to come. Accordingly, we have postponed our young adult mission trip, originally scheduled for February 2010. I ask you also to postpone any mission trips you have planned there in the near future.

To be sure, this is only a postponement. Haiti needs us to come, and we need to go. The only question is when. I am working closely with Buck Blanchard, Lauren Stanley and the Haiti leadership team in the Diocese to determine the answer to that question.

Pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti as they walk through this difficult time.


The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston

Bishop of Virginia

The sun blazes for everyone

I much feel the need for a poem today: a few words of respite amidst what has been a very heavy ten days or so. Karen from Tennessee sent this across awhile back (and I have run it before), and it fills me with a touch of hope for humanity and our planet. The sunrise photo is from Egypt at the Red Sea.

Tonight at 7 pm we will hold a special service of prayers and remembrance for the people of Haiti. Please join us if you can.

Here's the poem:
by Mary Oliver

You can
die for it --
an idea,
or the world. People

have done so,
their small bodies be bound

to the stake,
an unforgettable
fury of light. But

this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China ,
and India
and Europe , and I thought
how the sun

for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My friend George Johnston: wisdom in the face of disaster

My friend George Johnston, who is about my age, has lived with Parkinson Disease for a very long time. He's had a brain implant that modulates some of the more severe effects of Parkinson, but make no mistake, George's life has been turned inside out and upside down by this disease. Even so, soon after his brain surgery, George was deployed as a Red Cross volunteer in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. He has seen personal disaster and disaster on a massive scale.

George is active with the Parkinson Association of Northern California, and he writes an insightful column for the local newsletter. He wrote this last week following the Haiti earthquake, and his wisdom and perspective is worth reading. His column is reprinted in full below, and his dog's name is Akua:

Reflections Outside the Box
By George Johnston
It is amazing to me sometimes how I become so obsessed with my Parkinsons that anything outside that box has no meaning to me. Having lived with what Michael J. Fox calls the “unwelcome stranger” for nigh on 16 years now, it has become so woven into every fabric and corner of my life that everything that I say or do seems to be colored with a PD background. I remember the interview that MJF did with Barbara Walters in the late 90’s, and she asked him “Is there ever any time during the day that you are not aware of the fact that you have Parkinsons”? With only a brief moment for reflection, he simply said, “No.”

It takes something powerful to pull me out of my awareness of my PD, but such was the case earlier this week, [I am writing this column on January 15], when Haiti was devastated by what I am sure will always be remembered by the people that live there as “The Earthquake”. For a moment, actually more than a moment, I was transfixed by the horror and terror that was created in all those peoples’ lives, and for many moments my PD was not important, not even memorable. There simply are some things that happen in this life that so transcend our own problems, they make those problems that we cherish and polish each day lose their significance.

What is happening in Haiti now has its lessons for those of us with lesser burdens to bear, and it was a lesson taught to me on August 29, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Just 6 months earlier, on March 15, I had my DBS surgery. I was literally transformed from an invalid back into a functioning, albeit struggling, member of society. And seeing what was happening in New Orleans called out to me the way no tragedy of any scope had ever touch me before. Before you could whistle Dixie, I was at the Red Cross offices in Sacramento finding out what I could do with my newly found freedom from the physical manifestations of PD. I knew what it was like to have lost it all, and the pictures and stories of those in NO facing the same prospect galvanized my will. After long arguments with those at the Red Cross that said they weren’t going to send someone that had just had brain surgery into a disaster zone, and the help of my neurologist and neurosurgeon who were willing to go to bat for me and say “If he is willing to take the risk, he shouldn’t be treated differently than any other volunteer”, and after drafting and signing a waiver holding the Red Cross harmless from anything that happened to me if I were deployed into the NO area, three weeks after Katrina hit I was on my way to Louisiana with the first group of Red Cross volunteers deployed from Sacramento to this disaster.

I was assigned to a food kitchen in Belle Chase, Louisiana, about 10 miles south of downtown NO, and for three weeks worked with the best group of individuals I have ever had the opportunity to know, putting out 3,000 hot meals a day for some of those who had lost everything overnight. I stood in line with 25 year olds unloading water, food and other provisions from the back of 18 wheelers, and never broke a stride. Granted I took a nap every afternoon if I could, but others allowed me that. For those three weeks I was so swept up in the tragedy of other peoples lives, that PD seemed a distant concern, not a daily companion. I will always treasure those times, and equally treasure those doctors who skill and concern gave me the opportunity to experience once again what it meant to be a fully functional part of society again. One of the many lessons I learned from that trip was that having PD not only removes you from the joys of life, but the tragedies, also. For feeling and being a member of society requires that you participate in those tragedies, as well as the triumphs. Feeling happy and feeling sad are likewise similar: they are both feelings, and equally missed by those of us with PD.

Watching the situation in Haiti develop this week has caused me to revisit these memories many times, and I have to remind myself that my PD has advanced these last 4 and _ years, regardless of the surgery; that I am 58, not 53; and that a country with little or no government control or involvement in the life of its population is not a place for any civilian, non-disaster professional to be, with or without PD.

So I will sit this one out, contribute what I can financially, and hope that those stronger than myself will take this opportunity to involve themselves in assisting those in Haiti, both now and into the future, for just like NO, this situation will not be patched over or healed in a week, a month or a year. It will take decades for normalcy in any real sense to return to a region affected this way.

And for those of us who must sit on the sidelines and watch, we can also try to prepare ourselves in the event of a similar emergency happening in our neighborhood. Remember, those levies out there won’t last forever, and this is the home of the San Andreas Fault. And perhaps the best thing we can do to prepare for that emergency is by lessening the impact of our limitations on those charged with taking care of the situation in our neck of the woods. How do we do that? At minimum, [1] by making sure we have at least a one month surplus supply of our medications in a water tight container in our homes, where it will be the first thing to grab in the event that an emergency arises. [2] By keeping packed in a backpack several days supply of loose fitting and comfortable clothes that can be grabbed quickly. [3] By making sure that someone other that our spouse or partner who doesn’t live at the same address has our list of medications, doctors and other pertinent PD information. [4] By making sure we are on file with Medic Alert and that we wear the medic alert bracelet or medallion at all times.

I can personally attest to the fact from my experience with Katrina that emergency workers are relieved when they find people who have made these advance preparations. Just think for a moment what it would be like if you were along in a situation like this, scared, running out of medication, no change of clothes, no ability to communicate immediately to first responders with pertinent medical information about your condition. It is not a pretty sight. So, be prepared, it may be the best help those of us with PD have to offer.

And pray. Especially for those in Haiti who suffer from neurological disorders and survived the quake. Pray that they can be, [or by the time you read this, have been], found by compassionate first responders who will be able to asertain, understand and deal with their needs.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's homily at prayer service for Haiti

Prayer Service for Haiti

Strength through Unity

Washington National Cathedral

January 17, 2010

Our hearts are broken, as we sit transfixed before images of devastation and ruin, the bodies of children and elders piled in the streets, buildings crushed to dust, pleading arms and voices raised to heaven. We respond in lament and grief and sorrow, we push back against the senseless mystery of life’s pain. We yield to those ancient questions: Why? What sort of a God permits destruction like this? What can I do, how can I help? Those questions can’t ever be fully answered fully, yet they are most important in times like these. The reality is that life is not safe or predictable, but what we do with our lives gives them meaning. God does not cause suffering or punish people with it, but God is present and known more intimately in the midst of suffering. Above all, we become more human through our broken hearts.

That ability to suffer with, to feel compassion, is one of the gifts of being fully human. We may only be able to be respond through being with, by standing alongside, even at a distance. We can pray with the grieving, and we can reach out.

Compassion is pouring out across this nation and across the globe, as the world feels the suffering in Haiti. Suddenly strangers have become hungry brothers and thirsty and sisters, people in pain, without a place to lay their heads, mourning the death of loved ones.

Compassion is a gift that changes the world. We have discovered and remembered our sisters and brothers in a land many of us will never see – our common humanity is staring us in the face, and we have chosen to meet the gaze of Haiti. We are changed forever, if we will only remember the terror of that gaze.

Remember and let yourself be shaken. Feel something of the terror in Haiti. Terror, the word, comes from shaking; this terror started in the shaking of the earth. It has a parallel in the fear that periodically consumes this nation. May this terror shake us out of complacency and willful ignorance. Remember the people of Haiti. Reach out to those who have lost loved ones, to those who still wait for news of the missing, to Haitian-Americans in the neighborhoods around us.

The answer to terror is solidarity. The shaking stops when we stand together, when we remember that sisters and brothers, linked across the world, are stronger than fear.

Haiti is filled with resilient and persevering people, but much of the nation’s resources and systems are lost and broken. Many nations are already moving to stand alongside. We can give thanks for the rapid and deep response from these United States. There are immense seeds of hope in the response to this disaster, seeds that must continue to be watered and nurtured for the future. We’ve seen some of the hopeful seeds in Haitians gathering in broken streets to sing and pray, even children playing with empty boxes in which food arrived. Hope abounds, but it must be answered.

Our remembering has to be long-term, it must endure, if it is going to beat back the terror of this disaster. The longer and harder task is to remember the ancient hope of humanity, that vision Isaiah proclaims as repairing the ruined cities and building up ancient ruins and devastations. The long arm of remembering will give the strength to see that the hungry and thirsty and ill and homeless are cared for. Rebuilding the infrastructure of Haiti will take years, just as it has in the aftermath of Katrina. We cannot forget.

The disaster of this earthquake is the most recent and the most devastating of a long series of terrors – hurricanes, political coups and instability, the centuries-long struggle of former slaves to make a home in a foreign land. There is some deep solidarity in praying for Haiti on the eve of our nation’s remembrance of Martin Luther King. His message was filled with the biblical vision of the prophets, that heaven on earth comes when the poor are cared for and all God’s children are treated with justice. That vision applies to the poorest here and equally to those a few hundred miles south of our borders, to all who live in abject poverty, hungry for the world’s justice.

The words of prophets also come with challenge. It’s easy to miss Isaiah’s caution – the prophet proclaims that eternal dream of a restored world, but also the day of God’s vengeance. Matthew’s version comes in the verses we didn’t read, that those who don’t feed and care for the poor will be consigned to what we usually call hell – it’s not the poor who end up there, but those who ignore them and their suffering. The ancient vision of a healed world demands that all people have decent and dignified life possibilities – clean water, adequate food, shelter, medical care, education for their children, stable government, the possibility of meaningful employment. Here in this nation we shelter that vision under the banner of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” That vision will never be possible in any nation while some live in want and fear.

Terror is not limited to Haiti. The prophets remind us that the kind of terror that leaves us shaking in our boots comes from poverty ignored and justice denied. That shaking is calmed and healed in remembering, in compassionate solidarity with the suffering of the world.

We are seeing immense generosity in the compassionate response to this earthquake. Our challenge will be to remember that suffering through the years to come, when the desperation is no longer on our screens 24 hours a day. The shaking and the terror will stop as the ruined city is rebuilt and the devastation of generations is healed. May today’s compassion be transformed into a steely will to continue caring for the least, the lost, and the left out until not one is left. May Haiti’s poor be our poor until that day dawns. May the suffering in Haiti be felt here and around the world until the oil of gladness blesses every brow, and every tear is dried, and every cry of grief is turned to joy.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop

The Episcopal Church

Monday, January 18, 2010

Episcopal Bishop in Haiti living in a tent city

I don't usually post Episcopal News Service items because those of you who are interested can get them emailed to you daily. But this dispatch from my friend Mary Frances Schjonberg needs be posted. Our Episcopal bishop in Haiti, the Right. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin is homeless and living in a tent city. His wife was injured and is in a hospital.

The photo is from a Eucharist in November at the Haiti cathedral in Port-au-Prince with Bishop Duracin, with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the celebrant.

Here are the developments, as reported by Mary Frances:

[Episcopal News Service] Rejecting offers to evacuate him from Port-au-Prince,Episcopal Diocese of Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin said Jan. 18 that he must remain in the Haitian capital.

"No, I will stay with my people," the Rev. Lauren Stanley, one of four Episcopal Church missionaries assigned to the Haitian diocese, told ENS the bishop said in response to the evacuation offer.

Stanley was home in Virginia when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck just before 5:00 p.m. local time Jan. 12 and has been monitoring diocesan reports from there.

"The people are strong," Duracin told Stanley, echoing messages she has received from other priests. "We still have our people, and they are strong. We need to help them."

Another Episcopal Church missionary, the Rev. Canon Oge Beauvoir, the dean of the diocese's seminary, is still in Haiti and working with Duracin. Mallory Holding, 23, and Jude Harmon, 28, two Young Adult Service Corps missionaries, left the country late last week.

Duracin, who was made homeless by the quake, said he is caring for 3,000 other homeless victims of the quake in a tent city in downtown Port-au-Prince. More than 100 of the diocese's churches have been damaged or destroyed, he said, including the demolished Cathédrale Sainte Trinité (Holy Trinity Cathedral) in Port-au-Prince. At least four of the diocese's 254 schools, ranging from pre-schools to a university and seminary, were destroyed.

One of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church's 12 overseas dioceses, Haiti is numerically the largest diocese in the church with more than 83,000 Episcopalians in 169 congregations served by just 37 clergy.

Meanwhile, Episcopal Relief & Development President Robert Radtke told ENS Jan. 18 that two agency staff members are on the ground in the Dominican Republic assisting the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic's efforts to aid its neighbors to the west in Haiti.

And, Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe ( Bishop Pierre Whalon, told ENS that Nady Mbele-Mbong, the grandson of General Convention Deputy Helena Mbele-Mbong and her husband Samuel, has been airlifted out of Haiti to Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic's capital.

The 10-year-old's mother Lisa, 38, did not survive the collapse of the human-rights section of the building that housed the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in Port-au-Prince where she worked as a human rights officer. She reportedly had left a meeting to check on the trembling when a falling concrete slab struck her, killing her instantly.

The Washington Post reported that Nady was with the driver who had always picked him up from school and was outside the U.N. complex waiting for his mother when the quake struck. U.N. officials found his passport in his mother's purse.

Nady's aunt Leontyne will come to Santo Domingo to take him to Paris, Whalon said. From there he will go to be with the Mbele-Mbongs who live in France near Geneva, Switzerland. Meanwhile, he is being cared for by Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Holguin and retired Diocese of South Carolina Bishop William Skilton, assisting bishop in the Dominican Republic.

Lisa Mbele-Mbong will be buried out of her parents' parish of Emmanuel Church in Geneva once the U.N. has repatriated her body, Whalon said, adding that the process could take until February.

Duracin told Stanley that he is working to coordinate relief services and trying to
provide the tent city occupants with basic supplies such as food, water, medical care and shelter.

"We have lost everything and need your help," Duracin told Stanley.

Duracin's wife, Marie-Edith, was injured when their home collapsed. She was taken to Zanmi Lasante, thePartners in Health hospital in Cange, outside of Port-au-Prince, Stanley reported.

The bishop said he was to meet with the diocese's Executive Council on the morning of Jan. 18 to determine its recovery priorities. Already, he told Stanley, he knew that those priorities would include the hard-hit area of Trouin, a mountain village about 23 miles southwest of the Haitian capital and near the quake's epicenter, and nearby Léogâne, where the diocese runs St. Croix Hospital and the only baccalaureate-degree nursing school in the country.

Trouin, where four people were reportedly killed by the earthquake during an Episcopal church service, is just outside Léogâne, in which news reports say close to 90 percent of the buildings were destroyed.

"There are many people hurt and injured there," Duracin said. "They need your help."

Nursing school dean Hilda Alcindor told the Wall Street Journal that she and the nursing students have treated 5,000 people since the quake. A tent city has sprung up in the open fields around the school.

Alcindor had been a nurse in Florida for 30 years before she returned to Haiti in 2005 to help the diocese begin the nursing school.

"Léogâne is all broken," she told the Journal, adding that the school does not have the medical supplies it needs.

Duracin told Stanley that he is thankful for the help that has already arrived and that which is on the way.

"We are grateful," he said. "Please continue to pray for us, and to help us. There is nothing left."

In the Dominican Republic on Jan. 18, Kirsten Muth, Episcopal Relief & Development interim director of international programs, and Katie Mears, its program manager for U.S. disaster response and preparedness, were coordinating supply and transport channels and ensuring that supplies are being delivered to areas outlying Port-au-Prince.

Abagail Nelson, senior vice president for programs, said the immediate focus is on Trouin. Muth and Mears are also supporting Dominican Episcopalians as they feed and house Haitians coming across the border.

Haitians in various stages of health began fleeing into the Dominican Republic soon after the quake. In addition, because the nation is the closest place where the infrastructure is intact, it has become an important relay point in the wave of assistance that is building.

"Side by side with the churches, we are establishing staging areas to get supplies to those in critical need," Nelson said.

The agency has said that, at this point in the relief effort, monetary donations are the best way for most individuals to partner with Haitians. To donate to Episcopal Relief & Development go to; call the agency at 1-800-334-7626 ext.5129, or mail a gift to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058. Please write "Haiti Fund" in the memo of all checks.

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is ENS national correspondent and editor of Episcopal News Monthly.

Monday (not so) Funnies

You may have heard that Pat Robertson said that Haiti is being punished because it made a "pact with the devil" to free itself from colonial rule 200 years ago. Sadly, none of this a joke or the least bit funny. Meanwhile, the devil has responded, in a letter-to-the-editor appearing a few days ago in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Dear Pat Robertson,
I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll. You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract. Best, Satan

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where is God in the rubble of Haiti? Where are we?

Today's sermon is based on John 2:1-11.

The job of the preacher, at its most basic, is to present you with good news. But this week it is hard to get into this pulpit and present you with anything that sounds like good news, and it seems especially hard to preach about a joyous wedding feast in Cana long ago.

The terrible tragedy in Haiti is mind numbing. What little infrastructure in this already desperately poor country collapsed in this terrible earthquake.

There is something about the wedding feast in Cana that may speak to how we respond, but it may take me a little while to get there.

This disaster especially strikes at the heart of our Episcopal church. There are 100,000 Episcopalians living in Haiti; it is the largest diocese in membership in the Episcopal Church. The cathedral in Port-au-Prince was destroyed, as were churches, schools and convents.

As you know, the United States is responding generously with aid and logistical support.
Many charities are mobilizing including our own Episcopal Relief and Development, which has been in Haiti for a very long time, and has a large network in the country that will be put to great use.

We will be there long after others leave, so I hope you will give generously to ERD.

I should not have to waste any time this morning on something else, but I will. Pat Robertson said this past week that the reason Haiti suffered in the earthquake is that Haitians made a “pact with the devil” to free themselves from French colonial rule 200 years ago.

I’ve debated whether to dignify his comment by mentioning it. Forgive me if you think I should have let it go, you are perhaps right.

But Brother Robertson presumes to speak as a man of Jesus, and therefore I think his comment should not be left to stand without challenge from those of us who have the privilege of speaking from a pulpit in Christ’s Church.

So I will put it squarely: Pat Robertson is just flat out wrong. God is not sending punishment upon Haiti.

If I know anything at all about Jesus, and I think I do, it is this: Those who died in the earthquake are victims, and Jesus weeps with them in this terrible tragedy, and Jesus shakes his head when some like Pat Robertson blames the victims, and especially when someone blames the victims in His name.

There are religious people who believe that everything bad that happens in this world is punishment for something, or that it is simply “God’s plan.”

Nothing could be more wrong. Calling it "God's plan" is fatalism, not faith. That is not what Jesus preached and not how he lived. He saw suffering and chastised those who blamed the victims. He brought healing, and then he went to the Cross, not to appease a bloodthirsty God, but to share in our human suffering, and to show us that there really is something more beyond the pain and hurt in this life.

Yet this terrible disaster still leaves many of us wondering how it is that people die so tragically, so unfairly, in a place like Haiti.

I do not pretend this morning to have a complete answer, and maybe not even a very satisfying answer.

We live in an imperfect world, in a universe that is not yet finished. Our natural world has hurricanes and tsunamis and earthquakes. The human world is dominated by human error and greed, where powerful people have not used their God-given talents to bring people out of poverty, or to construct the buildings that can withstand disasters in the poorest parts of the world.

Call it sin or call it human folly, we live in a world where we have enough wealth to end poverty, to build safe buildings, to care for the sick. But it hasn’t happened.

This earthquake has torn open for all to see the terrible neglect of Haiti from the developed world, the world we live in.

In the words of the old prayer book, we have “left undone those things which we ought to have done.”

My intention in saying this is not have you leave here feeling guilty. Rather, I hope we might recommit ourselves to doing all that we can so that places like Haiti have a chance to overcome poverty and calamity.

In a way, this does connect to a joyful wedding feast at Cana a long time ago.

In the story we hear today, Jesus is at a wedding party, and the guests have consumed all the wine. Mary asks him to do something, so Jesus converts six large stone jars of water into wine.
Biblical scholars will tell you this story from the Gospel of John has overtones pointing to the Eucharistic meal, and so it does.

But I want to point out two simple elements to the story:

First, it is a story about hospitality, about how God’s grace extends beyond the limits of our imagination.

It is a story of how God can feed us and sustain us even in it looks we are running out. God is with the people of Haiti, and God is with us.

Second, Jesus gives the guests the good wine. God is not stingy. God opens the best, not the worst. God gives not the leftovers, but the first fruits.

And the guests notice, and they are startled. They expect the cheap wine, but at this party, they get the finest. They expect stinginess, and they get a feast.

Here in Charlottesville, many of us enjoy a very high standard of living. We have schools and roads and health care. Many of us have enough money to take vacations and enjoy the best that life has to offer. We have all that we need and more. We have a feast.

But with the feast comes the call to share the feast, to be hospitable to those around us, and hospitable to those who are far away, because all are God’s children, and all are invited to God’s feast.

We are called to share our first fruits, our finest feast, by sharing the best of our talents, as God gives us those talents, to make this world a better place.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, and there is no better way to honor Dr. King than by starting in our own homes and workplaces, and then we can look beyond our city and state and to the neglected islands and hamlets of this earth.

We can surround everyone we meet with prayer, and give them the best of who we are, get to work making our prayers real: “thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.” AMEN

Please give generously to Episcopal Relief and Development. You can make a contribution to the Haiti relief fund by clicking HERE.