Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day: Remembering those who have died and praying for an end to all war

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.

Romans 12:9-16b

Today -- please -- may we set aside our political differences, our religious differences, our geographic and ethnic differences. Today may the culture wars stop. Just for one day. Go back to these conflicts again tomorrow if you must, but today: Stop.

Today we remember.

Today we mark Memorial Day on our secular calendar, and we also mark the Feast of the Visitation to the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Church calendar, one of the major Marian feasts of the year. The reading above from Paul's Letter to the Romans is appointed for today's Mary feast, and I think it also appropriate for Memorial Day.

Today we stop to remember those who have died in service to our country. And, especially on this day we remember Mary, let us also pray for their mothers.

Each Sunday at St. Paul's we pray aloud for those who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We remember them by saying their name, aloud, one at a time. Among my tasks on Saturdays is to prepare the prayer list with the names of those soldiers, sailors and Marines who have died in these conflicts. In the last year, the casualties have shifted to Afghanistan even as the war in Iraq winds down. We have even gone several weeks with no dead soldiers reported from Iraq. But when a battle in Kandahar hits the headlines, the list of the dead surges.

I find it sobering to compile this list each week, and I sometimes sit with a name for a time, praying for the loved ones left behind who, at that moment, are doubtless in shock and in excruciating pain. Most of the war dead are young, many are teens. Most are men, most are enlisted. I wonder what they looked like? What music did they like? What were their dreams for their future? I pray for the mothers, who like Mary, must now endure the death of their sons or daughters.

It seems very little to ask that we remember them -- by name -- in our prayers today, and to pray for those who have been caught in the cross-fire. Here is the list of the American soldiers, sailors and Marines who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of the year:

Brushaun Anderson
David Croft
Michael Jarrett
Anton Phillips
Brian Bowman
Joshua Lengstrof
John Dion
Bradley Smith
Jason Hickman
Mark Juarez
Jacob Meinhert
Nicholas Uzenski

Gifford Hurt
Jaime Lowe
Matthew Ingham
Geoffrey Whitsitt
Daniel Merriweather
Lucas Beachnaw
Kyle Wright
Christopher Hrbek
Robert Donevski
Michael Shannon
Adam Ginnett
Paul Pena
Thaddeus Montgomery


Scott Barnett
Gifford Hurt
Carlos Gill
Zachary Smith
Daniel Angus
Timothy Poole
Jeremy Kane
Xin Qi ("Gin Ki")


Scott Barnett
Zachary Lovejoy
Daniel Whitten
Michael Freeman
David Thompson
Marc Paul Decoteau
Rusty Christian
David Smith


Adriana Alvarez
Adam Ray
Dillion Foxx
David Hartman
Matthew Sluss-Tiller
Mark Stets

Sean Caughman
Alejandro Yazzie
Noah Pier
Guy Mellors
Jason Estopina
Jacob Turbet
John Reiners
Jeremiah Wittman
Bobby Pagen

William Spencer
Daniel O'Leary
Billie Grinder
Marcus Alford
Scott Barnett
Marcos Gorra
Matthais Hanson
Eric Ward
Adam Peak
J.R. Salvacion
Christopher Eckard
Michael Cardenaz
Gregory Stultz
Joshua Birchfield
Kielin Dunn
Jeremy McQuery
Kyle Coutu
Larry Johnson


Nigel Olsen
Vincent Owens
Carlos Aragon
Ian Gelig
Matthew Huston
Josiah Crumpler
William Ricketts


Aaron Arthur
Lakeshia Bailey
Garrett Gamble
Jason Kropat
Jonathan Richardson
Nicholas Cook
Alan Dikcis
Anthony Paci


Richard Jordan
Erin McLyman
Steven Bishop
Adam Brown
Robert Gilbert II
Glen Whetten
Jonathan Porto


Robert Rieckhoff
Rick Centanni
Robert Cottle
Justin Wilson
Carlos Santos-Silva
Joel Clarkson

Raymond Pacleb
Frank World
James Miller
Randy Heck
Jacob Ross


Robert Collins
Anthony Blount
Kurt Kruize
Roberto Diaz Borio
James Lackey
Randall Voas
Curtis Swenson
Michael Sweeney

Joseph Caron
Sean Durkin
Michael Jankiewicz
Jonathan Hall


Charlie Antonio
James Patton
John LaBorde
Robert Barrett
Randolph Sigley
Michael Ingram


Keith Coe
Christopher Worrell
Thomas Rivers
Nathan Kennedy
Grant Wichmann
Ronald Kubik
Jason Santora


Ralph Mena
Anthony Magee
Wade Slack
Richard Penny
Brandon Barrett
Austin Benson
Harvey Holmes
Mark Coleman
Eric Finniginam
Salvatore Corma


Essau Gonzales
Dennis Kisseloff
Joshua Desforges
Donald Lamar II
Jeffrey Johnson
Kenneth May Jr.
Kurt Shea
Jeremy Brown
Kyle Comfort
Joshua Davis


Shane Barnard
Patrick Xavier Jr.
Joshua Tomlinson
Richard Tieman
Thomas Belkofer
Paul Bartz
John McHugh
Nicholas Paradarodriguez
Billy Anderson
Adam Perkins
Zarian Wood


Roger Culver
Amilcar Gonzales
Stanley Sokolowski
Edwin Rivera
Christopher Barton
Jason Fingar
Notes on Memorial Day: With its origins in the Civil War, Memorial Day began as a day to honor the dead of North and South. The day was deliberately chosen because it was near the anniversary of the day that the war ended, thus making Memorial Day a reminder that our highest value is not warfare but an end to war and reconciliation with our enemies.

Following World War I, the dead of all wars were included in Memorial Day. The calamity of World War I was without parallel in world history; no war had ever claimed so many lives globally. There came a growing awareness that the dead of that war -- and every war -- should never be forgotten.

The word "Memorial" became increasingly popular in public buildings and churches in the 1920s, meant to create lasting memorials for the dead of World War I. St. Paul's Memorial Church, founded in 1910, predated that movement but no doubt the name evoked memories of the war dead as the building was constructed in 1927.

Today, let us remember those who have died in all wars, and remember those who are still dying on battlefields across the globe. Let us remember those Americans who have died for our country, and let us pray for our enemies, and pray that all who are at war may one day find peace and reconciliation.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The paradox of The Holy Trinity: Freeing us from rigid religion

I am not in the pulpit today, but am taking a break. Today is a major feast of the year -- Trinity Sunday -- and so I thought I would brush off an old Trinity Sunday sermon and share it with you. No doubt there is a heresy or two in here, that seems inevitable on this topic. The readings for today are Romans 5:1-5, and John 16:12-15. May you have a blessed Sunday. . .

The Trinity: Think of a perfect diamond
One God in Three Persons. If you aren’t sure how that works, welcome to Trinity Sunday, the Sunday set aside by the Church to consider the meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity, the concept of One God in Three Persons, as it is classically stated.
It is also the Sunday that many churches commandeer a seminarian and make them preach on this – basically say, Ok smarty, you have all this fancy theological education, you explain it.
But, alas, we don’t have a seminarian. So I am going to take a crack at this. I am going to try to take the doctrinaire out of the doctrine.
The doctrine of the Trinity: if we admit it, many Christians find incomprehensible, or polytheistic, or simply a curious but irrelevant appendage to their faith.
So let me suggest this to you: engage with this concept because it is in the experience of the "Holy Trinity One God" that we might find a place of hope and the promise for a better place for us and all whom we know and love. And it is in the Trinity that we can find a place to embrace all people of every faith, or no faith at all.
As odd as this sounds, the Trinity can free us from rigid doctrine. Let me give you an image of the Trinity to hold and take with you:
Think of a perfect diamond.
Or, for you kids, imagine the most perfect piece of rock candy you have ever seen. And then think of this diamond, or this perfectly clear piece of rock candy, as having three sides. You can shape such a crystal by rounding the sides and connecting it at the points.
Then, think about each side as one side, or person, of the Trinity. One side is the Father – the Creator; one side is the Son, the God who comes to us as a human being in the person of Jesus; and one side is the Holy Spirit who dwells with us always.
All are distinct sides, yet each side of the diamond is connected as One.
No matter which side of the diamond you look into, you see the center, you see God.
Now consider this: If you look into just one or two sides, aren’t you still seeing the center?
I believe to the core of my being that the Trinity is a profound expression of the infinity of God, the infinity of God’s creation. No matter where we stand, or how we might feel, we are still capable of seeing into the center of the diamond or this perfect piece of rock candy.
There is one truth, one God, but an infinite number of angles to see the one God. There are as many angles as there are people to see God, and as viewpoints as there are moments in a day. As long as we are looking at the center of the diamond, no matter what religion we label ourselves, aren’t we all looking upon God?
As the apostle Paul puts it in his Letter to the Romans we hear today: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”
Jesus in the Gospel of John 3:1-7 today reminds us that God is infinite, and goes everywhere like the wind: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.”
Or look at this another way:
This diamond called the Trinity is no ordinary diamond. It doesn’t reflect light, it radiates light. No matter where you stand, no matter what is going on in your life, no matter what good or bad befalls you, the light of this Holy God will still shine upon you.
Today we are bathed in the light of the Trinity. Expressions of the Trinity are everywhere in our worship – the prayers, in the creed, in the Communion prayers, in the blessing, in the music and the words and symbols that evoke the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer.
All of it reflects new life. Listen and watch for it.
This danger with this concept of the Trinity is it can get too abstract, so we do well to remember that the concept springs forth from the historic event of Jesus of Nazareth, and his call to us – his followers – to take care of each other, to serve the poor, the sick and those who are in any kind of trouble. And it comes from his promise to be with us always.
This precious diamond, this Trinity One God who has no beginning or end, comes to bring us healing and salvation. That is our birthright, that is the gift of the Trinity, One God. AMEN.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Diocesan Task Force on same-sex blessings; and how a British bishop changed his mind

The contentious issue of the inclusion of gay/lesbian people into the full life of the Church is never far below the surface, and I am about to wade into the waters here in Virginia. Bishop Shannon Johnston, of the Diocese of Virginia, has appointed me to a task force of 11 people -- six lay and five ordained -- who will soon examine the issues surrounding same-sex blessings and, hopefully, chart the way forward for this diocese in the next year. That is my hope.

The panel was commissioned at the Diocesan Council (convention) in January, and has adopted for its name the neutral-sounding title of the resolution that set it up -- "The R-14 Task Force." The bishop finished appointing the members in May. The first meeting is set for June 19, followed by another meeting July 17.

I will not be present at the first meeting, but I plan to attend via Skype or telephone connection. I will keep you posted in this space as fully as I can on how this develops. The deadline for the completion of our work is November 1, and I see no reason why we cannot meet the deadline. Other dioceses have impaneled similar task forces and are already finished; much of the research we've been asked to do has been done elsewhere; the Diocese of Virginia has a considerable volume of work of its own to draw upon, having had several committees and task forces looking at various sides of the topic for years.

Bill Bergen sent this item the other day: The Rt. Rev. Tom Butler (just retired Bishop of Southwark, U.K.) had three minutes, on BBC's Thought of the Day for May 25, to say a word about Theresa May, the British Home Secretary who recently said about homosexuality, "I've changed my mind." Maybe others might change their minds, too. The Holy Spirit works like that.

Here is Bishop Butler's brief statement in full:
The press has been remarking on Theresa May's response to a question from a member of the Question Time audience, about the new home secretary's apparently less than gay-friendly voting record . Her reply: "I've changed my mind".

I don't think that she's alone in that. It's remarkable to observe how, in spite of traditional religious teaching, public opinion in Britain over a period of a decade or so, in a remarkable shift of thinking has mostly changed its mind on the worth and place of gay people in society. The reason is simple: it's difficult to hold dogmatic views about what is good and desirable behaviour, when some of the often obviously good, loving and responsible people you actually encounter are behaving in an alternative way.

The same thing happened in the Church over questions concerning divorce and remarriage. Thirty years ago it was almost unknown for divorced people to be remarried in church, but many changed their minds when it was their own children or grandchildren who were caught up in divorce proceedings. The messy ambiguities of choosing divorce over remaining in a loveless marriage, with often painful consequences for children whatever the choice became more apparent. Society had changed its mind and the Church if it were to continue to have any pastoral influence on those struggling to live decent lives had to take account of the change.

Now, as a reminder on how profound the shift has been in our attitude to homosexuality, the weekend papers also carried the story of the conviction of two young men in Malawi now serving hefty prison sentences for the crime of loving one another. Fourteen years hard labour is a cruel and degrading punishment, totally unacceptable in any country, and Christian leaders should not be afraid of saying so.

Of course this brings problems to a church like my own which is part of a global communion of very different cultures and traditions. I was in the Diocese of Maryland a couple of weeks ago shortly before one of their very able priests Mary Glasspool was ordained a bishop in Los Angeles. The fact that Mary has been in a twenty-year lesbian partnership was simply a non-issue for the many church people there who knew and admired her, and they found it very difficult when I tried to explain that liberal actions in America or indeed Britain can have dangerous consequences for fellow Christians living in minority situations in Africa or Egypt. But a responsible global church must take this into account and try to build bridges of cultural understanding.

But be that as it may, the price of holding the communion together can't all be paid by stifling the lives of gay people in the West and cruelly punishing them in Africa. The Home secretary has changed her mind, and so have I.
Watercolor by Laramie Sasseville, 1995.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride

The story of Sister Margaret McBride ought to concern all of us. She is a Catholic nun and a senior administrator at a hospital in Phoenix, who as a member of a medical ethics review panel, assented to an abortion to save the life of a woman who was in the 11th week of pregnancy.

Sister Margaret was summarily ex-communicated by the bishop in Arizona -- kicked out of the Church. Not even pedophile priests are excommunicated. One of the doctors who works with her was quoted in The New York Times with this to say:
“She is a kind, soft-spoken, humble, caring, spiritual woman whose spot in Heaven was reserved years ago... The idea that she could be ex-communicated after decades of service to the Church and humanity literally makes me nauseated.”
No allowance was made by her bishop for the difficult dilemma faced by this hospital ethics panel of which she was a part; indeed, the statement from the bishop's office all but said that the hospital should have let the pregnant woman die (along with her fetus) and the nun should have gone along with that. Most of those I know who are anti-abortion are not even that hardline.

This incident should be seen as part of a larger picture. I posted in March that American Catholic nuns are virtually at war with the Catholic bishops. They were on opposite sides of the health care debate (please click HERE to read that post), and they are posing an increasingly vocal challenge to the male hierarchy of the Catholic Church. That the Catholic bishops are now excommunicating nuns while still making excuses for their pedophile scandals is nothing less than outrageous, and tars all churches of every stripe with the brush of intolerance and rigidity.

This column ran yesterday in The New York Times by Pulitzer-prize winning columnist Nicholas D. Kristof and I highly commend it to you:
Sister Margaret’s Choice

We finally have a case where the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy is responding forcefully and speedily to allegations of wrongdoing.

But the target isn’t a pedophile priest. Rather, it’s a nun who helped save a woman’s life. Doctors describe her as saintly.

The excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride in Phoenix underscores all that to me feels morally obtuse about the church hierarchy. I hope that a public outcry can rectify this travesty.
To read the full article, please click HERE.

Photo of Sister Margaret from The Catholic Sun.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Farewell to Pam Lamb

Yesterday evening, we bid farewell to Pam Lamb, a courageous member of our congregation who died of cancer a couple of weeks ago.

It is hard to describe Pam; she had a developmental disability but she somehow never missed a beat and she possessed an incomparable sense of humor. She lived with a group of people with similar disabilities and many came to her service yesterday along with several of caregivers.

Pam was especially fond of stuffed animals. She had dozens of teddy bears, and all of them had names and stories. We filled the front pew with her stuffed bears, and all were wearing nametags (thankfully, someone wrote down the names before she died). St. Paul's people also came with teddy bears, and I had one in the pulpit.

I don't usually post my sermons from memorial services, but this one I will:
Homily for Pamela Lamb
I have a few things I want to tell you tonight. First, Pam is Ok. Pam is healed. Everything that harmed and hurt and wounded her in her life on earth is wiped away. Gone.
If anyone is sitting at the right hand of Jesus, it is Pam Lamb.
There are times in our life when we meet someone who, by the standards of the world, is overlooked, or worse, pitied.
But if we are lucky enough to notice, we will meet someone who by the standards of heaven bring to us, in some mysterious way, to a sense of what it means to be touched and loved by the joyful presence of God.
Pam Lamb was one of those people.
You are here because you were lucky enough to be blessed by her.
I met Pam at a Shrine Mont weekend two years ago, the first time that Lori and I met this parish as a big group. For those of you not familiar with this parish, Shrine Mont is a rustic church retreat center in the northern Shenandoah Valley, and this parish goes there for a weekend every July.
We met many of you that weekend, and two years later, I must confess it was a blur.
But I remember Pam sitting on a rocking chair with a stuffed Teddy bear. She greeted me with a smile and talked with me as if she had known me her whole life.
The next time I saw her was here in this church. She sat over in the front pew every Sunday, and as soon as the sermon was done, she was up and gone. She would head on to the parish hall during the Creed and that was that.
Pam gave me a very real gift. She made real for me this fact: God is present in all of us, and God works infinitely through all of us, and God wishes only for us to have joy and mirth no matter our adversity, no matter our challenges.
It doesn’t matter how well you understand the creeds, or whether you have read and understood the tomes of Karl Barth. God’s work is done with us and through us in spite of all that stuff we carry around. Pam was proof of that.
Since Pam died, I’ve had a chance to re-read a small book by Henri Nouwen entitled “Adam: God’s Beloved.” It is Nouwen’s chronicle of being the caregiver to Adam, a man who shared many of the same disabilities as Pam.
Like Pam, Adam also died relatively young. Nouwen wrote this about Adam after he died – and Nouwen could have been writing about Pam: “I was struck by the mystery of this man’s life and death. In a flash I knew in my heart that this very disabled human being was loved by God from all eternity and sent into the world with a unique mission of healing.”
Nouwen went on to say that Adam had become the image of Christ for him. I think I know why: because grace comes to us not through strength, but though moments of vulnerability; God comes to us in many shapes, in many ways, and especially through people like Pam.
We so much need people like Pam because it is too easy to reduce God and grace to an abstraction, to an idea in a book or an argument on the Internet. Pam reminds us that our present is filled with grace too, that we need to be gentle with each other, to slow down and be present with each other because in those moments we will touch the heart of God.
Pam’s smile, her greeting and all of her stuffed animals were gifts from God to us – God gave her many gifts, and she gave us gifts of grace, faith, dignity, courage, and in the end, gifts of healing. May we always see them as so, and may we always hold her dear in our hearts. Amen.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Saints of Summer: Augustine of Canterbury

Today we begin again the celebration of the Saints of Summer. We won't cover every saint -- there are too many -- but from time-to-time on this blog we will observe a saint day. Some of these figures are well-known, others obscure, and all of them remarkable.

We begin, appropriately enough, with today's feast of Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury (not to be confused with Augustine of Hippo who lived 200 years earlier). Augustine, a Benedictine monk, was sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 595 to bring Christianity to the English, and specifically to convert Anglo-Saxon King Ethelberht to the faith. It helped immeasurably that Ethelberht's queen, Bertha of Paris, was already a Christian, and Augustine was a Gaul. Augustine came ashore near Dover, and a few miles inland at Canterbury he found the king, who converted.

King Ethelberht allowed Augustine to preach and convert his subjects, and thus Canterbury became the locus of Christianity in England. Augustine died in 604, barely nine years into his mission to England. Not long after, Augustine was made a saint, and the town of Canterbury became the holy destination of English pilgrims. Canterbury to this day remains the symbolic center of Anglicanism and the root stock of the Episcopal Church.
Collect for Augustine, First Archbishop of Canterbury
O Lord our God, by your Son Jesus Christ you called your apostles and sent them forth to preach the Gospel to the nations; We bless your holy Name for your servant Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, whose labors in propagating your Church among the English people we commemorate today; and we pray that all whom you call and send may do your will, and bide your time, and see your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A prayer by Maya Angelou for your day

I keep a yellowing piece of newsprint in the back of my Daily Office book. On it is a prayer by poet Maya Angelou. I posted this prayer here on this blog almost two years ago, so perhaps it is time again to share it with you. I've prayed this frequently of late, with so many in our midst who are hurting, and so many others who are joyful (especially the graduates!). We live in a holy mix of people. Here again is Ms. Angelou's prayer...

Father, Mother God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.

Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.

And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.

For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.

For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.

For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.

For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.

For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give all the
world that which we need most -- Peace.
Art by Kathrin Burleson

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Monday Funnies

Ah, the first Monday after Pentecost, the long slide into summer begins today. The Monday after Pentecost, heading toward Trinity Sunday and Proper 5 beyond, for those of you who keep liturgical track of such things.

For the rest of you, perhaps this is start of another work week. Whatever the case, a joke or two is in order, and a cartoon by Dave Walker. Enjoy the Monday Funnies...

* * *

When I asked my friend if she was planning to attend church, she just shook her head. "I haven't gone in a long time," she said. "Besides, it's too late for me. I've probably already broken all seven commandments."
* * *
A Sunday school teacher said to her children, "We have been learning how powerful kings and queens were in Bible times. But, there is a Higher Power. Can anybody tell me what it is?:
One child blurted out, "Aces!"

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Holy Spirit, red stoles, white ribbons and our first Pentecost picnic

This morning, at the 8 am service, we could hear the roar from across the street as graduating students, and their friends and families, began lining up for the "Final Exercises" of commencement at the University of Virginia.

A goodly number came inside for our early morning service, many wearing UVa colors and regalia. Megan Seston, the president of our Canterbury Student Fellowship and a graduating 4th year student, was already in her commencement garb.

It was an epic day.

Later in the morning, nearly 100 St. Paul's folks showed up at McIntire Park for our first-ever Pentecost picnic (a few photos here from the picnic). Associate Rector Ann Willms was the celebrant and I preached a few words (see below). The photo at right shows Ann talking with Wayne Nolen, left, our Altar Guild director. The chalice and paten in the foreground are Ann's.

It was a poignant day.

We served as a distribution point for hundreds of white ribbons as part of the campaign at UVa to bring attention to the issue of domestic violence especially against young women. We pinned the white ribbons on our red Pentecost clergy stoles, and the white ribbons stood out on the black commencement gowns in our midst and across the street. All told, 25,000 ribbons were given out.

The Holy Spirit wind was everywhere this Pentecost.

Blessings to all.

The Holy Spirit everywhere and in everyone

Here is my sermon from today. It is based on Acts 2:1-21 and John 14:8-17, (25-27). Enjoy your Pentecost, and to our University of Virginia graduates and their friends and family, congratulations!

Come Holy Spirit Come
Last week, Associate Rector Ann talked about what she misses most about her previous life as a physician. She got me thinking about what I miss most about my previous life as a journalist. I devoted 25 years of my adult life to newspaper reporting, and ink still runs thickly in my veins.
What I miss most is chasing stories with a pen and notebook.
What I loved most was going out and talking with people from every imaginable background and in every imaginable situation. There is no better front seat on the world than in journalism.
Ann mentioned last week her privilege as a physician was in seeing humans from the inside out. As a journalist, I saw humans from the outside in.
I still do that. Journalism and the priesthood are not as far apart as you might think.
What struck me then, as now, is how God is with people; how God finds people in every circumstance; in the joys and triumphs, in the tragedies and calamities.

And what strikes me over and over is how God speaks to people in their own language, through their own culture, and in ways that will touch them here if they are listening here.
The breadth and depth of humanity is almost too huge to comprehend, and yet I have no doubt that God finds each and everyone one of us no matter where we are from, or who we are, or what we are experiencing. God is in every city, every village, and every room before we get there; and God will be there when we leave.
Today we celebrate Pentecost. Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit.
This feast day is really a celebration of how God finds us and speaks to us in whatever circumstance we dwell. It is God who finds us, and not the other way around. God in Holy Spirit finds us and will touch us here (the heart). If we are listening here (the heart) we just might catch it.
Sometimes the Church portrays Pentecost as filled with noise and chaos and clanging gongs – and hordes of people speaking in tongues.
But if you read the story in Acts carefully, what really happens is the Spirit descends on the people and there is a sweeping away of confusion.
The Spirit brings clarity amidst the diversity of the human condition.
The first thing that the disciples mention about their experience of Pentecost is that they could understand each other no matter what language they speak.
Before Pentecost, they couldn’t understand a word each other has to say, even when they speak in the same language. Now on Pentecost they understand each other perfectly even when they speak in different languages.
The chaos and arguments they’ve had no longer matter. All of the pettiness no longer matters.
Whatever their personal failings, whatever faction or clique they belong to, none of it matters.
And they know what they need to do. On this first Pentecost, they leave the safety of their hideout and go out to proclaim by word and deed the healing grace they’ve received from God through Christ who they now know as the Holy Spirit.
From this moment on, they – and we – are born as one with the Body of Christ, and we become the hands and heart of the Risen Christ in the world. We signify that through the words and symbols of our baptism.
The promise to a small group, these first disciples, is now the birthright of all people everywhere – no one to be excluded, each of us to be given the ability to hear the Holy Spirit, each in our own way.
Yet there is a challenge that comes with Pentecost. It is the challenge of our baptism:
To paraphrase the prayer of St. Francis, the Holy Spirit comes not just to console us, but for us to console others; not just so we will be understood, but that we will understand others; not just so we will be loved, but so that we will love others; and not just so we will be forgiven, but so that we will have the power to forgive others.
The Holy Spirit truly comes so we may receive these extraordinary gifts, and comes also so that we will share these gifts with the world around us and beyond us.
That is our task, that is our mission. There really is no other. In the words of the prophet, and proclaimed by Peter on that first Pentecost:
“This is the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.”
That day is ours, my friends. Claim it and be glad in it. Amen

Saturday, May 22, 2010

First Year Teacher to His Students

The end of the school year is upon us. Graduations are here for some, and for others comes a much needed summer break from school. May the warmth of summer bring you many blessings and adventures. Here is a poem sent the other day by our friend Karen in Tennessee:
First Year Teacher to His Students
by Gary J. Whitehead

Go now into summer, into the backs of cars,
into the black maws of your own changing,
onto the boardwalks of a thousand splinters,
onto the beaches of a hundred fond memories
in wait, where the sea in all its indefatigability
stammers at the invitation. Go to your vacation,

to the late morning cool of your basement rooms,
the honeysuckle evening of the first kiss, the first
dip and pivot, swivel and twist. Go to where
the clipper ships sail far upriver, where the salmon
swim in the clean, cool pools just to spawn.
Wake to what the spider unspools into a silver

dawn dripping with light. Sleep in sleeping bags,
sleep in sand, sleep at someone else's house
in a land you've never been, where the dreamers
dream in a language you only half understand.
Slip beneath the sheets, slide toward the plate,
swing beneath the bandstand where the secret

things await. Be glad, or be sad if you want,
but be, and be a part of all that marches past
like a parade, and wade through it or swim in it
or dive in it with your eyes open and your mind
open to wind, rain, long days of sun and longer
nights of city lights mixing on wet streets like paint.

Stay up so late that you forget day-of-the-week,
week-of-the-month, month-of-the-year of what
might be the best summer, the summer
best remembered by the scar, or by the taste
you'll never now forget of someone's lips,
and the trips you took—there, there, there,

where snow still slept atop some alpine peak,
or where the moon rose so low you could see
its tranquil seas...and all your life it'll be like
some familiar body that stayed with you one night,
one summer, one year, when you were young,
and how everywhere you walked, it followed.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Please wear a white ribbon this Sunday

This Sunday, St. Paul's will be a central location to help distribute 25,000 white ribbons to remember Yeardley Love and to bring attention to the violence against young women. It is time to bring this into the open and to say Stop!

If you are going to the University of Virginia Final Exercises (graduation) please stop by St. Paul's to get a ribbon. We will set up a table at 7 am and give away all the white ribbons we have.

The white ribbon campaign has a website, please click HERE. And for more information on violence against women -- especially young women -- please look at the University of Virginia Women's Center website HERE.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's

Next time you are at St. Paul's, step around to the West facing wall near the chapel exterior door. Thanks to a generous donation from a St. Paul's member, and the creative hard work of our Memorial Garden trustees, we have a new plaque on the wall marking our outdoor columbarium. The dignified plaque appropriately marks the ground below as hallowed.

The cross echoes the cross atop our bell tower, with its Celtic motif. The inscription comes from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans 14:8. Here is the full passage:
"If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's."
I sat there awhile yesterday contemplating the meaning of that passage, and I was again struck by the audacity of the Gospel of Christ that St. Paul witnessed and proclaimed. Somehow it was Paul, perhaps more than the apostles who had followed Jesus on earth, who really got the message: The gospel -- the good news of salvation -- is not confined to a single tribe or a single nation, but is for all people everywhere. And death is no boundary to salvation.

The plaque is a fitting tribute to those whose ashes are in our garden and to their enduring presence with us.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Finding a geranium in the midst of tragedy

My spiritual practice in recent years includes reading an email that comes almost every day from someone I have never met, Barbara Crafton. She is a priest and writer, and her "Almost Daily eMo from the Geranium Farm" often strikes a chord with me at my deepest being (you can sign up for her email missives by clicking HERE).

She sent this one the other day. It is not about Yeardley Love, but it could be. Yeardley was a 4th year student at the University of Virginia who would have been graduating this weekend but was killed allegedly by her ex-boyfriend.

Yesterday I mentioned that many people will be wearing white ribbons at graduation ceremonies to bring attention to the violence against women on college campuses and to honor her.

Her loss is still very raw in our community, and is not far beneath many conversations that I've had with people in recent days.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, a jury this week has been deliberating on murder charges against three young people accused of killing the young son -- a college student -- of a very dear friend of ours.

Where do we find faith in the midst of tragedies like these? Barbara Crafton's words help me. I offer this in the hope it will help you:

Where are the graduates seated? I whispered to the chaplain, once we were in our seats and the ceremony had begun. There were many different groups of people in many different kinds of vestments and I wanted to be sure not to fix my gaze on the wrong group.

He nodded slightly stage left. They're right there. They'll be right in front of you.

Okay, good. Thanks.

They were receiving their degrees, tangible evidence of their having worked hard on a specific set of requirements and succeeded at them. I was receiving a more fanciful one, it seemed to me -- an honorary doctorate bestows academic honors on achievements other than academic ones. I always thought I would earn a doctorate someday, probably, but I never did. I still feel, vaguely, that I ought to have done, and so I was a little embarrassed by my honorary doctorate. It seemed I had no right to it. Still, my diffidence about it, though real enough, was not sufficient to cause me to refuse it on grounds of my undeserving -- I was too flattered to do that.

But there was more in my heart than than just an awkward modesty warring with my pride. The beauty of the day, the beauty of the place, the happiness of the graduates -- it all reminded me painfully of another graduation just a week ago, at which the lovely daughter of my nephew and his wife received a magna cum laude degree in physics from Clemson University. Her hard work, amply rewarded. Happy, proud parents, happy proud grandparents, all smiles in pictures with the graduate. And then, two days later, an atom bomb fell on the family -- Samantha's been in a terrible accident. What do you mean? Where? What happened? How bad is it? What's going on?

Nothing good. Samantha never regained consciousness. That lively intellect, that curious spirit, that amazing girl -- she died with both her parents beside her, praying and holding her hands as she slipped from this world into the next.

All the funeral things. All the casseroles. All the calls. All the photographs. The unaccustomed suit, quickly purchased for her lanky younger brother, who looked so suddenly grown up in it. The surreal bustle of the days immediately following, with people coming and going, some people busy and other people standing around, not knowing what to do with themselves. Airports and taxicabs. Hotel rooms. Flowers. Teenagers and young adults, plunged into something too horrid and absurd for them to countenance. Some of them weeping. Some of them numb. Some of them laughing at a joke and the stopping themselves, their hands to their lips, horrified at themselves for laughing.

Oh, wrong! Injustice! What good is mathematics, anyway, if it can't come to our rescue here, if it can't help us us balance this equation better? Why is it that those of us who have had the chance to live in this glorious world cannot just quietly trade places with those taken from it too soon? Would that be such a terrible thing? I believe that many would volunteer -- I have asked many people this in the last few days, and many said they have thought the same thing. So you see, we have a consensus. I plan it out idly as we drive in the car: imagine the graceful switch, imagine lying down quietly, happy to see the dead return to live out their full term. It seems to me that it would work. It wouldn't be so hard. Why can we not just substitute one for another?

Oh, no reason. Just because.


And so I say to myself what I always say. Stay tuned. The dead don't live our lives anymore, but they live something. Some other way we can't know but can sense, sometimes -- only sometimes, though, because we're just not very good at sensing it, not here, where we only partially understand what it means that we live in Christ. In the early days, of course, you sense nothing but the yawning cavity of loss. What other people say about sensing the ongoing life of the dead may just roll off your back, or it may even strike you wrong and make you angry. So I don't always say a lot at first, unless I am asked point blank what I think happens to them. I mostly sit and listen, hold a hand, cry when tears come. Don't say much except in the sermon, if I am preaching at the funeral. Which I was not, not at this one.

I was preaching at a graduation. A graduation of people who, very soon, will be preaching at funerals. How very strange. They didn't know me, and I didn't know them. They didn't know what had just happened, and I didn't tell them, because this service was not about that. I just mentioned, as if in passing, that they would accompany people through their turning points, their graduations and their funerals. Mentioned it as if it were just a priestly thing every priest does. Which it is, of course.

But it is never generic when it happens. No matter who, and no matter when. Each one, from the old man whose death is a blessing to the young girl whose death is a fresh outrage.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wear a white ribbon for Yeardley Love

Next Sunday, the University of Virginia will celebrate its "Final Exercises" and send forth newly minted graduates into the world. It will be a bitter-sweet weekend for many, especially for the family, friends, teammates and sorority sisters of Yeardley Love, who was murdered a few short weeks ago, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend, another student.

I am joining many in asking you to wear a white ribbon on May 23 in honor of Yeardley Love and to raise awareness of the violence against women on college campuses nationwide. We will distribute white ribbons Sunday morning at St. Paul's at our 8 am service, and I hope you will wear one to the graduation exercises.

The University of Virginia practices and procedures, and the culture of student life, have come under a great deal of scrutiny lately. But this violence against young women is not confined to this university only. It is rampant nationwide.

The Women's Center at UVa has released startling statistics about this violence, and I am reprinting it here below. To learn more about Women's Center, please click HERE.


  • A study of 176 female college students indicated that: 1
    • Approximately 42% of all participants reported experiencing some type of coerced or forced kissing or fondling. 22% reported some type of coerced or forced oral-genital contact, 23% reported vaginal or anal intercourse as a result of continuous arguments or pressure. 6% reported having someone attempt vaginal or anal intercourse by use of threat or some degree of force. 9% reported having anal or vaginal intercourse under those same conditions.
  • The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study found that: 2
    • For their sample, the rate of completed and attempted rapes was 35 per every 1,000 female students. The researchers suggest that based on this rate, college campuses having 10,000 female students could theoretically have as many as 350 incidents of rape during the academic year.
    • For women who had been raped and sexually assaulted,
      • 9 of 10 offenders were known to the victim (boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, classmate, friend, acquaintance or co-worker).
      • College professors were not identified as committing any rapes or sexual coercions, however they were cited as the offender in a low number of cases involving unwanted sexual contact.
      • 60% of completed rapes occurring on campus took place in the victim’s residence. 31% occurred in other living quarters on a campus and 10.3% took place in a fraternity. Off-campus victimizations also were more likely to occur in residences. Some respondents also reported that incidences took place in bars, dance clubs, and work settings.
  • 4 out of 5 students (81%) have experienced some form of sexual harassment during their school years. 3
  • 22% of all rape victims are between the usual college ages of 18-24. 4
  • 75% of male students and 55% of female students involved in date rape had been drinking or using drugs. 5
  • In a study of college students, 35% of men indicated some likelihood that they would commit a violent rape against a woman who had fended off an advance if they were assure of getting away with it. 6
  • In a study surveying more than 6,000 students at 32 colleges and universities in the U.S. 7
    • 1 in 4 women had been victims of rape or attempted rape.
    • 84% of those raped knew their attacker, and 57% of the rapes happened on dates.
    • Only 27% of the women whose sexual assault met the legal definition of rape thought of themselves as rape victims.
    • 42% of the rape victims told no one about the assault, and only 5% reported to the police.
  • In a study of 477 males (a majority of whom—72%, were 1st and 2nd year students), 55.7% reported one or more instances of non-assaultive coercion to obtain sex. Coercion in this case is defined as threatening to end a relationship unless the victim consents to sex, falsely professing love, telling the victim lies to render her more sexually receptive. 8
  • A survey of 388 female college seniors showed that 79.3% of those sampled who reported having been raped or sexually assaulted while intoxicated put all or part of the blame on themselves. 50% of the women raped by force or threat of force also took on some degree of self-blame. 9
  • In a longitudinal dating violence study conducted with female freshmen at a North Carolina university, researchers found that the group of women most likely to be physically or sexually assaulted across the four years of college were those women with a history of both childhood and adolescent victimization. Women who were physically victimized in adolescence but not in childhood were the second highest group at risk. Women who were physically assaulted as adolescents were at greater risk for revictimization in their freshman year. Women who had been physically assaulted in any year of college were significantly more likely to be sexually assaulted that same year. 10


1Marx, B.P., Nichols-Anderson, C. Messman-Moore, T., Miranda, R., and Porter, C. (2000). “Alcohol Consumption Outcomes Expectations and Victimization Status Among Female College Students, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 30, No. 5, 1056-1070.

2Fisher, S., Cullen, F., Turner, M., 2000. The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

3Hostile Hallways: The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in America’s Schools.AAUW Educational Foundation, 1993.

4Kilpatrick, DJ, Edmunds, CN, Seymour, A. 1992. Rape in America: A Report to the Nation, Arlington VA: National Victim Center.

5Koss, K.P., 1998. “Hidden rape: Incident, Prevalence and Descriptive Characteristics of Sexual Aggression and Victimization in a National Sample of College Students.” Rape and Sexual Assault, vol. II. (ed.) A.W. Burgess. New York: Garland Publishing Co.

6Kilpatrick, et al., 1992.

7Warshaw, Robin. 1994. “I Never Called it Rape:” The Ms. Report on Recognizing, Fighting, and Surviving Date and Acquaintance Rape. New York: Harper Perennial.
8Boeringer, S.B., 1996. “Influences of Fraternity Membership, Athletics, and Male Living Arrangements on Sexual Aggression.” Violence Against Women: 2, 134-147.

9Schwartz, M.D., Leggett, M.S., 1999. “Bad Dates or Emotional Trauma? The Aftermath of Campus Sexual Assault.” Violence Against Women: 5, 251-271.

10Smith, P.H., White, J.W., Holland, L.J. (2003). “A Longitudinal Perspective on Dating Violence Among Adolescent and College Age Women” American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 93, No.7, 1104-1109.

Adapted from a fact sheet compiled by CALCASA, 2004.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Monday Funnies

How about a few jokes to start the week from our pal Patrick Hill. And the photo of the sign came from Bill Bergen. Enjoy the Monday Funnies. . .
* * *
The preacher's 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day, she asked him why.

"Well, Honey," he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages. "I'm asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon."

"How come He doesn't do it?" she asked.

* * *

At a mass where a group of young ladies were to take their final vows to become nuns, the presiding bishop noticed two men in rabbinical garb enter the church. They found seats at the back of the sanctuary on the right side of the center aisle.

The bishop wondered why they had come but didn't have time to inquire before the mass began. But when it came time for the announcements, his curiosity got the best of him.

He announced, "I am delighted to see two rabbis in our midst at this very special mass where these young ladies are to become the 'brides of Christ'. But I'm curious: why did you choose to be present at this occasion?"

The elder rabbi slowly rose to his feet and announced, "Family of the Groom."

* * *

Story goes that Bishop Phillips Brooks was with a wealthy parishioner telling proudly about his planned trip to the Holy Land. He spoke in glowing terms about how he would climb Mount Sinai, just as Moses did, and standing atop the mountain, recite the Ten Commandments.
The bishop replied, "You'd be better off if you stay at home and keep them."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pastoral Care Sunday: Please join us for an extraordinary day

This Sunday we are celebrating our pastoral care ministries. The Rev. Dr. Ann Willms, our associate rector for pastoral care, will be preaching. We are also hosting a very special ministry fare highlighting our pastoral care ministries and the many resources in our community for the health of body, mind and soul. Do please come.

During the 10 am service, we will also be blessing the prayer shawls created by members of our congregation. The shawls are given to people who are ill or in need in some way.

We will also be offering prayers for healing in the chapel during Communion at the 10 am service. After the service, we have a guest speaker, Suzanne Smith, the chaplain at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Earlier at 9 am (between our two morning services) I will be hosting a rector's forum. I will be happy to take any questions about anything including our recent staff changes, our finances, or just how Lori and I are doing two years into this adventure in Charlottesville. Please come.

In recent days I have been particularly struck by how God provides so abundantly for this parish by continually sending us gifted people and all of the resources we need to do so much to bring healing, reconciliation and wholeness to the people who walk in our doors and beyond our walls. Please come celebrate Sunday!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Acorns and oaks

It's been awhile since I've posted something from Mary Oliver. With all that is going on around us -- so many changes, so many ups and downs -- today let's take the long view, through the eyes of a great poet. This is a gift from our friend Karen in Tennessee:
Fletcher Oak
By Mary Oliver

There is a tree here so beautiful it even has a name. Every morning, when it is still dark, I stand under its branches. They flow from the thick and silent trunk. One can’t begin to imagine their weight. Year after year they reach, they send out smaller and smaller branches, and bunches of flat green leaves, to touch the light.

Of course this has consequences. Every year the oak tree fills with fruit. Just now, since it is September, the acorns are starting to fall.

I don’t know if I will ever write another poem. I don’t know if I am going to live for a long time yet, or even for a while.

But I am going to spend my life wisely. I’m going to be happy, and frivolous, and useful. Every morning, in the dark, I gather a few acorns and imagine, inside of them, the pale oak trees. In the spring, when I go away, I’ll take them with me, to my own country, which is a land of sun and restless ocean and moist woods. And I’ll dig down, I’ll hide each acorn in a cool place in the black earth.

To rise like a slow and beautiful poem. To live a long time.
Photo by Gordon Osmundson, 1999.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Feast of the Ascension

"Through the ascension of Jesus Christ humanity is in heaven, wounded humanity, because Jesus bore the scars of his crucifixion into glory."

-- The Rev. Canon Rosalind Brown, Canon Residentiary, Durham Cathedral

Come join us in the Chapel at 7 pm as we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, one of the most ancient traditions of the Church.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Church politics across the Atlantic: Beneath the surface

I have not commented recently on church politics, mostly because there isn't much new to say and the topic is tedious. And I've said this before: church politics is like tectonic plates under the earth. The movement is beneath the surface where it can't be seen, and the tension builds, eventually resulting in an earthquake. We feel the earthquakes, but don't see what is beneath the surface.

There is considerable movement beneath the surface in the Church of England these days, with a great deal of angst, tension, and controversy over the idea that a woman (!) might be ordained a bishop. In the Episcopal Church, we crossed that river two decades ago, but for the mother church this is still a Rubicon yet to be crossed. Adding to the tension, the Vatican has been making moves to attract CofE priests to the Roman fold.

If Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams seems a bit distracted these days, he has good reason. Some commentators believe 1,000 priests will depart his church if a woman is ordained a bishop.

Of course, these events affect more than his small not-so-merry church in England; it will have unforeseen repercussions throughout the Anglican Communion of which we are a part. It always seems to work that way.

That said, the far bigger crisis by far is in the Roman Catholic Church, not the Anglican Communion.

I came across this commentary by Colin See in U.K. Guardian the other day, and I commend it to you. It is reasonable, avoids hyperventilation, and sets things in factual context:
A Haven from Crisis: Disillusioned Catholics can find solace in a church that combines tradition and modernity
By Colin See

Twenty-five years ago I had an engaging conversation with Cardinal Hume in which I asked if the Roman Catholic church would ordain married men or single women first. His reply was unequivocal: "Single women." When I expressed surprise, he pointed to the outstanding women in Roman Catholic religious orders and said: "And we can't afford a married priesthood. The Church of England pays you a stipend on which a family can live, we pay pocket money; it houses you, we would have to convert every presbytery into a family home – it would bankrupt us." He was commendably honest and pragmatic, avoiding indefensible doctrine.

Last year seven men were ordained priest in the Roman Catholic church in the UK: there were 574 ordained in the CofE (of whom 274 were women). There is a crisis looming for the Vatican and they just don't get it: the priesthood is ageing and diminishing, something must be done or the church will implode.

To read the full commentary, click HERE.

Photo of the Bell Harry Tower at Canterbury Cathedral, taken during our 2003 pilgrimage.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Our culture of sports violence: What hath we wrought?

When I was in high school many years ago, there were two kinds of kids my age: the "jocks" and everyone else. People like me tended to avoid the jocks because, to be honest, many of them were vicious bullies who took great delight in slamming you into a hallway locker when you weren't looking.

There were exceptions, and I even had a few friends who were athletes, including one of our star football players (he committed suicide the year after we graduated; I've always suspected he was gay and that had something to do with it). For the most part, though, I avoided the jocks as best I could.

I bring this up in the context of the death of Yeardley Love, a 22-year-old student athlete who was brutally murdered last week, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend who was also a student athlete. The University of Virginia is a very tight-knit community, and most of my parishioners are connected to the University. So my people are still reeling, still in shock.

Previously I have commented in this space that the culture of alcohol abuse at UVa needs to be closely examined by officials, alumni and all of us. I've heard comments in recent days from people (not in this parish), who ought to know better, saying "it isn't as bad as elsewhere." That seems quite beside the point. It is bad here. It needs to change.

But something else needs to be examined -- the culture of sports in America and how some male athletes (not all of them) have an attitude that rules don't apply to them, that violence is an acceptable form of solving problems, and that using and abusing women is normal. I hope university, college and high school officials across our country will take a deep look at this aggressive culture and do whatever it takes to change it. I pray that Yeardley Love will be the last to die this way.

The Washington Post had a superb commentary by Sally Jenkins the other day on this topic, and I commend it to you today:
George Huguely, Ben Roethlisberger, Lawrence Taylor: Male athletes encouraged to do the wrong thing

By Sally Jenkins
Saturday, May 8, 2010
George Huguely is said to have been a vicious drunk who menaced Yeardley Love, yet there has been no indication that any of his teammates said anything to police. Ben Roethlisberger seems to be a serial insulter of women, whose behavior is shielded by the off-duty cops he employs. And if the charges are true, Lawrence Taylor ignored the bruises on a 16-year-old girl's face as he had sex with her, never thinking to ask who beat her.

It's a bad stretch for women in the sports pages. After reading the news accounts and police reports, it's reasonable to ask: Should women fear athletes? Is there something in our sports culture that condones these assaults? It's a difficult, even upsetting question, because it risks demonizing scores of decent, guiltless men. But we've got to ask it, because something is going on here -- there's a disturbing association, and surely we're just as obliged to address it as we are concussions.
To read the full commentary, click HERE.

Photo of vigil for Yeardley Love at the University of Virginia, New York Daily News.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Monday Funnies

We all could use a few laughs this week, I am sure. Here is one that's been floating around awhile -- things kids say in church. Welcome to the Monday Funnies...

3-year-old Reese : "Our Father, Who does art in heaven, Harold is His name.

A little boy was overheard praying: "Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am."


After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys."


One particular four-year-old prayed, "And forgive us our trash baskets
as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."


A Sunday school teacher asked her children as they were on the way to church service, "And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?"
One bright little girl replied, "Because people are sleeping."


A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say,
'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.' "
Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan , you be Jesus!"

Sunday, May 9, 2010

We who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life

I am preaching today only at the 8 am service. Please join us at 10 am and 5:30 pm to celebrate the ministry of The Rev. Neal Halvorson-Taylor and hear him preach.

My sermon at 8 am is based on John 14:23-29:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you… Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Compline. It is one of the treasures of our prayer book, and you will find it beginning on page 127 [Online by clicking HERE].
The reason you many not know of it is Compline is a short service of prayers for late in the evening, and because we don’t usually have church services here late in the evening, we don’t usually conduct Compline.
The reason I bring this up is there is a particular prayer in Compline that has really tugged at me the last few days. And although it is now morning, I want to read it to you. You will find it on page 133:

“Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Lately this parish and this community have been buffeted by all sorts of changes and chances of this life. Some of these changes are relatively small. But even the small changes can feel like a tipping point – the proverbial “last straw” – when all the changes come all at once.
Other changes are quite large: A number of our parishioners are facing serious illnesses including some of you; we’ve had a wave of funerals and memorial services including three in the last two days.

As you are certainly aware by now, a University student – Yeardley Love – age 22 – was murdered this past week allegedly at hands of her ex-boyfriend, another student.
Her death is truly shocking on many levels, and raises serious questions about student life at Uva, including alcohol abuse and violence against women students. University officials will surely confront these questions in the days ahead.
On another level, Yeardley Love’s death strikes very close to home in this parish.

Her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, meets here in our parish hall on Monday evenings, and I cannot quite get out of my mind that I probably walked right past her on many occasions as she and her sisters were going in or out of our building.
So I am also particularly proud and thankful that our Associate Rector, Ann, reached out to Yeardley’s sorority sisters this week, and she has been a rock of strength for them the last few days.
We opened our doors to these young university women so they could have a simple and private prayer service for Yeardley Friday evening.
That is what church should be about, exactly what this church should be about. That is exactly why we were founded.
Amidst all this, I don’t have any great words of wisdom about why someone so young, with so much life ahead of her, would be taken from us. I have no great words of wisdom about why her ex-boyfriend, someone with so much life ahead of him, would be filled with such rage that he would do something such as this.
To say that we live in a broken world is true, but not quite satisfying. To say that God cries with us is also true, but sometimes it is hard to feel.
And as much as we would like to ask God to please stop all the changes and chances of this life, we can’t, and God won’t. We may as well stop breathing.
Into this comes this spectacular promise from Jesus to stay with us as Holy Spirit, to fill each of us with love and grace, peace and rest, and to be faithful to us especially in our moments of darkness and pain. We hear of it in today’s gospel lesson from John:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” he tells us. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Each of us can experience this gift of the Holy Spirit, and this gift comes to us in a way that will find us where we dwell, will speak to us in our own language, and will make sense to us in ways that only we understand as an individual who is beloved of God, who knows each of us by name.
Maybe we will understand this Holy Spirit in a traditional way right out of the prayer book, or maybe the Holy Spirit will be someone, or something else entirely who makes sense only to you.
Yet sometimes we don’t feel it. Sometimes we need to stop, close our eyes, and sit in silence to feel this sacred Spirit.
Other times, we can feel this sacred presence when we gather together to support each other, to hold each other up, to pray together, or to laugh or cry together. I am certain the Holy Spirit was with Yeardley’s sorority sisters and her family and her friends this week even if they might not have felt it.
I am certain the Holy Spirit is with those in our congregation who are sick or hurting, or bewildered or grieving right now. By worshipping together, we can feel the Holy Spirit more strongly. And when I don’t feel it, maybe you will feel it for me.
My hope for each of us today is that we will take the time to see and listen for the holy, to watch and wait for the sacred, and bring all who we are, and all we long to be, into the prayer of our daily life; and that we will set aside our fear and worry, and will place our trust in the life-giving Holy Spirit who is right here with us.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you… Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Art by Chiura Obata (1885-1975)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

St. Paul's mentioned in The Virginia Episcopalian newspaper

You may not have seen this: The May issue of The Virginia Episcopalian had a very splendid article about the visit of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at St. Paul's for our centennial celebration in January. The photo that goes with it, by Bonny Bronson, shows soon-to-be seminarian Matthew Lukens on left and Deacon Heather Warren on right, flanking Bishop Katharine. You can read the issue by clicking HERE (we are on p. 3), and here is the article:

An Honored Guest at St. Paul’s Memorial

WBy Emily Cherry

When St. Paul’s Memorial, Charlottesville celebrated their centennial earlier this year, they did so with a very special guest. After preaching and presiding at the investiture of the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, XIII bishop of Virginia, on January 29, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, traveled to Charlottesville for a three-day visit with the parish.

Spending time with youth and young adults was an important part of Bishop Jefferts Schori’s trip. The presiding bishop spent a half- hour in conversation with students from the University of Virginia’s Canterbury Fellowship, and joined youth from St. Paul’s Memorial and other churches in an evening of fellowship and discussion.

Saturday evening featured a celebratory banquet, with over 200 making their way through a major snow storm for a place at the table. Guests enjoyed a documentary about the history of St. Paul’s Memorial, and Bishop Jefferts Schori addressed the crowd about living out mission as witnesses of God’s reconciling love, focusing on interconnectivity with the community and the greater Episcopal Church.

Sunday morning was a chance for all to join in Eucharist with the presiding bishop, who preached on the power of prophets. “Prophetic work is part of our baptismal vocation,” said Bishop Jefferts Schori. “The ability to tell those hard truths has something to do with courage, and a deep connectedness to God and all of God’s creation.”

The Rev. Jim Richardson, rector of St. Paul’s Memorial, wrote in his blog, “In the three days we enjoyed with her, I was much struck by how she absorbed the best that is St. Paul’s, and the greatness of this congregation when we are fulfilling our mandate to build God’s kingdom on earth. She synthesized who we are and who we can be.” t

Friday, May 7, 2010

Waving goodbye

We've had quite a bit of loss lately in our community and in our parish (we have three memorial services this weekend and, sadly, almost certainly more in the next few weeks).

Our friend Karen from Tennessee sent this poem the other day, and it speaks to me. I pass it along to you today...
Waving Goodbye
By Wesley McNair

Why, when we say goodbye
at the end of an evening, do we deny
we are saying it at all, as in We'll
be seeing you, or I'll call, or Stop in,
somebody's always at home? Meanwhile, our friends,
telling us the same things, go on disappearing
beyond the porch light into the space
which except for a moment here or there
is always between us, no matter what we do.
Waving goodbye, of course, is what happens
when the space gets too large
for words – a gesture so innocent
and lonely, it could make a person weep
for days. Think of the hundreds of unknown
voyagers in the old, fluttering newsreel
patting and stroking the growing distance
between their nameless ship and the port
they are leaving, as if to promise I'll always
remember, and just as urgently, Always
remember me. It is loneliness, too,
that makes the neighbor down the road lift
two fingers up from his steering wheel as he passes
day after day on his way to work in the hello
that turns into goodbye? What can our own raised
fingers to for him, locked in his masculine
purposes and speeding away inside the glass?
How can our waving wipe away the reflex
so deep in the woman next door to smile
and wave on her way into her house with the mail,
we'll never know if she is happy
or sad or lost? It can't. Yet in that moment
before she and all the others and we ourselves
turn back to our disparate lives, how
extraordinary it is that we make this small flag
with our hands to show the closeness we wish for
in spite of what pulls us apart again
and again: the porch light snapping off,
the car picking its way down the road through the dark.