Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Revisionist Eggs Strike the Heart of Maundy Thursday

Like so many other Episcopal parishes, we will have a potluck dinner Thursday before the Maundy Thursday service. I have been struggling about what I could bring. As a single person, with no chance to cook on Thursday, it’s a challenge. I had to think of something that I could prepare in advance that would be “fresh” on Thursday evening.

Then it came to me: deviled eggs. Our parish seems to love deviled eggs. And they have gobbled mine up in past parish events. Best of all, I could boil the eggs tonight, prepare them tomorrow, then share them Thursday. Great deal all ‘round.

Then it occurred to me that I should warn folks that these aren’t the standard Midwestern deviled eggs of mayonnaise, diced pickles, and a little pickle juice. I should prepare a sort of “label” for them, warning folks that these are savory, not sweet, deviled eggs, including cumin, curry, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. That led me to the fact that I should probably give my deviled eggs a name.

As I was boiling the eggs this evening, I pondered what name to give to my weird deviled eggs. It came to me in a flash.

They shall be Revisionist Deviled Eggs. It will work in a “plain reading” of recipes, for they diverge from the standard Midwestern version. But I also believe that one of our parishioners is probably one of the closeted, anonymous commenters at Stand Firm. So he, at least, knows the other semantics of “revisionists” and “reasserters.”

Here’s what I put into my wackadoo deviled eggs:
Revisionist Deviled Eggs
a little mayonnaise and a lot of sour cream
Dijon mustard
Worcestershire sauce
What do you put in yours? Do you have ways of preparing deviled eggs that aren’t just mayonnaise and pickle juice? I’ve been playing around with deviled eggs for over a decade, and I have other variations, but I’d like to hear about yours.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Ministry of Crucifer

Of Funerals

I’ve finally written a bit about my ministry as a crucifer. In regular services of the Holy Eucharist, it means a great deal to me. I’d rather be a crucifer than anything else in the liturgy. As KirkE said, "I love to touch the holy things." I love serving at the altar, and am aware that it is a foretaste of how we will all eventually stand with God.

But a particular ministry has emerged. I especially love serving as crucifer at funerals.

I’ve written already about how I began to be allowed to serve when our young people weren’t available. This emerged early: When Harv+ (then our rector) had funerals, they were generally on weekdays, and the kids generally were not available. I was. So I became Harv’s go-to crucifer for funerals. And over the years, Harv and I became friends.

Now … You need to know this. Death has always pissed me off. Whether it was the kittens and cats who died in my childhood, or (later) the humans I loved, I ranted and railed at sudden death. For the most part, I have not come to terms with death as a part of our life.

What I wrote here about Uncle Russell is an exception. I can cope with those who have a holy death for which they can prepare. I can have some peace about people who die in the natural course of things. Some peace. Not much. But when people or creatures die young, or from disease, or from violence, it just pisses me off.

My vehement War on Death dates for me to my friend Helen, who was brutally murdered in 1977. That gentle soul was slashed to death, murdered to ribbons. Ever since then, I have had a fierce anger about people who die. When the Baptist congregation sang “How great thou art” at her funeral, my hands turned into fists. I was livid. In my own funeral instructions, I have warned the survivors that I’ll come back and haunt them if they sing that damn song at my funeral.

So that’s background – my own feelings about death.

I served as crucifer with Harv at many a funeral. To me, this was even more meaningful than the usual Sunday Eucharist. Harv gave me good instructions and training. After a couple of funerals, Harv came back to me, telling me that I could rest the cross on the floor during the commendation. “Yes, I know,” I’d say. But I never did rest the cross on the floor during the commendation. I held the cross as high as usual … or even higher than usual.

I knew why. Harv didn’t.

Then Harv’s wife succumbed to another round of cancer and died. Too young. I was deeply honored when he and his family asked me to serve as crucifer for her funeral.

The visitation was held in our church the evening before the funeral. Hundreds and hundreds of people came. Harv and his wife were both beloved in this town. I worked down in the parish hall, providing refreshments. Eventually, when the lines finally grew short, I went up into the church to give my greetings to Harv and his family.

By then, things had slowed down enough that I could have some real conversation with Harv.

I told him how grateful I was that he had asked me to serve as crucifer for Barb’s funeral. Then I said something like this: “In all the funerals we have celebrated together, you’ve always told me I could rest the cross on the floor during the Commendation. But do you know why I never did?”

No. Of course, he didn’t.

I said: “Because I hate death! And when I hold the cross aloft, I am saying to Death – to Satan – ‘You don’t win this one!’ God wins!”

The next day, we had the funeral for Harv’s wife. He was there in the first row, grieving his wife’s death. And I held the cross high as the Bishop said the commendation. As I turned to lead the casket down the aisle, I met Harv’s eye, and we winked. He had “heard” what I said in that lifted cross. And, as I held that cross high, I believe the forces of evil and death heard me. They did not win, after all.

I continue to volunteer whenever a funeral is held in our parish. I carry the cross as high as I can. I cannot always hold the cross aloft during the commendation, due to the neurological thingy.

But I walk with that cross and serve as crucifer in testament against death: Death, you don’t win! In the end, God wins. And I carry that cross in testament to that truth.

Uncle Russell

KirkE made a comment that moved me to this further reflection about Uncle Russell and his legacy.

Here’s a story I shared with his family last weekend. His wife was there back at this event in 1994, but most of his children and grandchildren were not.

When my grandmother (Uncle Russell’s mother) died in 1994, just short of 100, many of us were not able to make it to her funeral. That next summer, at the family reunion, we did what Southern families often do: We went to the cemetery. We checked out Grandma’s monument, told stories to the younger kids, visited the graves of other family members and told their stories to our younger family members.

At a certain point, as things were winding down, my cousin Carolyn asked Uncle Russell [oldest child, oldest son … and thus patriarch of the family]: “Uncle Russell, would you lead us in prayer?”

Uncle Russell jerked his head up, looked her in the eye, and brusquely nodded “yes,” with an attitude of pique conveyed in that gesture. Then he turned 180 degrees, walking away from the family to his car. He opened the back door of the car, leaned in and reached for something. He spent some moments bent over in some sort of consultation.

None of us had any idea what he was doing.

Then he walked back to the assembled family with some sort of red, limp-leather bound book in hand, open, and said, “Let us pray.” And proceeded to deliver a prayer that I found quite articulate, even poetic, and spiritual. Best prayer I had ever heard … after a childhood and youth of growing up with Southern Baptist preachers invoking Jeeeeeezus.

Afterwards, the fundamentalist Fox clan tsk-tsked about how he “couldn’t even pray from his heart, but had to read a prayer out of a book.” Me? I thought it was the best prayer I had ever heard.

A while later, after the Episcopal Church found me in 1996, I realized he had gone back to his car to get his BCP and find a suitable prayer. But at the time, I had ditched the church in the early 1980s and was suspicious of any “church stuff.”

When I got to Wheaton for Uncle Russell’s funeral last week, I got out of my car, opened the back seat, and reached in for my red, limp-leather bound BCP. And I froze. I realized I was doing exactly the same. Apparently, Uncle Russell always traveled with a copy of our prayer book in his car. As do I.

KirkE commented here about Uncle Russell: “…and he looks like he enjoyed ‘hanging around the holy stuff’ too...genetics?” Genetics perhaps. Or perhaps just one more way that he inspired me to move beyond the “culture” in which I had been reared.

I have no idea what kind of prayers Uncle Russell prayed privately. But I believe it is a miracle that I gave up on the church in the early 1980s … disdained church … then found a welcome in the Episcopal Church in 1996 and am now happily and meaningfully involved in this church.

Thank God for Uncle Russell. I have no doubt that he is resting in peace and rising in glory. Not one.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Uncle Russell

I have learned the lesson of the blogosphere: One does not announce one's travels and absence from home. So I didn't alert the world to my trip last weekend to the Chicago area, to attend my Uncle Russell's burial mass. Truth be told, it has taken this week for me to process some of my thoughts.

Uncle Russell died on February 22, after what was a mercifully short time of duress from a miserable disease. True to the Fox spirit, he was alert and in charge almost to the end. As I have said to a few friends, his was a holy death. A final goodbye, surrounded by loving family and carried in the arms of the church and of his faith.

After his cremation, the funeral mass was held in his home parish on March 20. The intervening weeks allowed his far-flung family to make travel arrangements.

Here's the obituary that ran in the Chicago Tribune, March 7, 2010:
Russell C. Fox, age 91, passed away on Feb. 22, 2010 at his Wheaton home after a brief battle with lung cancer. WWII Navy veteran, Russell was a retired Vice-President for Kellogg Co. Beloved husband of Diane; loving father of Carolyn Fox, Russell (Marcia) Fox Jr. and Deborah (Don) Briggs; proud grandfather of Andrew (Lisa) Fox, Sarah (Al) Rahal, Donnie and Lindsey Briggs; great-grandfather of Ali and Sofia Rahal, Grace and Sam Fox; dear brother of Frances Farris, Martha Evans and Ralph Fox; fond uncle of many nieces and nephews. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Russ Fox Memorial Fund at Trinity Episcopal Church would be appreciated. Family and friends to gather Saturday March 20 for 10:30 a.m. memorial service at Trinity Episcopal Church, 130 N. West St., Wheaton, IL 60187.
I'm grateful for this notice on the website of the Vergers' Guild of the Episcopal Church. In fact, the president of the Vergers' Guild travelled to Wheaton to attend and verge at Uncle Russell's funeral service.

It is clear that Uncle Russell took great joy in his role as verger. I think he would have understood the pride I take as crucifer.

For me, there was an added bonus to that weekend. I got to make deeper connections with his wife and children (my cousins). It was a time of discovery and reconnection, for which I am grateful.

My Uncle Russell was the first of the Fox children to escape the miserable poverty and numbing backwardness of the Missouri Bootheel region. And he was the only one of my uncles and aunts to become an Episcopalian. I like to think I followed his lead.

The Ministry of Crucifer

A few of you are aware that I love to serve as crucifer in my parish. Some have asked how this came about.

I know that different parishes have different roles for the crucifer. In our parish, the crucifer carries the cross in the opening and closing procession, and in the Gospel procession. In addition, the crucifer is the person who assists the priest in setting the altar for the Eucharist.

When I moved to this little town and its parish, only kids got to be acolytes or crucifers.

But not too long after I arrived in Missouri, the priest recognized that he couldn’t get kids to show up reliably for the 8:00 Sunday service, so he opened the ministry of crucifer to adults. I jumped on it! And I began attending the 8:00 service, just so I could serve as crucifer.

Of all the things I do at church, serving as crucifer is the ministry that means the most to me. I cannot quite say why. I know this: It feels like holy stuff to lead the procession and to assist the priest in setting the altar. I love standing alongside the priest as the elements are consecrated. As I assist the priest, I have a sense that this is how I would like to serve God. There is humility and holiness there.

Once I began attending the 10:30 (Rite II) service, instead of the 8:00 (Rite I) service, I no longer got to be in the regular rotation. I only got to serve as crucifer when the kids were on a mission trip or were otherwise unavailable.

I remember a Christmas Eve service a couple of years ago. I served as crucifer at the 5:30 service, as scheduled. But I went back to church for midnight mass. I wanted to worship; but in my heart of hearts, I also wished I could serve as crucifer. As it happened, none of the kids showed up to be acolyte, so I got to serve as crucifer at that most special service. But lore has arisen around the parish, that I locked all the kids in the boiler room so that I could serve as crucifer. Even now – on those high Sundays when I get to serve as crucifer – people will ask jokingly, “Have you locked the kids in the boiler room?” or "Do you plan to lock the kids in the boiler room?"

Now, with Holy Week upon us, people are already asking me, “Will you be locking the kids in the boiler room?” We shall see what must be done.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Escorting another Soul

I'm turning in early (for me). Tomorrow, I must be at church early, for the funeral of a parish member. I get to serve as crucifer again. One of these days, I must write about why/how that ministry matters so much to me ... especially as crucifer at funerals.


During Lent, my parish has been gathering for evening prayer on Thursdays. Tonight, it was my deep honor to lead evening prayer for the parish.

After evening prayer, we have a simple soup supper, then a program. This year, the programs have focused on spirituality and the arts. Tonight was poetry. My dear friend Ken Winn led the program. He presented two poems for our reflection: Langston Hughes’ “Evil” and Billy Collins’ “Picnic, Lightning.”

After our conversations in the past day or two, Hughes’ “Evil” seemed especially relevant to me. Here it is:
Looks like what drives me crazy
Don't have no effect on you –
But I'm gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.
Say amen, somebody!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sherrod on Lambert

Katie Sherrod read -- and was struck by -- the same statement I did from the Bishop Suffragan of Dallas, in which he said of Bishop-elect Mary Glasspool's presence at last week's House of Bishops meeting: "Of course, her presence at our meeting makes it difficult to discuss this openly and honestly, both for her and the House gathered." Katie’s comments are much more articulate than mine. Go there and read her blog post.

Cutting to the chase, Katie says:
One might ask, how does the presence of Mary Glasspool make it difficult for bishops to discuss how her election will impact our relationships with the larger Communion openly and honestly? Would the bishops say things behind her back that they would not say to her face? Apparently so.
She says much more, too. Go read her commentary. She is a first-rate journalist, who knows how to analyze public statements.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dallas Bishop Lambert Laments Glasspool’s Presence

As soon as I learned (from Arizona’s Bishop Smith) that Mary Glasspool would participate in this week’s House of Bishops’ meeting, I expressed my gratitude that there would now be two honestly gay bishops in the house. I said happily to friends, “The bishops will no longer be able to talk abstractly about ‘them,’ with two gay bishops in the house.”

I also knew that, even with merely two gay bishops among the hundred of so, a bunch of the conservative guys would be clapping their knees together in terror.

Until 2003, the bishops could pretend that they were all faithful heterosexuals … even though many of us knew otherwise. We knew about the philanderers, and we knew about the closet queens.

Bishop Robinson’s admission into the club challenged the bishops’ ability to talk about GLBT Christians as “them.” This month, Bishop-Elect Mary Glasspool has also joined the House of Bishops meeting.

And what does Paul Lambert (Dallas suffragan bishop) have to say about it? Reflecting on the discussion of sexuality issues in this week’s meeting, he said of Bishop-Elect Glasspool: “Of course, her presence at our meeting makes it difficult to discuss this openly and honestly, both for her and the house gathered.”

“Of course”????

So a bunch of straight white guys couldn’t talk openly and honestly about adultery if there were women present?

A bunch of white people couldn’t talk openly and honestly about racism if people of color were present?

If Bishop Lambert finds his freedom of speech curtailed because two gay people are present, then I suspect he wanted to make comments that had no resemblance to the Spirit of Christ in the first place.

I can and do talk about racism when people of color are present. I can and do talk about church politics when conservatives are present. I can and do talk about homosexuality when heterosexuals are present.

If Bishop Lambert felt his freedom of conversation was curtailed because Bishop Robinson and Bishop-Elect Glasspool were present, then I strongly urge that he look into his heart and consult page 447 of the Book of Common Prayer.

Shame on you, Bishop Lambert. You are the one who is an embarrassment to our church.

Addendum: When I posted this yesterday, I only had the snippet quoted in the ENS story. Today, I have learned that the full text of Bishop Lambert’s letter is available at the uber-schismatic Anglicans United site. Click here to read his complete letter. Then you might ask yourself, as I did, why he chose to release his letter to such a right-wing-nut site.

Addendum: Katie Sherrod (a lay deputy from Fort Worth) has even more to say about Lambert's statement. Read her comment here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rowan Williams Worries More about Gay Bishops than Murder

We knew it would come sooner than later. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, would surely issue a statement about our church’s consent to Mary Glasspool to serve as a bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Mind you, he took weeks and weeks and months to speak out against legislation that would execute gay/lesbian people in Africa. Much pressure was exerted on him, and he ignored all that pressure. He said he needed to study the situation and be sensitive to it. He needed months to speak out against legislation that would authorize the murder of gay Christians in Africa. He said he was being sensitive to their cultural realities.

And how long did it take him to speak out against our election of a bishop in the U.S. who happens to be gay? Less than 24 hours. Ruth Gledhill has the story about his criticism against the Episcopal Church.

Months to speak about the African church murdering gay/lesbian Christians.
Less than 24 hours to excoriate the Episcopal Church for consenting to a bishop who happens to be lesbian.

So … what’s more important to Rowan Williams? Murder or an episcopal consecration? Obviously, it’s the latter. Murder of innocents is of no consequence to Rowan, compared to an election in Los Angeles.

I imagine this conversation:

Question: Archbishop, what do you think about the legislation in Africa that would sentence gay/lesbian people to death?
Rowan: Well … I have to respect their cultural context. We cannot impose our values upon the nations of Africa. I am working quietly, behind the scenes, to talk with our Anglican colleagues so that I can better understand their perspective. But they are responsible for the shape of the Anglican Communion in Africa.

Question: Archbishop, what do you think about the election of Mary Glasspool to be a bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles?
Rowan: Aargh! It’s the end of the Anglican Communion as We Have Known It! It may even be the end of Western Civilization! I may need to convene a special meeting of the Primates Council to address this!! This may be the end of the world. I need to smite those nasty Americans as soon as I can!

May God have mercy on his benighted soul. The man has absolutely no sense of perspective.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Eating My Words … Happily!

It is time for me to eat my words. I guessed that the bishops of our church would not consent to the election of Mary Glasspool (pictured at right) until the House of Bishops meeting (which will convene on March 19), at which they would hear reports from Parsley’s secret theology committee. I thought they would use the committee report for cover. Now I must eat those words.

Today, we received this news from ENS that “Bishop-elect Mary Douglas Glasspool has received the required number of consents from diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction to her ordination and consecration as a bishop.”

Even before the House of Bishops meeting, we already have enough consents to the Rev. Glasspool’s consecration. I give deep thanks to those bishops who gave their consent already.

This being Lent, I dare not shout “Alleluia.” But I certainly am happy that we already have a majority of consents from standing committees and bishops. The Rev. Glasspool will be consecrated a bishop in our church. Thanks be to God!

I don’t know Gene Robinson, but I’m glad he’s no longer going to be singled-out as the only honestly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion.

At the same time, my prayers go up for Mary Glasspool, knowing that she’s going to suffer the same kind of slings and arrows that Bishop Robinson has suffered. My heart goes out to her.

The blogosphere has been all aflutter today, from the moment this news broke. Among all those, I especially commend two reflections to you.

Mark Harris saw this coming, and he says this isn’t the earthquake that some would try to pretend it is. Read Mark’s essay here. He rightly observes that this is not the end of the Anglican Communion As We Knew It. In fact, a commenter observes it’s merely the end of the Anglican Communion as Some Imagined It.

Gird yourselves, my friends. Some people are going to shriek to the top of their lungs that this is The End of The Anglican Communion. It is not. Mark says it better than I.

This is merely the beginning of honesty. Gene Robinson and Mary Glasspool are not the first gay bishops in the Anglican Communion. They are only the first who are honest about it. Someday, perhaps, others will come out of their closets.

I also commend Brother Tobias Haller’s reflections at his blog. He writes:
Many will rejoice at this, myself included, but many also will be troubled — and I feel for them as well. Change is often difficult, and I know many will be wounded in their conscience, or concerned for possible consequences, even as others give thanks and celebrate.
By contrast, if you have asbestos armor, some few of you may dare to read the vitriol being spewed over at StandFirm. I read their comments as the dying shrieks of a poisonous snake. I am beginning to feel sorry for the leaders and readers of StandFirm. Our church is bravely moving forward, and some are filled with venom at this change. I would hope we could move forward together, but I recognize that won’t happen with this particular demographic. If I were an Episcopalian on the edge, the hatred spewed at StandFirm would make clear to me that I would not want to be part of their hate-mongers. You won’t find any love of Jesus over there.

If you want to keep tabs on the news about the Rev. Glasspool’s election, I recommend The Episcopal Café to you. It’s a great source of news for us.

So I'll close for the evening. I am profoundly glad to know that the bishops and standing committees have already consented to Mary Glasspool's election. I give humble thanks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vegetarians Unite ... but eschew idiots

Another note from the humor side. I scarcely know what to say about this.

Funny Fails Facebook
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Hard Times for the Godhead

I'm still in a silly state of bloggery. This one made me chuckle.

epic fail pictures
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

God Hates Figs

What does God (supposedly) hate? Fred Phelps and his "church" have been trying to tell America their version of what God hates. But, in the process, he and his church have become a laughing-stock.

In my continuing mission to parody them, here's my latest entry. Phelps & Co. think "God hates fags." But they got it all wrong.

In case you can't read it clearly, the shirt says:

You heard wrong
God hates FIGS

You can buy the shirt here.

God and I are in 100% agreement on this one. I'm pretty sure figs are an abomination.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Some Bishops-Elect Receive Consents

Thanks to Episcopal News Service for news that three bishops-elect have received the necessary consents for consecration.

Consents have been received for the Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce (elected bishop suffragan of Los Angeles on Dec. 4), the Very Rev. Morris K. Thompson (elected 11th bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana on Dec. 5), and the Rev. W. Andrew Waldo (elected eighth bishop of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina on Dec. 12).

Of course, I'm grateful for these consents. Of course, I'm also sad that the Rev. Mary Glasspool (elected at the same convention as the Rev. Bruce in Los Angeles) doesn't yet have the necessary consents.

And I'm taking some schadenfreude about the Rev. Waldo's consent, since his election so infuriated my worthy opponent over at SFiF. Give it up, StandFirmers. The ship of this church has taken a clear turn.

Fair Warning, Tweeters

In my continuing parody of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church's efforts to enlighten us all about what God (supposedly) hates ... I bring you this warning.

Image courtesy of this site.

This was a counter-protest where Phelps & Co. were protesting outside the San Francisco headquarters of Twitter on January 28, 2010. For more about the protest and more ridiculous signs, go here. And note this: "the motley WBC crew was comprised of four women and one . . . dude."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Math Quiz ... Feline Version

As must be obvious, I am playing around on Blogger. That's because I have some big hairy reports due at the office, and I'm feeling totally blocked about them. I ignored them yesterday, and I ignored them through the daylight hours today. Soon ... I must get down to work.

Procrastination being the mother of all the goddesses, what better to do than play in the blogosphere?

This image made me chuckle. I'm in my mid-50s. If you're of an age like mine, you may remember those "word problems" on math tests. I just love this kittie's response to the word problem.

No Hope for Civilization

I have my degrees in English and literature. I'm an old fuddy-duddy who thinks we should pay attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Sometimes, I worry that texting, Facebooking, and other media that disregard those niceties just might be harbingers of The End of the World As We Know It. I am so old-fashioned that I bristle at the increasing use of "data" on NPR as if it were a singular noun. grrrrrrr

I enjoy the FailBooking site (courtesy of the ICanHasCheezburger folks), which captures and lampoons screenshots from Facebook ... even though it is often PG- or even R-rated.

This one is priceless. Read it and laugh ... or groan.

Funny Facebook Fails
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God bless Jeff!

God Hates Corduroy, Too

Many thanks to EighthSacrament for the suggestion that I share with you more images of what God (supposedly) hates. So here's the image she recommended.

Image courtesy of this site.

God Hates ???

Enough of the heaviness! I'm ready to post a few fun items here.

You've all seen the images from the Rev. "God Hates Fags" Fred Phelps and his band of ignorant haters. I was tickled to find this image.

Culture Jamming Win - Discuss.
see more Hacked IRL - Truth in Sarcasm

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Call to Missourians: Youth Ministry

I’ve been involved in this initiative for a while, but I want to put this on the blog now. Let me say up front: This posting will end with my asking you to send money to our diocese.

The Diocese of Missouri used to have a staff member devoted to youth ministry. That position was eliminated a while back, due to budget problems. Since then, some volunteers from among our clergy have been stepping into that role on a volunteer basis, and they have done a marvelous job.

The job is too big for a fully-engaged priest to do in her/his spare time. This issue came to our diocesan convention in the fall of 2009, when a resolution proposed to create a new position … even though that job was not included in the budget proposed to the diocese. That was a little weird. The budget didn’t include any money for a youth missioner, but then a resolution called for the creation of that position.

Michael Kinman set the stage by arguing passage of the resolution and challenging the delegates to contribute the $5,000 that was needed. He stated a dollar amount he would contribute, and challenged other delegates to contribute to the special fund that wasn’t included in the budget.

I went to the microphone to join my voice with those bold voices of people like Mike Kinman and Becky Ragland, saying we must fund this position. Like many others, I also handed Mike a note about how much I would contribute.

I also respected those experienced delegates who warned about adjusting the budget with special fund-raising efforts. They made a strong case that we should fund the diocesan budget as a whole, rather than cherry-picking favorite causes. I saw the logic of their argument, but it seemed (and still seems!) critical to me that we provide funds for someone to shape a diocesan youth ministry.

And that’s what we are doing: Not creating a full-time position of youth minister, but providing funds to hire someone who could create a youth ministry based on a network that would endure.

The resolution finally passed in this form:
Funding the Youth Missioner
At diocesan convention in November, we affirmed the importance of our youth and our commitment to youth ministry by passing resolution M-170 regarding a Diocesan Youth Missioner.
The resolution, as amended:
1. BE IT RESOLVED that this 170th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri reaffirms its commitment to Youth Ministry as a vital mission of this diocese;
2. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this convention encourages the Bishop of Missouri to appoint a Diocesan Youth Missioner on or before May 1, 2010, for a one-year term; and
3. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Diocesan Youth Missioner be tasked with revitalizing the Diocesan Youth Commission and building a sustainable network of mutual support and creative collaboration for youth ministry in the Diocese of Missouri.
In yesterday’s edition of iSeek, the diocese announced:
We're on track to announce a missioner before May 1st; there are routine H.R. procedures to accomplish before this office makes the announcement.
Also at convention, a parallel initiative was begun informally among attendees to raise an additional $5000 to fund the position. (The copy of the budget as passed by the 170th Convention is online here.) So far, over $3000 has been raised to this goal by members of the diocese. If you would like to contribute to this effort, you may do so online at http://www.diocesemo.org/donate or include "youth missioner" on the memo line of a check sent to the Offices of the Bishop.
It’s very cool that we’ve already contributed over $3,000. But we need more. I hope some of you members of the Diocese of Missouri may be able and willing to help. I know you're out there, and I know you're reading this blog, for the SiteMeter tells me so. :)

Donate via the diocesan site; go to the site and click on “Diocesan Youth Missioner Fund.” Or if you want to mail a check, send it to: Offices of the Bishop, 1210 Locust Street, St. Louis, MO 63103 with “youth missioner” on the memo line of your check. You can also contribute by the Facebook group we created.

I hope this news will reach my Missouri friends who may not have heard this news before. Of course, if any of you outside the Diocese of Missouri want to contribute a few dollars, that would do my heart good, too.

Fellow Missouri diocese blogfriends, if you want to link to this news and appeal, that would be good, too.

Friday, March 05, 2010

World on Fire

And Where is the Church?

I subscribe to Lane Denson’s “Out of Nowhere,” a sorta daily distribution. He used to have a website where you could read them all, but I can’t find any such webpage anymore. So you’ll have to trust me.

[Photo courtesy of this site]

His essay today was a reflection on the readings for the upcoming 3rd Sunday in Lent. The Hebrew scripture is the story of Moses and the burning bush, and that is the focus of Lane’s reflection. In one powerful moment, he writes:
The church today seems often to find itself in a vocational wilderness, wondering just what is its ministry and to whom, waiting for a burning bush when the whole world is on fire.
I spend much time reading church-related items, liturgical, pastoral, and political. And Lane’s words strike home.

He reminds me of discussions that seem to be all around The Episcopal Church about our mission, attendance, status, and future. Discussions abound. But I think Lane is right: We are waiting for a burning bush while the whole world is on fire.

The world is hurting. People are suffering and dying in places like Haiti. People are suffering more spiritually than physically all over the world. I’m sure there are ways that “the world is on fire” even in my community. What am I doing to help those people?

Too many of us – as individuals, and in our church communities – seem to be looking around for a sign in a burning bush. Meanwhile, the world is on fire. And God calls us to walk into that conflagration … just like others have done before me. But I don’t know what that means for me. Increasingly, I am not content merely to write a check for ERD’s work in Haiti or to a local food pantry. But I don’t know what it would mean for me to walk into the fire. What would it mean for me to race into that fire instead of attending to the burning bush? What would it mean to you?

I don’t know the answer. I’m in a kind of discernment.

Since I can’t find Lane’s meditation on the Web, I’m posting the whole piece here.

= = =

Lent 3C Exodus 3.1-15

When the late poet and wordsmith John Ciardi was asked, “What are human beings?” he answered: “We are what we do with our attention.”

Time and space have always been mysterious and vast, but in the past when they were thought to be absolute, one could go about life and living confident that things would stay put. The quantum physicists, however, have taught us now that everything is in motion — everything. Our attention, then, may be as close as we can come to having anything like a fixed point of reference.

We’ve just now attended to the story that “Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro,” as he’d done every day for years (Ex 3.1). Then suddenly, this ordinary day which began with his usual chore of protecting sheep from wolves, ended with a startling new commission to free his people from slavery, another kind of sheep from another kind of wolves.

So what happened? “He looked,” the story says, that’s what happened. Moses turned his head to pay attention, and history turned with him. Moses’s attention was something God needed to get, but Moses’s attention was his alone to give. It was only “when the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see” that “God called to him out of the bush” (Ex 3.4). The bush was burning, and that got Moses's attention, but it's the call, not the sudden blaze that puzzles us so, that in this story, matters.

God called not with an explanation for the interruption or the arson, but with a reminder not only of who was calling, but perhaps more importantly, with a reminder of who was being called and with a reminder of a past that Moses had conveniently forgot. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

Why had Moses forgot? Because he had been brought up as an Egyptian prince in the household of the Pharaoh, the very tyrant who had enslaved the Hebrews, the people of God’s covenant, the people who were Moses’s true kin. Had God begun with an explanation of all this, Moses would probably have started an argument, and it would have led to the Mother of all Seminars. Instead, “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex 3.4-6).

Had Hollywood casting got better informed about the role of Moses, they might have realized at this point in the story that instead of Charleston Heston, they’d have been better off with Mel Brooks.

God does not begin with an explanation, but with a call to attention, for once again, our attention is something God needs to get, but our attention is ours alone to give. Ask the Holy Spirit when she tries to forgive you next time.

Like this bend in Moses’s history, Jesus’s wilderness bend in his -- his understanding of himself and his work -- proved to be the furnace of his transformation. It protected him from becoming a victim of society and disillusioned him from any notions of a false self. In the face of the temptations, he affirmed God as the only source and substance of his identity. In John Ciardi’s words, Jesus was what he did with his attention, and he made God the sole point of reference for his universe and thus for ours and our salvation.

The church today seems often to find itself in a vocational wilderness, wondering just what is its ministry and to whom, waiting for a burning bush when the whole world is on fire. It seems to make a total commitment to the world’s values instead of its state and condition. It struggles for relevancy, it yearns after authority, and it is bewildered why the world simply doesn’t seem to notice.

Many ask, I hope with sincere piety, “What would Jesus do?” but just as many don’t seem to pay attention to what it was that Jesus — and Moses — did and how it was that they refused to seek the answer to that question in the world’s terms.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Missouri Consents to Glasspool

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Missouri met on February 23, and voted consent to the consecration of the Rev. Mary Glasspool as Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles. I am, of course, pleased by this decision. And I’m a bit surprised. I thought they might decline.

On Tuesday (March 2), the Standing Committee issued a formal statement about its decision. Click here to read the full statement.

They report:
We began our prayerful deliberation of this consent at our January meeting. While the details of the discussion are private, it is important to share something about our process. Together, we are committed to thoughtful, respectful, faithful discussion. In this election, there are complexities that will touch all of us. After an initial discussion in January, we agreed to give ourselves the gift of time and the matter was tabled. At our meeting on February 23, the discussion was reopened. Once again, we reiterated our commitment to thoughtful, respectful, faithful discussion. After a substantial conversation, the question was called. While the vote was not easy, quickly taken, or unanimous, we voted to grant our consent to the election of the Rev. Mary Glasspool.
I think it's a well-crafted, thoughtful, pastoral statement. I respect the process the Standing Committee used. I respect the pastoral care they seemed to extend to one another.

And yet I must say I am sorry they (apparently) easily consented to seven other bishops-elect in their January meeting ... but needed another month to consider Mary Glasspool's election. I understand it. But I regret it. I truly yearn for the day when gay men and lesbians are just as boring as everyone else when it comes to ordinations and consecrations throughout our church.

The Standing Committee’s statement includes this:
As a body, we consider both the importance of supporting/ratifying decisions made by our brothers and sisters in other dioceses and the impact of these decisions on The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
While awaiting the Standing Committee’s decision, I was well aware that our diocese values its connections to the Anglican Communion – and specifically to our partners in Sudan. Surely they were as aware as I that the Archbishop of Canterbury had done his finger-wagging routine immediately after Glasspool’s election, warning us that there could be Dire Consequences were we to consent to her consecration. I was concerned that those concerns might lead our Standing Committee to withhold consent.

I’m grateful they consented despite these threats.

Haiti Up Close

I appreciate the work Lauren Stanley [TEC missionary in Haiti] continues to do to alert us to news from and about Haiti. In her blog today, I found this powerful news story, “Love Among the Ruins,"about a Roman Catholic priest, Father Rick Frechette, who has been living and working in Haiti for several years. (That's Father Frechette in the photo at right.) The journalist went to Haiti to report on Father Frechette’s work. It’s powerful, up-close, non-sentimental, first-person journalism. It may be the best piece I’ve read in the seven weeks since the devastating earthquake, in terms of making it all real to me.

This is a long story, but well worth the read. It broke my heart and encouraged me about the daily lives of faithfulness and grace that some people – both Haitians and missioners – are living in Haiti. It’s neither cynical nor oozing with cheery do-gooderism.

I strongly encourage you to read the story at The Weekly Standard. As you read the story, also view the photographs Matt Labash has posted here.