31 December 2008

Encountering the Mystery of God: Reading Stephen Cook's, "Conversations with Scripture: 2 Isaiah"

One of the brilliant teachers I was blessed to have in seminary was Dr. Stephen Cook, who is a wonderful Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) scholar, as well as a great teacher and writer (also, check out his blog HERE). He published "Conversations with Scripture: 2 Isaiah" this year and I have browsed it just a bit until this point. Being the final day of the year (at least in the Julian Calendar), and being that this is a day "off" (though occupied with watching children, cleaning the house, etc), I picked it up again. This book has a wonderful discussion and exposition of 2 Isaiah, the 2nd part of the book of Isaiah, a book of the Old Testament that (along with the Psalms) is quoted the most in the New Testament, and one that we hear often in the Christmas season. It is a good read, and Cook is brilliant in helping us to see this book with new eyes, not making the complex overly simple, but giving some "onramps" into this incredible text.

The "mystery" of God is central to 2 Isaiah, and Cook has helped me to encounter this "awe-ful" aspect of God in new ways, here is just an excerpt from the Introduction:

"Awe before Isaiah's God refreshes our reverence. It submerges the ego, paving the way for owning up to our frailty. It turns us outward from concern with self to the need and suffering for others, especially the poor and peripheral. As we repose ever more deeply in God's mystery, the Lord who is absolutely sufficient for our succor increasingly works through us to relieve others' brokenness. Simultaneously, the Holy transforms us into ever more reverent advocates of the natural world."

Just brilliant, thank you Dr. Cook!

~ Rev. Peter M. Carey

29 December 2008

Kings College, Cambridge Christmas - 2008

We listened to this as we drove over the river(s) and through the woods and down the highway to grandmother's house...quite remarkable!


~ Rev. Peter M. Carey

Hat tip goes to Dr. Stephen Cook at Biblische Ausbildung, http://biblische.blogspot.com/

"you comforted me" -- Isaiah 12:1-6

from this morning's Daily Office:

...give thanks...you comforted me...I will trust...will not be afraid...Give thanks to the Lord...sing for joy!...

Isaiah 12:1-6


Isaiah 12:1 You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. 2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

26 December 2008

The Christmas Pageant, article posted at The Episcopal Cafe

My most recent article was posted at The Episcopal Cafe on Christmas Eve, you can read it all HERE.

Below is an Excerpt

Merry Christmas to All!

~ Rev. Peter M. Carey

The Christmas Pageant

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Middlebury, Vermont was and is a vibrant church in a small college town where the Christmas pageant was a big deal. The pageant had the whole cast, from Mary to the wise men, to scads of shepherds to angels, to scores of sheep, to a donkey and a cow. The readings of the Christmas stories from Luke and Matthew alternated with the traditional hymns of Christmas. The pageant was fun for kids, and was (as I now appreciate) a ton of work for the adults in the church, and was a set- up for all kinds of chaos.

Read it all HERE.

Feast of St. Stephen - Deacon and Martyr

I grew up in the church at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Middlebury, Vermont, and had the honor of carrying the banner of the church (depicted above) while I was an acolyte - St. Stephen's Feast Day is today, and his is a life well-worth remembering. You will see Stephen's dalmatic (the tunic-like clothing the deacons wore, and still wear in liturgy today), as well as the stones which represent the way that Stephen was martyred.

The Feast of St. Stephen is remembered in the hymn, "Good King Wenceslas looked down, on the Feast of Stephen," and St. Stephen is remembered as the Church's first martyr and one of its first deacons, commissioned to care for the widow and orphan, and as some also say, the "least, the last, and the lost."
Along the way to becoming a priest in the Episcopal Church, we spend at least six months as a transitional deacon, in which we are to live out diaconal ministry - from the Greek - diakonos, which means servant, to care for others, to be "in the world" and not merely in the sanctuary. But this calling of diaconal ministry is the calling of all Christians, to love one another as God loves us, to love our enemies, to visit the sick and those in prison, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and care for all those in need. So, today, we remember St. Stephen and the diaconal ministry that he embodied, and we pray that we might also live out this calling in our own time.

~ Rev. Peter M. Carey

Readings from today's Morning Prayer:
New Testament Lesson

Acts 6:1-7 (NRSV)

1 Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against
the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 2And the
twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, 'It is not right that we should
neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves
seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, 4while we,
for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.' 5What they said pleased the whole
community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus,
Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6They had these men stand before the
apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7The word of God continued to spread; the number of the
disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Old Testament Lesson

Wisdom 4:7-15 (NRSV)

7 Endear yourself to the congregation;
bow your head low to the great.
8 Give a hearing to the poor,
and return their greeting politely.
9 Rescue the oppressed from the oppressor;
and do not be hesitant in giving a verdict.
10 Be a father to orphans,
and be like a husband to their mother;
you will then be like a son of the Most High,
and he will love you more than does your mother.

Christmas Videos - White Christmas from the film "Holiday Inn"

Bing Crosby...and Marjorie Reynolds dubbed by Martha Mears

A classic, I hadn't seen the clip from the film until today ...

Christmas Videos - Elvis singing Blue Christmas

A classic, in my book, at least!

Christmas Videos - Bob and Doug Mackenzie's 12 Days of Christmas

This one always gets me cracking up...

Christmas Videos - 12 Days of Christmas - Muppets and John Denver

Christmas Videos - U2 - I believe in Father Christmas

This is really quite good, but I love U2, so I'm biased...

24 December 2008

Twas the night before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Clement Clarke Moore (1779 - 1863) wrote Twas the night before Christmas also called A Visit from St. Nicholas in 1822.

Vision of the Lord's appearing - from today's Morning Prayer - Isaiah 35:1-10

Isa. 35:1-10 (NRSV)

1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2 it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you."

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 8A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God's people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. 9No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but
the redeemed shall walk there. 10And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

The Grinch - awesome

23 December 2008

What if God was one of us? Joan Osbourne

How do we understand the Incarnation? Do we welcome the reality and the amazing mystery of God here, among us, within us, and everpresent with us? I pray we can do this.

If God was one of us, Joan Osbourne

If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question

And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in jesus and the saints and all the prophets

And yeah yeah god is great yeah yeah god is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
He's trying to make his way home
Back up to heaven all alone
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in rome

And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if god was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
Just trying to make his way home
Like a holy rolling stone
Back up to heaven all alone
Just trying to make his way home
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in rome

from "lyrics on demand"

Nativity Scene - Bus Shelter

where would Jesus be born today, where will he find room...?

Nativity Scene - Fisher Price and Knights

This Nativity Scene appeared in our front hall, and is a creation of my 3 year old ... he's no Leonardo, but still quite good (but I'm biased)...

Nativity Scene - by Giotto

Compelling depiction of the Nativity by Giotto...

Nativity Scene - Leonardo da Vinci - a study for Adoration of the Magi

As incredible as his completed works are, Leonardo da Vinci left an incredible array of unfinished projects. His genius comes through even in this study for a painting of the Adoration of the Magi.

Nativity Scene - "Holy Family" by Michelangelo

I was always impressed with the ability of Michelangelo to place dynamic figures into challenging spaces.

I had the good luck to spend hours with this painting in Florence while studying abroad in college. Quite amazing, I think.

Nativity Scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian

"Thanks a lot for the gold and frankincense, but don't worry mind next time about the myrrh"

Linus rocks in his telling of the story, Luke 2:8-14

...and you really have to love the poetic language from the King James Version

Luke 2:8-14

Luke 2:8-14
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,, good will toward men.

Steve says this is the Single Most Important Verse in All Scripture

John 1:14

It could be!

My friend Steve over at Draught-ing Theology has written a wonderful, concise reflection on John 1:14 (no, not John 3:16) and on the Feast of the Incarnation (otherwise known as Christmas). Do travel over and read his entire reflection HERE...I've posted a bit below ...

~ Rev. Peter M. Carey

From Steve at "Draught-ing Theology"

The Single Most Important Verse in All Scripture

OK, that might be overstating the case just a little bit, but John 1.14 is, despite what lots of signs at sporting events might argue, the most important verse in John's gospel.

The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood... (1.14a, The Message)

The ramifications of the Incarnation, the Word becoming flesh and blood, are enormous. The word John uses for flesh [and blood] is sarx, the same word Paul uses in those lists of sins of "the flesh"; the same that the Greek philosophers used when railing against the messiness of humanity.

That God (or any god for that matter) would deign himself to the messiness of flesh is radically unorthodox in John's time and place. While we might be very familiar with the great poetry of the prologue to John's gospel we can't forget how mind-shatteringly huge this phrase from 1.14 is. Read it all HERE.

End of year commentary from Dean Markham of Virginia Theological Seminary

End of year commentary from Dean Ian Markham of Virginia Theological Seminary. Read the Dean's Commentary HERE

~ Rev. Peter M. Carey


The Commentary is not written when the Seminary is closed. So this is the last day for the Commentary until January 2 2009. As 2008 comes to a close with the annual celebration of Christmastide, it is worth pausing to reflect on this year.

Much has been accomplished. The Strategic Planning Process came to a culmination with the Board’s adoption of a four year plan at the November board meeting. Thanks to the hard work of the maintenance team, the Seminary was a winner of the Alexandria Beautification Award. William Roberts, David Gortner and Jonathan Gray joined the Faculty, while George Kroupa and Ed Hall moved on. Three Foundations supported the Seminary with significant grants – the Henry Luce Foundation provided the Center for Anglican Communion Studies with a grant for ‘Interreligious’ work, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation provided funding for our work in the area of Ethnic Ministries, while the Lilly Endowment provided the start up funds for the Second Three years program. Virginia Theological Seminary was the only Seminary in the Anglican Communion with a booth at the Lambeth Conference of 2008, beautifully captured in the Fall issue of the Journal. Over 250 people came to our dinner, which was held there. Meriwether Godsey served countless outstanding meals in the Refectory and at the Deanery. Kathy Grieb continued her hard work on the Covenant for the Anglican Communion. Stephen Cook and Joyce Mercer both published important books. And of course, lots of students graduated and many more arrived.

We enter 2009 with some concerns. The dramatic fall in the value of the Seminary’s endowment will need some careful management. The Episcopal Church continues to face the challenges of disagreement both internally and across the Communion. All of this will make 2009 a testing time.

Yet Christmas is almost upon us. The Christchild is here: once again we remember the disclosure of divine love in a baby in a manager. For this moment, we give thanks. And we offer to God our worries, trusting that God’s grace is sufficient for every challenge the Seminary will have to face.

The Very Rev Ian Markham
Dean and President

Just for Fun ... Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas!

Santa's getting ready...!

Just for Fun - check out "faceinhole.com"

Needing something to do with your procrastination time? Check out "faceinhole.com"

Here are a few samples...

Psalm 66 & 67, from today's Morning Prayer

Psalm 66 Jubilate Deo
1 Be joyful in God, all you lands; *
sing the glory of his Name;
sing the glory of his praise.
2 Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! *
because of your great strength your enemies cringe before you.
3 All the earth bows down before you, *
sings to you, sings out your Name."
4 Come now and see the works of God, *
how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.
5 He turned the sea into dry land,
so that they went through the water on foot, *
and there we rejoiced in him.
6 In his might he rules for ever;
his eyes keep watch over the nations; *
let no rebel rise up against him.
7 Bless our God, you peoples; *
make the voice of his praise to be heard;
8 Who holds our souls in life, *
and will not allow our feet to slip.
9 For you, O God, have proved us; *
you have tried us just as silver is tried.
10 You brought us into the snare; *
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
11 You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water; *
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.
12 I will enter your house with burnt-offerings
and will pay you my vows, *
which I promised with my lips
and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.
13 I will offer you sacrifices of fat beasts
with the smoke of rams; *
I will give you oxen and goats.
14 Come and listen, all you who fear God, *
and I will tell you what he has done for me.
15 I called out to him with my mouth, *
and his praise was on my tongue.
16 If I had found evil in my heart, *
the Lord would not have heard me;
17 But in truth God has heard me; *
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
18 Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, *
nor withheld his love from me.

Psalm 67 Deus misereatur
1 May God be merciful to us and bless us, *
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
2 Let your ways be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, *
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.
6 The earth has brought forth her increase; *
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.
7 May God give us his blessing, *
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

22 December 2008

Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah (which began yesterday)!

Hat tip goes to Elizabeth K at "Telling Secrets"

Rowan Williams affirms the unique value of every life, from the Telegraph (UK)

Dr. Rowan Williams writes a reflection in the Telegraph (UK) in which he argues, "Put aside your principles and remember: All you need is love."

Here are a couple of good bits:
And Christmas is supremely the story of a God who is not interested in telling us about principles. First comes the action – God beginning to live a human life. Then comes the appeal: do you love and trust what you see in this human life, the life of Jesus? Then the implication: everyone is capable of saying yes to this appeal, so no one is dispensable. You don't and can't know where the boundary will lie between people who belong and people who don't belong.

People react impatiently to this, asking why religious believers should be taken seriously when they talk about economics. Fair enough. But the whole point is that the believer doesn't want to talk about economics, only to ask an "unprincipled" question – to make sure that principles don't simply block out actual human faces and stories. How we make it all work is vastly complicated – no one is pretending it isn't. But without these anxieties about the specific costs, we've lost the essential moral compass.

So Christmas doesn't offer an alternative set of economic theories or even a social programme. It's a story – the record of an event that began to change the entire framework in which we think about human life, so that the unique value of every life came to be affirmed and assumed.


All of us, Christians most definitely included, have problems living up to this. But that's one reason why we tell this story repeatedly, the story of the "unprincipled" God who values what others don't notice, who relates to people we'd all rather forget, whose appeal is to everyone because he has made everyone capable of loving response. At least once a year we all – Christians or non-Christians – need to hear again that permission to be free from principles so that we can ask the question about specific human lives and destinies, about the unacceptable cost of programmes and systems when they are only about me and people like me.

And when that question is asked, says Karl Barth in his sermon, what begins to come through "the eternal light that requires nether fuel nor candlestick".

Read it all HERE

As any reader of this blog would figure out quite quickly, I am a big fan of the present occupant of the cathedra in Canterbury. My interest and admiration is tempered by a sense that he still seems to be willing to affirm the "unique value" of certain members of the Anglican Communion while calling for gay people to bear the costs. I do wonder (and he has a brilliant mind!) does he see that though these are beautiful words, worth reflecting on, does he see that his actions have the effect of dis-affirm-ing the "unique value" of gay people?

In any event, his essay is a beautiful one, worth reflecting on, and is worth reading while listening to some other geniuses from the UK.

"All you need is love" .... da da da da da!

Merry Christmas!

~ Rev. Peter Carey

20 December 2008

Looking for wonderful visual representations of Biblical stories? Check out "Look both ways" blog!

This is a wonderful blog with some terrific visual representations of Biblical stories, check it out HERE. Word translation by the Rev. Shirley Smith Graham, The Rev. Earnest Graham is the graphic translator. Check out this sample below:

...also consider buying their book, "The Unlikely Chosen: A Graphic Novel Translation of Jonah, Esther and Amos."

18 December 2008

Thanks for the Shout-Out, "Good News from Various parts of the Episcopal Middle"

check out PRELUDIUM

Mark Harris, over at "Preludium" (one of my all-time favorite blogs) has given the "SantosPopsicles" a shout-out today and I appreciate it. I have found his blog to be very helpful as I have tried to understand the moves and actions in the Anglican world over these last few years. Harris (as we all do) has a particular perspective and his voice is an important one in the conversation, he is a wonderful writer and a good teacher, even if you may disagree with him...If you haven't do check out his blog HERE, or at http://anglicanfuture.blogspot.com

Thanks Mark!

Peace be with you,


PRELUDIUM: Good News from Various parts of the Episcopal Middle

A year as a priest

A year ago, I was ordained a priest in Christ's One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, here in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia at St. James Church (Richmond) by Bishop Peter James Lee and a whole host of other priests. After several years of the "discernment process" and three years of seminary and six months as a "transitional" deacon, this was a joyous day and a wonderful occasion. Though it is the general practice in the Episcopal Church to not have people take pictures during liturgies, there were a few wonderful pictures taken, the following two were taken by the local paper here in Richmond.

That's my head under Bishop Lee's hands...(I wonder how many priests he has ordained!)

And then this one taken by a family member...

It has been a wonderful, rich, and challenging first year as an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church for me, and one of the most important gifts is that I get to learn from students, teachers, and staff as I function as a priest within a wonderful Episcopal School, St. Catherine's School, here in Richmond. I preach weekly to the youngest of our students, and work with a wonderful colleague who is our lower school chapel coordinator - she and our music teacher do the bulk of the planning of these lower school chapels, and I have learned so much from them. Twice weekly, I assist our wise and compassionate middle school chaplain who is a gifted preacher and pastor. Every once in a while I have the privilege of preaching to the middle school, but mostly I get to experience the awesome energy and gifts that are the students and faculty of our middle school. I am the coordinator of our upper school chapels, along with our amazing music director, who is an incredible teacher of singing who brings out the best in his music groups. The aspect of our upper school chapel that I am most proud of is that we have had several upper school students preach reflective and insightful homilies during our services. I am so proud of these girls, and hope that more girls are willing to share a story, a reflection, or a bit about their sense of God in their lives.

On top of this "chapel" work, I am extremely thankful for my colleagues - the teachers, staff, and administration, as well as our excellent support staff who are giving, hard-working, wise, and collaborative. If part of a priest's job is to help to "empower the saints" to do ministry, I am blessed with an amazing group of "saints" who already do amazing ministry with our students and with one another. I have been blessed to be serving in such a place, and I thank them heartily. May the Christmas Spirit abide with them in this season and throughout the year!

As we head off to some time off, Merry Christmas!!

(oh, we still have two services tomorrow, of course, and a couple classes to teach...and miles to go before I sleep...)

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey, Chaplain, St. Catherine's School, Richmond

Middle School Christmas Service at St. Catherine's - Guitar Ensemble & the Eighth Notes

Wonderful music offered today in the Middle School Christmas Service!

Thank you to the musicians and to the teachers for this gift!

Merry Christmas!!

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey, Chaplain

17 December 2008

The Institutional, Established Church....what is it good for?

It's Advent
Christmas is coming
A time of expectation
A time when our minds turn to eschatological things (perhaps)
A time of secular Christmas vs. Church Christmas
A time when people flock to their churches for ... something
A time of economic woes, of fear
Perhaps a time when the church might have something to say ...

What do we think of the "institutional church" anyway?

Three blog entries came across my radar today, the first was a reflection by the Rev. Dr. James Somerville, the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church here in Richmond in which he asserted, “I have no interest in institutional self-preservation.”

The second was the Archbishop of Canterbury reflecting on the Church in England and Wales, where the Anglican Church is the "Established Church," when he claimed that, "I spent ten years working in a disestablished Church and I can see that it's by no means the end of the world if the establishment disappears. The strength of it is that the last vestiges of state sanction disappeared, so when you took a vote at the Welsh Synod, it didn't have to be nodded through by parliament afterwards. There is a certain integrity to that."

The third was the most recent video by the Rev. Matthew Moretz, "Father Matthew," who claims that those who claim to be "Spiritual but not Religious" may need to do some further reflection...

From the Rev. Dr. James Somerville

It was some time after that realization that I stood in the pulpit and said, “I have no interest in institutional self-preservation.”

What I meant was this: that Jesus didn’t call me to heat and cool and clean and secure magnificent buildings. He called me to preach the gospel, and to move his people to fulfill his mission. As a result, I didn’t always have as much appreciation for the institution as I might have.

Since then I’ve come to believe that while the institution is not our mission, there is an institutional way to fulfill that mission. Having a building, and a budget, and a full-time staff makes some things possible that would be nearly impossible otherwise. Worship is one of those things, but it’s only one: Sunday school classes, showers for the homeless, divorce recovery workshops, volunteer mission trips, ministry to the deaf, marriage enrichment retreats, programs for children and youth, all of these can be ways of “bringing heaven to earth,” but in every case it is people who are served and not the institution itself.

Read it all HERE

The Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury quoted in the London Times

He said: "I spent ten years working in a disestablished Church and I can see that it's by no means the end of the world if the establishment disappears. The strength of it is that the last vestiges of state sanction disappeared, so when you took a vote at the Welsh Synod, it didn't have to be nodded through by parliament afterwards. There is a certain integrity to that."

One aspect of the establishment of the Church of England is that all measures passed by the General Synod, which next meets at Church House Westminster in February, have to be ratified by Parliament.

But Dr Williams said he did not think it should be on the agenda at the present time.

He said: "At the same time, my unease about going for straight disestablishment is to do with the fact that it's a very shaky time for the public presence of faith in society. I think the motives that would now drive disestablishment from the state side would be mostly to do with . . . trying to push religion into the private sphere, and that's the point where I think I'd be bloody-minded and say, 'Well, not on that basis.'"

Read the London Times article HERE

The Guardian also has a story.

Ruth Gledhill has more at her blog

The Rev. Matthew Moretz, of "Father Matthew Presents" has a video on being Spiritual but Religious - who woulda thought!

Joseph story in video...pretty durn good!

From G-dcast.com, ....

Remember Joseph? Yeah, the many-colored-coat guy. Well, it seems to bring out the nasty in a bunch of Original Ganstas - Joseph's bros. Hip Hop artist Daniel Silverstein (aka Anomaly MC) lays down the story for us in rhyme.

This is Episode 9 of the weekly Torah cartoon from G-dcast.com. Each week, a different storyteller - some musical, some poetic, some just straight-up, tell the story of the current Torah portion...and then we animate it!

Check it out:

Parshat Vayeshev from g-dcast on Vimeo.

16 December 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Message

read it HERE

Monday 15 December 2008

Human beings, left to themselves, have imagined God in all sorts of shapes; but – although there were one or two instances, in Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt, of gods being pictured as boys – it took Christianity to introduce the world to the idea of God in the form of a baby: in the form of complete dependence and fragility, without power or control. If you stop to think about it, it is still shocking. And it is also deeply challenging.

God chose to show himself to us in a complete human life, telling us that every stage in human existence, from conception to maturity and even death, was in principle capable of telling us something about God. Although what we learn from Jesus Christ and what his life makes possible is unique, that life still means that we look differently at every other life. There is something in us that is capable of communicating what God has to say – the image of God in each of us, which is expressed in its perfection only in Jesus.

Hence the reverence which as Christians we ought to show to human beings in every condition, at every stage of existence. This is why we cannot regard unborn children as less than members of the human family, why those with disabilities or deprivations have no less claim upon us than anyone else, why we try to makes loving sense of human life even when it is near its end and we can hardly see any signs left of freedom or thought.

And hence the concern we need to have about the welfare of children. As we look around the world, there is plenty to prompt us to far more anger and protest about what happens to children than we often seem to feel or express. In the UK this year there have been several public debates about childhood, as research has underlined the lack of emotional security felt by many children here, the high cost of divorce and family breakdown, the disproportionate effect of poverty and debt on children, and many other problems. We look forward to the publication here in the New Year of a nationwide survey about what people think is a 'good childhood' – sponsored by the Children's Society, with its long association with the Anglican Church.

Elsewhere we see far more horrendous sights – child soldiers still deployed in parts of Africa and in Sri Lanka, the burden laid on children in places where HIV and AIDS have wiped out a whole generation, leaving only the old and the young, the fate of children in areas of conflict like Congo and the Middle East and the insensitive treatment that is so often given to child refugees and asylum seekers in more prosperous countries.

'Though an infant now we view him, He shall fill his Father's throne' says the Christmas hymn. If it is true that the child of Bethlehem is the same one who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, how shall we stand before him if we have allowed his image in the children of the world to be abused and defaced? In the week I write this, the British public is trying to cope with the revelation of the shocking killing of a very small child. Recently I accompanied a number of students and British faith leaders on a pilgrimage to the extermination camps at Auschwitz, where some of the most unforgettably horrifying images have to do with the wholesale slaughter of Jewish children – their toys and clothes still on display, looted by their killers from their dead bodies.

Christmas is a good time to think again about our attitudes to children and about what happens to children in our societies. Christians who recognise the infinite and all-powerful God in the vulnerability of a newborn baby have every reason to ask hard questions about the ways in which children come to be despised, exploited, even feared in our world. We all suspect that in a time of economic crisis worldwide, it will be the most vulnerable who are left to carry most of the human cost. The Holy Child of Bethlehem demands of us that we resist this with all our strength, for the sake of the one who, though he was rich, for our sake became poor, became helpless with the helpless so that he might exalt us all through his mercy and abundant grace.

With every blessing and best wish for Christmas and the New Year.

+Rowan Cantuar:

15 December 2008

Steady words in shaky times - God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

from Psalm 46: 1-4....


God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains be toppled into the
depths of the sea;

Though its waters rage and foam,
and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

The Lord of hosts is with us,
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

He's got the whole world in his hands - the first recording - John Jacob Niles & Marion Kerby

We always need to remember that he does, have us all in his hands!

Remembering Adam at the Dean's Commentary

From Dean Ian Markham's "Dean's Commentary" today from www.vts.edu

From time to time, a gift is made to the Seminary in honor of Adam P. Goren. And often I meet alums who describe and talk fondly on this remarkable young man. So today we remember Adam Goren, a member of the Class of 2005 who died unexpectedly on December 14, 2004. Appropriately, Adam’s classmates chose to honor his life and presence among them through the purchase of two benches which are in Trotter Bowl and by establishing the Adam P. Goren Scholarship Fund to benefit students pursuing chaplaincy. Since the fund was established, close to 100 classmates, fellow students, friends and family have contributed over $25,000 in Adam’s honor.

At the time of the dedication of the two benches Dean Martha Horne remembered Adam as one who embraced this seminary and his friends with an exuberant and extravagant love. Adam had a distinctive and resonating laugh that brought joy to those who heard it. Adam was a person of many interests and abilities who delighted in coaching the Fighting Friars football team that practiced each week on Trotter Bowl. On the day the seminary community celebrated Adam’s life in the Seminary chapel, the Texas State flag and Adam’s cleats hung from the flagpole on the Aspinwall Tower. At the Commencement service in May 2005 when Adam’s classmates received their diplomas, Adam’s mother was present to receive a special certificate of work accomplished in Adam’s name.

Adam has a special place in the life and memory of this Seminary.

The Very Rev Ian Markham
Dean and President

Reflecting on "Stir it up" - with the Prayer Book and Bob Marley

Bob Marley, "Stir it up"

14 December 2008

Stir up your power, O Lord

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent

Thomas Merton Documentary premiering on PBS tonight

As they say, check your local listings!

Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton premieres Sunday, December 14, 2008. Check Local Listings to see when it is airing on your local PBS station.

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton in the fields near the Abbey of Gethsemani. (Credit: Sybille Akers)

Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton examines the life of a modern American monk considered one of the great spiritual thinkers of the 20th century. It was a remarkably rich life and has prompted the millions who read Merton to characterize him as part Augustine, part Emerson and part Gandhi.

As the son of artists, Thomas Merton grew up in the 1920s and 1930s given to avant-garde intellectual pursuits. This led him to briefly embrace communism, which he put aside for Catholicism which in turn catapulted him to a strictly cloistered life in a rural Kentucky monastery. The writings that flowed from his monastic cell over the next 27 years examined spirituality (of the west and east), the Cold War, the civil rights movement and the challenges for the individual in the post-modern world. In short, Merton's writing took on many of the struggles of the 20th and 21st century. His thinking brought him praise, censure and the reputation as one of the most influential writers of his time. Thomas Merton died by accidental electrocution while traveling in Asia but remains one of the most widely read and written about spiritual figures of the modern era.

Award-winning producer Morgan Atkinson spent years researching Merton's work, as well as interviewing Merton's friends, scholars and authorities on the spiritual life. Atkinson's cameras reveal life at the Merton's home at the Abbey of Gethsemani, as well as his path through New York City, the Redwoods Monastery in California and New Mexico's Christ in the Desert Monastery. In bringing to life Merton's years as a monk, this deeply considered film casts a bright light on the struggles and fruits of his spiritual search.

Inside the Abbey of Gethsemani

Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton takes viewers behind the walls of the Abbey of Gethsemani examining the life of Thomas Merton.

Quotes from Thomas Merton

"Your life is shaped by the ends you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire."
— From "Thoughts in Solitude"

"No writing on the solitary, meditative dimensions of life can say anything that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees."
— From "Honorable Reader"

"It is my intention to make my entire life a rejection of and protest against the crimes and injustices of war and political tyranny which threaten to destroy the whole human race and the world with it. By my monastic life and vows I am saying NO to all the concentration camps, the aerial bombardments, the staged political trials, the judicial murders, the racial injustices, the economic tyrannies, and the whole socioeconomic apparatus which seems geared for nothing but global destruction in spite of all its fair words in favor of peace."
— From "Honorable Reader"

Read it all HERE on the PBS website.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Christ, whose glory fills the skies

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day’s return,
till thy mercy’s beams I see;
till they inward light impart,
glad my eyes and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine;
pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
fill me, radiancy divine,
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.

Charles Wesley

13 December 2008

Advent Full Moon

The moon was crazy big and bright tonight - supposedly because the full moon is the closest its been to the earth since 1993, check it out!

Lick Observatory Moonrise
Credit & Copyright: Rick Baldridge

Explanation: As viewed from a well chosen location at sunset, October's gorgeous Full Moon rose behind Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California. Captured in this lovely telescopic view, historic Lick Observatory is perched on the mountain's 4,200 foot summit, observatory and rising Moon momentarily sharing the warm color of filtered sunlight. Of course, tonight those blessed with clear skies can also enjoy a glorious Full Moon. In fact, tonight's Moon reaches its full phase at 1637 UT, within only a few hours of perigee, the closest point in its elliptical orbit. The close approach really will make December's Full Moon the largest Full Moon of 2008, even when it rises high above the horizon.

10 December 2008

Church of Corpus Christi, NYC - Where Thomas Merton was Baptized

Here are some photos I took in NYC this summer of the church where Thomas Merton was baptized:

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Thich Nhat Hanh with Merton

Thomas Merton: The Enlightened Heart

from the Inward/Outward blog...

By Joan Chittister

December 10 is the 40th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s death. There is a story that may best explain the influence and the place of Thomas Merton in contemporary society and spiritual development.

Once upon a time some disciples begged their old and ailing master not to die. “But if I do not go, how will you ever see?” the Master said to them. “What is it we can possibly see when you are gone?” one of them asked. With a twinkle in his eye, the Master answered, “All I ever did in my entire life was to sit on the river bank handing out river water. After I’m gone, I trust that you will notice the river.”

The lesson rings true: What teachers teach us while they live is one thing; the quality of what they leave us to think about the rest of our lives is another. Thomas Merton was a fascinating, engaging, offbeat, charming and provocative personality, true. But what he directed the world to see was far more than the mystique, the mystery of the cloistered life. He left us things worth thinking about for a long, long time.

Merton saw the world through a heart uncluttered by formulas and undimmed by systems. He taught more than piety and asceticism for its own sake. He taught concepts that flew in the face of tradition then and fly in the face of culture still: the sin of poverty, the moral imperative of peace, the rectitude of stewardship, the holy power of nonviolence, the sanctity of globalism and essence of enlightenment. Merton sowed seeds of contemplation that led to action—an often forgotten but always bedrock spiritual concept.

In Jewish spirituality, for instance, two concepts dominate and are intertwined: The one, devekut, translates as “clinging to God” or contemplation; the other, tikkun o’lam, translates “repairing the world” the work of justice. One without the other—contemplation without justice, clinging to mystery without repairing the real world—is unfinished, the tradition teaches, is dark without light, is grand without great, is soul without body.

Contemplation, Merton teaches us, is learning to see the world as God sees the world. The contemplative sees the world through the eyes of God and the real contemplative is driven to respond according to the mind of God for it. Clinging to God, in other words, generates the passion it takes to repair the world.

Merton’s monastic contemplation joins those two concepts again, this time in the face of a culture that is inclined more to rituals than to this kind of contemplative dimension of religion. Indeed, Merton spent his life dealing out river water to a world yet disinclined to see the river itself but claiming to be following it. Merton handed out river water to soften the dry and sterile ground of religion gone hard, and life gone barren.

Source: “Thomas Merton: Seeder of Radical Action and the Enlightened Heart” in The Merton Annual, Vol. 12