30 October 2008

Yes! Halloween is Christian -- Wonderfully So!

The bishop coadjutor of Virginia, the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, wrote a great article back in 2005 about his understanding of, and his support of, Halloween. I am posting the entire article here as it is a wonderful argument for why Christians can support Halloween in good conscience. So dress up, have a great day, and be sure to also go to church this Sunday on All Saints Day!

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey

The Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston (written before he was consecrated bishop and posted on October 26, 2005)

When I was a child, I loved Halloween. All of my family participated enthusiastically, decorating our house with witches, devils, black cats, and ghosts. It was innocent fun, filled with imagination and creativity. Looking back, what made Halloween so great for this child was its contrast of silliness and fright, the supernatural and the known, the permitted and the forbidden, the secretive and the public. Halloween was unique; no other occasion was anything like it.
As an adult––and as a priest––I still love Halloween. And I do mean HALLOWEEN, not a “Fall Festival” or the like. Every year, I carve two pumpkins–one playfully smiling and the other “very scary.” I love seeing the children’s costumes and making a big fuss over them. How sad now that Halloween is being spoiled and even taken away from us by the absolutely outrageous ideas that it is “satanic,” pagan, or of the occult. Such notions are poorly informed, terribly misguided, and absolutely untrue. There are many materials circulating these days, all pretending some sort of scholarly knowledge and/or religious authority, that strive to show that Halloween is “really” celebrating the powers of darkness. In response, I must be absolutely clear: pretenses of authority notwithstanding, these materials are at great odds with centuries of commonly accepted theology, not to mention scholarship with proven accreditation. The so-called “exposure” of Halloween is nothing more than a skewed, self-serving agenda from various churches that make up only a tiny minority of Christianity, indeed a minority within Protestantism.
Of course I am aware that satanists, Wiccans, and other occult groups are indeed active on October 31. It is also true that some pseudo-spiritualists and some plain ole’ nut-cases use Halloween as an excuse to act out. NONE OF THIS CHANGES WHAT HALLOWEEN ACTUALLY IS OR WHAT IT MEANS IN THE CHURCH’S LIFE AND WITNESS. Much of the occult association with the day arose long after the Church’s observances began in the mid 300's. Our answer to those Christians who bristle at the celebration of Halloween is that we will not allow occultists to steal it away from God’s Church. Moreover, several Christian observances have pre-Christian ancestry or pagan parallels (the date of Christmas, for example). Whatever the case, the fact is that the Christian truths proclaimed on such days are not affected.
A big part of the problem here comes from the people who do not understand the Liturgical Year because their churches do not follow it. It’s hard to keep a clear perspective on something so rooted in history and tradition if you belong to a church that has no such roots, or to one that rejects as irrelevant or “suspect” the ancient practices from the earliest Christian centuries.
The bottom line is Halloween’s relationship to All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1), one of the Church’s seven “Principal Feasts.” The celebration of any Principal Feast may begin on the evening before––thus, Christmas Eve, Twelfth Night (before Epiphany), Easter Eve (the Great Vigil), etc. Halloween is simply the eve of All Saints’ Day, which is also a baptismal feast. The great truth behind Halloween’s revels is that which we declare at every baptism: “YOU ARE SEALED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT IN BAPTISM AND ARE MARKED AS CHRIST’S OWN FOREVER.”
The most important thing to remember is this: Halloween is the time when Christians proclaim and celebrate the fact that Satan and the occult have no power over us and cannot disrupt our relationship with our Lord and Redeemer, as long as we live faithfully to Christ. We show this by making fun of such pretenders, lampooning them in their face. This is why our costumes and decorations certainly should be witches, devils, and ghosts. In the victory of Christ, Christians are privileged to do this and we must not be timid about it!
Ours is not a fearful faith, cowering from the prospect of falling unawares into Satan’s grasp. In God’s grace and your faithfulness, you ARE Christ’s own forever. Nothing supersedes that fact. Halloween is therefore one of the boldest Christian witnesses, precisely because of its highly public, graphic, and lampooning nature. Personally, I suspect that those who cannot embrace this are living a fear-driven and even insecure faith. If so, they have bigger problems than the highjinks of Halloween.
In Christ,

God is not a Republican...or a Democrat

This is kinda hard for some people to believe, kinda hard for folks on "both sides" of all of this to buy in, but don't we believe (as Jim Wallis and Sojourners have continually reminded us) that "God is not a Republican ... or a Democrat"?


~ Rev. Peter M. Carey

Be Not Afraid, article by Jim Wallis at "God's Politics" Blog

I read the following article on the Sojourners website - www.sojo.net, written by Jim Wallis - it's well-worth a read!

~ Rev. Peter M. Carey

God's Politics

Be Not Afraid

by Jim Wallis

In the final days of this election campaign, a new message has emerged. For the entire political year, the overriding theme has been change—with each candidate competing to be the real champion for a new direction. With 80 percent of Americans unhappy with our country’s current direction, it seemed that no other theme could break through.

A new message has, and it is this: “Be Afraid— Be Very Afraid.” . . .

Read the rest HERE.

28 October 2008

Real Americans. Real Christians. Article posted at Episcopal Cafe

My most recent article, "Real Americans. Real Christians" was posted today over at The Episcopal Cafe, an excerpt is below, or you can read it all HERE.

"I wish that we in the Episcopal Church were just a bit bolder about what it is that we do believe; that we could put out our message with more fervor and enthusiasm. For example, I believe that we have allowed those who are outside our church to define us, usually negatively. What if we spoke with more clarity about our dedication to our baptismal covenant, and about our belief in the creeds? I was recently listening to a bishop who was at the Lambeth Conference who said that there were bishops from the Global South who were surprised to hear that Episcopalians actually believe in the resurrection. This came as quite a shock, but it does illuminate the confused messages that we allow to dominate the airwaves about our church."

Read the rest HERE.

Dry times on the journey

The Old Testament reading from Sunday was Deuteronomy 34: 1-12 in which Moses and his band of 'not so merry' men and women and children finally (nearly) complete their journey across the desert. They have crossed the plains of Moab and Moses climbs up Mount Nebo, "and the Lord showed him the whole land." The Lord shows Moses the Promised land that had been dreamed of for those forty days in the wilderness. "This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying 'I will give it to your descendents'; I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over there." You may remember that Moses had disobeyed the Lord earlier in the journey, and so the consequence was that Moses would not make it to the Promised Land.

Moses was an incredible leader, and the stories about him, from the babe in the basket, to the burning bush to the plagues on Egypt, to the crossing of the Red (reed) Sea, to the many years in the desert, Moses is worthy of study, reflection, and prayer.

What is most interesting to me about Moses on this day, is his time in the wilderness, in those dry patches of the journey when most of the people around him were really having a tough time. Walking through the desert, leading the people using whatever charisma and enthusiasm that he could muster. In our own time today, a time of financial loss and uncertainty about the future, a time of political attacks and meanness, a time of rapid change, a time that is swirling with the pace of change and growth, a time when the chasm between wealth and poor is growing ever bigger - this is a time to take time to recognize that we may be entering a kind of desert place. We may, indeed, be entering a dry time on the journey. Our assumptions about many things are being called into question, and we may, like the wandering Israelites, need to bind ourselves one to another, and bind ourselves to God.

This is not a sentimental nor a simplistic notion, rather, the story of our ancestors can be instructive as we enter dry times - and there are stories, and spiritualities, and theologies that emerge from others' dry times which can aid us in even this dry time.

Turning to the desert fathers and mothers and their writings is one place to begin. Another, is to consider deeply the greatest commandment - and its implications:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22: 34-46)

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

26 October 2008

St. Stephen's Preschool, Richmond

I serve on the governing board of St. Stephen's Preschool in Richmond, Virginia. It is a wonderful preschool with great teachers a wonderful program and a great director. I feel privileged to serve on the board and am excited about the year ahead of us as we embark upon an accreditation process. Check out their new website, http://www.ststephenspreschool.typepad.com/ or HERE

~ The Rev. Peter Carey

7 Principles of Biblical Interpretation

7 Principles of Biblical Interpretation
from The Episcopal Cafe

By Greg Jones

Episcopalians share a common "book" of prayer, worship and wisdom with Christians of every age and place. This common book is not the Prayer book. It's not the English language. It's not even the Western literary canon. No, of course it's the Bible - which forms the common sacred library of all who follow Christ. But, in a Christianity so global and diverse, we Episcopalians need to be able to understand for ourselves, and explain to others who inquire, "What do we think the Bible is, and how do we engage it?"

I believe that most Episcopalians would agree with the notion that just as God has called forth the Church to exist as the Body of Christ, inextricably bound with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures are likewise inextricably bound to the Church. We do not understand what the Bible is apart from its being woven up from and into the fabric of the Church, nor can we interpret it apart from a location within the life and activity of the Church. That being said, what guidelines can be found to clarify things a bit? Well, I think the Diocese of New York teaching document Let the Reader Understand is excellent, and from it, I think the following seven points should be taught across the whole Episcopal Church.

7 Principles of Biblical Interpretation

1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are "the Word of God" and "contain all things necessary to salvation." They are called the Word of God by the household of faith, not because God dictated the biblical text, but because the Church believes that God inspired its human authors through the Holy Spirit and because by means of the inspired text, read within the sacramental communion of the Church, the Spirit of God continues the timely enlightenment and instruction of the faithful.

2. The Holy Scriptures are the primary constitutional text of the Church. They provide the basis and guiding principles for our common life with God, and they do so through narrative, law, prophecy, poetry, and other forms of expression. Indeed, the Scriptures are themselves an instrument of the Church's shared communion with Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, who uses them to constitute the Church as a Body of many diverse members, participating together in his own word, wisdom, and life.

3. The Scriptures, as "God's Word Written," bear witness to, and their proper interpretation depends upon, the paschal mystery of God's Word incarnate, crucified and risen. Although the Scriptures are a manifestly diverse collection of documents representing a variety of authors, times, aims, and forms, the Church received and collected them, and from the beginning has interpreted them for their witness to an underlying and unifying theme: the unfolding economy of salvation, as brought to fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Read the entire article HERE.

24 October 2008

Charity good, Justice better!

Charity is commendable; everyone should be charitable. But justice aims to create a social order in which if individuals choose not to be charitable, people will not go hungry, unschooled or sick without care. Charity depends on the vicissitudes of whim and personal wealth; justice depends on commitment instead of circumstance. Faith-based charity provides crumbs from the table; faith-based justice offers a place at the table.

By Bill Moyers

Foreword, Faith Works: From the Life of an Activist Preacher by Jim Wallis

hat-tip to Inward/Outward blog from Church of the Savior

23 October 2008

Father Matthew at it again: On the Sacrament of Marriage

Another good one!

Blessings on you, Father Matthew, and your brilliant work!!

Wisdom of the Desert blog: "Keep the door closed"

Wisdom of the Desert, a blog (new to me) that I recommend:

Check out "Wisdom of the Desert" blog HERE, and here is an excerpt:

Keep the Door Closed

A brother said to a hermit, "I don't find any disturbance in my heart."
The hermit said, "You are like a door swinging open. Anyone who likes can go inside, and come out again, and don't notice what is happening. If you had a door that was shut you wouldn't let wicked thoughts come in, and then you would see them standing outside the door and fighting against you."

21 October 2008


How 'bout a shout-out to some of my peeps! Here are some fellow Episcopalians:

Colin Powell, U.S. Army General, former U.S. Secretary of State
Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop, peacemaker
Robin Williams, comic, actor writer
Garrison Keillor, writer, radio show creator
Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State
Sandra Day O'Connor, first female Supreme Court Justice
Bobby McFerrin, singer, composer, artist, conductor
Juan Williams, writer of "Eyes on the Prize" book, journalist

20 October 2008

Simplicity, simple living...a virtue whose time has come?

In the last week, two wise people have suggested in public forums that the economic downturn may, in fact, help us to reflect deeply on our lives (not without pain and stress) and seek ways to live more simply than we have been (at least in the "overly-developed" countries in the Global North!).

Is this notion something that Christians have to offer our secular society of consumption and frenetic activity?

What would it look like to live more simply?

What might we give up, in hopes of gaining that which is truly real?

~ Rev. Peter M. Carey

Satire: If Jesus ran for President...

...what would the attack ad be?

A beautiful morning

It is a beautiful Fall morning here at St. Catherine's. The leaves are just beginning to turn, and the temperatures are falling. For me, someone who grew up far north of here, this feels a bit more like Fall than our recent forays into the 80+ degree days! It is the middle of the first Trimester here for our Upper School Students and they have weathered some mid-term tests and papers, and faculty have completed writing comments and figuring grades on students. Sports teams are moving toward end-of-season league and state tournaments, the theater department is ramping up their work to put on what should be a wonderful Fall production, and artwork by students is beginning to fill the halls and corridors of this wonderful place. Take a moment to offer gratitude for being where you are, for recognizing the beauty that is all around you, and give thanks for the day. It is a beautiful morning.

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey

18 October 2008

George Will on the Episcopal Church in Sunday's Washington Post

George Will comments on the Episcopal Church (but do read the essay!):

“The Episcopal Church once was America’s upper crust at prayer. Today it is ‘progressive’ politics cloaked — very thinly — in piety. Episcopalians’ discontents tell a cautionary tale for political as well as religious associations. As the church’s doctrines have become more elastic, the church has contracted. It celebrates an ‘inclusiveness’ that includes fewer and fewer members.”

– George Will, “A Faith’s Dwindling Following,” The Washington Post, October 19, 2008.

What do we say to that?

12 October 2008

A Prayer during the Financial Crisis, from the SSJE


from the St. John the Evangelist Society (SSJE)


A moment of Zen with McCain and Obama

From Religion News Service blog:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Our moment of Zen

bodhidharma_200_01Moderator Tom Brokaw prefaced the last question of last night's presidential debate (offered by "Peggy of New Hampshire") by saying it had a "certain Zen-like quality."

The question was: "What don't you know, and how will you learn it?"

It's not exactly the kind of koan, or Zen question, you'd likely hear in a zendo (Famous koans are: What's the sound of one hand clapping? If a tree falls in a forest...) Generally, the answer to the question is supposed to be inaccessible to the rational mind. One could easily answer Brokaw's question rationally: "I don't know anything about the history of World War II; I will learn it by reading books on the history of WW II."

That aside, it's still an interesting question.

In Zen Buddhism such question-and-answer exchanges between novices and Zen masters are called "dokusans." Let's see how Obama-san and McCain-san fared.

Obama answered: "The nature of the challenges that we're going to face are immense and one of the things that we know about the presidency is that it's never the challenges that you expect. It's the challenges that you don't (expect) that end up consuming most of your time."

In other words, "I don't know what I don't know."

Zen grade: A-

McCain answered: "I think what I don't know is what all of us don't know, and that's what's going to happen both here at home and abroad...There are challenges around the world that are new and different....So what I don't know is what the unexpected will be."

In other words, "I don't know what I don't know."

Zen grade: A-

Both candidates then said what they do know is...(read the rest HERE.)

Turn to Me, by Lou Reed

Lou Reed's song, Turn to Me, was on my mind today as I considered the state of our economy and the state of our great nation ... turn to God, and turn to one another! Turn to me.

Turn to Me, by Lou Reed

If you gave up major vices
You're between a hard place and a wall
And your car breaks down in traffic on the street
Remember, I'm the one who loves you
You can always give me a call
Turn to me, turn to me, turn to me
If you father is freebasing and
your mother turning tricks
That's still no reason that you should have a rip
Remember, I'm the one who loves you
You can always give me a call
Turn to me, turn to me, turn to me
When your teeth are ground down to the bone
And there's nothing between your legs
And some friend died of something
that you can't pronounce
Remember, I'm the one who loves you
You can always give me a call
Turn to me, turn to me, turn to me
You can't pay your rent
Your boss is an idiot
Your apartment has no heat
Your wife says: Maybe it's time to have a child
Remember, I'm the one who loves you
You can always give me a call
Turn to me, turn to me, turn to me
What it's all too much
You turn the TV set on and light a cigarette
Then a public service announcement comes creeping on
You see a lung corroding or a fatal heart attack
Turn to me, turn to me, turn to me

Francis Sayre Jr.,Former National Cathedral Dean, Dies at 93

October 12th in the New York Times

The Very Rev. Francis B. Sayre Jr., who in his 27 years as dean of the National Cathedral in Washington raised his sonorous voice against McCarthyism, segregation, poverty and the Vietnam War while presiding over construction of the cathedral’s majestic Gloria in Excelsis Tower, died Oct. 3 at his home on Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts. He was 93.

The death was confirmed by Elizabeth Mullen, a spokeswoman for the Episcopal cathedral, one of the most influential religious institutions in the nation.

Dean Sayre, a lanky, elegant man whose grandfather was President Woodrow Wilson, first climbed into the pulpit of the monumental cathedral, in northwest Washington, in 1951. Soon after, and well before the United States Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, he was calling for an end to school segregation.

Discrimination was a recurring theme for Dean Sayre. In a 1957 sermon, as the civil rights movement gained momentum, he urged his parishioners to join the struggle. He invoked the Prophet Elijah’s Old Testament challenge, “How long will ye go limping between the two sides?” Then he said, “That question, chilling in its candor, probes rather painfully; and I’m afraid we’ve been doing a good bit of limping ourselves, and the testing may not be far off.”

In March 1965, Dean Sayre joined the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the voting-rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

When Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin was railing at purported Communist influence in the country in the 1950s, Dean Sayre was not afraid to denounce him. In a 1954 sermon, he called McCarthy one of a crew of “pretended patriots” and said, “There is a devilish indecision about any society that will permit an impostor like McCarthy to caper out front while the main army stands idly by."

Francis Bowes Sayre Jr. was born in the White House on Jan. 17, 1915. He was the fourth grandchild of President Wilson and the first-born of the president’s daughter Jessie. His father was a Harvard law professor who later became an assistant secretary of state.

Francis Jr. graduated from Williams College and received his divinity degree from the Union Theological Seminary. He was a chaplain in the Navy in World War II and later had a parish in Cleveland.

Dean Sayre married Harriet Hart in 1946; she died in 2003. He is survived by two daughters, Jessie Maeck and Harriet Sayre McCord; two sons, Thomas Hart Sayre and Nevin Sayre; and eight grandchildren.

In his nearly three decades presiding over the cathedral, the cornerstone for which was laid in 1907, Dean Sayre oversaw phased construction that brought the Gothic structure, known officially as the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, to 90 percent completion. The cathedral’s 300-foot tower — with nearly 400 carved angels soaring on its four turrets and 32 balustrade pinnacles, and 73 bells inside — was completed in 1964.

Dean Sayre retired in 1978. Four years earlier, in an interview with The Washington Post, he said, “Whoever is appointed the dean of the cathedral has in his hand a marvelous instrument, and he’s a coward if he doesn’t use it.”

Remembering Matthew Shepherd

Remembering Matthew Shepherd, murdered ten years ago today:

From The Episcopal Cafe:

Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man from Casper, Wyoming, who was severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in a remote area east of Laramie, where he was attending college. The Rev. Susan Russell points us to a remembrance and reflection from her colleague the Rev. Michael Hopkins, who was president of IntegrityUSA at the time of Matthew's death. He also recounts his experience at Matthew's funeral, which was picketed by extremists...

...read the rest HERE.

11 October 2008

Saying goodbye to St. Helena's Convent, Vails Gate, New York

I was reminded today by Elizabeth Kaeton over at the "Telling Secrets" blog that today was the day that St. Helena's Convent in Vails Gate, New York, closed. She offered some wonderful reflections and pictures of that holy place, and I also wrote a bit about a retreat I had there back in July in this blog earlier this year, in July. (Click HERE to see the post.)

Below are a few more photos from that wonderful place, where I first visited in the mid-1990s when I served on the national board of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. We met there twice a year, and did much wonderful work, and also recieved amazing hospitality from the sisters at St. Helena's.

I am sad today as I consider the closing of this wonderful place, and I offer a prayer to all those who offered and received hospitality and blessings in that holy place.

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Veritas in Practice - VTS - Virginia Theological Seminary

Veritas for Growth - VTS - Virginia Theological Seminary

Veritas for Service - VTS - Virginia Theological Seminary

Veritas in Prayer - VTS - Virginia Theological Seminary

Veritas for Justice - VTS - Virginia Theological Seminary

The vet who did not vet - youtube

Veritas for Ministry - VTS - Virginia Theological Seminary

I'm feeling some school pride for my seminary, so here is one of the new banners that the school is using to promote its excellent program (more to come):

Need a word of calm in the Storms of our Financial Crisis? : Luke 8:16-25

Need a word of calm in the Storms of our Financial Crisis? : Luke 8:16-25

Jesus said his mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it and then encounters his disciples fearful, afraid, and generally freaking out about the waves and the sea. They plead with him in their moment of anxiety and distress and he calms the waves, and the sea, and then he asks them, "Where is your faith?" It occurs to me that anxiety, fear, stress, and distress feed on themselves, and that we may need to, in the words of that Gospel hymn, "Have a little talk with Jesus." I was wholly uninspired by the words of our so-called commander in chief in these last days, perhaps we should turn to Jesus, the great High Priest, second person of the Holy Trinity, Prince of Peace, our Savior and Redeemer. Perhaps a few moments in contemplation would yield just a bit less reactive behavior which seems to be spreading like a storm.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

From today's Daily Office:


Luke 8:16-25 (NRSV)

16'No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. 18Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.' 19Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20And he was told, 'Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.' 21But he said to them, 'My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.'

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side of the lake.' So they put out, 23and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. 24They went to him and woke him up, shouting, 'Master, Master, we are perishing!' And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. 25He said to them, 'Where is your faith?' They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?'

"Master, Master, we are perishing!"

Where is your faith?

09 October 2008

Discerning God's Delight, Rev. Dr. Mark McIntosh at VTS

I was at VTS the last couple of days and heard two wonderful lectures and two wonderful discussions on the topic of "Discerning God's Delight," given by the Rev. Dr. Mark McIntosh, professor at Loyola University, Chicago and former chaplain to the House of Bishops. His lectures laid out some of his project which includes delving deeply into the patristic and medieval traditions in order to glean a way or a process by which we might discern God's will, and discern God's delight. It was an extremely rich discussion, and I am taking some time to read my notes, and reflect upon it. I am thankful for the opportunity to hear his lecture, to have my imagination and mind stretched by it, as well as by the responses by the Rev. Dr. Kate Sonderegger and Dr. Kathy Staudt, two of my favorite teachers and mentors. I will write more, soon, on this wonderful topic, "Discerning God's Delight," but in the meanwhile, I am so grateful for the time at VTS, and for these great teachers of theology.

What would our days look like if we spent time each day just reflecting on what it is that God's will might be for us each day? What might our days look like if we could embrace the sense that God delights in us!?

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey