27 February 2009

God...will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:8,9

From this morning's Daily Office.

If we say we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us,
but if we confess our sins,
God, who is faithful and just,
will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8, 9

To access the Daily Office online, click HERE.

26 February 2009

I am Episcopalian!

Welcome to I am Episcopalian, launched this Ash Wednesday 2009, the beginning of Lent.

The Episcopal Church is a big, colorful, vibrant church. We hope you will see that in the wide spectrum of its members represented here on this site.

In our Church you may touch ancient traditions and experience intelligent inquiry. It is an expansive Church, a loving Church, with strong ties to our roots as a nation. We are a thoughtful, inquiring, freedom-loving and welcoming body, and we thrive not only in the U.S., but also throughout Latin America, Asia and Europe.

We invite you to see and hear the very personal reasons we choose to be Episcopalians. Our controversies and conversations have been public. Our governance is transparent. You are free to see our imperfections, as well as share our joy in that which unites us - our openness, honesty and faith.

from the "Episcope" blog...http://episcopalchurch.typepad.com/episcope/

In less than 24 hours, IamEpiscopalian.org – a website where people share their stories - experienced nearly 10,000 hits.

“The great response to IamEpiscopalian.org shows that people want to share stories of how they have connected to our Church, and others want to hear them,” commented Anne Rudig, director of communication. “Lent is the obvious time to examine one's spiritual life and reconnect.”

IamEpiscopalian.org, which debuted Ash Wednesday, February 25, features dozens of video vignettes from people – representing the vast array of faces from throughout the country – to share the stories of what excites them about being an Episcopalian

“The traffic to IamEpiscopalian.org has been tremendous,” noted Mike Collins, director of digital communication. “It continued to climb throughout the day – so much so that now we are moving the site to a different server to accommodate the heavy load. Please bear with us as we continue to improve the user experience.”

Episcopalians are invited to submit a video to IamEpiscopalian.org, detailing their own faith story, and what excites them about being an Episcopalian. Video vignettes should be less than 90 seconds. To submit a video, follow the “upload” instructions on the right of IamEpiscopalian.org.

Collins added, “We look forward to expanding IamEpiscopalian.org as more videos are added throughout the Lenten season.”

"We also invite comments about IamEpiscopalian.org," Rudig said. "Tell us what you think."

Comments can be submitted to newsline@episcopalchurch.org.

IamEpiscopalian.org was developed by the communication office of The Episcopal Church.

Lent - Archbishop Rowan Williams' reflections on Lent

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, reflects on Lent as a time to: "Sweep and clean the room of our own minds and hearts so that the new life really may have room to come in and take over and transform us at Easter".

Lent: Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent book for 2009

from the archbishopofcanterbury.org site...

'Why Go To Church?' by Timothy Radcliffe 'Why Go To Church?' by Timothy Radcliffe

Archbishops of Canterbury have commissioned an 'Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent Book' for decades, collaborating with a Christian publisher. The books concentrate on theological or devotional Christian themes relevant to Lent, in preparation for the celebration of the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ in Holy Week and Easter. The Archbishop commissions the author, and always writes the foreword.

The foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury:

'The unobserved drama is in the core of our humanity': this striking phrase occurs early on in Timothy Radcliffe's engaging and penetrating book. And it tells us that the answer to the question in his title is going to be about how 'church' allows us to be human in ways we shan't find anywhere else.

He draws on an exceptionally wide experience of ministry. When he writes about what it is like to give voice to gratitude and praise in the middle of conditions of the most extreme danger and poverty, he knows what he is talking about; and one of the moving and distinctive things in the book is the way in which he brings in the insights of his Dominican brothers and sisters across the globe in their diverse and often very costly ministries.

As he leads us through one of the two most important events that ever occur in church—the celebration of Holy Communion—he shows us how the journey into the heart of Jesus' self-giving is also a discovery of who we are and who we might become in Jesus. The drama at the core of our humanity is about our reluctance to be human; and the gift that the Church offers is the resource and courage to step into Jesus' world and begin the business of being human afresh – again and again, because our reluctance keeps coming back. But if we do take such a step, the look of the country changes: strangers are less threatening, it becomes possible to live more with our own failure and humiliation, and we may even be able to have a faint idea of what it means to claim that human life is created for joyful sharing in God's life. And more – we become ambassadors for this new world, seeking wherever we are to let men and women know that violence and death do not have the last word where humanity is concerned.

It is a great delight to be able to introduce the work of one of the most lively and creative preachers of the gospel in the Roman Catholic Church today; and I hope that these pages will remind us all that, whatever tensions and unfinished business still lie between the historic churches, the basic commitment is one and the same. It is to let God the Holy Trinity, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, touch the core of our humanity and, as Timothy writes at the very end of the book, 'free us to be sent' in God's name, to announce healing and joy to all creation.

Only a vision like this can get us out of bed on Sunday mornings, as he rightly reminds us! 'Our duty and our joy' need to be held together, so that we come to worship in the confidence that this is where we are most completely at home with our Maker and Redeemer – and so with ourselves as well.

+ Rowan Cantuar:

25 February 2009

Lent - Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength...Isaiah 40:28-31

Isaiah 40:28-31

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31 but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Lent - my "Cafe" Article - Resolutions to Conversion

I wrote this article around the start of the New Year, but thought it was worth highlighting again as we enter the penitential season of Lent, as we turn our hearts and minds to God, reflecting on those things that hold us back from experiencing God's embrace, and as as we prepare ourselves and look with hope towards Resurrection and Easter!

In this time of year, it is customary for many of us to make New Year’s resolutions. With the ending of the calendar year, it is natural to look back over the last year and reflect about what has happened, and what we have done, and then to look ahead to see how we might smooth some of our rough edges, take care of our bodies, minds and spirits, and look ahead with hope. The trouble for us, however, is that many New Year’s resolutions only last a few weeks, or perhaps (if we’re really diligent) a month or two. If you frequent a gym, this is the most crowded time, but, no worries, within a few weeks the classes will thin out, and you will be able to get back to the Stairmaster or treadmill or bench press without any waiting.

A trouble with New Year’s resolutions is that they don’t seem to “stick” unless we really have dedicated ourselves to them, unless we have been “scared straight,” or until we have adopted a set of daily practices that lend themselves to a change of behavior, and not merely just a change of intention. As Mark Twain reminds us, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

The promise of the Christian Faith is that God is with us, helping us always to turn to our better selves, and to grow into the fullness of who we are meant to be. This may sound like a cliché, but let me illustrate my point with three images: Scrooge, Groundhog Day, and “metanoia.”

First, we have the character Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Like so many stories of the just-passed Christmas season, we have all probably seen multiple adaptation of Dickens’ novel, from Mickey Mouse, to the Muppets, to Patrick Stewart from Star Trek, to older films depicting Scrooge and his visit from 4 night visitors. First he is visited by his recently deceased partner, Marley, wrapped in chains, clearly suffering in death for his chintzy life before he died. Marley tries to warn Scrooge, that he needs to change his ways, that he needs some new resolutions, some new ways of living. But, to enact a change, what follows are three ghosts, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

Scrooge is given the gift of remembering the past – even the hard parts of the past, to see a bit more about why he might have ended up this way. Not immediately, but gradually, his heart begins to be open again, to grow a bit more supple, to grow a bit larger. The ghost of Christmas Past offers Scrooge the gift of a wider perspective, to see himself in earlier times, when his heart was not so hardened. The ghost of Christmas present offers the gift of seeing the love, and also the poverty of the Cratchett family, to see what Joy they have, even while they don’t have much materially, they have an overabundance of love, compassion, and generosity. This vision is in contrast to his material riches, but spiritual poverty. His heart continues to open. Finally, the ghost of Christmas future paints a picture of heartache for the Cratchetts, as Tiny Tim has died for lack of good medical care, and the family is devastated, but not without Joy, and love and compassion, even as they mourn their loss.

As you know, Scrooge emerges from his slumber and immediately changes his behavior, he is Joyful, loving, caring and generous, and he begins immediately to make amends, and to give away what he has. His heart is opened, is supple, and he turns from his old ways.

The second character is Phil Connors from Groundhog Day. If you’ve seen the film, you will remember that Bill Murray’s character is a rather grumpy weather reporter who has been assigned to cover “Pauxutawney Phll” the groundhog who comes out on February 2nd and looks for his shadow. Anyway, Connors becomes “stuck” in the same day over and over again. At first, he does all he can to learn the background and interests of a romantic interest he has – so that the next day, he can go on a date with her. Along the way, he decides to learn the piano, because the skill at the piano remains with him each day, until he is a virtuoso. However, gradually, his interest in repeating the day moves beyond selfish aims. He becomes focused on an older man who is wandering the streets, homeless and hungry. At first Connors avoids him, but one day Connors learns that this man has died, and Connors is shocked, and devastated. So, the following day Connors does all he can to give the man food, to care for him. Gradually, living this day over and over again (somewhere like 100 times – it is hard to count the days while watching it), Connors’ character is transformed from a focus on self, to a focus on others. His focus becomes on helping others, and doing good for goodness sake. Finally, when his transformation is complete – and he falls in love, he awakes and it is February 3rd.

The third strand is the New Testament term “metanoia” which means “repentance” or “change of heart,” or “to turn.” Also, it can mean “to be converted.” It is used from time to time by preachers or people who think they can force us to change from the outside. But, more accurately, this “change of heart,” or metanoia is caused by the work of the Spirit. This transformation is a gift from God, a gift of perspective upon our past – the ghosts of our past, a gift of wider perspective about our present, and a gift of greater vision about the future that waits for us if we continue doing things the same old way. Some have said that insanity is “Doing the same things the same way but expecting change to happen.”

For the story of the wise men who visited Jesus, the change might have been so subtle that we didn’t hear it in those readings from Matthew at the start of Epiphany. However, though subtle in the text, this change of heart for the wise men was profound. King Herod’s chief emotional response is fear. This king is in fear of the possibility of a new king who will take over the land, and threaten his earthly rule. He sends these scholars, astronomers, these wise men, to go and “pay homage” to the child – but really, they are on a spy mission, they are there to gain information and report back to Herod – so that he might wipe out this child.

However, something amazing happened to the wise men; they were transformed. The gospel doesn’t say much, but what it does say is that they “went home by another way.” They encountered the Holy in Jesus in such a way that they could not go back to their old ways, their hearts were opened, and they turned, somehow, to a new way – literally “another way” back home.

Isn’t this the gift that we also have been given in the Spirit? Whether the image is of these wise men going home by another way, or it is the idea of metanoia, a “change of heart,” or the image of Phil Connors seizing the everyday opportunity for transformation, or the sense that the ghosts of our past, present, and future might offer us the gift of accepting Scrooge’s transformation?

So, sure, go ahead and make New Year’s Resolutions, but also accept the true gift that has been given to us, the gift of transformation in the Spirit – the gift of a supple heart, an open Spirit, and a richer and truer life that God desires us to have.

See you at the gym!

This article is also posted HERE at the Episcopal Cafe

24 February 2009

Lent - an antidote to "functional atheism"

Hat - tip goes to Parker Palmer in his book, "Let your life speak" for the term "functional atheism" and Hat - tip to Irenic Thoughts blog, where I nabbed this image...

Preparing for Lent: Time for some gratitude!! Everything is amazing and nobody is happy

Preparing for Lent: Time for some gratitude!! Everything is amazing and nobody is happy...Louis CK on Conan..

You've got to check out this video, click HERE

Preparing for Lent: Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

-Reinhold Niebuhr, Theologian, 1892-1971

Preparing for Lent: The Judean Desert

40 years in the wilderness for Moses and the Israelites

40 days in the desert for Jesus

40 days of Lent...time of fasting, abstinence, prayer, penitence...time to remember God in our daily lives...

23 February 2009

Preparing for Lent: Parties and Penitence

I found this wonderful gem of a reflection at the St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Durham, NC website, where a good friend of mine is the assistant to the Rector.

Take a read, I think that the Rev. Joseph Hensley is really onto something in his reflection on Parties and Penitence!

I've posted an excerpt, you can read it all HERE...

Getting ready,...almost Lent!!

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Parties and Penitence

February is a short and shifty month. February sees the end of Epiphany and the beginning of Lent. The glorious revelation of Christ, transfigured on the mountaintop, erodes quickly to the humble dust of Ash Wednesday. The revelry of Mardi Gras and Carnivale yields to a call for fasting, self-examination, and repentance.

Is it possible to prepare for parties AND penitence? Many of us will tend to focus on one aspect or the other. Some folks really enjoy the celebration. Others look forward to the days of discipline and self-denial. As Christians, we can be good at both. Keep in mind that Jesus seemed to enjoy a good party (after all he did change water into wine). He also fasted in the wilderness and went off to lonely places to pray.

The contradiction may be difficult to figure. If I am at a party, I want to enjoy myself, not think about what sins I will have to confess later. If I have actually gotten myself to a place where I can quiet down and pray honestly with myself and God, it might be distracting to think about the next celebration. As Christians we are constantly living in this tension, though. Every Sunday we confess our sins so that we might fully embrace the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic feast. Then, instead of trying to prolong our bliss, we go immediately out into the world where we run right back into sin. We feed our faces with pancakes on Fat Tuesday only to smear our foreheads with ashes on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a relatively short liturgical season, lasting only 40 days. We hardly bury the Alleluia before the choir has to begin practicing the Easter anthems. Parties and penitence may seem at odds, but the Christian calendar keeps them close....

Read it all HERE

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime

"Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime,
Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;
Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own;
Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness."

Reinhold Niebuhr

10 Reasons We Don't Like to Talk About Race, Eugene Cho at "God's Politics Blog"

On the "God's Politics" Blog, Eugene Cho offers his top 10 Reasons We Don't Like to Talk About Race. I thought his observations were quite apt...what do you think?

Here's an excerpt, check out his whole post HERE.

In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3.28/The Message)

Why is racism such a difficult topic and issue — including for Christians? Well, here are some of my reasons:

  1. It’s hard work. And people can be lazy. And talking about racism is an exhausting conversation because it brings up some deep questions. Reconciliation is hard work.
  2. Something called ‘Life.’ There’s lots of other things going on — umm, like the financial recession.
  3. Confusion. People don’t like confusion. Folks like clarity and certainty. We like answers.
  4. Conflict. People don’t like conflict and, well, the conversation of racism provokes conflict and strong opinions.
  5. Fear. People are afraid. Afraid to consider the possibilities that we’re racist, prejudiced, or implicated by our silence. Afraid to consider that we live as victims in a “victimized” mentality. Afraid to consider that we need to “give up” something. Afraid to “count the costs.”
  6. Apathy. People don’t care. We’re apathetic. And this is probably the scariest reason.
  7. What? We don’t think it exists. What racism? What prejudice? And this is probably as scary as #6.
  8. How? People don’t know how to talk about racism. We don’t have an agreed upon framework to engage the conversation and move toward peace and reconciliation.
  9. We want to forget the past and just “move forward.” It’s over. Heck, Obama is president. It’s a new day.
  10. [Insert additional reasons].

The topics of racism, prejudice, and reconciliation are indeed painful conversations. While I don’t necessarily believe that the answer lies exclusively with the church, I do believe the answer lies with the gospel. It lies ultimately with the message of ’shalom’ that God intended for humanity to live in fellowship with God and with one another — because we are created in the image of God.

Check out the post at God's Politics, and also check out Eugene Cho's own blog at http://eugenecho.wordpress.com

22 February 2009

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - Bicycle Ride

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - Bicycle Ride

RIP Paul Newman

What an amazing actor and incredible person. And a beautiful scene.

Made to do

Set yourself earnestly to see what you are made to do,
and then set yourself earnestly to do it.

The Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

The Rev. Frank Logue over at Irenic Thoughts has done it again,
posted a quote that is just what I needed to hear, Here HERE!!

20 February 2009

Why think like a fool? from the "Think Foolishly" Blog

Doing some blog surfing tonight and ran across this gem of a blog, "Think Foolishly," and today's post of "Why think like a fool?" Below are a few of the reasons, click HERE to see the rest. We are in deep need of some foolish thinking, methinks!

Why think like a fool? 10 Irreasons

1. There can be wisdom is foolishness.

2. What you're doing isn't working.

3. You need a workable idea that is new, great, and innovative.

4. Because you don't want to be a fool.

Read the rest HERE...


From "No Impact Man"... "The most important factor in a balanced, sustainable lifestyle?

from the wonderful, funny, prophetic, and challenging "No Impact Man" blog:

"The most important factor in a balanced, sustainable lifestyle?

"I believe living a life that involves meditation, reflection, and/or prayer is the single greatest factor in moving to more balanced sustainable lifestyles. I think quiet retreat from the dominant culture is vital. I also think that individuals are incapable of staying the course alone, so I think supportive communities and groups are vital."

--Betsy Taylor, speaking in a round table discussion with Yes! Magazine back in 1998 when she was head of Center for New American Dream (she is now chair of the board of 1Sky)

What think? I tend to agree. Let's discuss."

Click HERE to discuss with No Impact Man!

Desmond Tutu offers perspective on the US and Barack Obama

From the BBC

Viewpoint: A word of caution to Obama

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Desmond Tutu, the first black South African archbishop of the Anglican church and veteran campaigner against apartheid, gives a lecture in London on Thursday to mark the 75th anniversary of the British Council. Here, he explores some of the same themes in an article written for BBC News.

I make no apology for talking and writing, in the UK, about a foreign leader. But expectations of him are so high and attention worldwide is glued to his every step as he reaches the end of his first month in office. He is the story of the moment.

I am obviously referring to Barack Obama.

Three months ago as I watched the news that could define an era, I rubbed my eyes in disbelief and wonder. It could not be true that Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan, was to be the next president of the United States.

President Obama
Barack Obama's election has 'turned America's image on its head'

During the previous administration's term, I'd been asked to suggest one unilateral magnanimous gesture or action that the incoming US president might make to counteract anti-Americanism abroad. I said that while there were clearly pockets of anti-Americanism around the world, this was definitely not a global phenomenon nor was it directed towards the American people.

What I certainly could attest to was substantial resentment and indeed hostile opposition to the policies of a particular US administration.

I contended, as I do now, that the two are quite distinct and separate.

An elucidating example dates back to the years of the anti-apartheid struggle. The Reagan White House was firmly opposed to applying sanctions against the South African apartheid regime, preferring what it described as "constructive engagement". Many of us were incensed by this policy and opposed it with every fibre of our being.

Black role models

I probably dismayed many people when on one occasion I was told of the latest Reagan rejection of our call for US sanctions against Pretoria. I retorted, out of deep exasperation, "The West can go to hell!" I was then Bishop of Johannesburg, and some thought it was decidedly un-episcopal language.

I was very angry toward the Reagan administration, but that did not make me anti-American. And that is the point, anger and resentment toward the policies of a particular administration do not necessarily translate into anti-American sentiment.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu meets children in Ireland
Archbishop Desmond Tutu's talk is the first in a series of lectures to mark the British Council's 75th anniversary

When I was nine or so, I picked up a tattered copy of Ebony magazine. I still don't know where it could have come from in my ghetto township with its poverty and squalor. It described how Jackie Robinson, a black man like us, had broken into major league baseball and was playing scintillatingly for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

I did not know baseball from ping-pong. That was totally irrelevant. What mattered was that a black man had made it against huge odds, and I grew inches and was sold on America from then on.

Remember the extraordinary outpouring of sympathy and concern after 9/11? That surely could not have happened, certainly not on such a vast global scale if people hadn't genuinely cared. Everywhere, virtually.

But what happened that all these positive warm feelings toward the United States were disrupted and turned into the negative ones of hostility and anger?

Read the rest HERE


"California Dreamin'"! Rowan Williams (rumor alert!) to attend General Convention

Has Rowan been listening to the Mamas and the Papas?

Read the Lead at the Episcopal Cafe HERE.

Writes Editor Jim Naughton:
"We have heard from a pair of well-placed and unrelated sources that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, may be coming to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Anaheim in July."

All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
I've been for a walk
On a winter's day
I'd be safe and warm
If I was in L.A.
California dreamin'
On such a winter's day

Stopped into a church
I passed along the way
Well I got down on my knees
And I pretend to pray
You know the preacher likes the cold
He knows I'm gonna stay
California dreamin'
On such a winter's day

All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
I've been for a walk
On a winter's day
If I didn't tell her
I could leave today
California dreamin'
On such a winter's day
On such a winter's day
On such a winter's day

A prayer for rich and poor in the current global crisis, by Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane

A beautiful, inspiring, hopeful, challenging prayer ... posted today over at The Episcopal Cafe...

A prayer for rich and poor in the current global crisis

By Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane

Dear God,

The crises that have overtaken the world in the recent past and which continue to rain havoc upon your people reveal how much lies in the realm of what we don’t know. Suddenly, it has dawned upon us that so much is hidden from the human mind. But we know that what is hidden from us is not hidden from you. We know also that you reveal secrets to those who seek you and acknowledge their limitations in always finding the correct solutions.

And so we pray that you raise leaders that are prepared to right the many wrongs that have beset us for so long, so that good may prevail over evil; equity over selfishness; integrity over hypocrisy; and fair play over greed and recklessness.

As the crises intensify, those who have will be tempted to hold on to what they have, become less generous and ignore even more the realities of the weak and vulnerable. So we pray that you do not lead them into that temptation but deliver them from their selfish tendencies and endow them with changed attitudes and new lenses through which to view the world. This way they may come to the realization that they are only stewards of the resources you have given to us. Unless they put these resources to the service of others, their accumulated value becomes corrupted, rusts and fades, ultimately losing much, if not all, their luster and market value at the stock exchange, in a twinkling of an eye. Dear God, we have seen it all happen before our very eyes.

We also pray that while the so-called ‘perfect storm’ rages on, the spirit of Ubuntu will prevail....

Read the rest HERE at The Episcopal Cafe

Dean Ian Markham's Commentary Today - Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek & the Episcopal Service Corps

Writing from the office of the Dean and President of VTS (Virginia Theological Seminary) Ian Markham's "Dean's Commentary" today...

Today I am delighted to welcome to campus the Rev. Dr. Naim Stifan Ateek, Anglican priest and Palestinian Arab who is also a citizen of Israel. The founder of Sabeel, an ecumenical center in Jerusalem that uses a theological approach to work for liberation for Palestinians, he is also the author of Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation and co-editor (with Marc Ellis and Rosemary Radford Ruether) of Faith and the Intifada: Palestinian Christian Voices. We are honored that Dr. Ateek will be with us again and will be speaking on "A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation" at today's forum. Dr. Ateek has visited VTS in the past and his son, Sari, was a student during the 2005-2006 academic year.

Today we also welcome to campus the Episcopal Service Corps under the leadership of the Rev. Canon John Harmon (VTS Class of 1991), rector of Trinity Parish in Washington. The Episcopal Service Corps is designed to help young adults discern the voice that is calling them, and to develop the skills required to listen and respond through a life of service. ESC is open to single young Christians between the ages of 21 and 30 who have completed their college educations and who desire a year to serve others and to explore the spiritual/faith questions that bring meaning to life. During their time with us they will hear presentations from a variety of church leaders, including Professor Katherine Grieb.

Please join me in welcoming our visitors to campus and I encourage you to engage them in conversation.

The Very Rev Ian Markham
Dean and President

18 February 2009

Poet laureate of Britain, "Students do not know the Bible"

posted on the "connexions blog"...

Poet Laureate: "Students do not know the Bible"

by Richard on February 18, 2009

Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, has been lamenting the state of British student’s knowledge of both the Bible and classical mythology. (Listen here)

The Poet Laureate said: “I’m not trying to give them a dusty and bitter pill to swallow here, I’m just saying that these stories achieve archetypal status because they tell us recurring truths about human nature that is a pleasure and an important thing in and of itself.”

Every preacher will recognize the picture Motion paints of a decline in knowledge of the Biblical stories. A decline in church attendance is obviously partly to blame, but that isn’t the whole story. Changes in the curriculum for religious education in schools will also have played a part, but these changes were probably necessary given the diversity to be found in British society. In any case, the decline in knowledge of the Bible isn’t just to be found in secular Britain. I’m certain that the grasp the average British church-attender has of the Bible is much lower now than would have been the case until even fairly recently.

And the fault for this lies squarely with the church.

At the risk of sounding like a boring old fart, we have been neglecting the systematic teaching of the Bible in our churches. Hardly surprising that congregations know less about it than they once did. Whereas ‘Bible quizzes’ and the like were once common feature of Sunday School lessons, now they hardly feature at all. The stories of the Old Testament are routinely skimmed over or ignored — it’s almost as if the church has forgotten that the Christian faith has a content which must be taught if it is to be learnt.

read the rest HERE.

Somewhere over the rainbow, Judy Garland

And, the original, by Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz"...

Somewhere over the rainbow, Eric Clapton

Another genius...

Somewhere over the rainbow, performed by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

I do love this song, and what an amazing version of it...have you heard it?

Perhaps we need a bit of this message as we are in "economic crisis"...Anglican Schism...Global Warming...and all the rest. A little hope sprinkled on our daily diet of despair....

~ Rev. Peter M. Carey

17 February 2009

Preparing for Lent: Cool Lenten Video

This is a repost from last year, but I thought it was good enough to give it a re-run!

"Include new province," by the Rev. D. Stuart Dunnan

an interesting (challenging/provocative/controversial/humble) opinion on our Anglican Soap Opera...(from Episcopal Life Online)...

Click image for detail
[Episcopal News Service] As I watch the sad saga of our bishops' legalistic and punitive response to 'traditionalist" bishops, dioceses and parishes who are attempting to leave the Episcopal Church in order to form a new North American Anglican province, I am reminded of the defensive and dismissive response of the Church of England bishops to the Methodist Movement in the 18th century. The result, of course, was the founding and development of a separate Methodist Church, which is now much larger than the 'Anglican" Church (at least as we are now constituted) on this continent.

Imagine the strength and witness of Anglicanism today if the Methodists were welcomed as a preaching order within the Church of England. Surely, they would be more 'orthodox" and we would be more 'vibrant," and together we would be much larger and much more effective for the gospel in the world than we are divided. This, by the way, is exactly what Innocent III achieved when he embraced St. Francis and welcomed his friars into the ministry of the Catholic Church at the beginning of the 13th century, despite the fact that they were preaching such a dangerous 'new" doctrine.

Now, what I wonder is this: What would happen if the Presiding Bishop with the support of the House of Bishops were to welcome the formation of a new province for 'traditionalists" within the Episcopal Church, allowing every diocese, parish and church institution to join this province with a two-thirds vote by the appropriate parish meeting, convention or governing body? She could even stipulate an acceptable window of a year during which this vote would be required to happen.

In this way, both 'sides" of our church could continue in dialogue from protected positions of mutual respect without the present feelings of distrust and fear. Both also would be encouraged to grow by teaching the doctrines and practicing the liturgies they believe in, which they could proceed to do with conviction and enthusiasm. We could, for instance, continue to share the Church Pension Fund and Episcopal Relief and Development, and our primates and bishops could continue to meet on a regular basis to look for areas of agreement, common witness, shared costs and joint projects, but in a way that is more representative, more conducive to collegiality and more focused on results than our present General Convention.

I also wonder if it would not be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council to ask us to do this in one final attempt at unity and civility before they are forced by our actions to actively establish or passively recognize a permanent state of schism between us.

I would hope that the traditionalists would find such an arrangement better than what now is proposed, as it would allow clergy, parishes and dioceses to reorganize without the loss of their properties and the cost of legal action. The risk for the Presiding Bishop, of course, is that too many will want to leave, but at least they will not be completely leaving, and no one will remain because they have been bullied and threatened into submission.

There is also the obvious advantage that such an action on her part and on the part of the rest of the House of Bishops would show true Christian humility and a more genuine openness to the power of the Holy Spirit to build the church and thus to lead the church in his, if not necessarily our own, direction.

-- The Rev. D. Stuart Dunnan is headmaster at Saint James School, St. James, Maryland.

16 February 2009

Those who wait on the Lord...

"Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength"
Isaiah 40: 31

Preparing for Lent: "Into Great Silence" Film

The documentary film, "Into Great Silence," is a wonderful, powerful film that depicts the life of Carthusian Monks...check out a preview on Youtube below...well-worth renting or viewing on Netflix!

"Nestled deep in the postcard-perfect French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is considered one of the world's most ascetic monasteries. In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they were ready. Gröning, sans crew or artificial lighting, lived in the monks' quarters for six months—filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. This transcendent, closely observed film seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one—it has no score, no voiceover and no archival footage. What remains is stunningly elemental: time, space and light. One of the most mesmerizing and poetic chronicles of spirituality ever created, INTO GREAT SILENCE dissolves the border between screen and audience with a total immersion into the hush of monastic life. More meditation than documentary, it's a rare, transformative theatrical experience for all."

15 February 2009

It is not a story that can be kept quiet, Mark 1:40-45

Hat tip to the Episcopal Cafe...

February 15 • The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

Reflection by the Rev. Dr. Roger Ferlo...

When Jesus chooses to touch the leper he is not just curing him of chronic eczema or psoriasis. Nor is he simply forgiving the man’s sins, although most people who have assumed that the leper’s crawling skin was both the result and the sign of sinfulness. By stretching out his hand and touching the leper, Jesus muddies the boundary separating the clean from the unclean, what is socially acceptable from what is socially anathema.

Such a touch has political as well as therapeutic implications. In effect, it redefines how God acts in the world. Jesus tells the man he is to show himself to the priests, thus starting a process of political and social reintegration that will restore the healed leper to full status in the ritual system that once had cast him out. But Jesus’ touch, as Mark describes it, is more powerful than even Jesus himself had imagined. Instead of going quietly to the priests, the leper spreads the news through all the neighboring towns. It is not a story that can be kept quiet. In the gospel’s larger picture, the leper’s new wholeness is a sign that the entire system that had separated clean from unclean is in jeopardy, about to be blown wide open.

From Sensing God: Reading Scripture With All Our Senses by Roger Ferlo (Cowley Publications, 2002).

Being nice, and other barriers to love, by Alan Jones

This is a brilliant piece of writing!


By Alan Jones

One of the most damaging things about the popular view of love is that it requires being nice all the time. I don’t think that I am a particularly nice person. In fact, one of the reasons that I count myself among the believers is that I cannot rely on my being nice to pull me through.

Being nice is closely allied, of course, to being liked. The two go together. If I’m not nice you won’t like me, and if you don’t like me then there is no chance of love springing up between us. This kind of reasoning breeds dishonesty because it means that “love” becomes a code word for avoiding confrontation or disagreement.

True love requires a strict and accurate regard for truth. We lie in an age that would prefer the smooth lie to the hard truth. The result is that we are very poor at honoring genuine feelings and hard-won convictions. In the name of caring for each other we often do everything we can to diffuse one another’s passion. We are embarrassed by strong expressions of emotion.

Love, therefore, can easily become a device for avoiding unpleasantness and denying tragedy. In the name of love we tend to deny pity, joy, grief and passion and all for the sake of an egocentric “peace.” [There are] dire consequences in ordinary human life when these great Invisible Things are denied. Love is reduced to niceness and the passion and the grief are driven underground….

It is in such incidents when pity, joy, grief and passion are denied that the soul is aborted. Our neuroses are God-given signals to us of these denials. Life will not be denied. If we cannot or will not live it out creatively then life erupts in a fit of meanness or uncharacteristic behavior. We hear someone say, “I don’t know what came over me.” What “comes over us” is those parts of us that are denied and unlived. They need air. Without it they smell, and the odor of those repressed and unlived parts of us eventually finds its way to the surface….

Love is a kind of pain for which we are starved. The pain comes when all that we have tried to deny will be denied no longer. The soul suffocates when it is walled up. No wonder it resorts to violence when the pressure gets too much. Love, the wild card, comes to such a soul by first puncturing the hardened shell in which it has encased itself. Love, therefore, often comes as a terror—a threat to the self-protecting carapace under which we shelter. The task of love is to help us rid ourselves of the exoskeleton, to lay us bare, to set us free. But we love the prison-house. The place of bondage is, at least, familiar. Love, then, comes as an unwelcome shock. The very thing we think we want, we dread.

The Rev. Alan Jones is a priest and writer and was the dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for 24 years. (He preached his final sermon there on January 25.) This piece is taken from his book, Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality.

Hat tip to Inward/Outward Blog

14 February 2009

Tomorrow's Gospel - Mark 1:40-45 - The durn behavior of Ex-Lepers! (in Mark, & Monty Python)

Lots to ponder in this passage....

Saturday night exegesis - not ideal - but better than Sunday Morning, I guess...

Meaning of leprosy...

Jesus "choosing" to heal the leper...

Jesus "sternly warning" the leper....

Messianic Secret...

The Disobedient Ex-Leper....

The Ex-Leper disobeys Jesus' command that he go to the priest, and disobeys Jesus' command to "say nothing to anyone"...

The Ex-Leper becomes an evangelist, of sorts...

Mark 1:40-45 40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, "If you choose, you can make me clean." 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!" 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

It makes me wonder whether, somehow, that Monty Python just *might* have captured a part of the spirit of this passage in this dialogue between Brian and the "Ex-Leper"

Consecration of the Bishop of Southern Virginia, Rt. Rev. Herman "Holly" Hollerith


Consecration of the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, Rt. Rev. Herman "Holly" Hollerith

The local TV news station (www.wtkr.com) has some nice pics on their site of this consecration, view them HERE (and some below as well)

Here's my previous post on Bishop Hollerith's election...click HERE

Article in the Virginia Pilot

Excerpt below, read it all HERE

Some might say the Rev. Herman "Holly" Hollerith IV will land between a rock and a hard place when he's consecrated today as the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia.

In the national sphere, the Episcopal Church is facing a lasting rash of breakaway parishes that call it out of step with religious traditions on homosexuality - an accusation repeated by many of the denomination's peers overseas.

Meanwhile, the diocese is still mending after a corrosive in-house feud centering on the last permanent bishop, who was pushed into retirement by 2006.

Sandwiched in the middle will be Hollerith, 53, who was elected last fall by clergy and lay representatives to lead the diocese, which includes Hampton Roads.

Out of six candidates, he was the only one from inside the diocese. He led Bruton Parish Episcopal Church in Williamsburg for nine years.

Read the rest HERE.

Psalm 90 Domine, refugium

Psalm 90 Domine, refugium
1 Lord, you have been our refuge *
from one generation to another.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born, *
from age to age you are God.
3 You turn us back to the dust and say, *
"Go back, O child of earth."
4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past *
and like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep us away like a dream; *
we fade away suddenly like the grass.
6 In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
in the evening it is dried up and withered.
7 For we consume away in your displeasure; *
we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.
8 Our iniquities you have set before you, *
and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
9 When you are angry, all our days are gone; *
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The span of our life is seventy years,
perhaps in strength even eighty; *
yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
for they pass away quickly and we are gone.
11 Who regards the power of your wrath? *
who rightly fears your indignation?
12 So teach us to number our days *
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
13 Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry? *
be gracious to your servants.
14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; *
so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.
15 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us *
and the years in which we suffered adversity.
16 Show your servants your works *
and your splendor to their children.
17 May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; *
prosper the work of our hands;
prosper our handiwork.

13 February 2009

100 Years of the NAACP!

"Founded Feb. 12. 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots–based civil rights organization. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors."

Some great materials over at the NAACP's website, do check them out.

One of my favorites is the "NAACP Top 100 Films" ...pretty awesome, check it out HERE.

Nikki Giovanni's poem on Abraham Lincoln

Nikki Giovanni on Abraham Lincoln on his 200th Birthday:

The American Vision of Abraham Lincoln AT THIS MOMENT

At this moment

Resting in the comfort of the statue
Of the 16th president of the United States
An equally impressive representation
Of his friend and advisor
Frederick Douglass

We come

On this day

Recalling the difficult and divisive war
We are compelled
With a prayer in the name
Of those captured and enslaved
Who with heart and mind
Cleared the wilderness
Raised crops
Brought forth families
Submitted their souls
Before a merciful and great God
To acknowledge that The Civil War
Was fought not to free the enslaved
For they knew they were free
But to free the nation
From a terrible cancer eating at our hearts

At this moment

In which we are embarrassed
By the Governor of our fifth largest state
Who appoints a man to the United States Senate
To which both he and his minion agree:
The Letter of the Law
Is more important than
The Spirit of the Law


When we are dismayed that the accidental
Governor of the Empire State can find
Just one more reason to rain pain
And rejection on a family that has offered only
Grace and graciousness

After two hundred years
When we rejoice that another son
Of the Midwest has offered himself
His wife and his two precious daughters
To show us a better way

We gather

In recognition and understanding
That today is always and forever today
Allowing us to offer this plea
For light
And truth
And Goodness
Forgiving as we are forgiven
Being neither tempted nor intolerant of those who are

We come

At this moment
To renew and refurbish
The American vision
Of Abraham Lincoln

Nikki Giovanni, 2009

Read more HERE

Just plain strange - Joachin Phoenix on David Letterman

Have you seen this?

Just kinda strange...Phoenix reminded me of some literary characters that I can hardly place...

Click HERE, or on the picture below to check out the video, posted at the Huffington Post


Happy Birthday Abe!

From "connexions" blog...

Happy Birthday, Abe!

by Kim on February 12, 2009

Today (February 12th) is the bicentenary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Born on the Sabbath to parents who belonged to an anti-slavery Baptist church, young Abe inhabited a domestic world shaped by the stories of the Bible – and by a Calvinist worldview; and while in time Lincoln became sceptical of the idea of double predestination, he retained a deep sense of divine providence, of a God deeply, if inscrutably, engaged in human history, in grace and judgement.

f Obama’s inaugural address was a tour de force, both rhetorically and substantively, it is not least because Lincoln’s prophetic spirit – and his own inaugural speeches – inspired and pervaded it....

Read the rest HERE

12 February 2009

Winter in Richmond

Winter in Virginia is lacking in snow, cold, and the fun that goes along with these essential items. However, once in awhile, we do get a little shiver, and sometimes even get some ice...

11 February 2009

On this day in Anglican History - from the Episcopal Cafe

from the Lead at Episcopal Cafe...

[Photo credit: The Rev. Ann Fontaine]

In September 1988, Barbara Harris was elected suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts. On February 11, 1989, she was consecrated a bishop, the first woman to be ordained to the episcopate in the worldwide Anglican Communion. (Source; also)

10 February 2009

Les Freres de St Francis de la Sissies — Hallelujah!

Monks who have taken a vow of silence "sing" Handel's Messiah....

"...their exegetical and eschatological quandary is self-evident...!"

Hat tip to H.P.

Have you seen this? Dean Ian Marham on Day One last August (on youtube)

I just ran across these videos and was surprised that less than 100 people have seen them on youtube...they are worth 15 minutes of your time!

~ The Rev. Peter Carey

Part 1 of 2: The Very Rev. Dr. Ian Markham discusses his role as Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary, gives an overview of the Seminary and where he hopes to lead it on the future. Go to www.day1.org to listen to Dr. Markham's sermon and additional discussion.

Part 2 of 2. The Very Rev. Dr. Ian Markham is Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA. In this segment Dr. Markham discusses his book on ethics in religion. Go to www.day1.org, to listen to Dr. Markham's sermon and additional discussion.

The Return of Indulgences? New York Times article and Fiat Lux blog

Wow! (What would Martin Luther say?)

My friend, Jim Richardson, who blogs over at Fiat Lux, posted today about a New York Times article highlighting the return (actually they never went away!?) of indulgences...you've got to check it out!

Jim writes:
The New York Times has a curious story today about the return of indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church. It seems they never really went away but the current pope is bringing them back. You may recall from your western civ course that indulgences were a major issue of the Reformation, with Martin Luther contending that we cannot buy our way into heaven. A contemporary Lutheran scholar, quoted by The Times, points out that the basic problem is trying to quantify God's grace. That said, the writer gives this subject a fair treatment. See what you think. You can read the story HERE. The photo is from The New York Times and goes with the story.

John 7:53 - 8:11, "I do not condemn you"

from today's Morning Prayer

John 7:53 - 8:11

53 Everyone went to his home.
8:1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.
3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court,
4 they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.
5 "Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?"
6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.
7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let
him be the first to throw a stone at her."
8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.
10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?"
11 She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."

09 February 2009

A GOE (General Ordination Exam) Question for Proponents of the GOEs

1) In a three page answer, I would love to hear from proponents of the GOE (General Ordination Exam), what exactly is the purpose of the GOE?

In the answer, please include quotations and comment from at least 10 bishops from across the geographic and theological spectrum offering their perspectives on the GOE, and the ways in which they use the scoring and comments.

2) Also, please comment on the $64,000 question (close to the amount of loan that most seminarians are strapped with upon leaving seminary): Do the GOE's actually ever prevent a person from becoming ordained? and, if not (see question (1)) what exactly is the purpose of the GOE?

Here is a quote from the Rev. Dr. Gary Hall, President of Seabury Western Seminary, from his blog, "Ah, Yes!":

"In all my years of working with these exams—as GOE reader, as Commission on Ministry and Standing Committee member, as seminary dean--I have yet to see any performance on the GOE stop someone from getting ordained. Even the exam’s proponents understand the limitations of the GOE for assessment purposes. So relax. Not only, as John Dally would say, do you already know what you need to know. You are being evaluated by people who want you to succeed. These exams will not kill you. Nor will they stop you from exercising the ministry to which God is calling you."

Ever wonder how sausage is made? GOE Reader blogs about the process

Read it all HERE over at the Ember Days blog

GOE Readers Conference Part I

The shuttle from the airport has collected several readers. The author of a liturgical manual that forbids everything I like to do has just hopped on. I've already seen one guy I know, and we catch up briefly on the acquaintances we have in common.

Talk turns to the exams. "How were your exams this year?" "Two were really good, two were OK, and one was awful." "Oh, you did better than I did. I had one good one and four in varying degrees of bad." "I had a guy who kept quoting Latin. And getting it wrong." I express my surprise that so many people wandered quickly from the topic, never to return. "It's a common problem," says my friend; "remember how it was for you writing them last year -- the pressure, you get nervous . . ."

Everyone else in the shuttle has done this before, most of them several times. This reassures me that this will be a good experience. I need the reassurance, because my lingering cold hasn't taken kindly to traveling, especially to colder weather. After we arrive, a helpful colleague shows me where things are. "And there's a bar," she points out. "Believe me, it's busy."

I should hope so.

The list tells me that I know three other people here, besides the one I've already seen: two priests from my diocese and a bishop who was a grad student in theology at the University of Barchester when I was a grad student in philosophy. Chances are very good that he won't remember me -- I would in fact be stunned if he did -- but a familiar face is a familiar face. Dinner tonight is my chance to get to know some unfamiliar ones. Then it's right into reader training. The evening will end with Compline.


GOE Readers Conference Part II

(In my defense, there's nothing in the Rule that explicitly prohibits blogging after Compline.)

Reader training began with background information and grading criteria for the first three questions. We were also shown three sample answers, which we were to read and then evaluate with our partners. On two of the three, our evaluation agreed with the chaplains'. On the third, we were off: we thought it deserved a 2, but the chaplains had given it a 4. There was a lot of discussion after that one, and my liturgical scholar from the shuttle raised precisely the objection that I had raised with my partner.

It's clear that everyone is giving this work very careful attention. We all want to evaluate these exams intelligently and fairly. Hashing out our disagreements, getting clear on why certain essays are evaluated in certain ways, is an important part of that effort. Getting 100 Episcopalians to agree about how to read theological essays is not a particularly easy task.