Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lovely obit for Gerald

Someone who must have been a friend of my cousin Gerald's wrote a sweet obit in the Joplin, MO newspaper. You can read it here.

Below is another one of Gerald's creations.

Click on the words "my cousin Gerald" above to read my post of a couple of days about Gerald's death and life.

Friday, January 30, 2009

From Compline

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

Bonus: swingin' Brazilian duck

Where else but Brazil could you get two grown men singing about a duck sounding and looking so sexy? This is an old song (compared to some of you youngsters, anyway). The performers are João Gilberto and Caetano Veloso.

Jethro Tull does Bach, again

I posted two versions of this in May (live here, recorded three and a half decades earlier here) but here is another. I never get sick of this piece. Enjoy.

Two days ago, women; today, labor unions, the middle class, and the poor

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands after signing an executive order at the Middle Class Working Families Task Force event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, January 30, 2009. Photo: Larry Downing, Reuters.

It really is a new presidential era. Today President Obama signed executive orders that, in his words, "level the playing field" and do not view unions as an evil force in U.S. society. He also spoke of the poor and not just the middle class; as you may recall the poor were largely invisible in election campaign rhetoric.

For this, for the President's action yesterday signing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, and for yesterday's denouncing of huge bonuses to Wall Street executives, many of us are thankful. And, make no mistake, many will be angry. I don't mean to go all Manichean on you, but the opposition to this is not going to be pretty.

So, I rejoice, and I pray.

And I pray that those of us who, moved by our faith, our humanism, our experience, or our principles, support the rights of workers to organize, the dignity of the most poor, the equality of women and men, and fairness in finance, will be active as citizens.

Below, because we like him, Vice-President Joe Biden. He will head White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families . Photo: Ron Edmonds, AP.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

+Rowan writes! A note from +Maya Pavlova

Dear +Rowan, Bishop of Playing,

We don't have fancy equipment like Fran, just our computer, but we wanted to tell you right away that we got your calendar and we are all excited. It looks just like the one Fran showed everyone
here. The Canon to the Extraordinary brought it in from the mailbox, called me, and as soon as I saw the calendar in her hand (she had taken it out of the envelope when she was still outdoors) I sniffed it and meowed!

Thank you, dear brother bishop. My Jane and I are thrilled to have your photo and so proud to be your friends. We will remember the motto on the calendar, "Play Hard." Hooray for you! You are a beautiful and wise bishop, and we need your message of playing.


The Right Reverend and Right Honorable Maya Pavlova, Feline Bishop Extroardinaire

Gerald Johnson, R.I.P.

My cousin Lisa's husband Gerald died late last night after living with Alzheimer's for the last several years. He was only in his early sixties.

Gerald was an artist in (at least) three different media: a painter, potter, and rug-weaver. He was a gentle and creative man who made beautiful objects and was deeply inspired by Native art of the Dakotas and Navajo art as well as 20th century painters like Mondrian.

Originally from Joplin, Missouri, Gerald moved to New York, like many young artists, and created most of his work there. He met my cousin Lisa Rothenberg many years ago and they lived together in the Brooklyn loft where he also created his artworks, which required a lot of space. Lisa, an educator and artist, had had a severe car accident in her mid-twenties which left her with permanent neurological damage. She continued work as an educator as she was able but needed a great amount of care, which she received, devotedly, from both her father and Gerald.

Half a dozen years ago, Gerald and Lisa moved to Joplin, Gerald's original home, where rents were cheaper and Gerald's family was nearby. Not too long after, Gerald began showing signs of Alzheimer's and received his diagnosis. He was still a young man in his fifties. The roles reversed and Lisa began caring for Gerald. She also organized, while he was still compos mentis enough to enjoy it, a retrospective exhibit of his works, an act of great love.

Lisa and other members of Gerald's family were at his side when he died, peacefully and quietly.

Gerald will be cremated and his ashes dispersed in a river where he and Lisa used to fish.

Pray for Lisa, whose life is once again overturned, and who has loved Gerald well, as he too loved her.

Prayers for JohnieB (but don't worry)

Dear all,

I've wanted to post this for a while but did not want to do so without JohnieB's permission, which I just received along with a nice catch-up letter.

JohnieB, friend to many of us in this corner of the blogosphere, is, as you know, a Vietnam War veteran who lives with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). He also gets depressed in the winter, which happens to many of us (SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder) and happens even more to people who already suffer from depression.

So he hasn't been blogging and I've been checking in to make sure he was okay. He is, more or less, but is in slowdown mode, something those of you who have lived with depression will recognize. He's taking care of himself, he's surviving the nasty New England winter up there, Miz Scarlett the Cat (see below) is at her post, and JohnieB has some support and is not dealing with this entirely alone. But it's still hard. Depression is a nasty beast. I have known it myself, as have some of you.

Please send prayers to JohnieB, for healing and lively spirit, and also please don't take it amiss if he does not respond to you. Energy is low in depressed times. Also, JohnieB fears "being a downer to friends." He sends greetings and says not to worry if he isn't responsive either on his blog or in private e-mails.

Do your thing, Prayer Posse! Thank you.

Photo of sleeping Miz Scarlett by JohnieB.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A note on the reactions to the death of John Updike (R.I.P.)

This isn't really about John Updike, may he rest in peace, but about the descriptions of John Updike on the radio.

I found myself yelling at the radio this morning. Yes, me, yelling at my blessed NPR shows in the car on the short drive to work.

Updike was a great writer, no doubt about it, and an art critic and thinker and many other things. So this isn't a dissing of Updike.

What is getting to me is how everyone is speaking of him as a writer about (the United States of) America, American post-war life, the American middle.

Excuse me?!

Updike wrote about white American post-war life.

Of course, he wrote about other things too. I have had his novel about a fictional African country, The Coup, on my shelf for years and have been meaning to read it, and I will read it in memory of him. Updike was, as one critic said, kaleidoscopic.

But Rabbit is not (the U.S. of) America.

Is Rabbit a part of it? Of course. A significant part of it? Of course. The whole story? No. "Representative" (of the whole story)? No.

We are so (as the kids would say) not out of the era of white privilege.

If we're going to name the fact that people are chroniclers of Jewish life or Black life in these United States, then let's name the fact that people are chroniclers of White or White Protestant life in the United States. (Or, for that matter, of the U.S. white middle class, or of middle-class Northern men.)

Either that or I want the obits for Toni Morrison (long may she live and continue to write) to say as much as the obits for Updike that she wrote the Great American Novel.

'Cause if you think that slavery and its aftermath or love and work in Harlem or the U.S. South have not been as American as apple pie and as the life of suburban white businessmen, you are still thinking of white America as normative --as the rule, the standard, the "normal"-- and the rest of these United States as the exception or the other.

White privilege is not just present in what we do or in what happens to us, but in how we think and how we speak. *

Think about it.

*See, for instance, re: the American novel, item 7 in the list on the document at the "white privilege" link above.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Quelle surprise (not)

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.

You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Episco-crats in shelter-land

Doxy's pal UT from Under the Overpasses has a new blog under his real name. Turns out he is Tim, an Episcopalian from Western North Carolina. His blogging continues to be eloquent, informative, and challenging.

When +Nedi Rivera spoke to us today about becoming welcoming congregations she slid into her talk, briefly put pointedly --I didn't miss it-- a little comment about how, make no mistake, this is not just about ethnicity and culture and race but also about class.

After that, I was also glad to read this over at Tim's. Well, glad that he wrote about it, but it made me shudder. This class issue is part of what kept me away from the Episcopal Church for years (that and the dominant Anglo culture) and Tim notes how this class privilege affects even life in shelters.

As some of you know, Tim directs a shelter for homeless people. His new blog is called "Caught a glimpse of Jesus down by the railroad tracks..."

January 24: Li Tim Oi

On this day, January 24, we commemorate Li Tim Oi, first woman ordained priest in the Anglican Communion. She was ordained on this day in 1944.

The Episcopal Women's Caucus has an informative essay about her here.

Grandmère Mimi of Wounded Bird has written about her here.

I honor also one of Li Tim Oi's spiritual descendants, who is very much alive, my friend the Rev. Dorothy Lau, Director of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare Council. Here's an article Dorothy wrote about five years ago for the online arm of the late lamented magazine The Witness.

"Stimulus: More than bread alone"

A good op-ed on the need for a stimulus package for the arts in the new administration, by an old friend of the Acts of Hope family whose work has occasionally appeared here. Thank you, Jerry.

Stimulus: More than bread alone

by Jerry M. Landay
The Providence Journal

There's a rumor that President Obama plans to create a new cabinet position — secretary for the arts. Should he do that, I for one will shout to the skies: Bravo! Bravissimo!

You may reply: “Surely he’s got more important priorities.” Think again.

Read on here.

(P.J., you will like the Isak Dinesen quote.)

"Swinging on a V-Disc: Jazz in WW II"

It's Saturday night at home with cat and catch-up. Also rest, food, music, and a little writing. NPR Girl has the radio on, of course. I have just listened to a great show on the weekly Riverwalk Jazz about the recordings made for GIs during World War II by the greatest U.S. artists. Some of the recordings survive (the masters were destroyed, since the artists were promised that no one would make commercial use of the recordings --they had given their time and talent for free-- but some people kept the discs) and the show played many of them.

The Riverwalk Jazz Listening Room is here.

Friday cat blogging on Saturday

Speaking of clergywomen who rock, Caminante has a great set of kitteh photos today, a Saturday-posting of Friday cat blogging. I am following suit with this photo I've been saving from the series I took and had developed some weeks ago. The animal cushion was a gift from a friend 15 or 20 years ago.

Click to enlarge and see detail.

Nedi Rivera rocks: a brief note, and full text soon, I hope.

No, she's not a rock star,* she is the Episcopal bishop mentioned below, and she addressed the Diocese of North Carolina Convention this morning on mission, outreach, multicultural ministry, justice, Jesus, and related topics. As she did yesterday when she preached, she spoke without a note (that I could see, anyway) and with complete coherence. She said some things I have never heard anyone say out loud (about kitchens, bathrooms, and liturgy, among others) and she said them with joy and clarity. I am hoping there will be a text and/or a video and if so I will post them here. If not I will try to reconstruct from my notes, but I really hope I can bring +Nedi's words to you as fully as possible. I wish all Episcopalians, and for that matter all Christians in the U.S. (especially, but not exclusively, those from majority white Euro-American cultures and the more privileged classes) could hear her.

*Okay, so maybe she is a rock star in the other sense, but personality is not my point here, though +Nedi's personality and style are part of what help people listen to her and hear her. Now let's see if we do anything about what we heard.

Other than that, I skipped most of the sessions and had meetings with folks I needed to see, mostly about our committee work for racial justice and reconciliation, but also some involving more personal and ministerial catching up. I also stopped by various exhibits and learned about various people, places, groups, and ministries. Always enlightening and sometimes fun.

I will post in the next week or so a very nice pledge for straight allies that PFLAG is offering.

That is all Her Grace the Feline Bishop is letting me write. I am under orders to have a nap.

Click to enlarge and see detail.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quick Convention highlights

It's that time of year again, as posts from my neighbor to the north, It's Margaret, attest. Diocesan Convention is this weekend in both her diocese and mine, except that Convention isn't called Convention in her neck of the woods.

But I digress.

Highlights so far in our diocese (North Carolina):

- Bishop Curry's address, as always. He rocks the house.

- Smart move by the diocese: in an effort to encourage the singing of the hymn "All Are Welcome" (by Marty Haugen, a Lutheran hugely popular in Catholic circles whom Episcopalians seem just to be discovering), the diocese bought a year-long permission to reproduce from the GIA copyright people and stuck a form with the precise info and wording on all our Convention packets. (Apparently it's made it over the pond to the Methodists in England, too.)

- This is my 3d Convention here and for the first time, I truly did not have to worry about the table for the diocesan committee I chair, now named the Bishop's Committee for Racial Justice and Reconciliation (we used to be called the Anti-Racism Committee). Two years ago it was I alone at half a table (happily shared with the Hispanic Ministry Committee) doing everything. Last year we had our part-time staff person (who got sick the second day and couldn't be there), one hugely dedicated volunteer, and I. With a makeshift flyer, though it wasn't a bad one. This year our (new) part-time staff person was there along with so many volunteers working in shifts that I didn't even know all of them (some were from a couple of congregations to which committee members belong and which are in the city where the Convention is meeting) and one of our subcommittee chairs and brochures and flyers and plans and invitations. Mostly, I wasn't needed -- a true mark of success. What a wonderful group of people. It's a great committee.

- Once again I'd asked the exhibit people to put us next to the other social justice groups. So our table is between the PFLAG table and the Hispanic Ministry table. That group, by the way, is growing and doing great work with excellent participation and leadership. The Latin@ population is growing in North Carolina and we have a couple of Latin@ Episcopal congregations. There are also immigration-related concerns around the state. We passed a good resolution on immigration at last year's Convention, but there's more action needed. I'm going to learn more about this from one of my committee chair colleagues within the next weeks and months when we meet. We're trying to see where we can do some common work.

(Note: my Latina and Latino friends and colleagues use "Latin@" rather than "Latino/a" as a shorthand.)

- The annual bishop's award --accompanied by a moving video-- went to St. Mark's and Guadalupana, two small congregations --the first African American, the second Latin@-- with a common building, common vision, and common pastor, a retired priest (well, allegedly retired) who is white and Anglo and speaks Spanish and loves his double congregation. In 2007 an arsonist burned down the church building. The community center / church hall whose groundbreaking took place in 2005 was almost completed, so everything, in the midst of tragedy, started up again in that one little building. The congregations have a tutoring program with neighborhood children and the video we saw showed retired African American teachers tutoring young Latin@ children and loving it. The building is also the worship space now. Episcopal Church Women got involved both before and after the fire with contributions. The congregations received their award at the liturgy, but we had seen the video earlier in the convention center. These are tiny congregations, but together they have become (this sounds like a cliché but it's true) a beacon of hope in their neighborhood. I get all weepy at these awards.

- Saw Doxy's Dear Friend and had a nice chat. Eat your hearts out.

- One of my favorite bishops in the entire world who is also one of my role models (though it's possible she is a bit younger than I) and whom I knew when she was a priest in San Francisco, The Right Reverend Nedi Rivera, was our guest preacher tonight and is giving a keynote address tomorrow. That's +Nedi below. She's Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Olympia.

-Shoutout to the Quadriped Bishops: at the end of Morning Prayer, after our final petition, which had to do with creation and God's creatures, the screen from which we were reading (this saved paper and we could all see) there was a lovely photo of a wolf and a lamb lying down together. I went home early this afternoon and told +Maya Pavlova.

(Then returned this p.m. for the liturgy. I am not a delegate this year and am stewarding my time carefully given the multiple demands in my life right now, so I had decided to skip the afternoon sessions. No legislation for me. I'll read about it and get the scoop from my friends.)

Stay tuned. I'm headed for the decaf Earl Grey and the church of Our Lady of the Slumbers.

+Maya Pavlova, on the other hand, is playing soccer. She recently rediscovered an old soccer ball of hers --a ball of aluminum foil. Heaven knows where it had been all this time, but it is back in circulation since three days ago and +Maya can't get enough of it when she is awake. +Rowan the Dog's good influence, no doubt. He's Bishop of Playing, you know.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Aha! What did I tell you about the presidential dog?

Back to serious business. Remember who first suggested to you that the Obamas get a Portuguese water dog. Well, they are now down to two options, and guess what one of them is.

Though they may go with the labradoodle.

See here and here.

As the President said: tougher than choosing a Commerce Secretary.


Dealing with a lot of them these days. But, as a member of my family said to me yesterday, "If Obama can become president, you can get through this."

Meanwhile, in the big outside world, the President is going to close Guantánamo. A decision not without risk. But a human is a human and torture is wrong. We become what we dole out to others. So beware what you sow.

Better to sow the good seed -- even if you never see it grow and bloom. Others will.

How hard it is to live by principle, to live truthfully, to negotiate the shoals of institutional life -- all institutions, without exception.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Random foodie post with recipe

For a vegan dinner guest:

1. Whole wheat couscous with Spanish saffron (the latter left over from trip to Istanbul a year ago).

2. On top of the couscous, a newly invented concoction occasioned by a large bag of fresh mustard greens from last week's farmers' market:

Put some olive oil in a fairly large cooking pot.
Chop an onion and start sauteeing. Heat not too high, you don't want the onion to brown.
After rinsing the mustard greens to make sure there is no grit left, cut them pretty fine (fold each leaf and then cut strips one centimeter wide) and dump them into the pot, stirring and adding a bit of oil as needed; the mustard greens will start shrinking.
Add a dash of salt.
Add some raisins.
Keep stirring.
Add some more mustard greens because the original ones have shrunk some more and you still want the mustard greens to be the dominant ingredient.
Stir, stir.
The pot will be far from full. The large pot is less about needing large capacity and more about the broad cooking surface.
Take half a local apple, yellow and a little tart (it's what I had around, also from the farmers' market), not one of those newfangled sweetiefuji ones, and slice it and stir in.
When you take the pot off the stove, the mustard greens will be cooked and dark green, the raisins will be plump, the onions will be translucent, and the apple pieces will still be crisp.

That's it. The tastes marry well and the raisins' sweetness offsets the sharp spiciness of the fresh mustard greens. The dish will look pretty on top of the couscous.

The vegan guest and I both thought it was good. "I just invented it," said I. "Write it down," said she.

The cat walked around trying to sniff the plates; we kept explaining that it wasn't cat food and shooing her away. She'd already had homemade chicken broth as a treat. She is not a vegan.

This post is dedicated to Ralph (a.k.a. TCR) and JohnieB.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Pete Seeger P.S. - with video and all the words!


h/t to truthout

Wulfstan of Worcester

Who is he???

Wulfstan of Worcester is the saint of the day in our Episcopal calendar today, January 19. (I know, this year the feast of Confession of Peter was moved to this day, but Wulfstan is still there as well.)

Wulfstan was the only Saxon bishop who survived, administratively speaking, after William the Conqueror showed up.

He is also known for his opposition to the slave trade in Western England.

He was a Benedictine monk.

Today, January 19, is the 7th anniversary of my formal reception into the Episcopal Church.

It is also the second day of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins the day of the Confession of Peter and ends the day of the Conversion of Paul. (See also here for more info on the Week.) As an ecumenist, I love this holy coincidence.

We are, of course, still in Epiphanytide, so Wulfstan is an Epiphany saint, though we do not always make that connection and "work it."

Thanks be to Godde, and thank you to all those who continue to be witnesses to me and to accompany me as sisters and brothers in faith.

You can see Wulfstan's crypt and some explanatory notes at Worcester Cathedral here.

A bit more on Saint Wulfstan
here. Note the foodie episode with the roast goose and the resolution about vegetarianism.

I used to wonder why this 11th century Saxon guy ended up as my patron saint, but the more I read about him, the more inspiring I find him. Not least among his interesting traits is his political and ecclesiastical survival among a powerful majority of clerics (and others) who were culturally alien to him. And of course there is "the simplicity, earnestness, and incessant labour of Wulfstan's pastoral life."

The Wulfstan birth-millennium website is here. Lots of bio about him on one of the site's pages here.

Perhaps one of our English friends can try the
St. Wulfstan Ale for me.

Also on "Talk of the Nation:" MLK's challenging words

If anyone still lives under the delusion that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. only spoke of holding hands and singing Kumbaya, that person would do well to listen to the final segment (twenty minutes before the hour, mas o menos) of "Talk of the Nation." The show mentioned below offers to us one of Dr. King's most eloquent speeches.

It is the "I Have a Dream" speech, but in full, with the criticism and prophecy -- not just the final few sentences everyone knows and quotes.

Listen. Listen.

The speech is also available here. It will be up at NPR via the link above (the green words) this evening.

Bishop Robinson on "Talk of the Nation" right now (and archived later)

I just turned on "Talk of the Nation" on NPR and +Gene Robinson will be on the show. The lead was about the fact that his prayer didn't broadcast. The show will also be talking about the state of the Episcopal Church and MLK Day.

Show website is here. If you miss the show you can listen to the archived audio in a few hours.

Here's what HBO did not carry: Bishop Gene's prayer, loud and clear

Post this widely, friends.

Here is a YouTube of Bishop Gene Robinson's prayer yesterday at the Lincoln Memorial, with related reporting by various media.

Tip of the warm winter hat to the Episcopal Café.

Since it's not a YouTube of HBO's show, it will stay up. HBO has already challenged copyright on the Pete Seeger YouTube, so YouTube had to take that down. Speaking of that verse on "private property" in "This Land Is Your Land..."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Going all weepy over Pete Seeger

I am still watching the online broadcast. The performers have been singing the song that should really be our national anthem, Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," and among them is the man who popularized the song for so many of us, Pete Seeger. He is old, his voice is weak, but there he is, with his colorful knit hat and his banjo, with Springsteen and others and a multiracial chorus of young people behind him and a multiracial crowd around and below.

Pete Seeger was the Commencement speaker at my graduation from Oberlin College. The Vietnam war was on, Richard Nixon was in the White House, and soon the Watergate break-ins would happen. The premier issue of Ms. magazine was in print. I had just turned twenty. It was May, 1972. Pete got up there with his banjo and sang most of his speech. He talked about cleaning up the Hudson River --my graduating class also was in college during the first Earth Day-- and about nuclear proliferation and pollution, and how there was as much Strontium 90 in mother's milk in the South Pacific as there was in the U.S. "There's no place to run to," he said. I have never forgotten his words. "There's no place to run to." By which he also meant "Get to work!"

We did.

He had the whole class of 1922 singing, too. They were there for their 50th reunion.

P.S. If you watch the HBO broadcast, you can catch a tiny glimpse of Bishop Robinson toward the end of Beyoncé's "America the Beautiful." Everyone came back on stage for that.

P.P.S. One of my students (who is now my teaching assistant for one of this semester's classes) texted me from the crowd during the performance this afternoon. :-)

Special P.S. for Padre Mickey: They kept in the verse about private property, too!

"We Are One" online

HBO rebroadcast of this afternoon's "We Are One" event at the Lincoln Memorial (an American liturgy if I ever saw one) is supposed to be free on HBO, but it isn't on my TV. You can watch it online, as I am right now. (Tom Hanks has just read the words of Lincoln. Marisa Tomei is on right now.) And here comes my man James Taylor. Watch here. You can watch anytime. This is also good if you are not in the U.S.


+Gene Robinson's prayer wasn't included in the broadcast, but you can read it here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Spirit, Structure, and Flesh: my friend Deidre Crumbley's new book

I am just back from the book party for my friend Deidre's new book, held at St. Ambrose, Raleigh, a historically African American Episcopal church. The publisher (a university press) priced the book high and it's a hardback, but I am happy to say that Deidre's friends showed up and bought a lot of books -- and the founder of the church's Jazz Mass Quartet came and played the saxophone! There was food, particularly some excellent spinach balls. And a big cake saying "Congratulations." Here's a reproduction of the book cover.

It's a fascinating book and Dr. Crumbley (that's Deidre) has worked on it for something like 20 years. Four years of field work in Nigeria, countless rewrites, and the search for a publisher, plus illness and search for funding and all manner of obstacles. I gather there was also a cat involved at some point. Of course.

Rejoice with Deidre in her great achievement!

By the way, there are now members of African Initiated Churches, including the Aladura churches in this book, here in the U.S. -- including here in North Carolina. As Deidre noted in her short talk at the party, the African Diaspora did not end with slavery; indeed, our President-Elect is a child of this diaspora. So the African Initiated Churches, which began in the 20th century as indigenous African forms of Christianity, have migrated to other continents and are undergoing changes there.

More on the book on the publisher's website here. The full name of the book is Spirit, Structure, And Flesh: Gendered Experiences in African Instituted Churches among the Yoruba of Nigeria.

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Dear Sir Obama: Presidential Advice"

Art by Alejandra Medina, age 8

Inauguration musical and lgbt news

One of my dear friends just wrote that he now has permission to tell folks that his chorus, the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington (GMCW), will be performing at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday, January 18 as part of the inaugural festivities, 2-4 p.m. The chorus will perform an arrangement of "My Country 'Tis of Thee." (Same song Marian Anderson sang in same place in 1939.) Josh Groban and Heather Headley will be part of the performance.

HBO will broadcast the performance that evening, 7-9 p.m.


Gaza: a doctor's grief

Gaza: a physician's grief.

Kyrie eleison.

Pastoral help needed, Santa Cruz, CA area

Friends -- Padre Mickey and the Lovely Mona are off in the Panamanian hinterlands without their e-mail, and they are my closest ties to the Santa Cruz, California area aside from a clergywoman friend farther north whom I have just written.

Here's a question for you: Do any of you know of a) a pastorally sensitive clergyperson (preferably a woman for this situation, doesn't have to be an Episcopal priest, can be any denomination) and b) resources for battered women and other women in abusive situations (with school age child or children who will need to stay with them) in the Santa Cruz, California area? This will require sensitive outreach as the person is still reluctant to leave her situation.

I think my priest friend in the San Francisco Bay Area is sufficiently south of SF that she can rustle up some kind of resources in or around Santa Cruz, but I am not sure, and this pastoral situation has landed long-distance in my lap via someone I know here who is worried about this household and called me out of desperation. More I cannot say, obviously.

If you know of any resources or good people who are competent to address the kind of situation I have sketched out, please write me off-blog at widsauthor at earthlink dot net. Thank you, and please pray for this woman and her child/ren.

Friday cat blogging: study with vacuum cleaner and sun

This was about two months ago.

As you see, the always extraordinary +Maya Pavlova, unlike most kittehs, does not fear the vacuum cleaner. But don't ask her to use it. She has her limits.

Too bad, I could use the household help. But I am only her humble and obedient servant.

The weather is cold (nothing like Boston or Minneapolis, but chilly for the Southland, below freezing) and I woke up with a cat draped over my arm on the flannel sheets. I am so dramatically broke that I have to keep the heat low since I can't afford heating oil till after the next paycheck (still two weeks away -- cable is about to be shut off, too; I may have to watch the Inauguration at a friend's) so we are piling on the down comforters and sweaters, but there is good healthy food in the house and snuggling with a cat is always nice. Today is bright and sunny and as in these photos, Her Grace is seeking out the sun patches and will not need to roll into a tight little ball until later in the day. I have gotten through the first week of classes with minimal stress and only have a couple of hours of desk work to do, after which I can tend to the backlog of non-school things for the rest of the day, here at home with a nice mug of something hot.

These photos are not of very good quality, but they do capture the mood.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

First day of school / African American religion course / Holy Angels mural

I guess blog break is over, de facto, though I will still be absent-minded and not all there till February, mas or menos.

Classes began today and despite all the grumpiness, lack of sleep, and hours in the office of this past weekend, I have first-day-of-school excitement after the first class of the semester. A nice group of students, racially mixed and also mixed in types of students ("traditional-age" i.e. 18-22 and adult students called "CCE" at our college, stands for "Center for Continuing Education") and I like the subject. This is a course I created for the college three and a half years ago when I arrived, African American Religion and Theology.

Below is the illustration from the cover of the syllabus, and below that is the explanation of the illustration on page two of the syllabus, before all the blabla about requirements and office hours and percentages and accommodations and outcomes and the course calendar with detailed list of assignments. As you will see, this is from Holy Angels Catholic Church in Chicago, an African American congregation. Note the Nativity scene in the middle and the heavenly host, who are all Black - as are all the angels from the biblical scenes depicted in the mural.

I may have already posted this a long while back, because as I was saving the photo to my "blog photos" file, the computer told me I already had it in there. I'm going to assume most readers either haven't yet seen this, though. It's worth gazing at again, for those of you who already know it.

Click to enlarge and see detail!

The Holy Angels Church Mural

The mural whose reproduction is on the front page of your syllabus is from an African American Roman Catholic parish church named Holy Angels in Chicago. The parish (which started as a largely Irish-American congregation) and its school have a long and proud history full of struggle and triumph. They continue to serve as centers of worship, education, and community for African Americans.

The mural was painted by the late Rev. Engelbert Mveng, S.J. The letters S.J. after someone’s name mean that person is a member of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, a Roman Catholic religious order of men. Father Mveng was a Catholic priest, theologian, and artist from Cameroon. He was murdered a dozen years ago in Yaoundé, Cameroon. His writings and art live on.The mural is a testimony to the bonds of art, spirit, and faith between Africans and African Americans

This is the home page of Holy Angels Church:

Here is a reproduction of the mural, the same one as on your syllabus; it is a little larger here, so you may be able to see the detail better.

And here is an explanation of the illustrations and symbolism.

There is a small mistake – the last book of the Christian Testament (“New” Testament, the second half of the Christian Bible) is Revelation, with no “s” at the end, not “Revelations.” This is such a frequent mistake that few people notice it, but if you look at a Bible, you’ll see that there is no “s” there. Of course, the original is in Greek so that’s not the book’s original name anyway…

Enjoy the art.

You’ll be hearing some African American Catholic music a little later in the course, from a gospel music Mass by the composer and musician Rawn Harbor, now Director of Liturgy at St. Columba, an African American Catholic church in Oakland.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Quote of the day

It was a lovely day at All Saints. Baptism in the morning, Gathering of the Clan All Saints in the afternoon -- that's what they call their Annual Meeting there. (Reminder: I am at All Saints three Sundays a months and home at St. Mary's House one Sunday a month till May or so.) Potluck supper, election of vestry members, informal conversational reports on various areas of mission and ministry, and a bit of prayer. Not your long boring Annual Meeting.

In the spirit of Clan All Saints (someone or several someones have some Scots in them) there was a tartan theme, and lo and behold, there was a bagpiper. He was good, too. And he wore the kilt well. He's a parishioner of recent vintage, about two years, and I think this may have been his first time playing at the annual gathering, because All Saints' rector, thanking him formally (as formally as it gets there), expressed delight that All Saints now had its very own bagpiper in the congregation, since this meant, and here comes the quote, that

... now we don't have to borrow one from the Presbyterians!

And that's the news from Episco-land in the Southland.

The baby at the baptism was an angel and had a round face, big solemn eyes, and beautiful hands which he moved gracefully during the reciting of the Baptismal Covenant.

Me, I was especially struck today by this sentence during the "renouncing" part of the baptismal liturgy:
*******Do you renounce the evil powers of this world
*******(which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?

We tend to notice the question before about renouncing Satan and the one after about sinful desires, but not this one. It struck me today in a William Stringfellow sort of way -- as in, the evil powers that are corrupt institutions and systemic evils that do indeed corrupt and destroy human persons (and other creatures!). See the writings of Stringfellow for more.

Oops, I digressed from the bagpiper. Told you there was a lot to talk about.

But I must get to bed. I also spent six hours at the office (yup, twice at church and twice at the office at school, a long Sunday) because tomorrow the semester begins at the college and my first class is at 8:30 a.m.

+Maya Pavlova sits under the desk lamp, warming the top of her head.

Friday, January 9, 2009

"Nightmares from my father and reading history wrong" - an essay by my brother

It's publishing time in the Acts of Hope family this week.

On New Year's Eve, my father wrote us (his children and grandchildren and some cousins) a moving letter about his dreams of World War II and, more succinctly, his hope and wish --his daytime dream-- for peace.

Father of Acts of Hope is a World War II veteran, a Purple Heart with a ten percent disability who saw what is euphemistically called "action" in the Pacific Theater, in the Marshall Islands. He is now 90 years old, a gentle man --as he was when he signed up for the Marines in late 1942-- who loves and advocates for peace, and like most veterans, he still has nightmares. Not all the time, but they have never left him. He says you never forget the smell of death.

I wished at the time that I could share his letter with readers here, but since it was a family letter I didn't even want to ask. (Also, truth be told, my parents think I spend too much time blogging.)

Meanwhile, Brother of Acts of Hope, who was equally impressed and moved by the letter, was working on one of his columns for the Turkish Daily News (which has just merged with another Turkish paper) and he asked our Dad for permission to reprint his letter in the column.

So here, published two days ago in Istanbul for English-language readership, is our beloved and respected father's letter, embedded in a short essay by Brother of Acts of Hope.

It is called "Nightmares of my father and reading history wrong." (by Dennis Redmont)

There is no live link yet because the newspaper's website is partly in revamp mode, so the archive is still catching up. But I'm reprinting the entire piece here.

We enter 2009 already as the Year We Want to Forget.

Yet it is only a few days old!

We try to examine history for answers — or ask the Young Generation “Y” for future clues.

But when we do read history, the conclusions are often wrong or incomplete. Or we don’t learn our lesson.

Let's take the meltdown of the Financial World in 2008: Exactly 20 years ago, Michael Lewis wrote his classic "Liar's Poker," warning readers that Wall Street didn't know what it was doing. “It’s laissez faire until you get into deep sh..,’’ one high flyer tells Lewis. When things go wrong at Wall Street investment banks, the risks become the problem of the U.S. government.

Instead of a wakeup call two decades ago, the book turned into a business school best seller and thousands of young people deluged Lewis with letters asking his advice on how to make money fast — not how to get out of the roulette-rolling of the stock market. Read the magazine Portfolio’s “End of the Wall Street Boom” by Lewis this month for lessons not learned.

Now, let's take the Great Depression: It has been revisited this year in a bestseller by Amity Shlaes called "The Forgotten Man.” It punctures the ideas we had about the great reforms of the Roosevelt era and the masterful way the United States navigated out of the Depression. Actually two successive Depressions. That's maybe because history books are written by professors rather than entrepreneurs.

Closer to the truth might have been that economic ignorance among policy makers was much worse than we realized, and that government intervention helped make the Depression Great. And that Hoover and Roosevelt misstepped in a number of ways, Shlaes explains.

"Hoover ordered wages up when they wanted to go down... Roosevelt’s errors were equally devastating... he created regulatory aid and relief agencies, based on the premise that recovery could only be achieved through a large military style effort," Shlaes writes. Again a misreading — or better, a need to constantly reread and revisit history...

Finally a third example, from the Greatest Generation, the generation of Americans who grew up during the deprivation of theGreat Depression, and then went on to fight World War II. Those who survived went on to build and rebuild U.S. industries, and created the Baby Boomers, that is us, whose social values did not quite match that generation’s social values.

What were the lessons learned on a real, down-to-earth human scale?

As it turns out, the results were unexpected... or were they?

Seeking some acquired wisdom, I listened to some nightmares from my journalist father, Bernard Redmont, who reached the venerable age of 90 in 2008, after a life of reporting around the world for CBS and many other media titles...

Again, it seems we didn't quite read or reread history correctly nor learn our lessons.

Listen to him in his "DREAMS FROM YOUR FATHER:”

"I have a dream. It recurs. Sometimes in the guise of a nightmare. Dreams of my encounters with wars. And hopes, or reveries, of peace.

On the eve of the new year 2009, I dreamed again of Roi and Namur, the coral islands where I was almost killed.

War veterans often make pilgrimages to the scenes of their battles with life and death, like those you've seen on TV, on the beaches of Normandy in World War II. My own visions become a "virtual" pilgrimage, in memories and dreams, because I can't actually go to Roi and Namur, in Kwajalein Atoll, the Marshall Islands, in the south central Pacific, 2,100 miles southwest of Hawaii.

I told most of the story of Operation Flintlock in my book, "Risks Worth Taking." That was where, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 12, 1944, as a "gung ho" marine, I earned my Purple Heart and many weeks of restful recuperation in hospitals.

But what of now? In my dreams, and on the Internet, I, and you, can go on a "virtual battlefield tour" of the two northern islets of the world's largest coral atoll.

We thought we were liberating that first of the Japanese-held territories in the war, looking forward to peace and no more wars.

Today, Roi and Namur stand nominally as part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

They are, nevertheless, the multi-billion dollar lethal scene of the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, run by the Pentagon.

Here, where 3,500 bunkered and entrenched Japanese soldiers fought us, and barely 51 of them survived, and where thousands of American Marines became casualties too, it is not quite peaceful.

You can take a "virtual battlefield tour" on the Internet, but you won't see the missile sites or naval port, or hear the deafening blasts, or the constant drone of American military planes arriving and departing from the once Japanese, now Dyess US airfield which we captured.

You will see the Japanese concrete pillboxes and bunkers, some four feet thick, still standing despite their "pulverization" by cannon and naval gunfire. You can't actually visit all this now, without special military clearance, or see the former Japanese submarine base.

But you can see the torpedo bunker, still standing, where our fellow marines dropped in a satchel charge of demolition explosives, and 20 of them died from the blow back blast.

You can also see an undemolished Japanese five-inch gun on a concrete emplacement, and a plaque commemorating the Japanese dead, some scattered American graves and a brass plate labeling the place a "National Historic Site."

For those cleared to visit, the authorities offer beautiful palm trees, a small golf course, a scuba diving club and trips to wrecks of Japanese warships, planes and even a heavy cruiser.

So ends the spiel of your 'virtual tour guide.'

Alas, wars rage all over our world. Yes, we yearn for peace on earth, good will to all.”

Dennis Redmont, an executive at the Council for the United States and Italy, is an American journalist and consultant who divides his time between Rome and Istanbul.

"Incarnation and Suffering" essay at Episcopal Café

My latest essay for the Episcopal Café is up today. It is called "Incarnation and Suffering".

The Café welcomes your comments. So do I -- both at the Café site, below the essay, and here. (If you only have time for one place, do comment at the Café.)

I hope that the essay speaks to you.

P.S. That's today's Café, and in yesterday's, you can read fine quotes on The Current Unpleasantness by MadPriest and Tobias Haller as well as a piece of the moving conversation about homeless and poor persons and our response by Wormwood's Doxy and Under There. Thank you, friends, and congratulations.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Resistance to the war

A good set of pieces on resistance to the war is just up on the blog of Jewish Peace News (JPN).

Among the summaries:

Courage to Refuse statement

We will not take part in the campaign of destruction.

We, officers and soldiers of the IDF,

who hold dearly the security and the future of the State of Israel,

who understand that the attack in Gaza exarcerbates the conflict and will bring many more years of missiles on widening parts of the population, and has laid an unbearable catastrophe upon the people of Israel and the Palestinian people,

we understand that revenge is not security, and that the IDF's operation in Gaza perpetuates the conflict and does not contribute to solving it.

We declare that we will not take part in the campaign for destruction in Gaza.

To sign this declaration, to help in organizing the rally, or to obtain assistance for those who are facing trials, call Noam Livne, David Zonesheine or Arik Diamant (phone numbers attached).

Rally opposite the Ministry of Defense, Thursday 1/7/09 at 6 PM.

A Palestinian man waits to receive food supplies at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza January 8, 2009. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

JPN also reminds readers:

Call the Obama transition office number and leave a message. It is easy to do, the number is: 1-202-540-3000; press 2 and you will get a staff member who will take a message from you.

Here are examples of things you can say:

a) Obama’s silence is being seen as condoning Israel's war on Gaza.
b) He should break his silence to call for an immediate ceasefire, even if it is not a "durable one". Scores of people are dying everyday and to not demand a ceasefire is to say that their deaths do not count. Also, ceasefires, even if imperfect, can work to drastically reduce death, injury, fear and trauma.
c) Gazans are in dire need of food and medical supplies. Even if Israel allows trucks in, without a ceasefire, distribution is almost impossible.

Read it all here.

A Palestinian girl, who fled her house with her family during Israel's offensive, looks out of a window at a U.N. school in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip January 7, 2009. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

A Jew's prayer for the children of Gaza

Emily, a dear friend of mine from San Francisco, a Jewish feminist, sent this today and asked that I post it. I do so gladly and with tears, which she is also weeping in her heart.

It is from the blog of Bradley Burston, the English language editor of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Lord who is the creator of all children, hear our prayer this accursed day. God whom we call Blessed, turn your face to these, the children of Gaza, that they may know your blessings, and your shelter, that they may know light and warmth, where there is now only blackness and smoke, and a cold which cuts and clenches the skin.

Almighty who makes exceptions, which we call miracles, make an exception of the children of Gaza. Shield them from us and from their own. Spare them. Heal them. Let them stand in safety. Deliver them from hunger and horror and fury and grief. Deliver them from us, and from their own.

Restore to them their stolen childhoods, their birthright, which is a taste of heaven.

Remind us, O Lord, of the child Ishmael, who is the father of all the children of Gaza. How the child Ishmael was without water and left for dead in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba, so robbed of all hope, that his own mother could not bear to watch his life drain away.

Be that Lord, the God of our kinsman Ishmael, who heard his cry and sent His angel to comfort his mother Hagar.

Be that Lord, who was with Ishmael that day, and all the days after. Be that God, the All-Merciful, who opened Hagar's eyes that day, and showed her the well of water, that she could give the boy Ishmael to drink, and save his life.

Allah, whose name we call Elohim, who gives life, who knows the value and the fragility of every life, send these children your angels. Save them, the children of this place, Gaza the most beautiful, and Gaza the damned.

In this day, when the trepidation and rage and mourning that is called war, seizes our hearts and patches them in scars, we call to you, the Lord whose name is Peace:

Bless these children, and keep them from harm.

Turn Your face toward them, O Lord. Show them, as if for the first time, light and kindness, and overwhelming graciousness.

Look up at them, O Lord. Let them see your face.

And, as if for the first time, grant them peace.

With thanks to Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman of Kol HaNeshama, Jerusalem.

* * * * * * * *

Another recent piece of Burston's is here. (It is called "Gaza War Diary III: If Mexico shelled Texas, like Hamas shells Israel .")

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cat and Marimekko window hanging, winter

Photos by Jane Redmont. Click to enlarge and see detail.

Monday, January 5, 2009


(First two paragraphs slightly edited from a comment over at PJ's.)

Yesterday at my "other church" (the one where I am three Sundays a month till May-ish) the rector (always a fine preacher) preached about Gaza and the refugee baby Jesus and the love of all humankind. That wasn't when I cried; I was actually distracted half the time. At the Prayers of the People we prayed for everybody on the planet including people serving in the armed forces, and in this congregation they name about four or five people specifically after the general prayer so people must have relatives on active duty.

And then we did what we do every single Sunday after communion and have been doing since the latest wars began (wars in the plural, yes): we kneel and sing "Dona Nobis Pacem" (the full round, several times) as a prayer for peace. I wept and wept while singing. Big fat tears rolling down my face into my mouth, singing for peace. All of us kneeling.

* * * * * * *
I want to remind people that there is a diversity of views within Israel and that there are active dissenters there. There is also diversity in the U.S. Jewish community. Let me draw your attention to two organizations that used to be one but are now separate and both serve important purposes.

Jewish Peace News (JPN) offers an excellent news roundup to which you can subscribe on e-mail (free) by first going to JPN's blog here. Their sources are diverse. The mainstream media, whatever that is these days, does not expose us to this news. Neither, much of the time, does the alternative media, whatever that means. We do hear about the suffering of many --and there are so many more whose tears and deaths and fears we will never see or hear-- but we don't hear much about work for peace and voices of protest. Do have a look at their blog, where you can find subscription info and samples of the news they send out.

Which leads me to the second organization (which as I recall gave birth to the first, and, to no one's surprise, they are based in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is where I first heard of them), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). They send out e-mails too, but they also have a website which I urge you to visit.

On the JPN website, in addition to news from Gaza, you will find information about the recent campaign in solidarity for the Shministim, who are the young conscientious objectors in Israel. They are very young (high school seniors) and look as if they could be your children or mine and they have gone to prison for refusing to participate in unjust military actions.

There's also a helfpul "New to the issue? Start here." link. It leads to a FAQ on "Israeli Palestinian Conflict 101." You will see it is primarily aimed at the Jewish community since this is a Jewish organization, but it's worth reading if you are a Gentile, too.

There are also media campaigns (there was and is one about the news blackout on Gaza, which long predated the current military action; things have been very bad in Gaza for a long time and we haven't been hearing enough about it) and statements condemning anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry. JVP also has a news blog called MuzzleWatch: Tracking efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy.

If you are press, or even if you are not, there are fact sheets here about JVP and its mission.

So remember these names: Jewish Peace News and Jewish Voice for Peace, and stay informed.
* * * * * * *
So much for blog break. I am still in hiding working on writing projects till mid-month and not really posting in a fully attentive way. The cat is doing better at it than I, and she has an Epiphany sermon for you. Also, I will post in a couple of days a link to my new essay at the Episcopal Café. I'm really still on break and not all there. But I cannot stay silent about Gaza.

Godde help us all.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

From last year: an old Epiphany sermon

While the Canon to the Extraordinary is on blog break, I, Maya Pavlova, Feline Bishop Extraordinaire, bring you some bloggy flashbacks. This one is from last year at Epiphany. It is an old sermon, but not too old. Have a look.

Or have a nap.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Friday cat blogging: Christmas cat

The feline bishop in her Christmas red -- a little sleepy in some photos, more alert in others.

Click to enlarge and see detail.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What it looks like lined up (a follow-up on the year-end roundup)

Padre Mickey reminds us that we are supposed to line up all those first sentences. (In my case, first and first-and-second sentences, depending.) It really is much funnier that way.

So here is a third look at those first lines of each first post of the month.

'course no one says you have to do it the way someone else says it. I liked doing the meme three different ways. Cue the appropriate Cole Porter song.

2008 in review: the one-paragraph non-sequitur version

Greetings, all. There's more Latin American stuff coming, and also Sunday's sermon, and a year-end roundup perhaps, but my computer is having trouble. Chora Church, a.k.a. Holy Saviour in the Country, a.k.a. Kariye Müzesi, Kariye Camii, or Kariye Kilisesi (the Chora Museum, Mosque or Church) is the church with the beautiful Byzantine mosaics, as beautiful as Haghia Sophia in its own way. There have been so many questions and concerns about my colleague Jeff that the college has posted an update on its website. It was fabulous. It was packed. Latest in our continuing series of international and intercultural insights by Brother of Acts of Hope. This was a designer who liked women. They don't all. Okay, foodies, here is a little social responsibility post. My friend X has come out of anonymity on his blog. The fabulous FranIAm, friend of the multitudes, has posted on the state of things. Okay, it's not as clever as the Great Schlep of Sarah Silverman and P.J. fame (P.J. told us about it and Sarah Silverman is in it, complete with profanity and with humor which you'll get all of if you're a M.O.T. and some of if you're not), but it may bring in just as many voters. One live, one gone to the ancestors. Speaking of Venice (see previous post, immediately below)... Venice is flooded.