Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas at St. Mark's: Not so Silent Night

Finally, here are some photos from Christmas Eve night. Bob and his family did a great job of decorating the church (although they hope that someone else will take up the challenge next year) and it looked lovely in the evening. I managed to learn how to take pictures at night with my little digital camera and I wanted to take a picture especially for Dan who was a valued member of St Mark's until his job took him away to the west coast. He is missing us and we are missing him and he said he wished he had St Mark's pictures to share with friends in his new parish. So here they are. St Mark's 5 p.m. service and Scott and Emily getting into the spirit of the Bell Banner during the closing hymn.

Christmas at St Mark's II

A more subdued pre-Christmas party is the party held on a Tuesday in Advent for anyone who would like to attend. Several years ago we had a small faithful group which attended a Tuesday morning eucharist and gradually death and aging decimated the population. Christmas event was begun as a chance for people who could no longer attend church regularly to visit with others and as Christmas gathering for those who can't drive at night or for some other reason choose not to attend the ebullient multigenerational party described in the previous post. Over the years, various people have hosted this party. This year Emily our seminarian hosted and she enlisted her entire family to help her with setting up, cooking and serving. A delightful time was had by all and mothers everywhere are full of compliments about the children's role in the meal.
Here are a couple of pictures from that gathering.

Christmas at St. Mark's I

The St. Mark's "Christmas Party" was held this year on the fourth Sunday of Advent. It must have originated as a party following the hanging of the greens but at some point the party dwarfed the hanging of the greens. This year several of our children played their instruments, flute and violin and all of them did a great job. We had carol singing and then the seemingly inevitable (and not the rector's favorite moment) visit from Santa, to the delight of children and doating parents. Here are some scenes from that joyful chaos,including long time St Markans and a newborn.

Doug and the Nurture Committee did a great job of making sure everyone was invited, we had a good meal at a good price and everyone got home in time for bedtime, since Monday was a school day.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Be Alert

I love it when unexpected things happen in the midst of our very formal liturgy. Until yesterday, my favorite examples were the time the new fire at the Easter Vigil burned so fiercely that we could hardly get near it to light the paschal candle and the year that the pyrex follower on the Paschal Candle exploded on the day of Pentecost. Yesterday, on Advent I, as we processed into church singing "Come, thou long expected Jesus," one of the torch bearers managed to set the spectacular dried arrangement on fire by accident. We kept on calmly processing as the fire spread from the lowest part of the arrangement to higher twigs and flaming grasses fell to the ground. The crucifer/acolyte was on it in a second. He dashed across the altar area and put out the sparks with his bare hands. HE was into the Advent spirit of alertness!

Early on Sunday

Early on Sunday, we arrived in the rain and dark at the Lambert East terminal to send Mo and Anna back to school. It seemed as if every college student studying outside of Missouri was there, too, being sent off by their parents, grimly cheerful, hugging them and getting ready to return to empty nests, watching as they took off shoes and backpacks and jackets and made their way through security and disappeared beyond the barrier. Here I am with Mo and Anna. We look as if we've been up all night partying but in fact I think we got rather disheveled in the cold and windy rain. We tried to get the vintage airplane that hangs in the airport in the background but you can barely see it.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Under construction

Meanwhile, having had a successful capital campaign and designated $35,000 from the Proehl bequest to the project, the vestry has authorized replacement of all five of our flat roofs. The new roofs will be tapered and less likely to have pools of water on them than they were before. No one seems to remember when the last time these roofs were replaced, except for the parish house high roof which was done in 1993. The roofers have been here almost every day with a crane. Sometimes they are working on two roofs at once. For a few days there was a port-a-potty on the office roof but now it is on the grass behind the church. You really have to be here to get the full effect of banging on the roof and of seeing men and women working on the roof. But in case you can't see it for your self, here are some fuzzy crane pix.


The week before diocesan convention, Marylen and I went out to see the apartments which are being rehabbed by Faith Beyond Walls/Interfaith Partnership. FBW is working with the city Kinloch to create as many as 31 housing units. They are in the next cul de sac over from some apartments FBW already rehabbed and near a playground FBW helped put up, so they are helping a whole neighborhood to be revived, as well as providing housing for people who have been made homeless by Katrina. The people who will live in these apartments are already living in the Fergson/Florissant school district, so moving into more permanent housing will not disrupt their lives any more than they have already been disrupted by the hurricane itself. FBW is working with Catholic Charities and St Patrick's center to identify the families and offer them the suppor they need to put down roots in a new place. People will be able to live there rent free for six months and then pay a rent scaled to their income. A lot of the work is done by Faith Beyond Walls volunteers from varied faith traditions who come together to work together on projects like this to make a difference in the St Louis community. Below is a picture of the apartments which are being fixed up and of me presenting a check for $5,000 from St Mark's to Beth and Rina from Faith Beyond Walls. The contractor for the work is also in the picture. . I didn't mean to be looking away but I was explaining how the camera worked when I should have been posing. There is still much to be done on the units: window coverings, mail boxes, some appliances. And there are several more units to be rehabbed, after the mold is removed from them. For more on this project and on how you can help, visit Faith Beyond Walls and click on the "Disaster Relief" button.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Anna and Mo are safely home for Thanksgiving. My sister and her family had a safe trip to NYC which included trips to the Met, MOMA, Rockefeller Center and seeing the big balloons blown up on Wednesday evening and then flown on Thursday a.m.

Here at St Mark's Thanksgiving features worshipping with our sisters and brothers at Hope UCC and Gethsemane Lutheran. This year was our turn to host the service. Pastor Kendra Nolde of Gethsemane preached a fine sermon and she read an even more wonderful poem about giving thanks by Gerhard Frost. Steve had done spectacular dried flower arrangements. The offering was for Faith Beyond Walls/Interfaith Partnership's work in rehabbing apartments for people who are settling in St Louis having been flooded out of homes in Louisiana. (More about them below.) Sue from St Mark's made coffee and muffins for coffee hour but most people just dashed home to tend their turkeys or set their tables.

Then we had Thanksgiving dinner at St Mark's parish hall. I can't remember how long we've been doing this for. I refer to it as the "orphans' Thanksgiving dinner" -- it is really for people who don't have extended family to celebrate with or who, for some reason, aren't celebrating with them. This year we had several people from St John's church, including their rector Teresa. We also hosted Bishop Bullen and Fr. John from the Sudan and a gentle who said he'd heard about our dinner at the Friends meeting. There were about 36 of us, I think. At least we set the table for 32 and didn't have enough and had to set up another table. We had a maple glazed "olde New England" recipe from with an herbed bread stuffing. I forgot to do the maple glazing, however. We also had the orange and basil turkey from Splendid Table. Once carved up they were pretty much indistinguishable. The Spellers also brought roasted brussels sprouts with red peppers, shallots and balsamic vinegar from the Dierberg's Everybody Cooks magazine and mashed potatoes. People brought wonderful and amazing things: mashed potatoes with noodle gravy, sweet potatoes baked with strudle topping, corn pudding, cauliflower cheese, an amazing array of pies, gingerbread and much, much more. Beverly made sure that we had creamed onions, a relish tray and whole berry cranberry sauce, all staples of my childhood Thanksgivings and (thousands of miles away) of hers. My image of Thanksgiving is of gathering as many people as you can around the table and just of eating. Once or twice as a kid, I took part in various Plymouth Thanksgiving costumed processions, back in the days before our eyes were open about the founding Thanksgiving myth. But mostly we just sat around all day and ate. And I realize that some of the people who were fixtures around my grandparents' table may themselves have been people with no extended family to party with: "Uncle John" who never married, varioud dutch uncles and aunts who didn't have children of their own or if they did never spent holidays with them.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Idle hands are...

Several of the needleworkers of the diocese of Missouri sat together for convention. There were others sprinkled throughout the hall, none male as far as I could see. I think it helps me to focus on what is going, helps me to feel productive when what is going on is not terribly constructive and it also makes me think twice before going to a microphone, lest I find myself all tangled up in my knitting. The sock was in attendance at convention but preferred to stay in the room.

A new deacon for MIssouri

This year's diocesan convention was in Columbia MO in a comfortable Holiday Inn hotel. You can read about the formal actions of convention on the diocesan website, here. At the eucharist at Calvary Church, Susan Bartlett of Rolla was ordained deacon. Now there are four Deacons in the diocese of Missouri and three of them are women. Having spent five years on the COM hoping to encourage more people to recognize a call to the diaconate and privileged to have a deacon here at St Mark's, I was delighted that at long last another deacon was ordained in Missouri. Above are: Susan Bartlett in the middle with Marylen Stansbery of Saint Mark's on the left and Susan Naylor of Emmanuel on the right. Below is another picture of Susan with her presenters, including Beverly Van Horne and her husband Peter.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Felting Follies

I've been making felted bags. My first one I made for myself. It was in reddish orange Araucania Nature Yarn with handles from Fiber Trends Fabulous Felt Totes pattern. I only used one kind of yarn and I loved the handles which are a special kind of I-cord. I made a purse for Anna using a lovely tweedy purple yarn which Marylen gave us. It was a shoulder bag with a flap, loosely based on a Two Old Bags pattern. At first it was too big and the strap was way too long and stretched out with use but I shortened the strap and refelted the whole thing and it is much better now. Anna used it all summer, which was pretty nice of her, since even having a wool purse can seem hot in a hot and humid St Louis summer. Then I made another one for myself, to use as knitting bag. This was a Two Old Bags pattern called double handle project bag. Here are pictures of it pre-felting and post-felting. The book is there to help you see the change in size. One of these days I plan to try some needle feling ornament on the green striped bit. Little sheep or something. Here it is big: Image hosted by
And here it is smaller:Image hosted by

Then, Mo decided ze wanted the Knitty Satchel . I knitted it somewhat more flaboyantly than the Knitty website did, putting contrasting color around the pockets and using it to reinforce the strap. Mo picked the colors, also Araucania Nature Wool. Here it is big:
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And here it is smaller:
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And here it is with its pockets exposed to view:
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The main learning experience from this project is that yarn shrinks vertically more than horizontally, or so it would appear. But Mo can probably run it through the washer a few more times and get it even smaller.

I also made a small "Boogie Bag" and matching cell phone cosy and am finishing up another Knitty Pattern, the French Market Bag. Next I want to try felted slippers!

I love the way that felting is so forgiving: mistakes just disappear in the felting process, you can pull stuff out of the washer and stretch it to shape -- even stretch it a little if it is too small. I love the way the fibers join together and make a solid fabric, almost unrecognizable as a knitted project.

Friday, October 07, 2005

On Target

Our new local Target store is open. The official ribbon cutting was Tuesday -- they had live music and everything. And it has been open ever since. The parking lot is packed. It is a LOT bigger than the old one. Sue, who has seen the garage, says that it is great. I walked there so I did not have to focus on parking. We were amazed that there was so much food. No fresh meat or veg. but loads of frozen stuff and a nice mixture of things at good prices. Quite a lot of Target's own brand stuff. Lots of stuff our family likes: delicious Alexius oven fries, Carrs Water Buscuits, brussels sprouts. It is the talk of the neighborhood. We walked all around it but bought nothing but usually we go there several times a week for stuff like printer ribbons and socks and cleaning products. If you think I am obsessed with the Hampton Ave Target you should look at the entries in this person's blog over the last year: Brick City:

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Celebration Sunday

Last Sunday was the Celebration Sunday for the Our Hope for Years to Come capital campaign. The decorators went all out with a festive balloon theme. Ann and others made a nifty balloon arch at the entrance to church. She is pictured here with her mom and members of the 7:30 congregation. You can "come as you are" to St. Mark's, but after this photo Ann changed into a dressier cute outfit to go to 10:00 church. Image hosted by
Kelly made lovely arrangements of balloons in the sconces and had the "vision". Many many people were here at six in the morning to blow up balloons, set out refreshments, etc. so that the 7:30 congregation could enjoy the celebration as fully as the 10:00 a.m. celebration. At 10 we had a trumpeter which added a lot to the music. The choir and organist did a great job with the Vaughan Williams Old Hundredth and the congregation sang along when it was our turn. Here is a picture taken during the peace, which is often a joyful if chaotic moment, here enhanced by balloons.
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At the announcement time, Rod and Kevin, the co-chairs, announced that we were very near our goal and expect to surpass it. We received several pledges during that service (the rector is not the only procrastinator at St Mark's) so we probably will surpass it. Even as I type, the property committee is getting the roof consultant to draw up specs and get bids on the three "low" roofs (rectory, parish hall office and kitchens and archives/sacristy wing of the church) and on repairing or replacing the other two (church and main parish hall roof.) The last of these is only about 12 years old. Apparently, one of issues is that in the wake of Hurricaine Katrina, roofing materials may be in short supply or experiencing price increases. The oblation bearers brought up champagne and home made bread for communion. Ken, formerly a barkeep, did the honors, opening the wine with a resounding pop before we poured it in the chalice, a festive touch we usually save for the Easter Vigil. The main joy of this campaign is that the callers had such a great time -- they enjoyed their visits, some reconnecting with old friends, some making new connections, almost all hearing positive enthusiasm about the life of this parish. Roger Ricketts of Ricketts Associates was our consultant for the campaign. He did a really nice job of helping the callers to feel prepared and positive about the whole process. Before we started, he conducted a feasibility study and conservatively but accurately predicted what we could hope to raise. He probably was not including the children of the parish, however, who managed to collect $27.36 for the campaign. Here is a picture of Carter, proudly delivering the banks to the counters, with Celeste the Godly Play teacher in the background.Image hosted by

Sock goes to school

On September 23 and 24, I went with Kathy and Jack from St Mark's to the diocesan Episcopal School for Ministry. Our team is in the congregational development track. The idea is that we will learn things about the dynamics of congregational systems and theories of leadership and of church growth which we can take back home and which will inspire us to grow and thrive as a congregation. This weekend we had a workshop with Michael Burroughs in which we looked at our leadership styles and at situational leadership. It is pretty interesting stuff although Michael does it from his perspective working with the military and with businesses (mainly in the health care field) and has not really given much thought to how the insights might translate into the church. Anyway, the TA for this class is Emily. I was disappointed that she did not bring any knitting -- she was travelling light. I managed to work on two knitting projects during the day and a half we were at ESM. In the timehonored tradition of knitting blogs: Here is a picture of Emily, me and my sock.
The sock in this picture is now finished and has a companion which is more or less the same size but has only made it to the first row of instep.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


I have just downloaded Blogger for Word. It allows me to write a document in Word and post it to my blog. I am not sure quite what the advantages of that might be. So this is just an experimental blog. Speaking of experiments, on The Splendid Table today was a man who recommends home coffee roasting. The Christian Education committee has been considering offering three events. One would be bread making. Another beer making. Maybe home coffee roasting should be the third. I’m sure we could think of some rationale for it. I’m not sure about Jesus but I bet Paul would have been a coffee drinker, if it had been around.

Espresso Alert

Today I was driving up Hampton and discovered that there is a new cafe in our neighborhood, just south of Holly Hills on the right hand side if you are driving north on Hampton. It caught my eye because they've stained the sidewalk a nice terra cotta color and have very attractive black cafe tables out front. Inside, the building has yellow walls and nice artwork and attractive floors (tile and wood laminate, I think). It is called Plato Cafe. The young man who confessed that this was his first solo latte said that he had started the business with his brother. He bought the building which "was a mess" a year and a half ago and has rehabbed it in his spare time. Right now they have sodas, bagels, coffees and cookies. They opened Monday. They plan to expand into sandwiches. Their coffee is good although it makes no claims to moral virtue (e.g. Fair Trade or organic). They don't sell coffee, only serve it. Anyway, I am now on a mission to encourage these recently arrived entrepreneurs. It is much hipper looking than The Sweet Life on Chippewa. Also hipper looking than most businesses on South Hampton. Anyway, I hope local readers and St Markans will stop by and give them a try. Maybe this will inspire us to revive Theological Cafe or be a good venue for a Shawl Ministry field trip.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Our lovely dog Belle was put to sleep today. She has been with us since 1996 when we adopted her as a puppy from the Missouri Humane Society and the girls named her for the female lead in Beauty and the Beast. She was a German Shepherd/ Beagle mix. She used to "roo" like a beagle. She was fierce in protecting our house, not always gentle with children, clear that she was Top Dog over our younger dog Sophie. She was intelligent and reasonably well trained. She was equally able to train us. For example, she used to play an elaborate game, refusing to go out into the garden without a lot of pleading. She had trained us to beg, to play this game of tag. She was sweet and affectionate.

In the last few years she developed a seizure disorder. We let her sleep in our room after that, so that if she had a seizure, we would know about it. This time last year, when we came home from vacation, she had multiple seizures and we had to take her to the emergency vet who, at vast expense, adjusted her meds and got her stable. In the last few months, she'd been having trouble standing up and staying standing, her walking was a little awkward. She tended to be slow to get up. Every now and then she'd surprise us-- dashing out into the garden with Sophie as Sophie chased rabbits and birds.

We were worried enough about her that we took her to the vet before we left town. He seemed to think she had arthritis and put her on another medication. But while we were away, Jim the dog sitter was worried that she was not eating, etc. and took her to the vet again.The vet drew blood and when I called on Saturday, he seemed to think that none of the blood tests were worrying. But by Sunday, she could not move at all, Lynn our other dog sitter took her to the vet who said that she had fluid in her abdomen and had septic peritonitis. John and I dashed home (we got the message leaving church in Holyoke MA at about nine a.m.) driving all through the night. We chose not to subject Belle to exploratory surgery and we kept her on palliative care until we got there at 6:30 a.m. today. Everyone at the Animal Emergency Clinic is incredily nice and supportive and aware of the complex emotional issues about people and their pets. They return calls immediately, they call you with updates on your pet's condition. I can't say enough about what great care they give to pets and owners.

When we got there, we told her we were home and we loved her. Her ears perked up and her eyes moved, which the vet said was more response than they'd seen all day, but she was plainly a very sick dog. So when we were done, the vet put her to sleep. She was a great dog.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Coming Attractions

Today I had lunch with Emily our new seminarian intern. September 11, Celebration Sunday, will be her first Sunday with us. She will be putting her bio in our newsletter (which you can read, on our website, but not until early next week.) We went to Ellie Fortella the only one of the Great Restaurant group in Saint Louis I have never visited. It was Great, their name does not exaggerate. But even more great is Emily who will lead a three class adult series in September on Praying the Lord's Prayer, Living the Lord's Prayer and who will preach about once every six weeks and who will lector and chalice bear and assist around the altar. She is gentle and funny and bright and eager to learn and happy to be coming to St Mark's. She'll do some pastoral visits and hopefully during the time she's with us she'll tell us about Mechtild of Magdeberg, the medieval German mystic on whom she wrote her thesis. And we have all of our speakers lined up for All Speakers Great and Small. Pretty exciting!

Monday, August 22, 2005

End of Summer

Yesterday (Sunday) was a surprisingly busy day. On some summer Sundays, many people are away or people choose a lovely bike ride or other outing over church. But yesterday there were lots of people in church. When we offered a "Back to School Prayer," hordes of people came up, from kindergarten to college and we had three teachers, one of them about to start his first year of teaching high school social studies. One reason that church was fuller than usual was that Lindsay and lots of people from Episcopal Campus Ministry were here for Lindsay's last Sunday in Saint Louis. She was the intern at the Episcopal Campus Ministry last academic year and she's moving back to Philadelphia for the next phase of her work and vocational life. Lindsay prepared for confirmation with our class at St Mark's and because she was staying with Marylen our deacon was part of our common life in many other ways. Lindsay and I share our alma mater Bryn Mawr College so we spent a fair amount of time together on and off this year. So Saint Mark's made a good place for a liturgical send-off. We gave her a yellow shawl that the Shawl Ministry had started for Lindsay when she was having a rough time last winter, we prayed for her new life and her safe travel. We should have prayed for Alicia who has been here helping her pack and who will be driving back with her in Lindsay's aging Volvo. I'll miss having her around and wish her well in Philadelphia. She's full of fun and talents and energy and I don't think it will be long before she discovers work to satisfy and delight her.

The other big excitement this Sunday was that just as we got to the end of the offertory hymn, the organ started to cipher. That means that a pipe sounds without any key being pressed. For some reason that I don't know, it always seems to happen with a high pitched pipe it is impossible to ignore. So the organist turned it off and we said some parts of the service we normally sing and sang part without accompaniment. He kept testing to see whether it would stop by itself, surreptitiously turning on the organ blower to see if the offending pipe would sound. But it did. So finally he played the closing hymn on the piano an dmost of the choir (which has been on vacation for the summer) gathered around him to give him moral support.

I preached as sermon which was rather fun to write, playing fast and loose with the gospel for the day. Someone asked for a copy of it and I may post it here later. Right now I have a zillion things to do to get ready to go on vacation Thursday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

All Speakers Great and Small

We got together this evening to imagine adult education offerings at St Mark's for the fall. We designed a speakers series with outside distinguished scholars (the great) who will be announced as soon as they have confirmed that they are available. Then we decided that three of us had something intelligent and intelligible to say, so we were the small. These sessions will be Sunday evenings from 5:30 to 8:00 with supper, a format that has worked really well for us.

But then we fell to fantasizing about speakers we'd love to have if we could afford it: Marcus Borg, John Spong, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Jim Wallis. A Put Saint Mark's On The Map Speakers' series. At some point in its past, either to celebrate the 25th or the 50th anniversary, I forget which, James Pike was a featured speaker at Saint Marks' Church.

This evening we also sketched out two experiential experiences we have yet to calendar, one about brewing beer and the other about baking bread. In both baking and brewing yeast transforms the ingredients into something that is much more than the sum of its parts, a kind of alchemy. We could brew beer on Saint Brigid's day and those who wanted to could plan to drink it after Easter. And bread baking is always appropriate and replete with theological themes.

Here is a poem (prayer) attributed to St. Brigid.

I'd like to give a lake of beer to God.
I'd love the Heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.

I'd love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I'd put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.

White cups of love I''d give them,
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I'd offer
To every man.

I'd make Heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I'd make the men contented for their own sake
I'd like Jesus to love me too.

I'd like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around,
I'd give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.

I'd sit with the men, the women of God
There by the lake of beer
We'd be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.

Today at the Farmers' Market at the Schlafly Bottlworks, the air was heavy with the sweet smell of fermentation from the microbrewery there. It does make the image of heaven as like a lake of beer quite appealing.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


We had thunderstorms yesterday in the afternoon and early evening with spectacular cloud formations. As the storms began there was lots of wind and at least one big branch down on Donovan between Nottingham and Landsdowne. And then even after the thunder and lightening stopped it rained and rained all night. It was so great! It has been so dry here that the trees look tired and thirsty. I can't remember how long it has been such we've had so much rain, since mid-July at least.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Backblogging again & A few of my favorite things

I posted a lot of entries I had been working on over the last several weeks today. Highlights of this week: Mo the camp counseller is home from her summer job. Anna the office girl has another week of work to go. Our house is full of the twins and their friends, cooking, eating and playing cards and I have promised to teach them Hearts before they all go back to college. We are continuing our festival of locally grown produce, visiting the Farmers' Market at the Schlaffly Bottleworks on Wednesdays and the Greenmarket in the Central West End on Saturdays, thereby getting local lamb and chicken and eggs, beautiful tomatos, squash and eggplant and blackberries and peaches. Yumm. It was at the Greenmarket that I ate my first ambrosial fruit scone from La Dolce Via bakery. It was the lightest and fruitiest scone I have ever eaten. So now I think of excuses to meet people at La Dolce Via at Taylor and Arco where it turns out that the coffee is every bit as transformatively delicious as the fruit scones and the people who work there are nice and they have a child friendly area, which I like in a restaurant even though my days of coaxing toddlers to be good while Mommy eats are over.

The week at St Mark's started with the funeral of a long time member, who requested the St Louis Ragtimers to play at his service. He was over eighty but died of cancer only a couple of months after his diagnosis, which seemed way too soon. Tuesday, the Shawl Ministry had its first field trip. We brownbagged and went to Knitorious, the lovely, friendly knitting shop on Southwest at Clifton. We brought lunch, chatted, Melissa taught me how to do three needle cast off, Mo and I bought yarn for felting projects and a good time was had by all. On Thursday I went berserk and cleaned out the shelves in the office and the shelves in the closet where the office overflow goes. Vestry that night made plans for the fall: refinishing the badly damaged floor around the altar, sending a team to the Congregational Development School, scheduling a small rummage sale for late October, planning for Opening Day on September 11 and Trivia Night for October 15th. Today I met a new parishioner at another favorite coffee location Hartford Coffee on Hartford, just south of Arsenal and East of Grand. My top picks there are the sausage frittata and the lox and bagels. St Mark's is going to start getting and selling Hartford Coffee's fair trade grown and locally roasted coffee very soon. I hope.

I guess none of this sounds very strenuous but it is hot and humid and I am longing for vacation.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Celebration of a New Ministry in De Soto

So last week we went to De Soto, Missouri twice. Once for the memorial service of Chandler Crawford who had been a priest for over 60 years, most of them in one part or another of the diocese of Missouri. He managed to hang onto traces of a New England accent which I always found endearing and he was unfailingly kind to his younger colleagues and quite active at clergy events, etc. The second time was August 4 for the Celebration of a New Ministry of the Rev. Beverly Van Horne and Trinity Church. Beverly has been called to be Priest in Charge for redevelopment. She's working half time. De Soto is still the home of the Union Pacific Car Shops, continuing a long railway heritage. It also has two Methodist churches with women pastors (so Beverly won't be the only woman at the local clergy group) and two funeral homes on the main street which runs parallel to the railway tracks. Beverly invited me to preach at this service which was very flattering. Here is the sermon:

On this joyful evening, when we gather to celebrate a new era in the life of the congregation of Trinity De Soto and your new priest in charge Beverly Van Horne, we heard about God sending the Spirit on the seventy elders so that Moses would not have to shoulder the burden of leadership alone. But I invite you, like Paul Harvey, to listen to the rest of the story.
Our lectionary often leaves out some verses and I’d like to tell you the story we heard from the book of Numbers in its larger context. Before the point where we began to read tonight, we learn WHY God told Moses to gather people into the tent of meeting. Moses, you remember, has led God’s people out into the wilderness. They wanted to go, they were eager for a new and better life. But before too long, the people began complaining and whining, as sometimes happens in the midst of transition and of change, people lose heart on the way to seeing God’s promises come to fruition. God has brought the people out of slavery in Egypt; God has fed them in the wilderness with manna from heaven but is that good enough for them? Oh no. They complain to Moses about the lack of variety in the menu. They are tired of that boring manna, day in and day out, and long for leeks and cucumbers and garlic and melons. They start to talk about slavery in Egypt as the good old days. At least the food was better.
Then Moses starts whining, too. He tells God, this isn’t his idea of ministry, he didn’t sign up for this. The people are acting like babies, he tells God, why doesn’t GOD be their nursemaid. Moses tells God I’m not their Mom, you are, you take care of them. Clergy and congregational leaders often do feel overwhelmed by the demands of their communities, communities in which people sometimes behave, for various reasons, like these infantile Israelites. Leaders can get hooked into the idea that it really is their job to be all things to all people, to be the mom and the nursemaid, instead of trusting all to God and calling one another to speak the truth in love and to grow up into maturity in Christ. . But God’s vision of leadership in community is very different. So, as we heard, God tells Moses to gather the elders into the tent of meeting and God showers out God’s spirit upon the elders, making them all leaders, all prophets whose voices are of value in the life community, whose speech should always be listened to respectfully as if it were the voice of God.
But that’s not all. If we read a few verses further, we discover that there were two of the elders, Eldad and Medad, who, for whatever reason, were not in the tent of meeting but the spirit of prophesy descended on them anyway. They were going around prophesying and Joshua, Moses’ helper, rushed up to Moses, all alarmed, telling Moses to stop them but Moses says to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets!!”
I don’t know how our lectionary decided which verses to read and which to leave out but I wish we had Eldad and Medad at this service, because all over the Episcopal Church congregations are feeling the winds of change but are slow to allow God’s Spirit to speak to them from outside the comfy tent, preferring to recreate or to preserve the imagined good old days, planting and cultivating cucumbers and melons and garlic rather than allowing God to shower new gifts of manna upon them from unexpected quarters. But God’s Spirit is trying to shape and to grow our churches, not just from our beloved Prayer Book and Anglican tradition but also from outside the Episcopal tent. We can learn much about church growth, about spiritual practices, about approaches to working with children and youth from other Christian churches, we can learn a lot about the character and longings of our communities, about how to offer a warm welcome to visitors, about how to share the good news about what we have to offer as Christians in the Anglican tradition from secular approaches to marketing and advertising. And most of all, we need to be ready for Eldad and Medad to show up some Sunday in our churches—even right here in Trinity Church in De Soto, ready to hear the spiritual hungers of new comers, ready to listen with respect and even to embrace their ideas (however unlike the way we’ve always done it in the tent of meeting they may be). Even though the book of Numbers says, in a verse we hardly ever read, that when the Spirit rested on the 70 elders and they prophesied, they did so only once, the experience of God’s people and of the Church has been that God’s Spirit keeps on being poured out on our churches, calling us to be thriving communities committed to Christ’s work of reconciling all people with each other and with God, serving our neighbors in Jesus’ name, engaged in joyful worship of the God who ever brings life out of death and invites all people to feast together at the table where Christ is the host.

Beverly: I know that you will resist the temptation to be anybody’s nursemaid or Mom but I know that you will nurture this congregation. You are wise and mature and you will love this congregation, in fact I know that you love them already. By your word and example you will help this congregation live into their baptismal promises, to grow into the individuals and the church community that God already knows them to be.
Be a faithful priest and pastor, present in times of joy and times of sorrow, offering comfort and challenge and gathering all at the Lord’s Table. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, share with the people of this congregation your imagination and your humor. Be gentle to yourself and remember that part time means part time and that God is still God and God’s grace is at work even if you are under-prepared or too tired to take on one more thing. Trust in God and in God’s people and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Keep learning, keep praying. And don’t’ stop knitting.

People of Trinity: Earlier this week, many of us here, gathered to give thanks for the life of the Rev. Chandler Crawford. For an outsider, it was a wonderful snapshot of the life of this congregation: You were showing pastoral care for Catherine and her family and for one another in your grief. You were showing careful and thoughtful hospitality to visitors, you sang and joined in the prayers with vigor. Love and trust Beverly. Be gracious enough to assume that she is doing her best and meaning no harm, even when she does things – as even the best priests inevitably do—that surprise or even hurt you. Speak the truth in love to her and to one another and trust to the reconciling power of God. If you and your new priest Beverly keep your eyes on the promised land, keep your minds and your hearts open to the Spirit, if you embrace change without looking back, if you continue in vigorous faith, open handed hospitality and care for friend and stranger, it won’t be long before this church is as busy on Sundays as it has been this week.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Busman's Holiday Episode the Second

Thursday John went with the tour and I took the day off to go to Dedham to see my mother who was glad to see me although she had no clue who I was or what I was doing there. It seemed to me that she was losing speech even in comparison with our visit in May. I looked for a knitting shop called Black Sheep Knitting Company and Italian restaurant I had visited in May and failed to find them because they were in Needham and I thought, for some reason, it was in Newton where there is a pleasant enough knitting shop called Putting on the Knitz and a little Italian place. Then I came back to the nice cool airconditioned motel and vegged out. Meanwhile John visited seven more churches and a Portuguese Buffet Dinner. I was jealous of the Portuguese buffet and was sad not to have seen the Memorial Unitarian Church in Fairhaven which is supposed to be absolutely spectacular but otherwise I was glad to be more leisured.
On Saturday we went to Taunton MA. John delights in pointing out that this part of southern Massacusetts has lots of place names from his home county of Somerset: Taunton and Bridgewater, for example. And he was thrilled to visit St John's Church Taunton , a very sweet white framed Gothic Church because the nearest church to his childhood home in England was St John's Taunton (a dark Victorian Gothic building with a spire, links to Forward in Faith and other conservative church groups and -- perhaps I should not be surprised -- without a website). He insisted I take a picture of this banner.

St John's Taunton MA is a small congregation yoked with two others in Bristol County and the proud owners of E. & G.G. Hook&Hastings Opus 764. It turns out that practically the whole organizing committee of this conference have been organists at this church at one time or another. Lois Regenstein played a delightful recital on it. ways.
I liked the carving on the case of this instrument, too, so here it is close up. Obviously there are some things I still need to learn about placing photos in my blog. Bear with me.

My three favorite things about this day were
1) Barbara Owen's recital at Berkley Congregational Church in Berley MA on an 1830's Hook and Hastings, both because she played two pieces by the local American Composer Oliver Shaw, (who wrote organ music to commemorate every imaginable event, apparently--on Thursday we hear programmatic music to commemorate the visit of Lafayette to Providence RI, also by Shaw) and because she gave lively little program notes including observations about registration.
2) St Mary's RC Church(Hook and Hatstings Opus 1674) which was plainly not the most prosperous church in the world (it was the one we were warned had no bathrooms) but the organ has been held together with string and chewing gum and duct tape by dedicated organ enthusiasts from all over the area and I like the idea of people giving their time to restore and maintain a historic organ.
3) We had a CLAMBAKE in a shed at West Presbyterian Church in Taunto which apparently hosts clambakes to raise money. It reminded me of the clambakes my grandparents used to put on for their friends. We'd sit at trestle tables in the garage, the guys would boil the Clam Bake in metal trash cans out in the yard. We'd have lobster and clams and corn and potatoes and carrots and hotdogs and it was great. No lobster at this clambake, breakfast type sausage instead of hotdogs and bread stuffing was served, which was a new one on me. Also Boston Brown bread.
You can see that we all really got into it!

You can learn more about the Organ Historical Society, this convention and next year's convention by visiting their website The Convention website tells you a lot more about the organs we visited than I can even understand. You can see a lot more pictures by peole who attended the convention here.

Busman's Holiday Episode One

I devoted the week of July 10, precious vacation time, to looking at hot old churches, such a refreshing change from daily life. We went east for the Organ Historical Society's annual convention. My husband John had identified what he thought would be the three best days and we drove there and back. We stayed in the Radisson in Brockton, Mass.

Brockton, for readers who don't know, is not a classic holiday destination. It was once a bustling industrial city thanks to the shoe industry, it was the first city to electrified by Edison. But since the shoe industry moved south and then abroad, it has been all down hill for Brockton. It has some lovely old buildings but also, like so many cities, block upon block of derelict buildings, blocks of people living in substandard housing, hanging out on the street corners in this hot weather because there are few good jobs. When I was a very little girl, my grandparents lived there and I assume my grandmother grew up there before attending the nearby Normal School , now Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, but I have no idea why they lived there or how long or what they did. Being there made me wonder about my grandmother and her family.

The Radisson is part of a huge shopping center on the north end of the town. We didn't see anything in Brockton, however. We got onto big white busses at 8 a.m. every day and we came back after 9 p.m. And we went from interesting old organ to interesting old organ. One day I stopped counting after organ number eight. At each church, an organist demonstrates the organ by playing various pieces which show you what it can do and by playing a hymn which all sing vigorously. Then OHS members swarm around the instrument commenting on its appearance, construction and sound, using the special language of organ geeks: spotted metal, chiff, . On the bus and at meals they swap stories of playing services under bizarre circumstances and talk about organs they have known (and yes, they make puns and double entendres galore about transplanting organs, whose organ is biggest, etc.) They speak of great 19th and 20th century organ builders like Erben, Hook and Hastings, E.M. Skinner, Johnson and Jardine with the tones of awed admiration which other people reserve for talking about celebrity sightings. The huge preponderance of OHS members are males who will not be fifty again and who also like vintage trains. Several OHS members are Early Music enthusiasts and at least one was sporting a "Clavichords for World Peace" T shirt.

We had a great time but as a non organ geek, I found myself noticing other church things: how off putting it is that one bathroom had a plethora of signs about what not to flush and instructions for the preschool classes on handwashing; the cool folders the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts gives to parishes for their newcomer packets; the subltle ways in which churches communicate that they are lively communities or preservation societies. As our congregation struggles with making our 1938 building accessible to all people, I was feeling grateful that we at least have bathrooms on both levels of the church building, unlike some of these lovely older churches which have no bathrooms at all or whose gracious hosts direct you to the building next door down a flight of stairs. It was very very hot in MA and I faithfully drank water and in consequence could probably conduct the Church Ladies' Room Historical Society tour of Southern Massachusetts so I had plenty of opportunities for such reflections. .

We visited Christ Church, Swansea (Geo. S. Hutchings & Co. Opus 515), a lovely little church Henry Vaughan building like a little English church with an absolutely spectacular monument to the benefactors of the church in the lovely green cemetery. Also in Swansea was First Congregational Church, (E. & G.G. Hook Opus 460) which has a fascinating old fashioned chandelier.

Lunch was provided by Good Shepherd (RC) Parish in Fall River, speedy and courteous service. Someone claimed that now Indian casino gambling has caused bingo to cease to be a source of revenue for churches which instead are doing more and more catering for crowds. We visited First Congregational Church (Ernest M. Skinner Co., Opus 191) which has absolutely fascinating abstract Tiffany windows in the East end. You can see a picture of them here. We had dinner in a church that has ceased to be a church at all and is now the International Culinary Institute of Fall River, quite a spectacular Victorian Early English Gothic structure of red brick and stone (or concrete) almost as flamboyant as those English Victorian churches on which it is modeled, sometimes referred to as "blood and bandages". The organ survived but no attempt was made to play it. When it was Central Presbyterian Church, it was Lizzie Borden's church but this played no part in its decline, apparently. Or in her behavior, for that matter. Then on Thursday evening we went to St Anne's Roman Catholic Church which has statues in its clerestory arches, intended to make you feel surrounded by the Communion of Saints. They have a Cassavant. We had a concert of organ music and choral music. Luckily I am not a music critic.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Parables of daily life

The empire of God is like the surprise lilies which come up as if from nowhere in the midst of summer when nothing much else is in flower.

The empire of God is like a church at 10 a.m. on a summer Sunday when only a few people are in church and by the peace the place is full of people of all ages and energy and spirit.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

More views of Saint Mark's Baby Boom

On July 10, we baptized baby Mackenzie Faye, just a week short of her birthday. It was a joyful occasion, as all baptisms are. Here she is with her mom, admiring her cake and here she is at the font with me, testing the water before she gets any more of it on her head. Carter, the ten year old theologian in training who is my trusty acolyte for baptisms, when I need someone to hold things for me so my hands are free for water and oil and holding the baby, is also in the picture, making sure he misses no interesting details. There is a lot to like about the Episcopal baptismal rite especially the words of the baptismal covenant more and more shape our understanding of what it means to live as Christian people and this great prayer we pray after the baptism:

Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy
Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the
forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of
grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them
an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to
persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy
and wonder in all your works. Amen.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Techie Triumph

I haven't done anything this difficult and ultimately pointless since I sat in the Bodleian Library for about a week with Polish grammar books and dictionaries to try to learn enough Polish to read a book for my thesis. I have spent way too much time looking at the Blogger help pages, resizing my pictures (actually, had used Photobucket to post them originally which I think was my main problem) and scrutinizing html in order to figure out what tag I had lost. In case you wondered, "How can I get my Profile and links back where they belong?" is apparently not a FAQ. I compared my blog with another one based on the same template. And then I just experimented until by dumb luck I got my profile, etc. back where they belong. Of course in the process I have doubtless introduced tons of useless code (at one point, for example, I had the Blogring box in two places only one of which displayed on screen) AND it still is not perfect. Too little space between blog and sidebar content, colors chosen to echo those of St Mark's are not quite right and I haven't even checked to see if they work on anything except IE. I have learned a lot but it is about hubris not CSS and HTML.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Only a wannabe techie

I am having a hard time with getting my profile and my links to stay up at the TOP of my blog instead of at the bottom. In the process of trying to fix this, changed templates which meant all my links went away. They'll be back soon. I know how to fix that and saved my old template edits so it should be fairly easy. I am also tinkering with colors. But I am thinking that some of my photos are just way too big, so I am working on changing them. (I put them in using the blog posting function of photobucket and am replacing them using Blogger's own uploading software.) Anyway, if anyone reads this and knows a brilliant and easy way to change the situation, please let me know. I fixed it on my old template but at the price of having my blog way over to the left side of the screen which I didn't like.
So, consider my template under construction and bear with me.

Monday, June 27, 2005

New Priests Celebrate

Beverly's first eucharist was Saturday at 5 p.m. followed by a pot luck supper. Over fifty people attended and it was a great and joyful time. Sunday at 7:30 was Sally's first eucharist and she preached at both services. Here is Beverly in the wonderful silk chasuble made by Chris and the beautiful stole her "Group 7" friends (shown above) who came all the way from Hawaii to be with her for this weekend had made for her. The leaves are native Hawaiian leaves, apparently, beautifully quilted.

Below is a vertical view of chasuble and stole:

Below are Sally and Beverly and Marylen and me. We've had a good time being a team over the last few years and everyone at St Mark's will miss Sally and Beverly very much.

Every now and then new people or visitors will comment on seeing so many women behind the altar. I think most Saint Markans are over the novelty and the four of us have stopped noticing. But we will all miss Sally and Beverly and the energy and spirit with which they have been among us as transitional deacons.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Bearing Witness

At the gates to Tower Grove Park on Saturday morning, there were two men with huge crosses over their shoulders. I guess they were there to call us all to repentance, to bear witness to the fact that LGBTQ people cause Jesus to suffer. Mo and Becky engaged them in conversation, because they noticed that the crosses were hollow and asked what they stored in them. The protesters said sandwiches. Also, I suspect, the pink fliers from "Operation Save America"with which they blanketed Pridefest, claiming that God had made Michael Jackson an object lesson about the evils of homosexuality (How many things are wrong with this thesis? I won't dignify it with a refutation.) Mo and Becky noted that the crosses were on wheels and that the men had shoulder pads, so they were carrying the comfy cross, in a way. It seems odd to use the cross as a weapon for scaring people away.
While I was at Soulard shopping for altar flowers, someone stopped by the Oasis/Integrity booth to offer my husband John a ticket to heaven, assuming that he'd quickly convert a queer ally into a Christian homophobe, not reckoning with the fact that John has a D. Phil. in theology and was unlikely to cave easily. I am sorry to have missed this! Apparently Sunday there were lots of people proclaiming that they had been "saved" or "healed" from homosexuality.
The thing that always amazes me about Pride is how many of the vendors are selling double glazing and mortgages and banking services-- not exotic "alternative lifestyle" items or sex aids but basic citizen, family-next-door goods and services. Many churches and church groups, although the MCC always has the best booth. I always buy the Dignity lemonade, I feel it is the least I can do. I guess part of my own homophobia is that I'm always worried I'm going to encounter things which offend or shock me, but it was pretty tame. Okay, I was a little embarrassed to be standing talking to Margie from church about her HGTV tote bag next to what seemed to be a display of whips at a booth with a name like Fetish World.
I think next year the Episcopalians need to have fans to give away. If it is even close to as hot and humid next year as it was this year, we will instantly become the most popular booth at the fair. The most popular give away this year seems to have been the HGTV canvas bags, although a parishioner told me that the Stonewall Democrats had so many people at their booth you could hardly get near it. The food area had quite tasty fried potato strips, a new junk food I had not encountered before.
I wasn't at the booth for very long, although I was wearing my (hot) clericals and love the looks that we get from people, startled that Episcopalians are there or that clergy are with them. And I was heartened by people who seemed to know about the Episcopal church and admire our bold welcome.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Make her a priest...

On Friday June 24 Sally and Beverly were ordained to the priesthood, together with Doris and Renee. But Sally and Beverly are especially dear to us at St Mark's. Sally has been a member of St Mark's on and off throughout her life and was active in the parish before her discernment group was formed and she has worked with me on our 5 p.m. Saturday service since she was ordained transitional deacon. She also worked with our confirmation class, bonding with the youth in particular in just minutes. Sally is going to be curate at Grace Church in Kirkwood and among her responsibilities will be children and youth, at which she is a natural. And Beverly came to us in the fall of 2003 for an internship, so she could experience her pastoral identity in a congregation other than that in which her call had been discerned (and in which her husband Peter is the rector) and, as she puts it, "she refused to leave." But now she is going to be priest in charge for redevelopment of Trinity Church in De Soto, Missouri and she will do a fantastic job.

It was a very hot night which seemed hotter because we knew that not far away there had been a catastrophic fire at a company which makes propane and other bottled gasses. The airconditioning in the cathedral seemed unable to keep up with the heat of a full cathedral and vestments didn't help. Curiously, it didn't seem hot at all as the priests in attendance gathered around each of the four candidates to join the bishop in laying hands on them. We were sharing in a ritual which had changed the lives of each of us in ways we would never have exptected on our own ordination days. We were connecting the newly ordained by that simple gesture of touch with each of us and those who had laid hands on us and two thousand years of Christian clergy whose names we know because of their preaching or teaching or writing or holy lives and whose names we will never know. In that holy huddle we remember that we are called and connected by the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Worth a Thousand Words

It has always been one of the hard and fast rules of the Episcopal Church that we don't take pictures in church. The idea, I guess, is that it is distracting from the liturgy and makes it seem like a "show" or a "performance."

The idea, I guess, is that it is distracting from the liturgy, makes it seem like a "show" or a "performance" rather than an act of praise and worship. Moreover, liturgical worship is all about being "in the moment" -- not something that you can capture and "freeze." I buy all of that and continue to be adamant that photography (especially flash photography) is not allowed during weddings, which are crazy enough without brides and grooms being blinded by flash and forgetting to say "I will" instead of "I do" or falling over photographers lying in the aisle to catch the procession, as if they were capturing celebs at the opening of a film or something.

When we started our parish website or when we were working on the "activities" page of our picture directory, all we could find were pictures of people eating and drinking. We do a lot of that, of course, but if you wanted to see what it would be like to go to church here, you would be out of luck. Every now and then, people would pay no attention to my stern warnings about how inappropriate it is to take photos in church and present me with great pictures of the bishop's visit, of children standing around the font at a baptism, of the altar piled high with food on our Harvest Home/World Hunger day. So I have relented. We live in such a visual culture that I feel as if images of worship have their place in telling the story of Saint Mark's Church.

So, above , you see the Rev. Marylen Stansbery, our deacon, pouring the water into the font.

And here you see Carter intent on his task of holding the book for the blessing of the water.

William, the baptismal candidate, seems more interested in Carter's hair than in the holy mysteries.

William, the baptismal candidate, seems more interested in Carter's hair.

And below he is, about to be sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ's own forever.

Shawl Ministry

This is a fun picture of Shawl Ministry (see Knit Together, back in April) at work. Marylen knits, Sue prefers to crochet with her elegantly turned wood crochet hook. She is the most productive of our shawl producers and keeps track of who each shawl is sent to and makes lovely cards to go with them. Carol mostly crochets, too. We are taking the summer off from meeting and maybe even from knitting, since having six feet of fuzzy yarn in your lap is not as much fun in summer as in winter.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Rummage sermon

PROPER 7 YEAR A June 19, 2005 Saint Mark’s Church, Saint Louis MO
We are almost at the end of the Flea Market and Barbecue weekend. It has been an interesting few weeks, as people have cleaned out their houses and brought things in and an interesting weekend watching people shop. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure. The tool belt or old purse or mixing bowls that you no longer have space or use for turn out to be the very treasure someone else has always wanted. As people worked this week, each of us discovered and staked out the things we wanted to buy at the preview sale, either for ourselves or as a gift for someone else, something that no one else wanted that seemed to US like just the perfect thing. It always seems to me that there is some kind of parable in a rummage sale, that what seems expendable to one person seems irresistible to another. And this is how we, all of us, seem to God: precious, treasured, irresistibly lovable.
Every culture treats some people as expendable: in some cultures it is daughters, who are so much less valuable than sons that new born girls are smothered or left on a hillside to die of exposure. In other cultures with strict caste systems, it is those of the lowest caste, the untouchables. In our culture, we could argue, it is homeless people or mentally ill people or very old or indigent people; people who, as a culture, we don’t care about. African American young men living in poverty are treated as expendables by the dominant culture: their street deaths barely make the news (unlike the demise of suburban white families in tragic minivan accidents or the abduction of white female teens), their high imprisonment rates are not deplored in editorials. But they are precious in the sight of God, God knows their names, weeps alongside their mothers and their girlfriends, rages with them when they are the victims of injustice. They may be out of sight and out of mind, but they are not expendables in the heart of God, even if they have made some poor choices. They are precious and lovable.
Some scholars who study Jesus in sociological and historical categories, see Jesus and most of those with whom he spent his time as expendable. Lepers were expendable, so were people possessed by demons and the woman with a flow of blood. But Jesus himself and his companions were, by the standards of a culture which valued landowning, expendables, landless peasants for whose welfare the culture was unconcerned. But Jesus touched such expendable people, Jesus gathered them for meals, Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was in the midst of them.
So in today’s gospel, Jesus sends his disciples out into a hostile world, into a world that offers them no welcome, that gives their good news no hearing. He warns them of persecution, by the authorities and even by their own families. But he offers them courage by reminding them that in the eyes of God no one, no living creature, is expendable. They are as precious as the sparrows which sell for two a penny but God cares for what happens to each and every one of them. Even the hairs of their heads are numbered. Jesus encourages his disciples, throwaway people in the eyes of the dominant culture, by assuring them that God cares for each hair on their heads, for each sparrow that falls. We are none of us rummage, none of us expendable in the eyes of God, we are all God’s longed for, precious treasure, holy and beloved.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

So that is how it works!

I am still learning about this blogging business. I just finished up a long rant about FAITH COMMUNITIES TODAY: A National Survey of Episcopal Congregations 2005 which I had begun and saved as a draft on May 19th. It appears that when you do that, it publishes it as a May 19th post. So that makes me look like much less of a blogging slacker!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Dear Blog, Sorry for not writing...

One of the important aspects of having a weblog is, of course, posting. There is not much point in having one if you don't write in it. Someone pointed out to me that the Episcoblog webring expects you to blog at least once a week, which means that I am about six weeks behind. In that time I have driven to the east coast, picked up my children from college, visited my sister and her family and my stepmother (who spent the whole visit wondering who we were), seen friends in Reading, come home, worked on the brochure for Saint Mark's capital campaign for roof repair, met with campaign committee and consultant to get ready for the Our Hope for Years to Come campaign, which we launched on June 5th. In honor of the campaign launch, I significantly decluttered my office, so that people could be invited in to look at the impressive damp spot in one corner, in case they needed proof that we need a new roof but no one did. But the committee provided a great brunch with two kinds of breakfast casserole, one of them an amazingly delicious French Toast one and everyone's energy seems high. Also in June, I experienced the baffling disappearance of the memory chips from my computer in a locked building, which made work rather complicated (although it only cost $60 to make my computer good as new and no data was lost or anything.). The congregation has been hard at work on a giant Flea Market (the committee thought "Flea Market" sounded more enticing than "Rummage Sale") which has benefitted from several people moving house and others being inspired to get rid of stuff. It is amazing how much stuff there is, almost overwhelming. There will also be a barbecue all day Saturday. This past Saturday we drove to Camp Shawnee in Waldron MO, near Parkville (four and a half hours from home) to deliver Mo who will be working as a counsellor there this summer and got back in time for the 5 p.m. service. Anna has had my car most days because of her job and a house-sitting gig, so there have been some adventures in transportation. And there was the usual round of visits, meetings, people in the hospital, preaching and generally doing my job. So... Have I made enough excuses for not blogging yet? I have thought about blogging a lot but even though blogger has all kinds of convenient ways of posting to your blog remotely, thought transmission is not yet one of them.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

None of the above?

Early in May, before I went on vacation, I received a copy of a survey of Episcopal Churches. It is to be filled out by the resident clergy and asks a number of questions about the life and health of the congregation. I managed to fill it out online in the time allotted, only to get another copy, reminding me to fill it out and extending the deadline. I am delighted that the national church attempting a comprehensive survey and glad to be a part of it. But it was puzzling. Some of the questions were quite straightforward, like "How often does your congregation hold regular weekend worship services?" There are some where I realize my perspective as the priest may be different from that of my congregation. The survey asks me how well the following adjectives describe our largest weekend worship service, on a scale of "very well " to "not at all":
  • Reverent
  • Informal
  • Filled with a sense of God's presence
  • Joyful
  • Formal liturgy
  • Exciting
  • Thought-provoking
  • Welcoming to newcomers
  • Contemplative
  • Contempoary
  • Predictable
  • Disorganized
  • Has a sense of expectancy
  • Participatory

How would I know? One person's reverent, formal or contemplative liturgy is another person's predictable liturgy, I'd say. I often am obsessed by the things that aren't as organized as I think they should be: typos in our elaborate bulletin which is meant to be user friendly for newcomers, endless announcements by parish leaders who have not submitted announcements for the bulletin in advance or who just don't believe that people read them, acolytes who breathlessly appear, still doing up their cinctures and the snaps on their albs, during the awkward silence after the prelude is over. I don't think that "Will the acolytes and readers make it in time?" is what is meant in the survey by a "sense of expectancy." Actually, many of these questions about liturgical style, demographics, programmatic evangelism and newcomer incorporation, congregational identity would make good questions for a vestry or evangelism committee to discuss, since they invite us to evaluate areas of our life that we don't often stand back and think about. And I have to say that I felt quite proud of this congregation's people and ministries as I went through this process of answering the survey. And my guess would be that most of the rest of the Episcopal church is as hopeful, welcoming and outward looking as we are.

But the most disconcerting section of this survey was the question about conflict. "In the last five years has your congregation experienced any disagreements or conflicts in the following areas?" You are invited to answer NO or YES on a scale of not very serious, moderately serious, very serious. And here are the conflict areas:

  • Money/Finances/Budget
  • How worship is conducted
  • Priest's leadership style
  • Program priorities of the congregation
  • Use of church facilities
  • Actions of General Convention 2003 regarding the Bishop of New Hampshire
  • Other:________________

The GC 2003 question seems so specific compared to the others that it seems out of proportion. Is this the REAL question the survey is wanting to discover an answer to? I invited vestry members to fill out the questionnaire for me, so I would have some input, especially on the one's where my self-assessment might color my answer. Only one did and she answered pretty much as I would have answered but she very kindly put no answer at all in the line where you are supposed to assess the clergy leadership style and the option was " Effective administrator."

Monday, May 02, 2005

Life, the Universe and Everything

Today is my day off and I spent the afternoon at The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. About twenty seven years ago, we sat the kitchen of 149B Woodstock Road, Oxford, listening to the very frist radio episode. It was wildly imaginative and incredibly funny and there are parts of it that are lodged in memory forever. I'm not sure I read the books but I listened to the various Hitchhiker's sequels and watched the BBC TV version. So parts of the Hitchhiker's Guide are etched on my brain, like, "Goodbye and thanks for all the fish." In our family, we often describe things as the Guide, edited by Ford, described earth, as "Mostly Harmless." But it was long enough ago that I am not one of the people whose enjoyment of the movie was ruined by things that were left out or changed. On the other hand, as I watched, there were things I had forgotten about that made me helpless with giggles in anticipation, like when Bill Nighy was reluctant to say his name. It was lovely to look at and the animated book was great. Stay for the credits and you'll get to see even more of the book. I did wonder whether if you had managed to live on this planet without previous exposure to the Hitchhiker's Guide you would think it was as much fun as John and I did.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Knit together

One of my favorite collects is the one for All Saints' Day in which we pray:

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one
communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son
Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those
ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love
you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy
Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Knitting is a great image of interconnection. In Christ in some mysterious way I am intertwined, interconnected, knit together with God's people living and dead, not just the ones I like or choose but all of them.

I learned to knit from my Aunt Anstes. She'd sit in our living room on her visits back east and knit away. My honorary "aunt" Virginia and her mother, Mrs Nichols, were also constantly knitting. I particularly admired the knitting of socks on multiple needles while carrying lively conversations. I have knitted on and off, since then. Most of what I have learned about knitting I learned from books which always makes me wonder whether I am doing stitches in the mirror image of the way that I should be doing them.

When I was in college, I knitted or crocheted in lectures. I am a person who learns well from what I hear and knitting kept me able to focus on listening. I think that now, in meetings, it also helps me to think before I speak a little more than is natural to my personality type. Sometimes. As a student and young adult, I knitted scarves for less than grateful boyfriends, blankets for other people's babies and my own, Christmas stockings for spouse and children. I also crocheted granny squares into blankets.

When our deacon the Rev. Marylen Stansbery got the Shawl Ministry started, I took up knitting again after a long hiatus. It took me a while to get back into the rythm of knitting, but I liked the idea of keeping my hands busy to still my mind and heart for prayer. I also realized that I had been praying all along, in much of my past knitting, for friends who were pregnant or for their babies. I also like the idea that often several of the prayer shawl ministry people will knit on the same shawl, even in only a row or two. That means two things: one, it is the gift of a praying community and two, prayer shawl ministry is all about process and not product: if we all knit on the same shawl, it is not likely to have consistent stitch tension or look perfect but that is not the point. When we give them to people, we pray that as they are wrapped in the shawl they will know themselves held in God's loving embrace and in the prayers of the congregation These are images of abiding in God's love and being in Christ that mean a lot to me. There is a Shawl Ministry website that offers patterns, advice, prayers and much more.

Here is a picture of me with Marylen in the first ever St Mark's Shawl.
I have to admit that I take the shawl with me a lot, sometimes for warmth, sometimes if I am doing something stressful or far from home.

Since the twins went off to college, leaving us with a suddenly empty nest, I've been knitting a lot for them. They are in New England, after all, where it is a lot colder than it is here. And they both have wild and ecclectic dress sense. So they asked for adult versions of the classic Ann Norling Fruit Caps, starting college as a tomato and an eggplant. I sent them the Fiber trends pumpkin hats time for Halloween. Here is Mo in a fabulous pumpkin hat:
Image hosted by Over Christmas, I made each one a kitty helmet hat from Stitch N Bitch. I also made them each two pairs of mittens, one with a flap so they could get their fingers out if they needed to, an alpaca boucle roll brim hat and for Anna a chenille helmet from a Vogue book. Needless to say they are now begging for mercy. These projects are slightly more stimulating than the prayer shawls yet easy enough that they don't require much concentration and they give me someplace to focus my anxiety about Mo and Anna being off on their own far from home.

Quilting and More scenes from Confirmation

More photos from April 16th Confirmation. Here is the Rev. Sally Weaver with her confirmation students and a stole they made for her with a lot of help from Susieqquilting. Posted by Hello
SusieQQuilting is a fabulous quilt shop owned by a parishioner. I don't even quilt and I find myself loving to visit the shop because everything is so beautifully displayed and the colors are so wonderful. Susie has introduced me to fabric knitting; she'll cut spectacular fabric into convenient strips for her customers to knit into fun fabric scarves and bags.