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 http://www.shawlministry.com 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 Photobucket.com 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.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Let all things their creator bless

When Scott came to pick up the Saint Mark's banner at church to carry in procession at our diocesan flower festival, he joked, "Cold? Rainy? Blustery? Must be Flower Festival weekend!" After warm days this week, the temperature today will drop into the 30's tonight (but not below freezing, mercifully).

We awoke to a wet morning and the planners at Christ Church Cathedral, who had spent weeks imagining the layout of the street fair in the closed streets surrounding the cathedral decided to move everything inside. Even when the weather cleared it was cold and windy, so it was a wise choice. The weather did not prevent a big crowd from coming to celebrate the glory of God in nature and to hear our Presiding Bishop preach, eruditely and not without humor, mostly on what we can learn from St. Francis about nature and our place in it as part of creation.

As usual, the Missouri Botanical Garden provided the cathedral with lots and lots of flowering plants, which members of the cathedral artfully arranged into a spectacular display. It was less playful than the year that there were huge stalks of corn, more colorful than the year that nothing seemed to be in bloom and people called it the "Leaf Festival." There were lots of people from St. Mark's there, which makes me happy, because one of the things about being Episcopalians is that we are connected with our bishop and with others in our diocese, and diocesan events are one of the places that we are particularly aware of that reality. Even though we were dressed for a cold day in the street and packed into hot crowded rooms in the cathedral, it was one of the best Flower Festivals I can remember. The cathedral did a great job of engaging neighboring businesses, including the wonderful Sen Thai Restaurant as well as lots of churches. All Saints Church seemed to have about three tables, one for the youth group and two for other groups in the church. When I teased an All Saints' parishioner about having so many tables, she smiled and said "We are blooming!" Everyone's energy seemed high and it felt like a good day to be an Episcopalian. Processing with other diocesan clergy, I loved seeing so many people from all over the diocese, Episcopalians new and old, feeling our connection in Christ. I read on some e-mail list that people were speculating about whether the Presiding Bishop was not attending Pope Benedict XVI's inaugural mass because he wasn't invited (instead, the Ecumenical Officer at 815, Bishop Epting and the Bishop for Europe, Bishop Whalon will be attending). I prefer to think that the Presiding Bishop wanted to honor his commitment to preach in St. Louis today and again tomorrow, as part of the Flower Festival.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

You have never seen a church like this before

Saint Mark's is a remarkable building and people who love it, love it and people who don't, don't. It is small but has a very high ceiling and wonderful reverberant accoustics. People describe the architectural style as "moderne" and "art deco." Saint Mark's makes no attempt to look like a nice little English medieval country church, unlike many Episcopal Churches. On Saturday afternoon, Esley Hamilton, a local architectural historian and preservationist, brought distinguished visitors from Chicago and Harvard to see our church. Admirers of architecture frequently come to see the building. I like to call it a "numinous space," although some may think this is because I just like showing off that I know the word "numinous." It actually is a space that feels full of the presence of God, what I once heard someone call a prayed in space.

This week, Tom Krepcio's blog has wonderful pictures and commentaries on the windows: http://www.krepcio.com/vitreosity/ This blog has wonderful commentaries on other St Louis area stained glass and Krepcio's website shows his own really interesting glass and has much other interesting stuff.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Living Outisde the Lines

On Wednesday night, I went to "Living Outside The Lines: St. Louis Discusses Gender Variance," a panel discussion on Transgender Issues. It was part of a series on health care issues, called "Inside Out" and although some of the panelists had horrendous stories about their experiences of being badly treated by health care providers it was about a whole lot of transgender issues. I was in awe of the panelists who were funny, vulnerable, wise people.

The thing that amazed me the most was how sure they were of who they were, sure enough that they would make almost any sacrifice to live into that identity. Some of them, in pursuing their identity had lost children and parents and partners, jobs, friends and insurance. One of them, the partner of a person who had transitioned from Female to Male, talked frankly about how she had had to reimagine her own identity as her partner transitioned. The moderator was a nurse practioner from Southampton Healthcare (2340 Hampton AvenueSt. Louis, MO 63139(314)647-2200.) She was funny and wise, moved the conversation along, affirmed the bravery of the speakers, some of whom were coming out as transgender for the first time and was generally a gracious facilitator in every sense.

Just before the panel started I visited the room in the basement of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University which used to be labelled "Ladies" or maybe "Women" but which now says "Restroom." There were quite a few other people coming and going from the room, some of whom, looking at the other people there, were not at all sure that they were in the right room. Striding out of the restroom door I ran into a person who appeared to be a straight white male who seemed rather alarmed to see a straight white femle coming out of a restroom he was planning to enter. Also entering was another person whom I would have classified as a straight white female who was saying to a friend, in a puzzled tone, "This USED to be a ladies' room." It was a good prelude to the panel, a reminder of what it feels like for some Trans people to have to choose between the Ladies' Room and the Men's Room and to feel unwelcome in either and of how deep seated society's gender assumptions and expectations are.

For a short annotated bibliography on Transgender issues, visit Left Bank Books . Visit and support them anyway, because they are a great independent bookstore.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Another view of the lineup Posted by Hello

Diocesan Confirmation

Yesterday we had confirmation at Christ Church Cathedral. We had five people being confirmed, two people being received and we presented another person for another congregation. Here are some of them with our bishop. In some years there seem to be hundreds of people being confirmed and received and it goes on forever. Praying for each person as the bishop says the prayer and lays hands on him or her, I fall into a trance like state. This year there were just enough people to remind us that we are part of a church which extends far beyond our own congregation but a small enough group that the service was over in an hour and a half. Four of our candidates were unable to attend and will be presented on May 7.

Diocesan Confirmation April 9, 2005 Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Reading Paul on Fridays

One of the things that I enjoy about Saint Mark's is gathering with a group of people on Friday mornings, known as the Friday Book Group. Over the years, we have read and studied various things. We've read Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally and The Heart of Christianity. We've read Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels and Beyond Belief. We've read John Dominic Crossan's The Birth of Christianity and Who Killed Jesus?. We've read Roberta Bondi's Memories of God (although I seem to love this book more than most of the rest of thre group did) and Nora Gallagher's Things Seen and Unseen. This Lent we read Stephen Patterson's Beyond the Passion:Rethinking the Life and Death of Jesus. This made us want to learn more about Paul.

We have really enjoyed learning about how scholars can help us to see the Jesus movement in some new ways, in the the process hear anew what God is saying to us in our time. We are women (who else is free at 10:30 on Friday mornings ?-- although we know that some male parishioners with regular "day jobs" are often reading along side us) who have grown up believing that Paul was responsible for people thinking that Scripture expected us to wear hats and be silent and be subservient to our husbands and other males. We are aware of the ways in which our understanding of Paul has been shaped by Augustine and by Luther and we resist that Paul. We are ready to see how scholars are rereading and rediscovering Paul in his first century Jewish context and hope to learn from his mission and ministry about how we can proclaim the Good News in some new ways in our very different place and time.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

First post

Having spent the afternoon saying to my friend Emily that I have no idea what makes people want to blog, I am starting a blog. I asked her, "Why would anyone want to do this? What would I write about that anyone would want to read? How would I manage to post to it without feeling either exhibitionistic or self-absorbed?"

Having recently passed the half-century mark, I worry that I may be too old to be a blogger. But I also love to try new things and I love the idea of the ways in which the internet makes it possible for people to communicate with each other and connect with each other. So this blog will be about my life as the rector of St Mark's Church in Saint Louis. It will contain some thoughts, some reflections, some news, some photos and some updates.

The title I chose comes from the ancient Nicene Creed in which believers express our trust in God as the creator of all that is, "things seen and unseen." But it is primarily a tribute to one of my favorite books about being a person of faith in the Episcopal tradition, Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith by Norah Gallagher.