Monday, November 06, 2006

On the Road with the Organ Committee

During 2006, the organ committee has visited several organs in the Saint Louis area, including the Dobson tracker in the First Unitarian Church and the Casavant tracker at Principia College. Last week, four of us (Lydia, John, Bob and Barbara) went to Chicago to visit four more instruments. The purpose of this is to identify organ builders from whom we would like to have bids. At each instrument, those who could play the organ (Bob and Barbara and sometimes the local organist would play for us as well) played a variety of music, so we could hear what the instrument would be like leading hymns and liturgy and for preludes, postludes and concerts. We listened to different stops (or groups of pipes voiced to sound in a particular way) and listened to see how certain stops sounded with other stops. Ideally, each stop is beautiful by itself but blends wonderfully with every other stop. Because we were listening to tracker (or mechanical action) organs, we wanted to be sure that the sound of the action wasn’t noticeable above the sound of the pipes. Another factor we looked at was the “feel” of the action: how sensitive and responsive are the keys to the touch? We tried to assess how well each organ builder had adapted the organ to the space in the church itself. Failure to do this can make an instrument sound too loud, too soft or too muddy. We looked at how each builder had designed the organ to complement or enhance the architectural look of the building. We are hopeful that this trip, undertaken at our own expense, will help the organ committee to identify three builders from whom we would like to have bids. We visited the 21 stop Halbert Gober organ (Op. 11) at Bethany Lutheran Church, Crystal Lake, IL ; which had a spectacular case

the 19 stop Hellmuth Wolff (Op. 37) at St. Giles Episcopal Church, Northbrook, IL ; The 23 stop Lynn Dobson organ (Op. 81) at Kenilworth Union Church, Kenilworth, IL and the 27 stop Martin Pasi organ (Op. 15) at the Episcopal Church of St. Paul, and the Redeemer, located near the University of Chicago. Here is a link to the Kenilworth organ on Dobson' site, showing how the organ itself was built. Here (below) is a picture of the interesting embossed pipes on the Dobson.

Below is a picture of the Pasi in St Paul and the Redeemer. I really like the ribbons over the altar, too.

Below is a picture of the Wolff at St Giles' Church, Northbrook and here is a link to the Wolff website for the specs and other information.

What are trackers, anyway? Well, right above this is a picture of the insides of a tracker instrument and you can read one church's explanation of how organs work here I suspect that I'll be editing this soon with some input from John Speller on websites that explain how organs work.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Painting the World

Today was the day that the youth of St Mark's, with lots of help from adults and younger children, painted a map of the world on the playground of Scrugg's School. Scruggs is an elementary school in south Saint Louis, more or less due east of the church. We have at least one parishioner who attended Scruggs (probably 50 years ago) and we have a parishioner who teaches there. Over the years we've tried to support the work of this teacher and she helps us to learn about the lives of the children in the school. A few years ago, our Outreach Committee partnered with Faith Beyond Walls, an agency which tries to encourage people of different races and faith traditions to work together, to paint a map of the US on the otherwise rather bare and barren playground. This year, a new generation of youth group got a small grant from Faith Beyond Walls intended to encourage youth groups to engage in ministries of service in the community. And with the money they bought a stencil of the world and a bunch of bright and new paint. So today St Markans touched up the US and painted the world. Three children from the neighborhood stopped by, as they had a few years ago, to see what we were doing and to help. Kids at Scruggs come from all over the world, including Bosnia, Somalia, and Afghanistan, so a map of the world is probably a good thing to have. Parishioners donated some jump ropes and balls and things to the athletic department for playground use and I think there was enough paint left over to paint squares for hopscotch. Anyway, here are a bunch of pictures of people at work and of their handiwork. Anna recruited four of her friends from Metro, so that St Louis School grads were doing something for a new generation of SLPS kids. Something odd is happening with the photo uploading. Blogger keeps saying I have done it successfully but no photos appear. Be patient I'll add them soon.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Coffee, coffee and paper

A friend brought me to the Saint Louis Coffee Oasis at 8 Euclid Street, which is at Euclid just north of Laclede. With luck you can park on Laclede. It has lovely decor, a wonderful whimsical painted wall with a camel saying "I'd walk miles for coffee from St Louis Coffee Oasis" or something similar. They have traditional espresso drinks and then Arabic coffee in various permutations, including an Arabic Latte which has wonderful spices in it. Today Anna had Arabic Tea which seemed to be infused with sage and other herbs and was served in a lovely gold trimmed tea glass (which is a little hard to hold when hot.) They put the Latte in a big glass but you get a Java jacket. They also have many different kinds of baklava and other Middle Eastern treats and lunches including Spinach Pie and Gyros. They advertize Free High Speed internet but I have not tried this. It looks as if this may be wired not wireless since there are little ethernet sockets along the wall, but I'm not sure. They also have tables outside, as many Central West End restaurants do, but with temperatures again in the high nineties or low hundreds, the attraction of sitting outside was rather limited for me.

On Sara and Laclede, over in that area on the fringes between Saint Louis University and the Central West End, there is a newish (year old?) coffee house called 6 North. It is 6 North Sarah. It is in a big new building of "loft style" apartments. The decor is lovely, they have some fabulous artwork including lovely luminous landscapes and huge watercolors of exotic plants. They have comfy chairs as well as tables. The ladies' room (and I assume, mutatis mutandis, the men's room) is decorative with witty sayings about coffee like "Behind every great woman there is a great cup of coffee." They serve Kaldi's coffee. I almost always prefer my coffee drinks hot but one day last week I succumbed to an icy granita like mocha drink there which was absolutely delicious. I have never actually had anything to eat there, but they have a list of enticing sandwiches and a display of delightful pastries.

Next to 6 North is a wonderful paper store called Sage Papers. They have cards, little notebooks an array of social stationary you can put through your printer (make your own cute baby announcements, for example), some lovely art paper or wrapping paper and much more. They also have elegant French correspondence cards marked GL which I am unable to resist. Lovely powder blue, lovely lined envelopes. They had wonderful paper boxes you can use for distinctive present wrapping or decorating. They also had whacky coasters that looked like flipflops.

And did I mention that all this is across the street from the wonderful restaurant Terrene which I believe I raved about here a few months ago. When Mo and Anna were at Metro, we drove up and down Sarah all th time and all this elegant and interesting stuff has sprung up there now we no longer spend so much time in the neighborhood. Oh well.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

After the Starm

Today is a lovely and sunny day and there is a breeze and the humidity is manageable and it is only in the 80's. But even now as we drive through the city it seems that more traffic lights are out than are on, houses and shops are dark and huge branches and even trees still lie on sidewalks and across streets. I missed the storm itself on Wednesday evening. I was driving back from Cape Girardeau where we had had a post General Convention session. All the way up 55 there was sheet lightening and regular lightening. No rain, not much thunder (or not that I could hear with windows shut and A/C on high.) Every now and then the radio would offer a warning about thunderstorms with high winds but since I didn't know what counties I was driving through or what counties were affected by the warning, I decided to just keep driving.I guess the storm must have passed through St Louis while the bishop and deputies were fielding questions about the difference between straining the bonds of affection or breaching the bonds of affection within the Anglican communion. But when I got up to St Louis Hills there were trees and branches down everywhere. The church and its new roof appear to have been unscathed and the big elm in our backyard, alarmingly large and close to the house, held up just fine as did the big tree in the Memorial Garden.
Less fortunate was the apartment building on Clifton on the other side of Nottingham from the church. Streets around the church look like this. Murdoch and Locke were both blocked until well into Thursday. St Mark's was spared when the power went out on Wednesday but Thursday night the lights flashed on and off and then went off altogether until Friday afternoon. Ironically, Friday afternoon there was a second big windstorm which caused even more people to lose power but our power came back shortly after it passed through the area.

Friday AM Anna and I went to the Bread Company with all the other orphans of the storm. According to the power company there were 10,000 people without service in our zip code and it seemed as if most of them were at the Bread Company. I was there from 8 to 9:30 during which time over 150 people were served (you had to take a number.) There was the kind of survivor cameraderie that I've experienced waiting for a ferry off Nantucket after a hurricaine or the kind I imagine people had in London during the blitz, when whole families would go down into the underground to wait out air raids. People were helping one another figure out the Panera free WiFi , passing on what they knew about who had power and who didn't, exchanging rumors about when the power would come on, etc. Those of us who were there to plug in our laptops and get our email shared tables and electrical outlets, no longer strangers but companions.

The incredible heat of last week made me crabby and lethargic and then the power went off. When I think of all the places in the world where people are living with disrupted electrcity, I realize how little patience I have and how dependent on technology (my cordless phone, my computer, my cell phone) I have become and how spoiled by air conditioning I am. I would not have lasted ten minutes in the aftermath of Katrina or in Beirut or in the parts of St Louis where the mayor does not live and which are still waiting for power to come back on.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Post GC

So now I am in Saratoga Springs NY at the Organ Historical Society annual convention. We've been driving around upper NY state and southern VT in pouring rain, visiting churches which have historic organs and hearing short "demonstrations" of the organs.

Meanwhile, I've been talking with people at Pride about GC and hearing from colleagues and others who feel betrayed and wounded (as is completely understandable) by B033. I have been reading online all the various conspiracy theories -- that the HOB placed undue pressure on the deputies, that the deputies were misled about the level of support in the HOB for B033, that somehow the whole convention, including the PB election was manipulated by people on the fringes, left or right. I've read or heard various expressions of the view that B033 was a wasted effort because the right had already decided to leave TEC before they ever came to convention and that nothing we did has kept Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, SC, etc. from seeking alternative primatial oversight and condemning TEC for failing to respond adequately to the Windsor Report. Meanwhile, I am reading about the Archbishop of Canterbury's reported comments, which suggest that voting for language against my conscience may not have made much difference to him either. Would I vote the same way if I had it to do again? I am not sure. The day I would like to replay is Tuesday, on which we had a chance to bring more acceptable wording to the floor and failed, outmanoeuvered by people who are better at Roberts Rules and the HOD rules than I ever thought about being...

I still believe that there is nothing that God can't make something of, however, that we did the best we could do and we can't right now predict or control how others will feel about it nor how it will all play out in the life and future of TEC and the Anglican Communion.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Scenes from GC 2006

These are a couple of pictures of the MO deputation, taken when our bishop and resigned bishop were on the floor before the PB election. Below is a picture of the UTO box, thanks to Reynolds Whelan. At some point, someone in our deputation suggested that instead of using the UTO box in the usual way, putting in an offering every time we were thankful for something, we should use it as a kind of curse jar. Every time we were tempted to say something mean about the Elections Secretary (who in other contexts we know to be a delightful and competent person) and the voting process and the people who get up to the microphone to say things that don't need saying or, even worse, to say, "I think I can save the house some time if we just..". The box got pretty full most days -- and fuller still when we did indeed give thanks for the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as our new PB.
Finally, just in case you might not have realized it, here is a photo of GC as a room amazingly full of all sorts and conditions of people.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The hardest day, Wednesday June 21

During the listening sessions and in other conversations leading up to GC 2006, I found myself saying that I had no idea how I would be voting because I had no idea what resolutions would ultimately come to the floor to be voted on. If you had told me in May of early June that I would find myself voting for B033, I would not have believed it. Here is my version of how and why it happened, which I hope makes clear some of the General Convention experience. I make no claim to speak for other Missouri deputies in this narrative.

Before a resolution comes to the floor of convention, it has been worked on by a committee, which has held public hearings as part of its process. Usually there are other vetting stages, for example each resolution is copy edited and checked for canonical issues. And then Dispatch of Business figures out how and when it will come to the floor. There are 22 legislative committees, all of which have the same process, so there is a ton of legislation coming to the floor. In addition, of course, each resolution has to pass in both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops in the same form. This year’s convention had 9 business days – previous conventions have had two or three more. Committee 26, the Special Committee charged with the Windsor Report response resolutions, had the resolutions which came out of the Special Commission appointed by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies plus various resolutions which came from dioceses, bishops and individual deputies. The hope was that they would have presented resolutions for both houses to vote on before the PB election, but that did not take place. They worked and worked and worked and held hearings including a giant hearing with at least 1,500 people. Strong opinions across a spectrum of belief were expressed on the authority of scripture, sexual orientation and behavior, the relationship of the Episcopal Church to the wider Anglican Communion, the meaning and propriety of expressing regret or repentance and so on. If you have strong feelings about this matter, you probably can pretty much guess for yourself what the speeches were like.
And although both houses had passed easier resolutions: regret for straining the bonds of affection with the Anglican communion, commitment to work towards an Anglican covenant, commitment to a listening process, willingness to have DEPO and, of course, money for the Anglican Consultative Council in our budget and commitment to the Millenium Development Goals, it was not until Tuesday that we got a resolution responding to the Windsor Report for a Moratorium. It arrived, and its language was pretty unacceptable to most of the house.

A161 (Anglican Communion: Election of Bishops)

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church regrets the extent to which we have, by action and inaction, contributed to strains on communion and caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians as we consented to the consecration of a bishop living openly in a same-gender union. Accordingly, we are obliged to urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise very considerable caution refrain from the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion; and be it further

Resolved that this General Convention not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the Blessing of same-sex unions at this time, thereby concurring with the Windsor Report in its exhortation to bishops of the Anglican Communion to honor the Primates’ Pastoral Letter of May 2003; and be it further

Resolved that this General Convention affirm the need to maintain a breadth of responses to situations of pastoral care for gay and lesbian Christians in this Church.

Resolved that this General Convention apologize to those gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their supporters hurt by these decisions.

It seemed too negative and too extreme. The apology at the end appeared gratuitous and unhelpful. For many people, at least for me, the “exercise considerable caution” language would have been much more acceptable. Meanwhile, someone rose to limit the time of debate on the motion and someone else rose to offer an amendment which used the even harsher language of “moratorium”. By the time the house had debated the amendment, there was no time left for a more moderate amendment. We voted the original down. I certainly was not savvy enough to know that in voting against it, I was assuring that there could be no more debate of this matter. There was an effort to reconsider, which I supported, but it did not prevail. This would have meant that the Episcopal Church was refusing to offer any response to the Anglican Communion on the matter of gay bishops, it would mean, as I understood it, just ignoring those in the Communion who had objected in 2003. Then the PB called the combined session, our bishop made it clear that this was our last chance as a house to respond to the WR, which I took to mean, our last chance to remain in the conversation with the Anglican Communion. More than that, our new PB elect, for whom I have huge admiration, asked us to vote for the language of B033, language which I would not otherwise have supported. Also, many respected members of the HOD, including GLBT people and allies said that they would be voting for B033 even though they did not want to. This was more or less what Bp Katharine Jefferts Schori said, assuring the house that this language did not close the door to anyone.
So I voted for B033, even though it went beyond my comfort to appease the larger communion, even though I knew it would be very hurtful to many LGBT people. There was much language at convention about sacrifice, how we in North America must sacrifice for the good of the whole communion. I agreed, however, with Ruth Meyers when she passionately observed that no one can make that sacrifice on behalf of others, straight people cannot ask that sacrifice of gay and lesbian sisters and brothers. But I also believe that as the Anglican Communion unravels, B033 allows the Episcopal Church to claim the high moral ground – we went as far – and maybe further – as we could go to stay in the conversation with the Anglican Communion. We cannot be said to have failed to take the Windsor Report seriously and I think we could have been considered to have done that if we had not made some kind of response to the “moratorium” request. I wish we had had a response which calls for others in the communion to take seriously the call for mutual listening and for an end to invading diocesan boundaries but time was up.
A sadness for me is that we have lost the traditional assumption within the Episcopal Church that the job of Standing Committees is to ascertain that the canonical requirements have been met in an election. Now we are asking SC’s to judge whether a person, not the process of election, is a challenge to others in the communion. And we are in the business of judging generally, I’ve had people say not entirely in jest to me that people who drive SUV’s or people who are agains the full inclusion of GLBT people are challenging to them so if they were on the SC they would vote against them.
A greater sadness for me is that we spent so much time and got so much press attention for this and for the PB election that many other things we did are obscured:

  • We adopted MDG’s and called dioceses and individuals to live into them

  • We entered into interim Eucharistic sharing with the United Methodist Church

  • We expressed the view that the teaching of evolution in the schools was not in conflict with a belief in God as creator and WAS the best scientific thing we could do

  • We adopted the Revised Common Lectionary

  • We expressed our regret for our complicity as a church in the institution of slavery and called for an investigation of how we might contribute materially to repairing the harm done by slavery

Who else is blogging from GC ?

It is a little late, I guess, to post this, but someone asked who else from MO is blogging from GC and this is what I know:
Mike Kinman, who has done a fabulous job of the Episcopalians for Global Mission presence and hosted a triumphant U2charist blogged a little but got overwhelmed by work. His blog (which is always worth a look) is
Trinity CWE member Matthew Owings has been here for the whole time and has been a delightful and intelligent visitor to Missouri deputy gatherings. He has been blogging here
Kate Ketcham who is the Wash U Campus Ministry Lay Chaplain has been blogging at

I think that my fellow clerical deputy Ron Clingenpeel has been emailing the cathedral listserve daily, but I am not sure.

Non Missouri blogs are: Nick Knisely of the diocese of Bethlehem

the blog of the Diocese of Washington

Sarah Dylan Breuer's blog

She is also the editor of the Witness

All of these guys have links to other blogs, too. Explore and enjoy. I am planning to write about yesterday later today.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Windsor Response, Last Day

It seems to me that the technological aspects of this convention are working less well than at others I have attended. The voting system continues to be so difficult for some deputies that our deputation decided to make the UTO box into a "curse jar" -- covenanting to contribute to it every time we said something negative about the voting process or about the way in which it was being explained to us. And now it appears, when we have big lines at the microphones to speak, that the electronic queuing system doesn't work right, so that the chair doesn't know who is at which microphone and why and who is up next. Anyway, yesterday we got to work in earnest on the Windsor Report Responses. We left at 7:30 Monday night in a fair degree of disarray about A161 which is the one responding to the WR request for a moratorium. Tuesday we voted down A 161. The procedural motions seemed to create a situation in which there was no possibility amending A161 as it came out of the committee to a form more like what came out of the special commission, so the whole thing went down. Today we are having a joint meeting with the bishops and a committee has been working on new wording so despite the fact that the media is already saying things like "US Anglicans defy church" we are still hopeful of offering an acceptable WR response. We did pass two other WR resolutions but 161 is probably the most contentious.

Meanwhile the new title 3 (mainly repairing the too hasty title 3 revision in 2003) passed fairly easily last night, thank goodness.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Presiding Bishop Election

One of the unforgettable moments about this convention came when the election was announced. It is the custom of the house not to applaud-- especially in situations like this, when a difficult decision has been made which may cause pain to the "losing" side. There were whoops of enthusiasm in the gallery -- which was packed and which was duly admonished. But on the floor you could feel sharp intakes of breath and tears springing to the eyes unbidden. The amazing thing about this election is that even people who thought she was the best candidates thought "but that will never happen" because of her gender and because of some fear that a female primate would just exacerbate the tensions in the Anglican Communion. What was so wonderful -- for many of us-- was that the right thing happened even though we barely dared to hope for it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Saturday Already

So, here I am getting ready to go to my legislative committee meeting this morning and I have not posted since the first legislative day. The convention is so intensely covered by the ENS that there is not much that I can add. I have started to post a couple of times, then overwhelmed by sleep have gone to bed without successfully saving my draft. Pretty pathetic. The house of deputies continues to work very slowly. Our electronic voting system seems to be beyond the technical skills of the house, probably because we are too old to know how to program our own VCR's, etc. There seems to me to be quite a lot of unnecessary speech on the floor -- people asking questions or making observations from a microphone which would have been better dealt with in a private way, people saying micro-editing things on the floor, offering views which would have been better done at the hearings, bits of legislation coming to the floor which have to be withdrawn and worked on more. One session caused John to comment that it was like some kind of comedy program. But everyone is playing nicely. Highpoints for me have been: seeing old friends, the PB's forum on reconciliation at which our own John Danforth did a fabulous job and then Dr Jenny ten Paa spoke completely differently and absolutely wonderfully, the liturgies which are wonderfully varied and all extremely well done. Each day there are "visual preludes" displayed on screens. These are lovely slideshows of original art, which also play during communion. I wonder whether some of the triviality on the floor is related to Windsor Report Anxiety -- maybe if we fritter away our time we'll never have to get around to the tough decisions.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

First Legislative Day

Today was the first official day of convention. We got up early, walked up to the convention centre, had a quick fast food breakfast and I went to the Ministry Committee meeting. We are almost done with our task of looking at Canon III:5-9 which is much better than the revision of the equivalent canons in 2003. These canons are about the ordination process of deacons and priests and the life an ministry of priests and deacons. Oddly, although I am not a detail kind of person, I love working on canons and am surprisingly good at finding things which need to be changed or rationalized.

Anyway, after the meeting, we went to Eucharist. The screens were full of slideshows of pictures of artwork. There is a table for the children in the children's program. The choir of Trinity Church Columbus sang -- the were great. The sang early American music -- but not in the styl e of shape note singers, but well. They had a small instrumental ensemble with them which was also wonderful. The organ for the event is a "virtual pipe organ" according to our bulletins.

The first legislative day was mostly a day of ceremonial activities: lovely visit from the Archbishop of York who brought greetings from the Archbishop of Canterbury (which you can read on the Episcopal News Service website.) Messengers go to the House of Bishops to tell them we are all organized and ready, corresponding messengers come from the House of Bishops to tell us that they are ready, too. Greetings from the President of the Episcopal Church women, introductions and where appropriate elections of all the officers of convention and all the people on the dias. Greetings to the representatives of the Church in Liberia who are with us (not sure if this is a first or just that they are not always able to be there.) There was much discussion of the many flags which hang behind the podium. They are a reminder that the Episcopal Church is not JUST the Episcopal Church of the USA but is an international body, including people from Equador and Mexico and Haiti and Cuba and other sovereign nations. At the same time, there is some confusion about the flags. The Haitian flag turns out the be an out of date flag and no one seems to e able to tel lwhich of the flags is from which of the many nations. There is much High Tech about this convention, so we spent some time practicing voting with our little voting devices which look a bit like TV remote controls. We practiced voting "yes " or "no" on an imaginary motion to make cucumber sandwiches the offical food of the Episcopal Church and we practiced election style voting by choosing our favorite hymn out of a list of four. Previous conventions have had electronic voting for "yes" and "no" but I think that this is the first time we are not having paper ballots for elections. For lunch we went to the North Market, just a block or so from the convention centre. This is a delightful place, with some produce -- including Ohio Strawberries and raw buffalo meat-- and lots of prepared take out food. After surveying the scene we opted for the Indian stall, which was tasty and reasonable, even though they did run out of the lamb curry right before I reached the head of the line. Tamsen and I went on a scouting expedition afterwards for tomorrow's lunch options. We also found a wine stall called "the Grapes of Mirth" which is such a great name...

My committee keeps on working. We had a joint hearing with Canons on Title III but hardly anyone came to testify, which either means that all the changes will sail through without any difficulty at all OR it means that people will endlessly argue on the floor things they should have brought up at the committee hearings... We shall see. The schedule is tight -- I dashed from the floor to the diocesan meeting in the Renaissance and back to the convention centre for a hearing. Tiring. Dinner in the hotel, whose real restaurant is under construction. And so to bed.

Monday, June 12, 2006

General Convention Orientation Day

Well, I have a ton of things to post about Easter and Confirmation but today I am blogging about General Convention. We arrived yesterday evening and settled into our hotel, the Columbus Renaissance. We met for our regular diocesan deputation meeting and social hour Sunday night and then we went to a wonderfully stylish and delicious restaurant featuring "contemporary southern cuisine" called the Brown Stone. Convention gets so busy that we may not manage to eat together again, but this was a delightful evening. Our candid waiter warned against ordering the Creme Brule. I chose not to believe him, but he was right. Otherwise, my dinner (fried chicken with garlic broccoli and roasted asparagus) was perfect.

Today we had room service breakfast because we were so tired from travel, etc. It was okay but probably not worth the extravagance. It might have been worth the extra hour of sleep, however. I went to the organizing meeting of my Legislative Committee, the Ministry Committee (number 14-- apparently there are 22 committees inscrutably numbered 1-26). Our job is to hold hearings for resolutions assigned to us and to bring them to the floor in the best possible form. I am on the subcommittee which is working on revision of Title III, 5-9. The Standing Committee on Ministry Development has worked for three years on this and other resolutions, but we are "another pair of eyes" picking up inconsistencies and trying to make it as clear as possible that the ordination processes for Deacons and Presbyters are parallel. Our committee also has a subcommittee studying new sections of Title III on bishops and their continuing formation, one on the process of reception/ordination of people ordained in other faith traditions and one on "other" resolutions. Tonight we had our first hearing.

Meanwhile, I only had a short time in the exhibit hall but managed to make my first purchase, a lovely scarf with a salt effect wet on wet design AND a lovely celtic border. What more could one want in a scarf! I am thinking that the artist might be able to make us a pottery communion set for Lent.

The afternoon was spent hearing addresses by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Bishops and then "deputy orientation" at which I picked up the helpful data about the 22 committees numbered one to 26. The PB talked about matters before us and talked a little about the false dichotomy between "holiness" and "justice", which reminded me of the very helpful essay by Timothy Radcliffe, O.P. about the tension between "kingdom Catholics" and "communion Catholics" in the May issue of the National Catholic Reporter (available online here ). Radcliffe's point (and, I think, Griswold's) is that this is a false dichotomy and that if we listen closely to each other we will discover that we have much in common underneath the surface of our divisions. This is where I found my thoughts going, whether this is what Griswold was saying or not-- kind of like sermons, where what you mean to say is not necessarily what people hear. but it may be what the Spirit means you to hear.

Then there was a "conversation", coordinated by Rob Voyle of the Clergy Leadership Institute which allowed tables of ten, with a trained conversation leader, to discuss what we feel passionately about about being a Christian, based on our life's story, what we love about the Episcopal Church and what we imagine the best outcome of this GC will be --- an appreciative inquiry approach to listening to others, really. not unlike the conversations we had at our diocesan listening sessions. That was quite fun. The people at my table were very charming, although most of us were clergy and generally seemed homogeneous, both demographically and in our thoughts. But I found myself feeling less cynical and more hopeful about the future of the church which was, presumably, the aim of the exercise.

Then off to the social/meeting time at the Renaissance. I decided I'd take the lovely complimentary shuttle, to save time and energy, since I am a fairly slow walker. Turns out the shuttle took longer than even my slow waddling walk would have taken. Then after touching base briefly, back to the convention centre for committee hearings. John came to those and we ended quite early. The two of us went to another delicious restaurant which was having a rack of lamb special (yum, yum, when in doubt, order the lamb is one of my restaurant mottos) and it turned out that Monday is half price wine night. The restaurant was Due Amici, only a block from our hotel. My dinner was so delicious I didn't even ask how John liked his. But it looked rather tasty, chicken marsala on a bed of risotto with green beans. Oh, the lamb had garlic sour cream (or cream cheese?) mashe potatoes and broccolini. John had the gelato sampler, which was also quite good, we both had coffee.

After checking in with Anna who is watching over our house and had a doctor's appointment, we watched the tail end of a documentary about the Blitz on WOSU. And so to bed.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Paschal Candle

Every year someone at St Mark's makes our paschal candle. For the past several years, Scott has done this, using the wonderful soft colored wax from the Hearth Song catalogue. He picks up images from the year, like the labyrinth, Missouri flora and fauna, even a bicyclist. This one is a homage to our stained glass windows, I thnk. This year he is also making baptismal candles for the four people (two adults and two children) who are being baptized at the Easter Vigil. Sometimes children and youth do this but this year has been so busy we've not managed to fit it into their curriculum!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Palm Sunday at St. Mark's Church

Despite some menacing weather reports earlier in the week, Palm Sunday was a lovely, clear and sunny day. We gathered in the parish hall, blessed our palms, began singing "All Glory, Laud and Honor" and walked around the parish hall in procession and into church. My colleague Steve, who does our flowers and cares for our grounds, points out that the gospels don't tell us that the people of Jerusalem went to the florist to get branches, they probably grabbed whatever branches are near to hand. So Steve equipped us with pussywillows (which is what our Russian Orthodox brothers and sisters use for Palm Sunday) and flowering tree branches, as well as palms.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Isn't this a fabulous picture of my office? The amazing Dave Walker has numerous websites with lovely cartoons, many about church, many on other more general topics (turnips, for example). This cartoon comes from his We Blog Cartoons site which allows you to use cartoons like this one on your blog. He has a blog, he has a site called with many fabulous cartoons which translate well into Episcopal Life from their native English habitat. Dave walker is the one who did the fabulous summary of the Windsor Report and an explanation of the Anglican Consultative Council.
Check them out. Buy them for your parish magazine (I plan to). You can also buy greeting cards and download a twelve month cartoon calendar. He is doing a cartoon a week for the Church Times, which is sort of the Church of England equivalent of the Living Church.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

St John's is branching out

A few weeks ago, after coffee at the new and expanded MoKaBe's with my brilliant and energetic colleague and friend Teresa, I stopped in at St. John's Church, of which she is the rector, to see their Living Tree Mural. In the almost two years Teresa has been there as rector, Saint John's has experienced a lot of life and growth and a new sense of its mission to its neighborhood. A symbol of this is its partnership with South City Open Studio and Gallery (SCOSAG) to make a wonderful mural in the entryway to the parish hall. Everyone in the congregation as well as people from the larger community had an opportunity to make leaves for the tree, the tree incorporates a bench for sitting, it is a really spectacular and inviting piece of work. You can read more about the project and its process here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

More Harbingers of Spring

We had some snow earlier this week but it was not a great deal and had no seriously discouraging effect on the daffodils and forsythia brightening up my yard. Meanwhile, at the supermarket, there is a large display of citronella candles right next to the display of firelogs, as you walk in and over near the pharmacy there is a huge display of sunscreen and other sun related products. And we are past the half-way point in Lent and this Sunday is Refreshment Sunday or, in England, Mothering Sunday.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Harbingers of Spring

There are some annual signs that Spring is on the way at St Mark's Church every year. One is that Steve, who does our wonderful altar flowers, usually forces some forsythia in the church furnace room. He hoped it would be ready for the Last Sunday after Epiphany but it wasn't. But it was just perfect for our Shrove Tuesday pancake supper. The other sign is that he brings several pots of amaryllis bulbs out of hibernation and puts them on the table in the parish hall. The idea is to have them for Easter. They are going great guns so they may be a little early. We'll see. But togethe with the warm days we've been having this week, these are signs that winter is coming to an end. Of course, we could have a blizzard in March...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Saying Good Bye

One of the things about being part of a parish congregation is that you interact with people of different ages who are not part of your immediate family. Not everybody gets to do this, in our culture, where whole subdivisions can be full of people of a certain age with school age children, where older people move to independent living and assisted living facilities or even to regular apartment buildings which don't allow children. But on a Sunday morning you may find yourself at the communion rail with a two year old on one side of you and an eighty-two year old on the other. But living in this intergenerational community, this household of God, means that some people grow old and sick and even die. Cora has been a part of this congregation longer than almost anyone. For as long as I have known her she's lived just a short walk from the church. She looks the same as ever: wonderfully white hair in tight curls, pink cheeks, trim figure, gold earrings. But we've known for a while that she's not been herself, growing forgetful, reluctant to go out in public and we've worried about how she's been coping while wanting to honor her dignity and independence. She has no family here but her nephew from the west coast came a few weeks ago to help her move back west with him. Well miss her, here, and her pew mates and other long term friends took her out to lunch at Pietro's -- her favorite place, it appears, lucky guess on my part-- to say good bye. Here we are, bidding her farewell.

Meanwhile, just last night Ruth, another older parishioner died. She had been a faithful member of our early service congregation and of a Tuesday morning service which dwindled away to nothing as people became too ill or infirm to attend it. She was tiny with whitest white hair and a fascinating configuration of wrinkles which seemed to be the legacy of decades of smiling. The fog of dementia had claimed her several years ago but when I went to see her a couple of weeks ago she was just as sweet as ever, taking my hand, thanking me for coming. And she could say the Lord's Prayer with me, though she seemed pretty vague about who I was and why I was there. So the joys of being part of this multigenerational family have their sadnesses, too, as those who have been so much a part of our lives slip away into illness and into death. But they continue to be part of God's life, just as we who remain are, even though we miss them.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Eating in South St. Louis

We really don't understand how this has happened, but a few blocks south of our house (just south of the venerable Del Pietro's) at 5815 Hampton there is now an establishment called The Pitted Olive. It is elegant looking, with rich earth tones and gleaming cold display cases. There are three eat in tables for two plus a tall bar type table for six. They offer a limited but tasty and reasonbly priced selection of wines and beer (John had Bass Ale for lunch today) and have several tasty sandwiches and salads on offer. They also have lovely things you can take home and heat up like stuffed pork loin, stuffed chicken breast, vegie lasagna and much else. Last week the special was a steak sandwich with blue cheese and caramelized onion sauce. The bun was nicely toasted, the steak was big tender chunks cooked to order (not the shaved well cooked beef often offered in steak sandwiches)the cheese and the sauce just delicious. The only problem was that it was messy to eat because it was so well filled. And it came with a choice of side salads. This week, the special was barbecued ribs which were served with a side of beand and rice with andouille sausage. The combination was smokey, spciy and delicious. John reports that the split pea soup is good and Mo gobbled down the chicken with wild rice soup and an oatmeal butterscotch cookie. Oh, and we had Creme Brulee for dessert. Very very tasty. How can this be happening, here on south Hampton where the last exciting restaurant opening as St Louis Pizza and Wings? Also, they are offering a service where they will deliver three delicious meals to your house per week for $30.00 per person plus a delivery charge... Check them out on south Hampton or on the web at:

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Funeral Home Marketing

We use candles on our table often and since we aren't smokers and our gas stove has a pilot and a Piezzo spark, we have to work hard at finding matches. So when I was first in St Louis, I discovered that one of the ways that funeral homes keep their names before the public is by leaving matches around for you to pick up in public areas. We have a number of packs of matches at our house picked up over the years from a well-regarded local funeral home, depicting its familiar horse and buggy logo, conveying, no doubt, that you can rely on them since they've been in business a long time.

I don't know what made me notice this, exactly, but I discovered at a "visitation" that this local funeral home no longer gives away matches but gives away emery boards (still with the name and logo) instead. For some reason this seems quite funny to me. I can understand why they might have chosen to phase out matches given the well established links between cancer and heart disease and smoking. It might make them seem at best insensitive, and at worst too eager for new clients.

So here is the question I have: Why emery boards? Are they trying to stem the tide of grief-related nail biting? Do men use emery boards as much as women do? And if not, are they aiming to increase market share among widows? But even as I am puzzling over this marketing ploy, I have to admit that I'm not sure what I would hand out if I were them. Kleenex? They are pretty generous with good quality name brand tissues in every room already. Hand sanitizer? Toothpicks? Obviously coasters and cocktail napkins are out (although at one point they did have styrofoam cups with their logo on them in the hospitality lounge).

On the same table as the dish of complimentary emery boards there was a dish of wrapped (yeah, in the logo) candies which I thought would be peppermints or lemon drops but which I discovered too late (after having spent a whole day with them floating around in my suit pocket)were in fact chocolate covered mints which don't travel well at all.

BTW, despite the familiar logo, this particular funeral home has merged with another (it has been merged for a while, but they now put it on their signs) and seems to be part of a big national company called Dignity Memorial which I imagine as being like the company that the family funeral home on Six Feet Under are always fending off. Maybe they vetoed the matches and brought in the emery boards. They also offer other services, like helping you sort out the estate of the deceased, which is probably very useful. But they offer courses for children on how to avoid kidnapping, too, which seems less obviously linked to their core business but I guess is supposed to be good marketing for boomer parents, or something.

I guess because I love our Episcopal burial office, and Episcopal funerals and memorial services with Holy Communion, I feel sad when people choose the symbols and rituals of funeral homes over a funeral or memorial service in church. Often, I think, people think it will be "less fuss" or "less trouble." In families which encompass a variety of religioust traditions, funeral homes can seem like neutral ground. But when I am at a funeral home, I find myself wondering what exactly they mean to convey, why they do the things they do. Their staff are almost always white males of a certain age, for example. Their default musical offerings are soft and full of tremulant. Here in St Louis, funeral homes have decor touches like a fish pond stocked with goldfish, a room decorated with images of the 1904 World's Fair, rooms designed to look like the great room of an English manor house and various chapels. What are they trying to convey? What hope? What comfort?