Monday, 31 December 2007

DEc 31st/Jan 1st

Happy New Year

Feliz Año Nuevo


Bonne année


Glückliches Neues Jahr

Nuovo Anno Felice


Próspero Año Nuevo

Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Sermon forDecember 30th 2007 (St. David's, Englewood, FL)

Sermon for December 30th 2007
The Revd. J. Michel Povey at St. David’s, Englewood, FL

(Revised Common Lectionary)
Isaiah 63:7-9; Hebrews 2:10-18; Matthew 2:13-23


GOSPEL READING

Matthew 2:13-23
13Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
16When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”




“Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled”.


What a slap in the face. Six days after Christmas we read this dreadful passage from Matthew, with its chilling pivotal words. “Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled”.

Rachel was the daughter of Laban, for whom Jacob laboured fourteen years. Seven years in, and the trickster Jacob is tricked by his Uncle Laban. On Jacob’s wedding night he discovers that his bride is Laban’s weak eyed older daughter Leah, and not her sister for whom he longed.

His indentured servitude lasts for another seven years before he is able to claim this passion of his heart, Rachel, the younger sister.

Then Leah gives birth to child after child, whilst Rachel cannot conceive. Those who desire to conceive a child and cannot do so weep greatly. Finally Rachel gives birth to Joseph, and soon after to another son. But she dies in childbirth, and with her dying breath names her second son Benjamin “son of my tears”. Rachel dies with tears.

Rachel weeping. So many women weep for so many reasons. Oft times that weeping is almost silent, and in private. But Jeremiah knows how to weep. And as the leaders of the ten northern tribes of Israel are led into exile, he imagines that Rachel had risen from the dead to weep for her children yet again, refusing to be consoled. But there is a “kicker” here. The children for whom Rachel weeps in Jeremiah are the children of her sister Leah, those ten northern tribes. She weeps for children not her own.

And, figuratively speaking, Rachel rises again in the Matthew passage, that dreadful bit which we call “the massacre of the innocents”.

“Herod then with rage was filled,
“A Prince“, he said, “in Jewry”.
All the little boys he killed
At Beth’lem in his fury”.

Jesus is born into the real world. He is born into the world of Rachel weeping. He is born into the world of childless women such as his mother’s cousin Elizabeth. He is born into the world of Darfur, exiled children in hopeless camps. He himself is a refugee. He is born into the world in which children are massacred or murdered. That’s Jesus’ world, not the world of the domesticated Crèche.

And if Mary ever told Jesus the story of the slaughter of Bethlehem’s children, I hope that he wept for them, for I cannot conceive of a Jesus who refuses to weep with us. That old Christmas hymn has it dead wrong:

“The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes”.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Every baby cries! I change the words and sing

“The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
And little Lord Jesus, loud crying he makes”.

I believe in a Jesus who weeps with us.

I was on Hawaii on vacation some 20 years ago when I heard from England that my newest nephew , three month old Jack had died in his crib. I wept.

I wept again about 13 years ago. I had flown to London, and when I arrived at Heathrow Airport I was greeted with an urgent message. “Come to Bristol,, (my home City) right away. My friend and I raced down the M4 motorway, and I took myself to St. Michael’s Childrens’ Hospital where another nephew, Thomas was in neo-natal intensive care. I baptised him in that hospital unit, and said the prayers at his burial five days later. Baptism and burial with tears.

Rachel wept with me for Jack and for Tom. Please God, Jesus wept with me and many others for Jack and for Tom.

Last Sunday, and again on Christmas Eve, I was at the Church of the Advent in Lillian, Alabama, just over the state line from Pensacola, Florida. The Priest there is a godly woman, Martha. She preaches well from a sharp mind and a warm heart.

Some few years ago one of her two daughters was murdered by a boy friend. You never get over the death of a child. You cannot be consoled when a child is murdered.

And so I wonder “how in heaven’s name can Martha preach from the Gospel today?” Martha, her husband, and their other daughter weeping for a child, and unable to be consoled.

There are some griefs which cannot be consoled. That is also part of the Christmas story.

Rachel knows it all too well. I hope that Jesus also knows.

“Rachel weeping for her children. She refused to be consoled”

Saturday, 29 December 2007

My Banking Career (cont)

So there I was, working for the Westminster Bank in Knowle, Bristol. I was considered to be reliable if not brilliant. Most of all I liked being a cashier (teller).

Once I was left to interview a customer about a personal loan (usually a task for the Manager or Chief Clerk). I sat in the Manager’s office in all my glory. The customer was ushered in even as I had visions of promotions!

I needed to go out to the general office to retrieve some information. Like a fool, I knocked on the door of the Manager’s Office prior to my re-entry.

We dreaded “Bank Rate” changes. The Bank of England would announce such, and we knew that our work was cut out. As soon as business closed we would hie ourselves to the handwritten savings and loan ledgers. Then, in ink, we would “rule off” the decimals for the savings or loan (decimals were amount of loan/savings x the days since the account last moved). Then, using printed tables, we would calculate the interest paid or charged at the old Bank Rate, and be ready to extend decimals for the new rate.

It was all very primitive and labour intensive, and we could be at work until 11:00 p.m. No “overtime” of course, but the Bank gave us “Tea Money”, a per diem payment for our extra duty.

Changes were on the horizon. The Bank was computerising; Britain was introducing a decimalised monetary system - (no more Pounds, Shillings and Pence); and there was a third and totally unexpected change.

We merged with our arch rivals, the National Provincial Bank. Shame and embarrassment. Soon we would become the “National Westminster Bank“ . - (now owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland).

I was considered reliable. So I was transferred to the Chew Magna Branch of the Westminster Bank. Chew Magna is a pretty little village in north Somerset. There I was put to task in taking all the hand written date and preparing it for computer entry. Nothing exciting in that!

Then the U.K. Govt. plan for a decimal monetary system came into force. With another Clerk I was assigned to “explain the new currency” to the village yokels. This we did in the Parish Hall and in other meeting rooms. How smug we were!

I was still a cashier (teller), and three time a week would go in a taxi, with Percy (my guard) to our sub-offices in West Harptree and Blagdon.

In West Harptree we had a little Bank and I would be nice to the farmers for their once or twice weekly banking. In Blagdon I had a roll out desk in the Village Hall. Lloyds Bank also had a roll out desk there, and the Lloyds clerk and I would exchange glares, or drink coffee together. Business was slow on this weekly visit.

I was also assigned to the weekly sub-office at the Winford Cattle Market. There I would wade through acres of cow shit and sit in a cabin on stilts. The old farmers would plod themselves up the steps to deposit their cow-shit stained Pound Notes. And I was supposed to be an up and coming banker!

Well, something was up and coming, and I’ll tell you about this later.

In the meantime, do a “Google” image search for Chipping Sodbury or Chew Magna (wonderfully named towns in which I slaved for the Westminster Bank) - and see how lovely they are. At the time I did not appreciate small town/villages in Gloucestershire and Somerset

.
(I had worked for the Westminster Bank in Chipping Sodbury before my [Evangelist] Eric Hutchins adventures).

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Friends

Not the T.V. show type, who seemed to live their “friendship” by sarcastic put downs and faux humour.

Nor the Face Book or My Space “friends” who do not have to sweat with us, argue with us, touch us, or have belly laughs with us.

No, the friends who laugh, weep, argue or agree with us. The friends to whom we can “pour it all out, chaff and grain together - keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away”.

Such are the Haulers for me.

I met them in 1976 in Fitchburg, MA. There I officiated (ten or so weeks into my ordained ministry) at Arthur Hauler’s funeral. He had grown up in Fitchburg, and long since moved away. I had never met him.

His widow Dorothy was at the funeral, together with his three sons and their families.

I was especially drawn to son Donald and his wife Barbara. And thus began a now 31 year friendship.

Captain Dr. Donald R Hauler MC, USN was stationed in D.C. at the Pentagon. The family lived in McLean VA. Barbara Hauler worked at home. They had three children, Mark, Wendy and Gary.

I visited them in McLean, so did my Mum on one of her sojourns in the States. Don and Barbara visited my folks in England.


Mark went away to College and eventually married Marci. They have two daughters, Lindsey and Lesley, and I was present for Lindsey’s Bat Mitzvah.

Wendy, (now Cdr. Wendy Pinkham, USN) also went to college, did her Masters at B.U. and married Charles Pinkham. I shared with their Rector in the marriage ceremony. They now have three sons, Chip, Chris and Nick. Wendy is stationed in Beaufort, S.C.

Gary, after College met his life partner Ed. They have been together for 20 years.

And this was the gang that gathered together for Christmas 2007 in Pensacola, FL where Barbara and Don have retired.

Don, Barbara, Mark, Marcia, Lindsey, Lesley, Charles, Wendy, Chip, Chris and Nick, Gary and Ed. And me.

We ate well, but not too much. We got to be silly. We enjoyed the children. We exchanged gifts.

Gary and Ed made wonderful pirogues. Marcia cooked up a splendid mashed butternut squash. That all went down with the most moist and tender turkey on Christmas Eve.

Ed, Gary and I took a walk on a cold and windy beach. Afterwards, seeking good hot soup, we found ourselves in Foley, Alabama at Lambert’s Restaurant. No soup here, but there were “throwed rolls”. We decided that we’d had an ethnic experience.

See http://www.throwedrolls.com/fun_facts.html

Don, Barbara and I went to Church on Dec 23rd at their parish, The Church of the Advent in Lillian, Alabama. This is a small country Episcopal Church, and I (having been there in 2006) pinch hit in the Choir.

Most of the family returned there on Christmas Eve and I again joined the choir. Eight voices. A tenor and a soprano also play the recorder and the violin. A non singer is a good recorder player. The other bass also plays the recorder and guitar, and sang tenor, trusting my booming baritone. It reminded me of the Quire in a Thomas Hardy novel.

Rector Martha Kreamer preached a damn good and intelligent sermon. She thanked me for being the “Amen corner”.


We opened some gifts on Christmas Eve (after service) and others on Christmas Day, early enough for Gary and Ed to take their flights to D.C., and for my flight to Sarasota.

I got back on Christmas Day just in time to have dinner at a Sarasota Japanese Restaurant, with my friends Ben and Catherine, with Claudette and Trish down from Stephentown, N.Y.

I’ve known Claudette for not a few years (Stephentown is near Pittsfield, MA), and I was meeting Trish for the first time.

Real friends indeed. Nothing faux here!

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

A new appreciation for an old song

Back in the 1960’s when I was yet a member of the Plymouth Brethren, I used to hang around with two sisters, Yvonne and Marilyn Draper, and their mother Kitty. They were also “Peebs”, but Kitty rarely if ever attended the Peeb Assembly.

We’d all be together with other of my pals on Sunday nights, munching goodies, drinking soft drinks and goofing around.

My heart was with Kitty who had been abandoned by a feckless Peeb husband. But there was one thing I could never “get”. Every Christmas she would love to play an old recording of Nat King Cole singing “O Holy Night”. I heard it many times in Kitty’s home.

Snob that I was, I thought that the song was garish and a bit trashy. And Anglicans/Episcopalians evidently agreed with me, for I have only once heard it sung in the Episcopal Church. That was when we gave way to Shirley Bayley, a Barbadian woman in Cambridge. It was her favourite Christmas song, and we “did it” for her.

But in recent weeks my wise and good friend Tracy Wells has been quoting the song as a signature on her e-mails.

Especially she has been quoting the third (and rarely sung) stanza


Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!


“Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.


Those words intrigued me. So I did a bit of research and discovered that “O Holy Night” was written in 1847 by Placide Cappeau, one time Mayor of Roquemare, near Avignon, France. “Known more for his poetry than for his Church attendance” (quote from the Shepherd’s Care Ministries website), Clappeau was asked to write a poem for Midnight Mass. He did so, and then realised that it should be set to music.

He asked a Jewish friend, Adolphe Charles Adams to write a tune, and the rest, as they say is history.


Not quite. For when the French Catholic Church discovered that Adams was Jewish, and that Cappeau had become a Socialist, they denounced the song.

But in the 1850’s the song was “discovered” by an American abolitionist, John Sullivan Dwight. He translated the song into English, and it became a favourite of Northern abolitionists -- especially for the lines:


“Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.”


So I confess, the song I had scorned has taken on a new meaning for me, thanks to Tracy. A song of freedom!

And I love the Nat King Cole version. It’s splendid with his velvet voice and careful enunciation. And for that I thank Kitty.

You might want to hear verse one, as sung by Nat King Cole, via You Tube (see link below). The video is sentimental, but Nat’s voice should delight you!



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7P0By2Uv4M

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Old Fashioned Flying

I flew from Tampa and Pensacola and back for Christmas, using one of Continental Airlines affiliates Gulfstream Air International.

What fun. We were in a 19 seater, twin engined propeller Beechcraft 1900.

This is the kind of little plane where you walk across the tarmac and climb a narrow staircase to get on board.

There is a centre aisle with 16 bucket type seats, one each side of the aisle, and three seats at the back. No bathrooms. No "cabin service", just the pilot and the first officer.

The flight from Tampa to Pensacola took 1 hour, 24 minutes.

The flight back was just one hour.

It was fun to fly this way.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Merry, merry etc

I will be away from Dec 21 through Dec 25 - visiting friends in Pensacola FL.

Look for the next posting on December 26th

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

My Dad's family

My Dad, Henry John Povey was an only child, the son of Henry George Povey and Sarah (Sally) Bennett.

Grandfather H.G. Povey, whom I never knew had a number of siblings, Dad’s aunts and my great-aunts.

Grandfather’s family had grown up in some style on Ashley Hill, Bristol in a mid-Victorian housing area where up and coming business people could buy fine houses.
I visited that house many times - more later.

Great Grandfather was a plumber, as was his son and grandson. Three generations of plumbers. My four brothers and I did not follow in those footsteps. We don’t do shit!

I think that my great grandfather was named Samuel George, or maybe George Henry Povey, but of that I cannot be sure. Family lore has it that he was an experimenter and dabbler in new ways of plumbing, and was known in a moment of frustration to have thrown a pot of hot lead across his workshop. We had in our family papers his contract with Bristol Corporation to do all the plumbing at the new Sefton Park School - circa 1870. Ninety or so years later my Dad was doing maintenance on that very same plumbing - lead pipes and all.

Dad had a Uncle Frank who committed suicide. Years later it was spoken of in hushed tones. He went into Leigh Woods and slit his wrists. His son, Gordon Povey (Dad’s first cousin) lived not far from us on Bannerman Road, and we would take occasional trips to visit him and his family.

Meanwhile, in that house on Ashley Hill lived Great Aunt Bess, in all her glory. She, in my mind was a mixture of good Queen Bess and Miss Haversham. Great Aunt Bess was badly crippled with arthritis, and spent most of her time in bed. I remember her long bony and knarled fingers reaching into her hand-bag to give me ten shillings.

She liked me as I went to the same High School as she had, and she liked my twin Elizabeth as they shared the same name.

Bess “let it be known” that she had some wealth, and that she would “pay for my education”. Truth was that she lived on a meagre old age pension.

She was waited on by a sister, my Great Aunt Lil (I am almost sure that was her name). She was a little simple minded, but provided amiable and helpful companionship for his sister. Bess dispatched her downstairs one day to get me some “junket” - the first and last time that I have eaten it!

There were two other Great Aunts. Minnie lived in a very lovely home in Weston-Super-Mare. She had married well. I’d make a visit to her when we had Sunday School Outings to Weston. I remember her sense of style, her grace, and her constant warm welcome.

Great Aunt Kate lived not far away in Uphill, near Weston-Super-Mare. I met her two or three times She too had married well. Minnie and Kate had children (other first cousins of my Dad) but they were of his generation, and I cannot remember meeting them.

Dad was often a loner, and he did not stay in touch with his cousins. But he was a good plumber!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

My letter to Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire

Dear Gene

I am so pissed off at the way you and Mark are being treated in the Episcopal
Church, and in the Anglican Communion.



It offends me that the Bishop of South West Florida (where I am licensed to
serve, but happily am not canonically resident) has nixed the plan for your
visit to St. Boniface Church in Sarasota.

I am angry and appalled by his cowardice. He has surrendered to conservative bullies.

He has not, as far as I know, had the courtesy to reply to those who have written him (including
me) to protest his decision.

It offends me that the Archbishop of Canterbury will not invite you to the 2008
Lambeth Conference of Bishops. Does he not understand that your election and
consecration was canonically proper in the Episcopal Church, unlike the
consecrations of Bishop Minns and other conservatives.

A nixing of Bishop Minns as a quid pro quo of a nixing of you does not make for
Gospel math. He was chosen and consecrated without reference to any canonical
law! You were elected, confirmed and consecrated in full compliance with our Episcopal Church canonical
law.

It makes me sick that + Rowan has single you out, but has invited some corrupt
Bishops from Africa and South East Asia.

Is it not a "sin" when African Bishops have multiple wives, and/or visit
prostitutes? But they are invited to Lambeth!

Is it not a "sin" when Bishops in South East Asia and in parts of Africa are "in
bed" with corrupt and un-democratic regimes? But they are invited to Lambeth!


Is it not a sin of omission that the Archbishop singles you out as
"unacceptable" when he knows full well of other Bishops who have secret gay
partners?

And why does the Archbishop not recognise your fidelity to Jesus Christ, our
Lord and Saviour; to Bobbie, your former wife; to your daughters; and to Mark?

I am so angry that you will not be here or at Lambeth b next year. You are a
man of God with a Gospel voice. That voice has been silenced in South West
Florida. Shame upon shame.


Love

Michael Povey

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Suspicions

“Of course I am a liberal” “Yes, I’d figured that out”. The first statement was mine. The reply came from a lovely older man at St. David’s in Englewood.

We were chatting this morning over coffee at the 8:00 a.m. service. He is from Newton, MA. His wife is from New Bedford, MA. They lived in Holliston, MA, and were founder members of the Episcopal Church there. But there hearts were, and are, at the Church of the Advent in Boston, a bastion of Anglo-Catholic worship and practice, “smells, bells and all”.

I preached there on Ascension Day a couple of years ago, and I was happy to tell them that the parish is flourishing and healthy. They told me of their hay-days at Advent when Whitney Hale was Rector. I never knew Whitney, but I met his matrician wife “Bootsy” in her later years, and I knew Whitney and Bootsy’s son Sam and daughter Margee. This couple were shocked when I told them that both Sam and Margee had passed from this life. They remembered Sam and Margee as young people.

As I drove home I pondered “but what did I mean when I said that I am a liberal?” The contest was the Church and not politics, though in many ways there is a seamless robe.

The word which came to me is “suspicion”.
My understandings of Christianity are filtered through the spectacles of suspicion. I always ask the question “what is going on here?” And I ask this question about scripture, dogma and the Church.

Scripture.
What is going on here?

Take, for example, the two stories of Creation in Genesis. Yes, there are two, each coming from a different source. I ask: “Why are the stories there? What gave rise to them? How have they been viewed through the Centuries? What do the two stories have in common, and where do they differ?”

The recognition that they are wonderfully evocative stories which feature a wonderful Creator and rather stupid human beings leads me to understand that they are not to be understood literally, but rather poetically and mythically. This understanding is congruent with the wisdom of the scientific approach which posits an old earth. It flies in the face of Christian conservatives who insist on a young earth, created in a literal six days.

They are there to help us encounter the Universe with awe (which scientists do!), and to ponder the mystery of our humanity (which psychologists do!).

And I believe that the bible is filled with similar stories, myths, dubious histories and tales which are to be viewed with suspicion, but from which we may hear (at a distance) the Word of God.

(And I worry about a Presidential candidate who believes in a literal six day creation. How will his religious views influence his funding of science?)



Dogma I have a deep suspicion about any dogma which is deemed essential. I ask “who insisted on this dogma, and why?”

Soon, in Church we shall hear tales from the Gospels of the Virgin Birth (more correctly “Virginal conception“) of Jesus. Matthew and Luke have concerns about this, but is does not seem to have been that important to St. Paul.

Matthew, quoting Isaiah, says “behold a virgin shall conceive”. But the Hebrew of Isaiah merely says “a young woman shall conceive”. And Luke seems to be more concerned with Mary’s chastity than her virginity.

So my suspicious mind asks “why did the Virgin birth become a dogma?”

Was it because of an odd idea that original sin was transmitted in semen?

And I ask: “or was it because the early Church valued virginity in the face of the belief that Jesus would soon return to earth?”.

And my political mind asks “how many human lives have been destroyed because of a suspicious dogma of Virgin birth” “Has this dogma skewed our understanding of human sexuality?” “Are our public policies rooted in a somewhat suspect dogma?”

My religious mind tells me that Jesus could be the Incarnate Word of God without the insistence on this dogma.

I have a similar suspicion about the Nicene Creed. I always ask “how did it develop?”; “why did it develop?”; “under what circumstances was it adopted?”

And having delved into those questions there are two others.

First “Is the Nicene Creed a statement of the winners in a religio-political battle, and if so: how and why did they ‘win’?”

Second “what is the cash value of the Nicene Creed?” Is it a weapon against heretics, or a dim but lovely insight into the mind and reality of God?

The Church

Thank God for the Church, it pays my pension.

But I have long since rejected the Roman Catholic claim to be the “true Church” as a legacy of Roman Imperialism.

And I have rejected the Fundamentalists’ claims to be “the true Church” on the grounds of “which one?” (Should I toss many coins?)


And I have rejected those claims on political grounds because of my fear of autocratic rule in the world ( I am an heir to the glorious English tradition of Parliamentary Rule),

On religious grounds, I do not believe that an autocratic Pope, or an autocratic Pastor is likely to understand the Jesus who claimed to be no more than a servant.

Now, having rejected Papist and Puritan claims, I find myself in conflict with that which I loved: The Anglican Communion.

We are being led in the direction of rules and regulations which would lead us to becoming “papists with an English accent” , or “fundamentalists with a good liturgy”.

Our good Archbishop of Canterbury has issued an Advent letter which is gracious, well written, finely nuanced, and ecclesiastically profound.

But it is very “theological” and very “English”. It does not speak to “Tillie” in Topeka, or “Nathaniel” in Nairobi. And although ++Rowan Williams is a good and holy man, it implies a centralization of power and authority which most Anglicans have never known.

I am very suspicious of even benign rule. It inevitably leads to autocratic rule.


So there are my suspicions. Do you share them? Have you thought about them or others?

I told the good couple in Englewood that I was a “liberal”. Truth to tell, I am an agnostic in the Christian tradition.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Gone to the dogs

I am not a great lover of animals. My Dad loved dogs, and my Mum hated cats, and I am somewhere in the middle.

I’ve had two cats and one dog. They were OK as pets go, but I never lavished them with attention. My brother Martyn and his wife Wendy had a retired Greyhound names “Misty”, and I grew very fond of her. But, then again, she did not live in my home!

Glen Oaks Ridge, where I live, is a 55+ community. This means that there are no children or young people in the neighbourhood, but there are a ton of dogs. And it is my duty to fawn over them.

Betty live across the street. She owns a Chihuahua named “Dauncey”. He is a barker. He does not care for people. When I walk at 6:00 a.m. and Betty is out, her “shushing” of Dauncey is noisier that the dog’s bark. I’ve bribed him with “doggie treats” so he no longer barks at me. But I am no more than a food supply. He will never like me (Ior anyone).

“Little Betty” lives around the corner. Her miserable pooch died, so she has just adopted an abounded mutt named “Cocoa”. She takes him for long walks which he loves, but he ignores all human beings. We are irrelevant to his nose.

Sarita owns “Gizmo”, a Belgian Griffon. He is the ugliest dog you could hope to see. Gizmo hated and despised me, and he showed this by completely ignoring me. How rude!

Then Gizmo changed his mind, and I became his hero. He rushes to me, and puts his head down so that I will tickle him behind his ears. He is so ugly, but I like the fact that he likes me!

“GiGi”is a little poodle with the softest coat. She is the shy and retiring one, and always defers to the other neighbourhood dogs. Her owner is “Miky” - one of the kindest women you could hope to meet. GiGi loves to see me, but only because I like his “mother”.

The “big dog on the campus” is “Kelsey”, a nice looking Westie. He is not big in size, but in prestige, and he knows it. His owner Barbara knows this. Kelsey is the dog to whom other dogs, (and human beings) defer.

Kelsey is crazy about my neighbour Ed. Bellon. This dog will sprint towards Ed, greeting him with a doggy song.

We were on the verge on a “neighbourhood incident” last week when Kelsey scooted past Ed. and came straight to me. But then Kelsey came to grips with his mistake, and retreated to greet Ed.

As I said, I am not crazy about pets. But I am sure pleased that these dogs like me!

Friday, 14 December 2007

My religious journey (6)

So there I was, aged 21, working as a low level civil servant, with no plans for the future.
But I had learned to drink and to smoke. And I had left one Plymouth Brethren Assembly for another. Now I was “in fellowship” at Abingdon Road Gospel Hall. It was perceived to be slightly more progressive, but the perception and the reality were far apart.

After a year I applied for a job at the Westminster Bank. They’d turned me down when I had returned after the Eric Hutchins debacle, but “if at first you don’t succeed….”

A Mr. Hooper interviewed me. His opening words were not promising “Well Mr. Povey”, he said, “you are very persistent”. But I knew the game and pledged my life long fealty to the great and glorious Westminster Bank. “Never again”, I declared, “would I leave them”.


(Luckily for me the Westminster Bank merged with the National Provincial Bank a few years later, so my vow was null and void. I never left the Westminster Bank, but later I did leave the new “National Westminster Bank”!)

I was assigned to Knowle, Bristol branch as a cashier (teller) , and worked for an enlightened and fair Manager, Peter Long. It was retail banking at its best. I enjoyed the interaction with customers - Mrs. Fitzgerald who owned an unprofitable sweet shop, her son-in-law John who was a barber, (a married man who “came on to me” once when he was cutting my hair); and the owners of the old Gaiety Cinema in Knowle - long since gone. I joined the branch five-a-side soccer team, not cos I could play soccer, but because one of the team members, Desmond, was very attractive. I chose to continue with “Michael” rather than “John” as there were already two “Johns” in the office - and because I was liking my second name.

The Bank advanced me a loan and I purchased my first car, a little Ford Estate Car. For about a year I would first drive my sister Maureen to her job at the Metal Agencies Company (M.A.C.) in Ashton, and then wend my way through south Bristol to Knowle.

And I was “rehabilitated” as a member of the Plymouth Brethren, and became a “leading young brother” at the Gospel Hall. Here I made good friends with Phil and Hilary; Colin and Lorraine, and another Phil with his wife Bennie. We’d gather for “fellowship” at Colin and Lorraine’s home in Clay Bottom every Sunday; drink tea or coffee, tell dirty jokes and become quite boisterous.

But Mr. Holy Povey insisted on ending every evening with a scripture reading and prayer (to cancel out the dirty jokes?), and the other six soon got to call him “the Pastor”.

But in the midst of a job which I enjoyed, the good friends I’ve mentioned, and my super religiosity, the “big question” would not go away. “Why did I lust for men?”

I hooked up with the Gospel Quartette again for a few gigs. One took us to the south Devonshire coast for a youth conference. Another “pinch-hitter” in the Quartette for that weekend was a gorgeous guy named Brian. We roomed together.

But this conference was different. The Charismatic Movement (speaking in tongues, healing, prophecies etc) was bringing Pentecostal worship to main line Churches. And this conference was Charismatic indeed. We were urged to another act of surrender to Christ in which we would be baptised in the Holy Spirit - evidenced by speaking in tongues.

I resisted. But on the last night Brian and I knelt to pray in our room. It was a heady time. And he and I, spontaneously, and without the “laying on of hands” began to speak in tongues.

We wept and laughed and wondered. We basked in this time of spiritual intimacy. And I began to recognise the powerful link between spiritual and physical intimacy.

Fear or wisdom kept me back, and we went to our separate beds. But the gift of tongues did not take away my longings.

Back in Bristol the Peeb elders were mad at me. They called me to account in a formal meeting. Their theology dictated that I could not possibly be speaking in tongues since those “gifts of the Spirit” had been “withdrawn by God when the canon of Scripture was completed” .

But I knew that “something” had happened. I was praying with strange sounding words which I did not understand, but which allowed me to feel close to God.

So my experience and Peeb theology did not mesh at two levels. I was gay, which was to them an abomination. I spoke in tongues, which to them was spurious and false.

I had to quit religion or find a new Church. I was on the road to Canterbury in more ways than one.

….. To be continued……..

It's a great time of year.....

Is that time of year when we who live in South West Florida vest ourselves with a self satisfied smile, and say “this is why I moved to Florida”.

In short, the weather is gorgeous. It was in the 80’s yesterday, without a trace of humidity. In Pittsfield, MA where I once served it was in the 20’s, and in Bristol, U.K., where I grew up, it was in the 40’s.

I am writing at 5:00 a.m. and the outdoor temperature is 72. That’s good for me, and especially good for my homeless friends who sleep in the woods.

Just outside my back window is a lovely orchid tree. Its branches, swathed in purple flowers attract monarch butterflies. There’ll be more next year as the “butterfly friendly” plants I put in a few months ago begin to settle in and blossom.

The old vine at the front of my home was long since past its best, so I dug it out and replaced it with three hibiscus bushes, each with a different coloured flower. They are in bloom, as are the chrysanthemums and geraniums in the little garden area alongside the car port. So too are some irises which have big leaves, long stems and oh so tiny yellow flowers.

It’s a great time of year to be in South West Florida.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Another day in Sarasota

He was microwaving some sandwiches in my local convenience store. I reached over to pour a coffee. He flashed me a gorgeous smile, thinking that he was in my way.

I assured him that this was not the case, and moved away to add some cream. I went back to him and said “We do not all hate you, you know”. He was puzzled. “Immigrants” I said. “We are not all bad” he replied. “I know that”, was my reply. He smiled again and we shook hands. (I am an immigrant too!).

“Fred” was in jail for 34 years for murdering a prison guard. He is cagey. He utters possible threats - “I’ll not be pushed around”. He was talking to C, one of our Resurrection House Volunteers. She was nervous. Me too, but I rescued her by calling him to his shower at Resurrection House. We do not want to offend him.

“Tim” asked me to take care of his belongings. He is an affable Irishman. I told him that I could not be responsible if they were stolen, but he took the chance. His belongings were in well cared for suitcases.

An hour later “Tim’s” girlfriend returned. He had been arrested for an open bottle violation (drinking beer in public) and the police had discovered his outstanding warrants. No saint, he was in the clink on $15,000 bail. She asked “will you take care of his belongings?” Another volunteer named Mike and I agreed to break the Res House rules and store them in the back room.

Who knows if they will be there when he is released from jail?

“Flo” was in my face when first I met her at Res House. She was suspicious to the limit. She is short, wears a cap all the time, and has a boyfriend. She is in her mid-forties.

One day I risked a joke with “Flo”. That was all she needed. The barriers fell.

Today she came over to chat. It all came out. She’d just left a psych. unit in SRQ.

She’d been there cos she was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

She had buried her pain in booze, but wanted to get better.

Better from what?

Better from the molestation from her father when she was eight. Better from the rape by her grandfather when she was ten

The whole story came out to me in tears. I listened.

Then I moved around from my counter, and hugged her. It was a long, safe, very safe hug.

She relaxed, cried, and said “thanks, I needed that” She needed a safe hug from a man who was old enough to be her father.


I came out of “Whole Foods Market” this afternoon and wandered to my car. Then I saw “Carlos” who’d been at Res House earlier in the day - his first visit.

I hailed him and he smiled. Maybe his first smile of the day. He remembered that I was “Pastor Michael”

“I am down to my last cigarette" he said, “could you give me one?”

I reached into my shirt pocket and gave him a pack with five or six cigarettes in it. “Take this”, I said, “I have more at home“.

He smiled again, and said “thank you Padre Miguel”.

The sacrament of nicotine?

Another day in Sarasota.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

A bit naughty! Things to say when stressed

Things to say when stressed (stolen from the Web)

1. "Okay, okay! I take it back. Unf--k you!!!"

2. "You say I'm a bitch like it's a bad thing?!"

3. "How many times do I have to flush before you go away?"

4. "Well this day was a total waste of make-up"

5. "Well aren't we a bloody ray of sunshine?"

6. "Don't bother me, I'm living happily ever after."

7. "Do I look like a f--king people person!"

8. "This isn't an office. It's HELL with fluorescent lighting"

9. "I started out with nothing still have most of it left"

10. "I pretend to work, they pretend to pay me"

11. "YOU!!... off my planet!!!"

12. "Therapy is expensive. Popping bubble plastic is cheap. You choose"

13. "Practice random acts of intelligence and senseless acts of self-control"

14. "Errors have been made. Others will be blamed"

15. "And your cry-baby, whiny-assed opinion would be.....?"

16. "I'm not crazy. I've been in a very bad mood for 30 years."

17. "Sarcasm is just one more service I offer."


18. "Whatever kind of look you were going for, you missed"

19. "Do they ever shut up on your planet?"

20. "I'm not your type. I'm not inflatable"

21. "Stress is when you wake up screaming and you realize you haven't gone to sleep yet"

22. "Back off!! You're standing in my aura."

23. "Don't worry. I forgot your name too."

24. "I just want revenge. Is that so wrong?"

25. "I work 45 hours a week to be this poor."

26. "Nice perfume. Must you marinate in it."

27. "Not all men are annoying. Some are dead."

28. "Wait...I'm trying to imagine you with a personality"

29. "Chaos, panic and disorder . . . my work here is done."

30. "Ambivalent? Well yes and no."

31. "You look like shit. Is that the style now?"

32. "Earth is full. Go home."

33. "Aw, did I step on your poor little bitty ego?"

34. "I'm not tense, just terribly, terribly alert."

35. "A hard-on doesn't count as personal growth."

36. "You are depriving some village of an idiot."

37. "If assholes could fly, this place would be an airport"

Monday, 10 December 2007

Friendship is good

My good friend Betsy Pusey of Pittsfield was here for the long weekend between Thursday last and today (Dec 10th).

We had a blast and a ball!

Betsy arrived on Thursday evening and we prattled and enjoyed beverages until about mid-night.

Friday morning saw us prattling again over coffee and toast until we hoved off to my bowling group. There I bowled (dismally); Betsy visited with the folks she had met last year; and one and all nibbled on chicken wings and pizza provided by Marie to celebrate Ann’s birthday.

After bowling Betsy joined the others at “Findaddys” (bar) for libations, whilst I rested and farted around at home.

At about 8:00 I broiled the most delicious T Bone steak, which we shared, with no veggies, potatoes or salad. Just steak!

On Saturday Bets and I went down to Sarasota’s North Lido Beach and swam in the 70 F water - my first time in the Gulf of Mexico since I moved here. Wonderful!

http://www.4sarasota.com/lidokey/beach.html


In the evening I hosted a party for two birthdays - for Betsy and for my friend Bob. 10 of us enjoyed slices from a spiral ham, baked beans, and cold pasta salad. And we laughed, joked and got silly all evening. Betsy had been here last year for her birthday, so we decided that this was her second annual birthday bash in Sarasota.

Emboldened by my swim on Saturday I took Betsy to the very wonderful Fort DeSoto County Park in Pinellas County, about 75 minutes drive from here. What a treat. This approx. 1000 acre county park is an unspoiled gem, with wonderful bird life and fabulous beaches. Again we swam in the Gulf. Yes we swam on December 9th!

http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_Ft_DeSoto.html



Back home we had more steak, this time with pasta and baked beans, and then went to the Christmas concert of the Gay Men’s Chorus. Bruce Wirtz sang in this group, and the concert was dedicated to his memory.

I took Bets back to Tampa Airport today, and we parted - each glowing, but with tears in our eyes after a most wonderful weekend.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Betsy

My good friend Betsy Pusey from Pittsfield arrived this evening (6 Dec.)

She'll be here until Monday 10th, so my blog will be on hiatus until then.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Her name was Carla. His name is Zach.

Her name was Carla.

I’d see her at Resurrection House, the day shelter for homeless people where I volunteer. She was slender, pretty, with lovely hair.

She was always in a daze. “Out there” I said to one of the other guests today. “Way out there” he replied.

There was a story about Carla in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on December 4th 2007


HOLMES BEACH -- Investigators know Carla A. Beard left a residential drug rehabilitation center in Sarasota on Nov. 26, and that she died of blunt trauma to her head about two days later on Anna Maria Island.

As a first step to catch her killer, detectives are trying to piece together a time line of who was with the 29-year-old after she left the center and how she got to the Holmes Beach neighborhood.

Beard's decomposing, partially nude body was found this weekend, days after her death, giving investigators a slow start on the investigation into how she ended up about 100 feet from the Gulf of Mexico.

So Holmes Beach police Chief Jay Romine sent her photo to the media in the hope that someone saw her in a cab, on a bus or "anywhere from last Monday to Wednesday night."

A medical examiner's report puts the time of death somewhere around Wednesday night. There is no evidence Beard was killed somewhere else and then dumped in the quiet neighborhood, Romine said.

"It's no question it was a violent death," Romine said. "We don't have a weapon we've recovered."

People renting a house for a weekend party found the body while investigating an odor in pine trees behind the home, near Fifth Avenue and 50th Street, Romine said.

Relatives of the Sarasota woman did not want to comment or did not return calls Monday.

A spokesman for First Step of Sarasota, the drug treatment program, declined to comment, citing concerns about the dead woman's privacy.

Beard had a short criminal history related to drug charges, including a plea to marijuana possession and paraphernalia possession in 2001. She was also cited for possession of paraphernalia, which she pleaded to in July.


His name is Zach.


He was my check-out clerk today at our local Super Target. He asked “how are you doing?” and I replied with my usual “excellent”. “And how are you?” I asked him. “Outstanding” he said.

“Outstanding?” I queried. Yes, outstanding”

“Well”
I said, "you are either coming off duty or you have a date tonight"

I followed up with “What will you be doing tonight” “Golfing” he said. “Are you on a High School team” I enquired. ( I thought that he was about 17 years old).

“No”
, he countered, “I’m in the Army and I’m on leave”.

“Where are you based?”

“Fort Bliss”


“Have you been deployed?”

“Yes, to Iraq”.


“What was that like”.

“It was my first time out of the USA, and it was all very different. I saw things that I wished I had not seen”.

“When do you go back?”

“Back to Fort Bliss in January”


“And then”

“We’ll be shipped out again”.

I asked his name (Zach), shook his hand, and promised to pray for him.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

My letter to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune today. Not sure if it will be published

Is Christmas a Christian adaptation of Saturnalia? That's widely believed, but there is an alternative idea as to why this festival is celebrated in December.

Some ancients believed that people died near to the date they were conceived. According to the Christian Gospels Jesus died at Passover time, in what we know as March or April. Hence, according to some, he would have been conceived at that time of year, and thus born nine months later, in December. So a December Christmas would be conceivable (pun intended!).

Christians have a blessed freedom in these United States to celebrate their festivals in any way they please. I suspect that most Christian celebrations of Christmas are not very different from those of non-Christians. They celebrate an essentially secular Christmas with a bit of Church thrown in. Never mind. It's great to have feasting, festivals and even worship which encourage charity and loving kindness for Christians and non-Christians alike.

And the culture will not falter or fall if Christians use "Merry Christmas" as a greeting. Members of other faiths, and people of no faith expect Christians to use their own greeting. Nor will the culture fall if others say "Happy Holidays".

For in this beautiful American kaleidescope of many faith and none, there is room for ""Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays".

(The Revd) J. Michael Povey
Episcopal Priest (retired) Sarasota

Monday, 3 December 2007

Blackbird

I was surfing through another blog “frjakestopsthe world” and came across this piece

http://frjakestopstheworld.blogspot.com/

(Cut and paste this, then scroll down to Autobiographical (on the right) and click on A Ghost from the Past)


He quotes the wonderful Paul, McCartney song “Blackbird”

It’s always been one of my favourites, and I had it sung on my last Sunday at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Fitchburg, MA - Easter Day 1980


Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly...Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird fly...Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life...
you were only waiting for this moment to arise...


There is a youtube video of the song which you may be able to access. The video is poorly lit, and the singer is not great, but her guitar work is lovely.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=qzGx8TipFaQ
(Cut and past this and you should get the youtube video)

Sunday, 2 December 2007

In a "Wonder Bread" mood

I did not go to Church today. I was not slated to assist in Englewood, and I half a mind to go St. Boniface, but in the end I settled for a long nap.

I hang around three parishes. St. Boniface has the best sermons. St. David’s has the warmest Rector. All Angels has the friendliest congregation. Each congregation is fine in its own way, but they are still Church, and sometimes I don’t want to do Church.

Earlier in the week I was talking with Daegan, a young man from Canaan, New York who used to attend St. Stephen’s, Pittsfield with his sister Carrie and their parents Eric and Maggie

I’ve not set eyes on any of the family in nearly eight years. But have remembered them with fondness. Now Daegan is planning to get married to his beloved Talia, and they have asked my to officiate. It will be an outdoor wedding, next year in Massachusetts.

As you might guess, I was tickled pink to be remembered and asked.

Daegan started along that road which is often taken by those who have lapsed from Church. “Talia and I don’t attend Church” he said “but we think that the spiritual life is important”.

I cut him off gently and quickly. I used to argue with people who claimed to be spiritual but who do not attend Church, but now I understand them much more. I needed no defensive reaction from Daegan.

We talked a bit about this. I told him of my “Wonder Bread” sermon in which I had a loaf of that stuff in the pulpit.(“Wonder Bread” is crap, but it suited my purpose for the sermon).

I said that the wrapper was extremely useful - a convenient way to carry sliced bread.

But we would be foolish to spend hours admiring the wrapper whilst never eating the bread. ‘Twould be equally silly to treasure the wrapper after all the bread had been eaten.


The Church is a wrapper, and no more.
It can be an extremely useful institution for “sharing the bread of life”, but it is not the bread itself.

Yet we spend so many hours admiring, defending and beautifying the Church (wrapper) whilst people are hungry for spiritual bread.

A whole mythical commercial empire has grown up to defend and protect the Church.

The Papacy in all its glory is part of that myth, designed to create and protect power.Do we really fool ourselves into believing that Peter was the first Pope? Do we truly believe that Benedict XVI bears any spiritual resemblance to that bumbling stumbling fisherman called Peter?


Evangelical and fundamentalist Pastors
build their own defensive towers from which “struggling for biblical preaching” is a slogan which really means “covering my ass and getting rich”.

And we are being urged to adopt quasi-papal structures in the Anglican Communion, through which the Archbishop of Canterbury would serve like a genteel and oh so polite English “Pope”. Why? To save and protect the damn institution? To adorn and embellish the wrapper whilst the bread goes stale?

I think that’s why I am irked with my Bishop for dis-inviting Bishop Gene Robinson here. The good Bishop has fallen into the trap of defending the institution, rather than allowing Bishop Gene to break the bread of life with those who would hear him.

I believe that G-d does not care one whit about the survival of the Diocese of South West Florida, or the Anglican Communion.

I know that G-d does care that the poor hear the Gospel.

I know that G-d cares for justice for the oppressed (and you can bet your last pledge offering that gay Christians are oppressed in Africa and South East Asia).

I believe that G-d wills all persons to be saved, be they Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus or none of the above.

I do not believe that Jesus ever intended to found a Church (and I’ll argue with you about that passage about “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”).

I do not see a place anywhere in the Gospels where Jesus explicitly or implicitly calls people to become Christians.

But the Church has decided that our chief purpose is to make Christians.
To hell with feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoners, and giving water to the thirsty. We want to make more Christians “in our image” - Christians who will become as venial and proud as we.

I am grateful for the sister and brother clerics at St. David’s. St. Boniface and All Angels who “get this” as much as if not more than I did when I was a parish Rector. Now retired, I am glad that I am not in their shoes.

And I felt the joy of my retirement this morning. I was in a “Wonder Bread” mood. So I did not want to be in a place where Bishop Smith’s fallible judgments become law. And, because I am retired I did not have to be in Church.

I went Christmas shopping, wrote Christmas Cards and ate dinner with a friend. It was a good Sunday.

Talia and Daegen’s wedding will be similarly good.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Moving away from being horribly religious

So I returned to Bristol with my tail between my legs after the failure of my stellar attempts (!) to become an Evangelist. The year was 1965 and I was 21 years old.

I was 21 years old and utterly unqualified for any career. After all, I had gained only two O levels in “High School” - in English Language and English Literature. Most white collar employers demanded a minimum of five O levels, and I was totally unprepared for blue collar work.

So I went on the “dole”. In order to receive unemployment payments I was required to sign in twice each week at the Employment Exchange on Nelson Street in Bristol.

I would shuffle through the lines of unemployed men and women to await my “interview” with a clerk. Most of the unemployed smoked cigarettes, and I joined them. We would puff away as we awaited our turn.

The dole lasted for ten weeks. Then I landed a job as a Civil Servant - at the very lowest level. I clerked at the “ Inspectorate of Armaments” (IArm) and the “Inspectorate of Fighting Vehicles and Mechanical Equipment” (IFVME) located in two lovely Victorian houses on Woodland Road in Clifton, Bristol.

On my first day my new boss took me to every room to meet my new colleagues. He introduced me as “Michael” - my middle name. I was too bashful to correct him. Five days later he came into my room to apologise. “I should have introduced you as John” he said. I countered with “yes, but there is another John in the office, so I will stick with Michael”

Thus I became Michael, the name with which I now identify myself. Only my siblings and a few old friend know me as John. The name change was more than an accident. I was emerging from the old “John” (compliant, obedient, conformist) to a new “Michael” who would be much more free.

Mum and Dad complained about this name change, but I countered with a rather snooty “but you gave me two names, and never said that I could not use my middle name”. Brother Martyn was concerned about mail addressed to “Mr. M. Povey” and I gave him permission to open any letter with that address.

My immediate boss was Miss Gwen Pragnell. I liked her a lot. She lived in Bitton (half way between Bristol and Bath) with her “brother”. Later we discovered that he was not her brother, but her lover. An unmarried woman with a lover had to keep a secret.

I was always first to arrive at the office. Gwen Pragnell would be next. One day she arrived in a fit of giggles. “I know that I am an older woman” she said, “and you are a young man, but I have to tell you that I lost my knickers (panties), when walking up the street from the ‘bus stop. The elastic snapped, and they fell to my ankles. A young schoolboy waiting for his ‘bus could not believe his eyes”. That was worth rich laughter.

One of my junior colleagues was one Terry Caie. He and I would walk across the street for a beer at lunch time (yes a new Michael was emerging from the “Peeb” darkness) and we would listen to Simon and Garfunkel on the juke box. Terry later became a policeman.

And there was Miss Jones, another colleague. She was a gentle “maiden lady”. That Christmas (1965) the IArm and IFVME held a dinner dance at the Royal Hotel - my first.

Wanting to dance, in a moment of sheer inelegance I approached Miss Jones. No “may I have the pleasure of this dance?” from me. Instead I said “How about it Miss Jones?” Well, Miss Jones was up for “it”, but she fell flat on her bum as I inexpertly danced with her.

I was changing. I was a Plymouth Brother who smoked, drank and danced. Tisk, tisk.
And I was a Plymouth Brother who wanted a man in his life. Thus I began my flirtation with the Church of England.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Purple-itis

There was a time when I wanted to become a Bishop. I had that dreadful Episcopal Church disease called “purple-itis”. Supremely confident in my own ability, I knew that I would be a great, godly and wise Bishop!

Bull-shit. If I ever had become a Bishop I would have fallen into that greatest trap - “believing my own propaganda”. That’s what happens to Bishops.

Bishops wear purple. Hence purple-itis. That purple came from the Roman Empire. Men of the equestrian and senatorial classes were allowed to wear togas with purple stripes. It was a sign of status.

Victorious Generals were allowed to wear the “toga piota”, a toga dyed entirely in bright purple. Later on Emperors wore this toga piota, even hairless boy Emperors who had never seen the light of battle.

That’s what our Bishops wear.

We swear that some parish Priests have a purple clerical shirt in their closet “just in case they should become a Bishop”. I never owned a purple shirt, but I wanted to be a Bishop.

That desire was put to the test. Twice within ten days I was invited to join searches for Bishops, one for the Diocese of Newark, and another for the Diocese of Delaware.

I was tickled pink, if not purple!

I spent a couple of hours with my own Bishop in Western Mass, to try to discern what this might mean. He was very helpful in outlining parameters for discernment.

About a week later I awoke in the middle of the night with one thought: “but I don’t want to be a Bishop”. By 9:00 the next morning I had written to Newark and Delaware declining to be considered.

Why did I make this decision. Well, I imagined myself in a troubled parish, meeting with the Vestry until late at night, and then driving home to a lonely apartment, only to get drunk.

And I imagined myself “believing my own propaganda”.

Thank God that I was delivered from purple-it is. I may, or may not have been a good Bishop, but the cost to my soul would have been great.

And I question the purple; the episcopal ring (a fancy ring which Bishops wear); and the pointy hat.

Why are these accoutrements deemed to be so essential? Does it have to do with power and status?

Do we believe that a man or woman in a pointy hat, with purple vestments and a fancy ring is automatically more wise and godly than the woman who sits in the pew next to us?

Yes, we believe that. And more dangerously, the Bishops believe that.

But I must be careful. What I do wear in Church is that long white garment known as an Alb. It is all too reminiscent of a Toga.

And I wear the scarf like vestment called a “stole”. It was originally the “orarium” worn by Senators and Consuls of the Roman Empire. Now there’s a bit of status for you.

And the one article which I cannot use is the crozier, or crook. This is the Shepherd’s crook, carried for the protection of the sheep. Only Bishops may use these.

And I wish that they were never be-jewelled and ornamented. A simple wooden staff ought to be enough for any Bishop who is content not to be an imperial figure, but to be a shepherd.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

When you are older than your Father.

I had been anticipating November 26th for about three months. In the event the day came and went, and it was not until this evening (29th Nov) that I remembered the significance of that date.

For on November 26th I became older than my father was when he died. That’s given me pause for thought.

Dad was born in November 1910. He died in May 1974.

He was born into a world in which Britain ruled the waves, and the British Empire had never been more “glorious”. That Empire wealth was leached away in the Great War -1914/18, a war from which the comparatively few “heroes” returned to a Britain which was beginning to go broke.

They came back to be heroes, and were greeted with massive unemployment for all but the reviled and despised military “Officer Class”.

Winston Churchill was discredited on account of the disastrous Dardanelles campaign against the Turkish Navy. The working people never forgot that Churchill had mobilised troops against strikers in 1910/11.

By 1926 when Dad was 16, there was a General Strike in Great Britain. This too was broken by Churchill’s skill at propaganda when he launched a government newspaper “The British Gazette”. Troops again were mobilised, and warships were tied up in our home City of Bristol as well as in other places. This was Dad’s world.

Then came the Depression. Dad had planned to become an Engineer, but as family lore has it, the money my Grandmother had saved to finance Dad’s education had to be plunged in to the “family business” of plumbing. Dad became a plumber, trained by his father, who had been trained by his father. Three generations of plumbers. Dad lived a life of lower middle class respectability, without much money. His parents were fervent teetotalers, and Dad “took the pledge” which he honoured until quite late in his life.

He attended lectures and concerts at the Methodist Central Hall, and developed a lifelong love of classical music. He once attended an evangelistic campaign led by “Gypsy Smith”, and “went forward” at the Altar call.

He and Mum met in the same Methodist Church (respectable to say the least) and got wed on December 26th 1936. Less than three years later his father (my grandfather) was killed in a road accident, and Dad inherited the struggling family business.

When Dad was 29 World War II broke out. By this time Dad and Mum had two children, my sisters Maureen and Jean.

Dad could not serve in the military as he was blind in one eye. This was a source of great frustration and disappointment to him. He was a plumber and fire-watcher throughout the war, and was once taken to court and fined for leaving a light on overnight at his place of work.

My twin and I came along in 1944 (another older sister, Sylvia, had died soon after her birth).

The end of the War did not mean the end of hardship, and the British economy limped along until the mid sixties. By that time we were a family of nine children. Money was short.

Our earliest memories of Dad were of an angry loner. He played a very small part in family life, but would spend endless hours in our kitchen listening to classical music on the BBC.

Sunday dinner was often the occasion of some irritation which set Dad off in a rage. And they were dreadful.

I have often wondered about Dad’s anger. I think that it was born of frustration and disappointment. Life for him had always been hard.

But in the last 6- 8 years of his life, a new Dad emerged. He and Mum took vacations together, often with my five younger siblings. He would occasionally have a glass of lager. His humour came to the fore. He became much more sociable. He knew so much about so many things.

We came to enjoy our Dad, and he came to enjoy us. And it was at that time that he was taken away from us, dying of cancer. We were pissed about this. Mum was broken-hearted. He was so young, just 63.

And now I am 63, and older than Dad was when he died. That has given me pause for thought.

I am grateful for the simple things which Dad liked - a watercress sandwich in brown bread would bring him great pleasure.

I am grateful for his love of classical music which I inherited, at first by osmosis, (though Dad did not care for Chamber Music and Opera, which I adore.)

I will never forget his pride in me when I entered Seminary and was on track to be ordained. He longed to see my ordination, but never did.

Many times I think “Oh, Dad told me that, or taught me that”.

When I was 14 Dad was “moonlighting” by doing some plumbing for the parents of my school friend, David Rodgers. David and I were “hanging out” when his father said, “come and see this”. What we came to see was my father wiping a lead joint with a blow-lamp (blow-torch) in one hand, and a moleskin in the other. It was a work of art. I treasure the memory.

And now I am older than Dad was when he died.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Aunts, Uncles and Cousins

My mother’s birth name was Evelyn Maud Finch. She hated her middle name. We would tease her by singing “Come into the garden Maud”.

Her parents were Francis Finch and Kate Ames.

Kate, my maternal grandmother died six months after my birth, and Francis died when I was less than two years old.

Mum had one sister, Kate, who died at a young age of what was called “lockjaw” (tetanus?).

There were six brothers. John, Harold, Reg, Fred, Wally and Albert.

I met my Uncle John only once. He was a mortician. He lived in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, and came to Bristol for the one family reunion which Mum organised. Uncle John and his wife (whose name I cannot remember) had one child, my cousin Margaret.

Harold was a cobbler. I knew him quite well, as well as his wife my Auntie Doll. They had two children, my cousins John and Shelia.

Reg was married to a fairly unkind woman, my Aunt Dorothy. They were childless, but “fostered” many children with a harshness that bordered on cruelty.

Uncle Fred and his wife Auntie Phyll lived nearby. He claimed to be an accountant, but was simply a book-keeper. Uncle Fred was known for his temper tantrums, and when I was a young boy and got into a temper, my parents would call me “Freddie”. Fred and Phyll had one daughter, my cousin Rosemary.

Uncle Wally (Walter Charles - hence “W.C” behind his back) also lived nearby with my Auntie Irene. Wally had various careers, including being an insurance agent (the old door-to-door, collect each week kind), a traffic warden, and a rent collector for the City.

Wally and Irene had four children, Alan, Janet, Kate and Christopher.

Uncle Albert was killed in Normandy in August 1944, when I was three months old. My brother Martyn and I took Mum to see her brother’s grave in Bayeux, France in September 1994 - 50 years after his death.

So I had eight first cousins.

I cannot remember if I ever met Cousin Margaret.

I met Cousin John a few times when I was young, but he was already “growed up”. Cousin Sheila became very close to our family. We adored her but sadly she died of cancer when she was in her late 40’s or early 50’s.

Cousin Rosemary died when she was in her early twenties. She was a beautiful stylish young woman, but succumbed to Hodgkinson’s disease (leukaemia).

Best of all I knew my cousins, Alan, Janet, Kate and Chris.

Alan moved to Holland many years ago, and died there (in his fifties) two years ago.

Cousin Kate lives in Spain, and I have not seen her in years.

Cousin Chris is a Methodist lay preacher. He has visited me twice in the United States.

Cousin Janet lives in Bristol with her partner Steve. They have been using a time share on Longboat Key, near here, for five years. Little did I know when I moved to SRQ that Janet and Steve would be here each year. Last year I cooked them a Thanksgiving dinner, and tonight they treated me to a great steak in an SRQ restaurant.

We chatted “family”, and that’s why I have been reminded of my mother’s siblings, and of my cousins.

Reg was the last to die of those siblings. Only Auntie Irene (my aunt by marriage) yet lives. That’s cool, cos she always was my favourite Aunt. She still lives in Bristol.

Dad was an only child so there are no cousins on his side of the family.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Her name is Anna

Her name is Anna. I met her at one of the three parishes I attend in this neck of the woods.

I recognised her faint German accent and told her about the wonderful German bakery here in SRQ.

Anna is in the hospital, and I visited her yesterday.

She was born in Berlin in 1930, just three years before H-tler’s rise to power. As inflation was conquered and employment grew, she enjoyed those days. A little girl would not understand the abnormality of the ghastly regime.

Even during the first years of the war, things seemed normal to Anna. Then the Allies began to bomb Berlin, and her father sent her, with her mother and sisters to a safe country place near the Polish border.

Anna was a member of the H-tler Youth (what child of that era in Germany was not?) and she, at aged 13 and 14 would be marched out every day, with other children, some younger, to dig trenches for the retreating German soldiers to occupy.

Then the Red Army began its march west, and the females of this divided family moved again, to escape what they knew would be Soviet style terror.

Somehow, she cannot remember how, they managed to get aboard a freighter bound for Denmark. They were in a Danish harbour on D-Day, and were kept in the bowels of the ship for two weeks. Many died in the ship, especially many little children. But Anna and her family held on.

Once on land they were placed in a Displaced Persons Camp, barbed wire and all, where they remained for two years. Anna’s mother bribed a guard with a gold watch, and he promised to mail a letter to the father, yet in Berlin. My some miracle he received it.

After two years they returned to Berlin. As luck had it, their home remained standing, and it was in the American Zone. On one side, where a window had been there was but a sheet of plywood, and the children looking down through a gap, saw nothing but rubble.

Anna married a G.I. and came to these United States. She is now on the cusp of being 78 years old, and has never told her story to her children and grandchildren.

She told it to me. Perhaps this was because she is to have major surgery this week. I was honoured to hear it.

(Anna is not her real name)

Monday, 26 November 2007

Friends and Thanksgiving

As you know my friend, Bruce Wirtz, a retired Episcopal Priest, died on October 2nd. He was but 73 years old. I had known him since 1976.

Bruce and his wife Mary Virginia divorced many years ago. They had four wonderful children, Nelson, Kati, Andrew and Eunice.

Mary Virginia died in 2006 and I officiated at her funeral in Worcester, MA. Just six week previously I had officiated at the marriage of Nelson and his beloved Meredith, on Cape Cod.

Bruce met Ben Morse 15 years ago and they enjoyed a wonderfully loving relationship. It was largely because of Bruce and Ben that I moved here last year.

Nelson, Kati, Andrew and Eunice adored their father, and his partner Ben.

So it was no surprise that Nelson and Meredith invited Ben to join them on Cape Cod for Thanksgiving. Ben (85) asked if I would travel with him, and I was pleased to do so and be part of this family Thanksgiving. The family includes Emma, a fine thirteen year old young woman from Nelson’s first marriage.

Ben and I left Sarasota last Tuesday. Our first flight was delayed by four hours, and of course we missed a connection in Baltimore. Our re-booked flight took off 83 minutes late, and so it was nearly midnight before we arrived in Brewster where Nelson and Meredith live.

On Wednesday we “bummed around” the Cape, and then drove back to Boston, in two cars, to meet Meredith’s Step-Mother at Logan Airport. Then we took ourselves to Boston’s North End for a wonderful Italian Dinner. (See my yesterday’s sermon for a record of a sad incident in the restaurant).

After dinner I drove over to Cambridge/Somerville , whilst the others returned to Cape Cod. Nelson is a fire-fighter and was working a 24 hour shift on Thanksgiving, so they all ate at the Fire House in Chatham. I am told that it was quite the Feast, with deep fried Turkey.

Meanwhile I stayed overnight with my dears - Pat Michaels (the organist at St. James’s), his wife Laurie Rofinot (a Priest who also worked with me at St. James’s), and their daughter Marian.

Thanksgiving morning Pat had to play for the St. James’s service, so I played at cutting up apples with Laurie and Marian. Then Pat and I went for a long, long walk in balmy weather, and stopped by to see Tom Hirschi and his wife Jane Smillie, and their daughters Anna Lee and Ursula. This was fun cos Jane grew up in Sarasota, and we talked about the Town.

Pat, Laurie and Marian took me to their friends, Bob, Hanna and Sophie, for dinner. (Marian and Sophie are “best buds”). Bob is a somewhat eccentric professor, and Hanna (from Denmark) is an artist. We had a rollicking good time with excellent food, serious conversation, and lots of silly time when we laughed without measure.

I excused myself from dessert and hoved over to see Derrick Jackson (Boston Globe Columnist), his wife Michelle Holmes (Harvard Medical School breast cancer researcher), and their second son, 17 year old Tano. We ate dessert, and to my joy Michelle parents, Ken and Mary Holmes were there too. They were amongst my favourites at St. James’s.

Both dessert and fellowship were sweet, and I dragged myself away at about 8:30 p.m. to drive back to Cape Cod.

Friday dawned a little on the chilly side, but we took ourselves to Provincetown to have lunch at the Lobster Shack. I enjoyed superb Lobster Bisque.

On our way back we stopped to get Little Neck Clams and Oysters, and I for the first time in my life ate Oysters.

Ben and I left Cape Cod just before 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning to return our rental car to Logan Airport and to fly back to SRQ via Atlanta. This time the fates were with us and we arrived at SRQ 10 minutes early - back into the warmth which I have grown to love!

Lord above, how blessed I am with so many friends.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Nov 25th Left brain sermon which I did NOT preach. Scroll down for the sermon I preached

Sermon for November 25th 2007
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at All Angels Church, Longboat Key, FL

Jeremiah 23: 1-6, Psalm 46, Colossians 1:11-20, and Luke 23: 33-43.



Thank you for your welcome when I visited last month, and again this morning.
My name is Michael Povey, and your Rector and I knew each other back in Massachusetts. I have one little question. What happened to St. Michael in your Church dedication!

The Queen and Prince Philip celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary last weekend. It always amuses me in republican (small R) America, that whenever we say “The Queen”, we know that we are taking about the Queen of the United Kingdom, not the Queen of Spain or of Belgium. Sometimes it feels as if she is our honorary monarch!

You know that today we reach the end of a one year cycles of readings for each Sunday. What we’ve read through the long green season, culminates in what Roman Catholics call the “Feast of Christ the King”. Although that is not an official feast in the Episcopal Church, since, for the most part, we have the same readings as our Catholic friends, what we’ve read today has a “Kingy” flavour about it.

However, be alert. The choice of readings, whilst not arbitrary or whimsical, depends to some extent on the theological biases of those who compile the Lectionary. So we must be careful that we do not, for instance, make an instant mental leap between Jeremiah’s words about a King, and Luke’s identification of Jesus as King of the Jews. We should take each passage on its own merits, and not look for links where none exist.

The Bible, for the most part, takes a dim view of Monarchy. You will remember that G-d allowed Israel her first King under protest, so to speak, and for the most part the Kings of Israel and Judah were a sorry lot. How often we read “he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight”. The Bible is well aware of human corruptibility, and of the tendency of Kings to feather their own nests at the expense of the people, and to enter into dangerous foreign alliances. But, if there is a role for the Biblical King, it is that he should be the guarantor of justice.

Jeremiah, at the very end of a disastrous Monarchy, states that the Lord will raise up a Branch (that is a descendant of David) who shall reign as King, and do wisely, and execute justice and righteousness in the land.

The Bible is never expounds on various theories of justice. It is much more specific and concrete. The justice which the King is called to enforce has to do with taking care of widows and orphans; dealing with bribery and corruption; ensuring known and identifiable boundaries between property; welcoming strangers, ensuring honest weights and measures and the like. The Bible knows that the poor are vulnerable. It agrees with the old English aphorism “it’s always the poor wot suffers!”

When we come to the New Testament, the concept of Kingship is the same, and is different. It is the same for instance in Matthew , where the King, giving judgement in effect asks “did you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger?” (In an ad hominem excursus I add that the King did not ask “Did you keep my Church pure from gays and lesbians?”, which seems to be the cause du jour of many of our leaders.)

Since preaching which does not call for action can be all sound and fury, I commend to you the Millennium Development Goals which are being supported in this very conservative Diocese. Good for your new Bishop. Look them up on the Diocesan website, and think about the ways in which they might become part of the woof and warp of this good parish. In that way you could be delivered from the tedious arguments between right and left about the meaning of justice, and join in the royal ministry of justice. King Jesus calls us this way.

But there are changes in the concept of Kingship in the New Testament, which become evident in today’s Gospel. The Kingship of Jesus is a direct threat to all other Monarchies. The message over the cross may have been a cynical joke by the tyrant Pontius Pilate, but Christians used that inscription to defy the cruel might of the Roman Empire. The Emperor might well declare himself as “Dominus et Deus” - Lord and God, but “not so fast” said the Christians. We have a greater loyalty than to Caesar, it is to Jesus whom we proclaim to be “King of Kings”. Caesar is subservient to Jesus. And the challenge to us (dammit the Gospel too often has a challenge!) is “where is your ultimate loyalty?”

As one who became an American by choice I rejoice in my allegiance to the Constitution and Bill of Rights of this marvelous Country. But, patriot as I am, my ultimate loyalty is to the King who reigns from a cross. Working that out on a day to day basis is the hardest matter.

But there is a difference in those and all of our loyalties. For Jesus never demands or extorts loyalty. His call to us is not that of a rapacious King who seizes all and demands all. His call is of a servant King (there’s a paradox for you) who gives all in forgiveness, grace and hope without measure. For this King is the one who also says, “I do not call you servants, I call you friends”.

There’s a wonder for you. We are called by Jesus not to be his subjects. But to be his friends.

November 25th Right Brain sermon which I preached

Sermon for November 25th 2007
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at All Angels Church, Longboat Key.

Jeremiah 23: 1-6, Psalm 46, Colossians 1:11-20, and Luke 23: 33-43.




Thank you for your welcome when I visited last month, and again this morning.
My name is Michael Povey, and your Rector and I knew each other back in Massachusetts. I have one little question. What happened to St. Michael in your Church dedication!

There is a word in the Welsh language which is almost untranslatable into English. It is “hierith”. It is a word for this time of year, between Thanksgiving and Advent.

Hierith is a word which is so hard to describe. It’s a longing for one’s home, land, family, and it’s a deep sadness in the soul for all those who are away from their homeland and kinfolk. It’s a longing, yearning to be whole again, both a sadness and a blessing.

I wrote my sermon for today last Monday. It’s alright in its own way, and I’ll post it to my blog. But it is not this sermon. For I had a moment of hierith on Tuesday night.

It was in a dream. I dreamed that I was back home again in England. I was at home in our dining room. And there was my mother. My mother who died six years ago. She was sitting at the dining room table in her favourite camel coloured top coat, and wearing her “Sunday go to Church” hat.

Then, in my dream, it was the next day, and I was upstairs in our home. I saw my step-father and told him with great excitement “Mum is back”. He refused to believe me. “Yes” I cried, “I had dinner with her last night”. “You weren’t even here last night” he replied.

I woke up with such hierith. It dominated my heart for a couple of days. “If only Mum were here with me now”.

Hierith. Deep longing, with both sadness and blessing. The holidays bring that out in us. We want to go back to when he/she was yet alive. Or even better, we want to bring him or her into our present.

Hierith. A sad wistfulness for that moment, that day, that year, that period of time when every thing and every person seemed to fit into the right place.

Hierith. A sadness for what might have been. We long for the person we loved, who died, or moved away, or ceased to love us, or never loved us despite our own deep passion. Or a wry remorse for the choice we made or did not make.

But also a longing for the future. Hierith, that fitful lusting for a future in our own lives, in the lives of our children, in the life of the Church, or in the life of our beloved United States. A future when proud divisions will cease. A longing for a time, maybe even a moment at which we will know that we are eternally loved, loved without doubt by the God we dimly know.

Maybe Jeremiah was living in hierith. His nation had been all but destroyed. He was about to go into exile. All his preaching had been in vain. He has hierith for the past and for the future.

For the past: a longing for the golden days of David the King. Golden at least in memory.

For the future: A longing for a new King, who will be wise, and just and righteous.

We long, do we not, for the good old days, and for better days to come.

And the writer to the Colossians. An hierith for the future - a reconciliation of all things, whether in heaven or on earth through the exalted Christ. It has not happened yet.

And yet we continue to long and yearn to be whole again:- in ourselves, in our families, in our Church and Nation, and in the world.

That’s a way to approach Advent. To think of it, not as a season of penitence, but as a season of hierith - a yearning that the Christ-child for whom we long, will set all things right.

Is it a futile longing?

I thought so at first last Wednesday. I was with friends in an Italian restaurant in Boston’s North End. There were three or four families in a private room just off the main dining room. They were noisy and boisterous in a good sort of way. Then I watched in horror. A father pushed his 13 or 14 year old daughter by the shoulders, backing her into a corner. She held her hands alongside her face, with fingers in her ears as he screamed and yelled. He raised his fist to her, and I was both ready to intervene, and paralysed with fear. He launched his right fist, and smacked it into his left hand, held inches before her face - as if to say “I could punch you right now” . He called her a shit, and returned to the others. She slowly returned too, head held low. My hierith, with tears, was for the hope that no child, NO CHILD, should ever have such violence done to her. I retreated to the bathroom to weep.

An hour later I was in Cambridge, MA and stopped at the local CVS. As I left a beautiful young African American teenager accosted me. “Would I like to buy some candy, to support keeping kids off the street?” he asked. Cynical as ever, I suspected a scam. But the face of the young girl in the restaurant was still in my mind. “How much is the candy?” I asked. (And it was brand name candy). “Three dollars for the candy” he said, “but the smile is free”. “Oh”, I said, “they have taught you such a line”. “It’s not a line” he replied, ‘it’s what I want to say”. So I gave him five dollars, and took a pack of “Kit-Kats”.

“What’s your name?” I asked. “Duran” he said. Then my hierith returned with full force and tears. I looked in to his eyes and said “Duran, please hang tight with all those people who love you, and all those people you love”.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, but before Advent. A Sunday for hierith.


A longing, yearning to be whole again, both a sadness and a blessing.


Please hang tight with all those people who love you, and all those people you love.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

On flying AIR TRAN

Povey Prattle returns!

Ben Morse and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving trip to New England. More about this next week.

On the second leg of our return flight, from Atlanta to Sarasota, the cabin staff members were surly and unsmiling.

Ben and I recalled the days of wonderful service in trains, planes and hotels. I imagined that Ben made a very odd request of our stewardess, and that this was her reply.

“But of course Mr Morse, I will bring you a horse.
You will ride down the aisle in incredible style.
It will dance, it will leap,
It will prance - even creep.
We will do what we can.
We’re the best - we’re AIR TRAN”


Tomorrow (Nov 25th) I’ll blog two sermons, the one I preached and the one I left at home.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

From former Pittsfield parishioner Steve Harris, to his Dad.

To Dad

Thanksgiving 2003

Love Steve



Thanksgiving with Mom

My Personal “All Saints Day”





I enjoyed speaking with you three weeks ago on Sunday, “All Saints Day”. I was glad to learn that both of us attended two different Church services (St. Stephen’s Episcopal in Pittsfield and Wellesley Hills Congregational) to hear our respective Ministers read Mom’s name, in recognition of hers and others’ deaths to honor their lives and understand the hope of eternal life. All Saints Day is normally about the “major league” saints like the Disciples who have helped shape our Christian Faith. But I truly believe the real saints in our lives are the “regular folks”, our loved ones, like “beacons of light” show us the way to love and grace everyday. These are the people that help us learn, work, love and shape our faith in our respecti ve paths to God. Saints, “major league or regular folk” have their faults but these faults pale in comparison to their “good works” of love. I know that Mom was with us on All Saints Day and every day! Each day we “do our thing”, “striving for this or that” but when I see a loving gesture, a smile, a friend, a kind act, I see and feel Mom. As we approach Thanksgiving I think about all those special people in our lives who over the years have shared Thanksgiving Day with us. They too have helped us to see “our way” to knowing love.

On this Thanksgiving, I know Mom will be with us as she played a huge role shaping our understanding, experience and love of the Thanksgiving holiday. I have some fond, vivid memories of Mom’s cooking and good humor. The tastes of many special foods Mom prepared like the scrumptious pumpkin, apple and blueberry pies will be missed but not forgotten. To this day, I actually have fun tasting any pie and measuring it against Mom’s world class standards. But it was not just the food on Thanksgiving but her selfless efforts to make the day “work” for all. These were all acts of love and I’m more thankful now than when I was as a child. Each one of us “kids ” happily applies Mom’s and your traditions in our family Thanksgivings today. I’m sure we will continue to do so in the future and hopefully our children will do so for their children in the future. Thanksgiving is a powerful tradition of love!

So now what? There is no doubt that the holidays will be different this year without Mom. But for me her death is a very strong reminder of love and her role as a “Saint” in our lives. I feel blessed to have shared in her love and life. I will “keep the faith” and be true to Mom’s love and to all the other “saints” who have touched our family. This Thanksgiving Day will be a more poignant reminder of this love and I intend to cherish the day!

--
Stephen J. Harris

Monday, 19 November 2007

I am being silly!

Many have seen the “fish decals” on the boots (trunks) of cars. Here is what it is all about


The use of the Ichthys symbol by early Christians appears to date from towards the end of the 1st century AD.

Ichthus (the Greek word for fish) is an acronym, which is a word formed from the initial letters of the several words in the name. It compiles to "Jesus Christ God's Son is Saviour" or "Jesus Christ God's Son Saviour".

Iota is the first letter of Iesous Greek for Jesus.
Chi is the first letter of Christos Greek for "anointed".
Theta is the first letter of Theou genitive case of "God".
Upsilon is the first letter of Huios Greek for Son.
Sigma is the first letter of Soter Greek for Saviour.


I see more than enough of them in SRQ, often placed the wrong way round. But I feel certain that more than half the population does not know what they represent.

Fish feature a good bit in the Gospel stories, and some have posited that the Eucharist might have been a meal of bread and fish - from the feeding miracles. Just as well that it wasn’t. Dried and salted Cod at northern clime Churches in mid-winter might not have brought folks nearer to God. Wine is much more jolly!

But I was thinking, as one does, “what if fish had become a chief Christian motif, and we had named our Churches for fish instead of Saints?”

Just imagine

“St. Haddock’s-by-the-Sea”

“St. Tilapia and All Cat Fish”

“St. Minnow the Lesser”

“St. Monkfish the Monastic”

“St. Carp the Complainer”

“St. Crab the Miserable” (yes, yes, I know that a crab is not a fish!)

“Holy Hakes”

“Blessed Guppies”

“St. Bass the Profound” (a musical fish)

“The Church of the Good Swordfish”.

“All Halibuts”.

“The Plaice Place” (a modern “with-it” Church)

“All Soles Church”

“St Koi the Shy”

“St. Black Crappie” (‘nuff said!)

“St. Wahoo the Wonderful”

“Holy Grouper the Friendly”

And of course I could go on and on. But you may click on “comment” and add your suggestion.

Tomorrow (20th November) I’ll have a guest blogger (posting at about 9:00 a.m.) and then this blog will take a rest until the weekend. (Povey is off to Cape Cod - now there’s a religious sounding place!).