Saturday, 19 January 2008

A competition for you!

How many words beginning with “para” do you know?

Set a timer for five minutes, and write down as many of these words as you can recall (no dictionaries please!).

Send your list to me as a “comment”, and I’ll attach it to this blog.

(You might wish to do this in competition as a family, friend or partner; in which case send me the winning list).

No cheating - this is just for fun!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Mike Huckabee and other liars

So those wankers are at it again. No apologies for my language.

First they went after Max Cleland (D - GA), a veritable hero from Vietnam.

Next in line was John Kerry (D- MA), another Vietnam hero.

Now they are after John McCain (R- AZ) a true Vietnam war hero.

Do these folks have no shame?

Decent Republicans and Democrats must disavow this crap. It is un-American, indecent, cruel, and untruthful.


Meanwhile, be aware that Mike Huckabee (likable as he is supposed to be), is a dangerous candidate.

He believes that all illegal immigrants should be deported. Quite apart from the fact that the American economy depends on immigrants - how in heaven’s name will we deport 11-13 million people.

He believes that Palestinians should be moved from their ancestral homelands, and be “given” a State in Egypt or Jordan.

He proposes a sales tax for all Americans and the abolition of Income Tax.
Does he not understand that a graduated Income Tax brings biblical justice to rich and poor, and that a sales tax is oppressive for God’s beloved poor.

He sees a slippery slope between loving gay partnerships and bestiality.

What a lie. What a disgrace. How can this “born again” Baptist Minister be such a hateful liar?

No decent Republican should vote for him


So read this wonderfully humorous “blog” from the Right Wing London “Daily Telegraph”

The Telegraph's Damian Lanigan blogs an hilarious riposte to Mike Huckabee's concerns about same-sex Santoruming:

"Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee yesterday equated gay marriage with inter-species marriage:Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee campaigns in South Carolina

QUESTIONER: "Is it your goal to bring the Constitution into strict conformity with the Bible? Some people would consider that a kind of dangerous undertaking, particularly given the variety of biblical interpretations."

HUCKABEE: "Well, I don't think that's a radical view to say we're going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we're going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal. Again, once we change the definition, the door is open to change it again. I think the radical position is to make a change in what's been historic."

We need to ask the ex-Governor a straight question: don't you think, at the very least, that the issue of consent is a major difference between adult homosexual relations and sex with animals? Does he know how difficult it is, for instance, to get a rabbit to go for a drink with you, let alone to persuade it to come back to your place for coffee and a parsnip? Has he *tried* hooking up in a petting zoo? The very least you're going to need a lasso and gritty determination. Some people have even had to resort to Rohypnol.

Llamas don't go down easy, you know. I've heard that human / avian wedding arrangements are particularly difficult: it doesn't matter how many times you ask a budgie whether they'd like a civil or religious ceremony, they just repeat the question and keep pecking away at the old millet sock.

I'm sure I could think of other differences between human gay relationships and human / animal ones, but I have to go: my wife is stuck again up a neighbour’s tree.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Sometimes I am so naughty!

He stood in line behind me at the “Publix” Supermarket this evening, clutching his three or four items. He “danced” from foot to foot, and chatted to anyone who would listen.

As soon as I spoke to the check-out clerk he asked:

“Where are you from?”.

“Sarasota” I replied.

“No” he said, "Where are you from originally?”

“I cannot tell you” I said.

He asked me why, and I in turn asked him if he had heard of Michael
Ch-rt-ff, (head of the Department of Homeland Security).

“Yes”, he had.

“Well”, I said, “Michael Ch-rt-ff has told me that I must not tell people where I am from. It’s a matter of national security”.

He looked puzzled for a minute. Then he said “Oh, I get it, you are in the military”.

I left the store with an evil grin on my face, whilst the check-out clerk could scarcely contain her laughter.

(I have discovered that Mr. Ch-ert-ff is an object of hatred from neo-N-zi and anti-Semitic groups. I do not wish for one of their ilk to “Google” his name, and come across my blog, so I have not used his full name).

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Blessings, blessings!

“Blessings, blessings”. These are the words with which I think of Greta Meyer, the mother of my best friend in High School, Stephen Meyer.

Greta and her husband Martyn had escaped from Nazi Germany in 1939. They settled in Bristol, U.K. Stephen was their only child.

He and I became the most unlikely of friends in High School. The son of German Jewish immigrants, and a young fundamentalist. But friends we were, and friends we are. I met with Stephen in Nov 2006 in his home in Shropshire.

Stephen and I would take long urban/suburban hikes together. As we left his home, Greta would always say “Blessings, blessings”.

I thought of Greta today. I was at the homeless shelter with the wonderful “Wednesday Team”.

There is M a retired fire-fighter from Buffalo, N.Y.

And B (1) a 90+ years old retiree who is faithful to the Wednesday team.

Then there is R, a 60 something retiree from Venice, FL.

And this team pals around with another B (2) a former Res. House client, who now is a part time employee.

We are a wonderfully cohesive team.

M decided that we should have lunch together today. “Bless his heart” (as they say in the South), he also treated us.

M a Roman Catholic.

B (1) a Methodist.

B (2) A Presbyterian

R a Roman Catholic

And Jmp the Episcopalian

It was a lovely lunch. The food was good and the company was better! We laughed and joked. We had serious talk about our commitment to the homeless. We enjoyed being together.

As I drove home, Greta Meyer’s words rang in my mind. “Blessings, blessings!”

Something old, something new. (Posted late for Jan 15th)

My good Bishop, Gayle Harris had a strong admonition for me when we met in in June 2006.

“Now when you retire”, she said, “don’t even think of taking on any commitments for at least six months”.

The reason for her words was sound. So many Rectors have taken such pride in how busy they are in parish life, that they cannot bear retirement without being similarly busy.

I took the Bishop’s advice. I had little choice. I was so tired that could not take on any commitments for a year. They I was ready to re-enter.

You’ve read about my commitment to Resurrection House, the day shelter for homeless people in Sarasota. I have been volunteering there for seven months. I also “help out” a bit at St. David’s, Englewood where the Rector, Arthur Lee, has been more than generous in sharing pulpit and altar.

But as I began to truly relax in retirement I was also aware of a warning given me by a Psychologist, in 2004. She noted that my “identity” was deeply intertwined with my priesthood and ministry. She wondered aloud if I would “die on the vine” in retirement with no “Church” to sustain my sense and appreciation of who I am.

I knew that she was on to something.

Last year I joined the Historical Society of Sarasota County. Their meetings have included some enriching lectures, about which more.

I’ve also subscribed to the Sarasota Concert Association’s 2008 season - a bargain with five first class concerts on the slate for $120, and to the 2008 season of the Sarasota Opera (a wee bit more expensive!). Classical music has always been at the heart of my spiritual and emotional life, but I never took time to attend concerts because I was “too busy”.

I’ve been aware of Sarasota’s deep history of Circus (in fact without Circus there would not have been a Sarasota as we know it). But I knew very little about the history of Circus here. Last evening (Jan 15th) I enjoyed a Historical Society lecture about the Circus, given by Pedro Reis and Dolly Jacobs, founders of Circus Sarasota. I’d seen the Circus Sarasota tent, but had imagined that it was some rinky-dink outfit. Was I wrong! I learned so much new about something old. I was enthralled.

Dolly is a native Sarasotian. She is a daughter of the late and great clown Lou Jacobs. Pedro hails from South Africa. He quit school in the 12th grade so that be could “run away and join the circus”.

Their passion for circus as art, as theatre, as hard won skill was contagious.
Their commitment to community service is outstanding. I plan to attend Circus Sarasota this February or March. Read more about them at

Monday last I attended the first 2008 event of the Concert Association. The artists were the renowned Emerson String Quartet, and I was pretty sure that I would enjoy the Schubert and Brahms they planned to play.

But Shostakovich was also on the programme. I “knew” that I would not like his music, having been raised in a musical generation which scorned the “esses” (Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Strindberg and Schoenberg).

The Quartet played Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 7. Boy oh boy, it was just great. It’s a dating, electrifying, sometimes funny piece. What a shocker! I enjoyed Shostakovich - something new.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Folks I have known: Geraldine Ratcliffe Humpidge

In 1964 after the “Eric Hutchins” crusade in Bristol ended, he assigned me to Bath and an advance man for his forthcoming crusade there.

I was billeted with a wonderful “maiden lady”, Geraldine Ratcliffe Humpidge, already in her seventies. I grew to be very fond of her, but always despised her Siamese cat!

Geraldine was born in the lovely village of Amberly in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. Her parents were middle class, and she was educated privately.

She had but one sibling Vernon. He opened a flower and vegetable nursery in the 20’s or 30’s in the village of Bromham, near Devizes, Wiltshire. The family moved there, and attended the Plymouth Brethren Assembly in Devizes, Salem Chapel.

Geraldine told stories of the difficulties of running a business and getting into town during the war because of gas rationing. But the family was never poor, and being country folks they were never short of good food.

Old Mr. Humpidge died, then Vernon. Geraldine and her Mother (who lived to be 100) moved to the City of Bath where they lived quiet middle class lives, centred around the Plymouth Brethren Assembly in Bath, Manvers Hall.

I lodged with Geraldine after her Mother had passed. We were good company for each other, and it was good to return to a home after days on the road for Eric Hutchins.

Long after I left the Hutchins Cabal I she and I sustained a friendship

Geraldine was a terrible driver, partly because she could never remember which was her left and which was her right. If you said “turn left”, she’d first have to check to see on which wrist was her watch.

She owned a little Austin A 30, and she allowed me to teach myself to drive on the country roads near Bath. I terrified her in the early days by careening down Brassknocker Hill.

She loved it when I arrived at her home and announced, let’s go out for a drive. One day she said “I’d like to hear a Cuckoo”. “That you will” I replied. I drove into the countryside, stopped in a little clearing on a country road. We got out of the car, and there it was - a cuckoo singing loudly. (What luck).

Geraldine was never happier in my company than when I accompanied her to Manvers Hall. That Assembly was populated by grave, grey-suited middle class men, and their ever so polite wives. It was not the place for belly-laughs. Manvers Hall is so close to Bath Abbey - to which my heart was already moving.

One day as we left the Hall, we heard the Bells of Bath Abbey in all their glory. “Ah” said one old Plymouth Brother, “the tintinabulations of hell”!

That annoyed Geraldine, for despite her Peeb foibles, she was very pleased that a cousin J.R.H. Moorman was Bishop of Ripon.

Geraldine eventually replaced her old Austin with a Wolseley 1500 saloon.
It was a boxy little car, with a nippy gear box, and a facia made of real wood! I once drove it, to Geraldine’s great glee, at 100 m.p.h. on the M4 Motorway.

I due course I bought that car (registration 403 ABX), and in turn in was owned by three of my four brothers.

The last time I saw Geraldine she had been moved to a Nursing Home. She was profoundly deaf. We were delighted to see each other, and communicated by writing notes.

Some time after I came to these United States, Geraldine was gathered to her ancestors, and her remains were buried alongside those of her parents and brother in the cemetery in Devizes. I stood at that graveside a few years later, treasuring the memory of this very kind and gentle Christian woman.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Sermon for January 13th 2007

Sermon for January 13th 2007
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. David’s, Englewood, FL

Isaiah 42:1-9; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

When I was a slip of a lad I said “I want to be like Mr. Norton when I grow up”. Mr. Ralph Norton was a retired missionary who lived three doors away. My first essay in High School was on “my ambition”. It was to become a medical missionary. I mention this to illustrate that many of us have a sense of vocation from a young age.

I believe this to be true of Jesus. It is an article of our faith that Jesus was fully human, as we are, therefore I take it that Jesus’ road to maturation and self awareness was the same as ours.

Therefore I cannot believe that the baby Jesus had any unusual self awareness. But the boy Jesus grew up with an increasing knowledge of his vocation, schooled as he was in the Torah. So it is not surprising that at aged 12 he was aware that he had to be “about his Father’s business”. And the moment when he fully accepts his call, is the one we read in the Gospel.

Notice the directness of Matthew. “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptised”. Jesus is the actor, he is not being acted upon. John demurs but Jesus persists. He is to fulfill all righteousness as the truly human one. He is about his Father’s business. He is willing to live fully into the Torah’s law. He is one with us in all respects, and not a whit “above us” - humanly speaking. He will be baptised with all the other repentants.

St. Paul expresses this so beautifully in his letter to the Christians in Philippi, stating that “Christ Jesus …….emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death” (Phil 2: 5 fff) Those words could almost be a commentary on the meaning of Jesus’ baptism.

Jesus’ baptism, is the moment when his vocation becomes clear and unambiguous. It, as St. Paul has told us, to become the servant. He steps into the role of the servant of God, described at least four times in the book of Isaiah. We read of this in one of Isaiah’s so-called servant poems.

He is, according to Isaiah, “my chosen, in whom God’s soul delights”. No wonder he hears the heavenly voice at his baptism. “It’s as if God is saying ‘way to go, son’”

The servant will no be a ranter. He is not the street preacher who cries out in the streets, and lifts up his voice saying “repent or else”. No, this is the gentle servant. Some other person might be tempted to break off a reed which has been bent out of shape by the wind. Some other person would snuff out a smoking candle. But he will tend the bruised reed, and trim the dimly burning wick - so comforting isn’t it, for us who are oft times those bruised reeds, those dimly burning wicks.

And the telling marks of the servant of God - the vocation which Jesus lived to the full are four-fold.

A covenant to the people. That is a guarantee of God’s eternal faithfulness.

A light to the nations. That is bringing universal justice.

Opening the eyes of the blind. Done by Jesus both literally and metaphorically.

Freeing the prisoners. Literally in the case of Peter, Paul and Silas. Figuratively for those who live in dungeons of despair.

Peter, in Acts, puts it almost prosaically, “he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him”.

This is the vocation which Jesus, in his full human freedom, accepts at his baptism. To be God’s servant, obedient to the end. Obedient, as St. Paul says in Philippians, even to the point of death.

We are those who have also heard the call of God to a new vocation. It is expressed most succinctly by Jesus, the servant of God. It is the only call we need.

Jesus says “Follow me”.