Saturday, 5 April 2008

Eileen Hall

Eileen Hall was one of the most wonderful women I’ve ever met.

British born, Eileen was a G.I. bride. I met her at St. Christopher’s Church in Chicopee, MA when I was Vicar there between 1980 and 1984.

Eileen would produce the most outrageous (and sometime risqué) shows to benefit St. Christopher’s Church.

In one of them I sang the “Lumberjack” song from “Monty Python”. It called for me to produce a bra’ at the end of the show. The props person forgot to bring a bra’, so Eileen removed hers for me to use.

I would boast that I was the only member of St. Christopher’s who had ever worn one of Eileen’s bras.

We met last on Boxing Day 2006 when she was visiting her son Nick in Tampa, FL. She wanted to have lunch at the “Olive Garden”, and so there we went.

Eileen died in 2007.

She was a member of a Northampton, MA based Chorus known as “Young at Heart”: a radical Chorus of seniors.

British Airways sponsored, and Fox released a wonderful Documentary about “Young at Heart”.

It’s been shown on T.V. Channel IV in Great Britain.

It made its American Debut in Northampton, MA on Friday, 4th April 2008.

And it showed today in Sarasota FL (5th April 2008) as part of the Sarasota Film Festival.

Of course I was there, teary eyed as ever at the memories of my dearest Eileen.

This wonderful documentary/movie is scheduled for general release in these United States on 18th April 2008. It has already been released in the U.K.

You may see a “Trailer” at

(If this link does not work, do a Google search for “Young at Heart”.)

And make it worthwhile to see the movie when it is shewn in your area. (probably at Burns Court for Sarasota Residents).

With gratitude for Eileen,


Friday, 4 April 2008

But I hate Mahler's Music

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) wrote 32 Operas. That’s a lot!

On Wednesday 2nd April I was at the Sarasota Opera House to enjoy I due Foscari - performed first at the Teatro Argentina, Rome, in 1844. (One hundred years before I was born).

Maestro Victor DeRenzi
in his 26th year as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Sarasota Opera, is aiming to perform the entire Verdi Opera “Canon”, so we were treated to I due Foscari in its first USA performance in forty years.

I was there with good friends M, E and J.

M is a most gracious and thoughtful woman. It’s a joy to be in her company.

E is an Opera buff. He knows more about Opera than I know about G-d.

J is E’s partner. He hates (or pretends to hate) all Opera.

(I asked him if he saw any Opera before he met E.
E replied - “yes he saw “Jesus Christ, Superstar”!)

So, on Wednesday, I was in a Box with these three.

At the first intermission J said: “This is the first time in 40 years that I due Foscari has been performed in the U.S.A., and I understand why”.

E complained that there was no “action” in the Opera, and both he and J agreed that the plot was thin.

In the meantime, M and I enjoyed the spectacular sets and costumes, and the wonderful voices of the soloists and chorus. We cared not one whit about the “plot”, but simply enjoyed the music.

At the second intermission I teased E. “At least”, I said, “you will have bragging rights. You will be able to say that you heard the first USA performance of I due Foscari in 40 years.

He grinned, and M said that: “he needs no bragging rights about Opera”.

In all of this I was in awe and wonder. I know next to nothing about Opera, but have always thought that I’d like it. Now I have enjoyed three Operas in March/April 2008, and anticipate a great performance of Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte” next week.

Yes “awe and wonder”. I am still 11 years old!


I get weepy when I think about what followed on Thursday 3rd.

At the Opera, M asked me if I would care to join her for Thursday night Concert at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Centre, as her partner J could not attend.

I accepted her invitation, but all, through Thursday I wished otherwise. Two evenings out in consecutive days seemed all too much. Besides which, the Concert would feature a piece by Mahler - and I do not like Mahler’s Music.

(I do not like what I do not know!).

But I took myself to the Van Wezel. Maggie (warm hearted Maggie) was pleased to see me.

And what followed moved me to awe and wonder, and to tears.

It was a performance of Mahler’s Symphony # 2 - subtitled by some as “The Resurrection Symphony”.

Performed by the Florida West Symphony Orchestra and the Key Chorale, with soloists Kristin Clayton (Soprano) and Susanna Guzman (Alto) -- this concert “blew my mind away”.

Even 24 hours later I get teary eyed at the memory of this music, performed to world class standards in Sarasota, FL.

How blessed I am!


Thursday, 3 April 2008

Shall we play a game? (Sent to me by D.M.)

Shall we play a game?

It's very simple. Which one of these statements is different from the rest?

1. "Capital punishment is our way of demonstrating the sanctity of life." (Sen. Orrin Hatch)

2. "President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale." (Alberto Gonzalez)

3. "It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right ... [N]ow you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife." (Senator John Cornyn [speech draft])

4. "You know that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran? Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran... Ha Ha Ha Ha! Hee Hee Hee! Ho Ho Ho Ho!!!" (John McCain)

5. "We just want Jews to be perfected." (Ann Coulter)

6. "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. ... There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.'" (Bill O'Reilly)

7. "And so, General (Odierno), I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq." (George W. Bush---last month)

8. I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the Day of Judgment, and I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans. (Evangelical Minister John Hagee)

9. Let me begin by thanking your founder, Pastor John Hagee. I would describe Pastor Hagee with the words the Torah uses to describe Moses, he is an "Eesh Elo Kim," a man of God because those words fit him. (Joe Lieberman)

10. "The insurgency is in its last throes, if you will." (Dick Cheney)

Answer: All of them were uttered by Republicans except #9. Joe Lieberman is still technically an "Independent." For now.

Swell bunch

** John Hagee is an extremist fundamentalist Pastor


And I am sure that we could find 10 stupid statements from our spineless Democrats (jmp)


Wednesday, 2 April 2008

How could I have forgotten?

And how could I have forgotten Forsythia?

Or Morning Glories.

(Brief blog, off to the Opera tonight).

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Missing in Florida

Spring, if there is such a thing in South West Florida, has sprung with a vengeance. The days are lovely with temperatures in the 80f range. Blooms are blooming.

But there are missing pieces in a SW Florida gardenscape.

There is no Lilac. I miss Lilac. Uncle and Auntie Charlton, next door in Devon Road, Bristol had Lilac trees. So I grew up with them.

The best Lilac I’ve ever met was in Pittsfield. I was walking in my neighbourhood one evening, just after a brief rainstorm. Lilac scent filled the air. Heavenly!

There are no Daffodils. I s’pose it doesn’t get cold enough in winter for the bulbs to die and rise again. I miss Daffodils. The finest daffodils I ever saw were in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, U.K. There they grew wild, and in massive abundance. Generously.

There are no Lupins. They were the first flower I learned to identify as a young child. The most wonderful Lupins I ever saw were in California. They grow “wild” and blanket the grassy strips around roadways. Fascinating.

There is no Wisteria. Oh lovely Wisteria. Especially lovely if it frames the porch of an old house, or drapes itself over a wall. I enjoyed fabulous Wisteria in France, and in Atlanta, Georgia. Memorable.

But my Florida native “Prostrate Porter Weeds” are doing so well. They are a great butterfly attracter And the Live Oaks, the huge Live Oaks, often decked with Spanish Moss are a wonderful part of the landscape.

I made up a joke today.

“What do cats use to send messages via the internet?”



Monday, 31 March 2008

Salamagundi (2)

When I was about 10 years old I had a school-chum whose name was John Nairn. He lived on Stapleton Road, Eastville, Bristol, within sight and sound of “Eastville Stadium”, where the East Bristol Soccer Team, “Bristol Rovers” played.

But he had the cohones to be a supporter of the South Bristol Team, “Bristol City”.

If he could do it, so could I, and from that day I have not cared a rat’s -ss about the Rovers, and I have been a City Fan.

Now, Bristol City Football Club, with five games to play, are on the cusp of promotion to the English Premier League, where the “big boys” play.

For American readers, if this happens, it would be comparable to Davidson College winning the NCAA basketball championship (which sadly they cannot now do).

I am keeping my fingers crossed for BCFC. Our theme song is

“When the red, red robin goes bob, bob, bobbing along”.

Sing it with and for me will you!

Last Friday Ben and I were at the Florida Studio Theatre for a production of “Jewtopia”.

It’s a hilarious show, based on the premise that an Irish American is seeking a Jewish wife “so that he’ll never again have to make a decision”.

The (I would guess) mostly Jewish audience was in fits of laughter. Oh how I wish that po-faced Christians could make fun of our own foibles and traditions.

Ben and I had dinner afterwards at “Italian Delight”. It’s not the greatest Italian food, but it’s more than adequate. And I had sufficient leftovers in a “doggy box” for Sunday night’s dinner.

After Church on Sunday, Ron and Charlotte Thompson took me up to Cortez, FL for lunch We sat on the dock and ate blackened Grouper at the Star Fish Co restaurant. Great food, and a taste of “old Florida”.

After an early afternoon nap, I took myself to downtown SRQ, and wandered around between the ‘bus station and the Library. As I had expected, I encountered many of my homeless friends from Res House. What a joy it was to chat with then on the fly.

At Res House today I chatted with Roberto. He looks dreadful, as he battles cancer. Please imagine a man of Spanish origin, with skin that is grey. Roberto is heading back to Chicago on Thursday, to get better, or to die with his mother and siblings.

I prayed with Roberto as if prayer had gone out of style. I want him to get better, but if that is not to be, I want him to be with his family when he dies.

Mid-afternoon today Ben and I wandered down to “Sweet Bay Supermarket” to pick up this and that ( I got some excellent catfish for dinner). I was ahead of Ben, so I chatted at length with my cashier, Alejandro, from Cuba. We are both excited that Raoul Castro is introducing gentle reforms. Alejandro is brighter than bright, and on folks like him the American future depends.

I remembered that I have a “Museo Cuba” baseball cap which a Cambridge parishioner gave me after her 2005 visit to Cuba. So I took it to him as a gift. You’d have thought that I’d given him a million dollars!

And so it goes.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Sermon for March 30th 2008

Sermon for March 30th 2008
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at All Angels by the Sea, Longboat Key, FL

Acts 2:14-41; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

I thank Fr. Danner for the opportunity to preach here this morning. I asked him if I might do so, so that I could “strut my stuff” in the presence of my dear friends Pat and Jack McLaughlin who are vacationing on the Key.

Jack and Pat hail from Wolfeborough, New Hampshire. They are members All Saints’ Church there, in the Diocese of New Hampshire. Great Diocese! Great Bishop!

A preliminary note. None of the Gospels should be read primarily as biography. They are teachings about Jesus, based on memories of his life. Each has a point “to get across” about Jesus.

John is the last of the four. I think of John as a series of meditations about the meaning of Jesus, and they come at a time when the Jesus movement and the Synagogue are in conflict. John sometimes writes as if Jesus were not a Jew, and he uses (in English) “The Jews” as a kind of shorthand for the Jewish leadership which had resisted Jesus’ teachings. So when we read and hear such words as “the doors were locked for fear of the Jews”, we must remember that this is a comment on second century disputation, not a comment on Jews or Judaism.

Four years ago a parishioner at St. James’s, Cambridge, MA where I was Rector, offered to commission a new stained glass window in our clerestory. It was to be in memory of her daughter, and she wanted it to depict the resurrection.

How in the world do you do that? We agreed that a simple representation of Jesus in the garden of resurrection with Mary Magdalene would be perfect. A local artist made water colours with various depictions of the biblical scene. In each of them, Mary was kneeling as she greeted the risen Lord. I did not like that.

“Why not” I said, “depict Mary Magdalene standing on the same level as Jesus, looking into his eyes”. The artist and the woman who was giving the window “got it”. They no more wanted a subservient Mary than did I.

So the window has been made, and installed, with Mary standing. And it includes a Latin inscription: Noli me tangere “Do not touch me” from John 20 verse 17.

“Do not touch me” says Jesus to Mary. “Reach out and touch me” says Jesus to Thomas.

“Do not hold on to me” is perhaps a better translation of what Jesus says to Mary. “Don’t hold on to what you see now, for I must ascend to the Father”. The implication is that Jesus must become universal figure, known in and to Mary and to us by the Holy Spirit.

And that’s just as well. Had Jesus never ascended, then would he have died again of old age, and natural causes? If that had happened the resurrection would be nullified, and his tomb would be a place of pilgrimage.

And had the risen Jesus lived for ever here on earth, he would be now have become a freak show akin to Johnny Carson’s 2,000 year old man, and not the eternal Lover of all people.

What I like about John is that he is very clear about why his Gospel is taking shape.
It is so that we might “come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, that through believing we may have life in his name”.

John is all about life. Eternal life. That’s life here and now, not just life when we die. Our relationship with Jesus is for now! Eternal life is a quality of living, without fear and without dread. It is a quality of living rooted in hope, in forgiveness and in unconditional love. It is a quality of living into which we grow - we “come to believe”, it does not all happen at once.

Imagine that. Living without fear. Living with hope and in unconditional love. That’s what Jesus offers!

But there are things we hold on to which get in the way of our fullest enjoyment of God’s life. “Do not hold on to” is part of Christian experience.

I’ll give you some examples from my own life. Later you can do your own self examination. I sometimes feel slighted or under valued by the words, actions or lack of word a friend. ‘Twas certainly not intended. But I take offence, wallow in my hurt, plot a minor revenge, or add up all the other ways in which she has slighted me.
And soon I can be harbouring a massive resentment.

And that ruins my prayers. I cannot be honest with God whilst I am resentful towards my friend. A resentment blocks eternal life. I have to “let go”.

Anger can do the same Like many men, I had a troubled relationship with my father. I was for years and years so angry with him. I could not think of him or talk about him without rehearsing all my grievances. I continued to do this, even though Dad died in 1974. My anger at Dad was dangerous. For it became an alibi for my many other angers. Some few years ago, I knew that I had to let go of that anger. And in letting go, I discovered a love for my Dad which I had never before recognised - and that’s eternal life!

There are some things which I simply cannot hold on to if I am to love God, and to enjoy God’s love. It is dangerous when the security blanket begins to choke its owner.

I love Thomas, and refuse to call him “doubting Thomas”. He was “curious Thomas” and intellectual curiosity is at the heart of genuine spiritual experience. Keep asking the questions!

“Touch me” says Jesus to Thomas. Especially, touch my wounded places. And I believe those words to Thomas are emblematic of why we are given eternal life. It is one thing to bask in unconditional love, it is another do something about it.

Are we called to touch each other’s wounded places. Not in the way in which we pick on scabs and cause wounds to fester. But in the way that we apply a healing salve. Some of our dearest have wounds of loneliness, ill health, betrayal, frustration or disappointment, addictions to medications or to alcohol which cry out for a salving touch. And we are called by the risen Jesus to be agents of salvation, and what is salvation in many cases of it is not salving.

Three days each week I touch wounded people. Sometimes it is with a hand shake, sometimes with a safe hug, sometimes a touch on the shoulder, and often with prayers.

This are amongst the most wounded of our County, the homeless. Some are mentally ill, some have had runs of bad luck the likes of which you could not imagine, some are addicts to drugs or alcohol, and some are women who were raped at a young age by a father, uncle or brother. They are just like us. They have the same hopes and dreams, and many have the same ambitions. Some arrive at Resurrection House in downtown Sarasota owning only the clothes they are wearing. Some could be your son, your daughter, truly they could be. And many of then could be us, only we know better how to cover up.

And we try to apply a bit of salve here and there. We try to be agents of healing, agents of salvation. We touch some wounded places, with healing touches.

I think of Kate. That’s not her real name. She was raped and sexually abused many times as a young girl. Kate could not trust. She had covered deep pain in a lifetime fog of alcohol.

I liked her from the get go. She was possessed of a feisty defiance which I admired. I also liked her boy friend Jim. He is a stable and generous hearted man. One day Kate came to me and hugged me. A few minutes later she came back. She told me her story, and rejoiced that she had been sober for four months. Then she added “you the first man apart from Jim whom I ever been able to hug”.

That was a moment of the sheer enjoyment of eternal life. That was a moment of salvation, of salving. But not only was Kate being salved. So was I.

Acts 2:14-41
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ 22“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. 27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ 32This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. 34For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 36Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

1 Peter 1:3-9
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20:19-31
19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.