Saturday, 10 May 2008

Mother's Day

Mother's Day (May 11th this year) came to the United States from the English Christian Mothering Sunday (the Fourth Sunday in Lent).

(see )

Julia Ward Howe (the author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") made the following all but forgotten proclamation in 1870. She had in mind the reconciliation between the Union and the Confederacy.

Mother's Day Proclamation

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Birds, Frogs, Trees and Cats.

I walk early each morning (6:00 a.m.) for an hour. My route takes me through the Glen Oaks Ridge Community where I live, and also through the Glen Oaks Manor Community.

In the morning twilight I am greeted by the songs of the Northern Mockingbird. They never cease to delight me.


A pair of Mockingbirds are nesting near my home. They are fierce in the defence of their home. They are not too crazy about my presence, but they tolerate me. Not so the crows. What fun it is to see a Mockingbird drive off a flock of crows (the bully birds).

The pond at Glen Oaks Manor is home to a few bull frogs. I am not sure if they are alerted by my footsteps or my early morning shadow, but whenever I pass their abiding places they croak. They croak with a deep groaning sound. I always reply with a hearty “good morning”.

Each of the communities is graced by Jacaranda trees. (I had never seen these in Massachusetts). They are in full bloom right now, with blossoms which will last for a few short weeks. ‘Tis a fleeting beauty to be sure, and perhaps all the more precious since it is so short lived.

I used to say that I hated Florida. But now I believe that there is much to be said for this part of the world - with Mockingbirds, Bull Frogs and Jacaranda Trees as a part of the delight.

I’d also never been fond of cats. But now that I am owned by my adoptees, Adelaide and Ada, I venture to say that cats are amongst the greatest of all creatures.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Damned by the gods of our own creation

The Revd. Jeremiah Wright has been excoriated for one phrase in one of his sermons: “God damn America”. The pundits and the public have allowed this one phrase to be the sum total of the man. All the vitally important things he has said have been drowned by the cacophony of criticisms.

I’d certainly hate it if my career as a Priest and Pastor was damned by but one thing that I’d said.

I’d also be angry if my parishioners had been judged “guilty by association” on account of my words. But that is what has happened in a McCarthy-esque way to Senator Barack Obama.

And of course, Pastor Wright’s words are not far from the Biblical truth. The Hebrew Prophets were more than willing to say that biblical Israel would be judged harshly when she oppressed the poor.

In the Christian tradition it is the “nations” who are cursed for their lack of concern for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the naked, the imprisoned. (see Matthew 25).

If I am to criticise Pastor Wright, it would only be to say that there was an apparent lack of sadness in his remark. But the same could also be said about the extreme right-wing Pastors who are supporting John McCain. They have not been excoriated.

Americans often proclaim that our national ethos is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. But our words have been negated by our deeds.

For we are indeed being damned. If not by the Biblical G-d, then most certainly by the gods of our own created.

We are a nation which bows at the altars of the false gods of militarism, consumerism and international arrogance. We bow to the false god of straight white male domination.

Above all else, we have bowed the knee to the most false and illusory god of all - the god of “national security”.

Our government is racing to exalt this god by ignoring the constitution, spying on its own citizens, turning a blind eye (at the least) to torture, and to dangerous overseas military adventurism.

“We the people” are complicit in this idol worship by our silence.

John McCain has “bought into” the myth of national security. I expected no less.

But, to their shame, neither Hilary Clinton, nor Barack Obama have dared to question this perilous status quo.

For above all else we have accepted the “necessity” of the corporate/feudal state, a spawn of fascism.

For more on this, see the following article which is from the blog site of the Modesto (CA) Bee newspaper.


Why would the "corporate state" wish to eradicate the middle classes?
Submitted by Malcolmkyle on Sat, 2008-04-19 03:02.
Posted in Politics/Social Action | Malcolmkyle's blog »

The destruction of the American economy leading to the eradication of the middle class, is essential to the fascist/feudal state; the rich live at the expense of the huddled masses, who eke out their meager living in squalid conditions at the pleasure of the rich feudal lords.
Here are the characteristics of fascism when directly produced by corporatism. Kindly study them very closely:


Wednesday, 7 May 2008

This, that, and the other


Peter Tchaikovsky was born on May 7th.

As was Johannes Brahms.

And my Mum. She would be 96 years old today, but with the grace and mercy of God she died in 2001.

Betsy Pusey is a dear friend in Pittsfield. Her Mom, now passed was also a May 7th child. Betsy and I chatted today as we always do on May 7th.

Frances Brown, a parishioner in Fitchburg also shared this birth date. She passed many years ago.

But Barbara Sweatman, also from Fitchburg yet lives. She was 80 years old today, and we chatted this afternoon.

As Anna Vincent in Pittsfield and I also did. Anna is 90 years old today - another May 7th birthday.

And I sent an e-mail to my former colleague, Margaret Quill, now in Texas, also a May 7th child.


I spent some time with J. P. today. He is a Res. House guest. He was in tears, as he knows that he is dying from liver disease.

His life is complicated. He drinks too much; he is estranged from his wife; and he has mental illness.

He is scared of dying alone.

I made two statements.

(1) That if he stops drinking his liver might well regenerate.

(2) That if he is to be reconciled with his wife, he and she would need a third party to guide them.

I made two promises.

FIRST that I would call Hospice to see if they offer services to the homeless who are dying.

I made the call, and Hospice (thanks be to G-d), are willing to help.

SECOND, that if he dies on the streets I probably could not help, as I would not know where to find him. But, if he is facing death in a Hospital, I would be with him there so that he would not die alone.


In the U.K. having “a bit of the other” refers to sexual congress. That’s not on my horizon.

But the local Mocking Birds are mating like mad. And in this mating season, they guard their territory well.

It is so wonderful to hear the songs of the Mocking Birds.

But it’s more exciting to see them drive off the predatory Crows. This they do with great skill and persistence.

And they are always successful.


Yeah for the Mocking Birds.

Yeah for May 7th birthdays.

Yeah for Hospice.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Tales and Tails

The Fellowship of Believers is a “non-denominational” Church near my home. It has a huge American flag outside, but no Cross.

It’s the Church of stupid signs. Last week the sign-board read: “Eternity is a long time”. I wanted to call and tell the Pastor that “eternity” is not “time”.

This week the sign reads: “Mother’s are the precious gift’s of God”. I called the Church Office about the two apostrophes. “Thank you” said the person who answered the ‘phone. “I’ll tell the guy who puts up those signs”.

(I suspect that she was thinking” “I’ll tell the guy who put’s up those sign’s” !)

I went to the local Wall-Mart last Saturday. The entrance doors bore computer generated signs which read: “The Stationary Department has been moved to the Arts and Crafts Department”.

That figures. A “stationary” department could hardly move itself.

Ben and I were out and about last week. We were driving west on Whitfield Road, approaching a slight rise of no more than 20 degrees to a height of about 20 feet. Manatee County officials have placed a new road sign there. It reads: “Caution. Hill obscures view”. True enough. We could not see the Rocky Mountains.

My earring slipped out Sunday night as I slept. I was too “cack-handed” to re-insert it, so on Monday morning I asked one of the ace volunteers at Res. House if she’d re-insert it for me.

She was glad to do so. As she did she said “Michael your hole is….”. Before she could finish that sentence we each collapsed in helpless laughter.

Adelaide is “all better”. I knew this to be so when at 3:30 a.m. I awoke to hear her playing “soccer” with her cat-nip laden ball.

I could not get back to sleep, so I went outdoors for a breath of fresh nicotine.

I saw a cat who looked remarkably like Adams. I called (using Adams’ old name of “Bubba”) and the cat paused, then skulked away.

I saw the same cat at 5:50 a.m. as I began my morning walk. I crouched down and “sweet-talked” him, but he would not come closer than 10’. Then he vanished into the morning twilight (is there another word for twilight in the morning?).

Later I discovered that he is an outdoor cat who belongs to my neighbours Carl and Mollie. Boo Hoo.

During a restless night I decided that “Abigail” was not the right name for my new cat.

( Oh, for goodness sake, don’t ask me “why?”)

I “hit upon” “Ada”. So Abigail is now Ada.

(I am on a mission to revive older names for females).

Adelaide has not been kind to Ada - subjecting her to a great deal of hissing and growling. So they are segregated for the while.

Ada has been hiding under a tall bookcase in my bedroom. She emerged today to eat and to use her litter box. She allowed me to pet her, and then retreated again to her safe place. )

She is fundamentally sweet, and the two felines will eventually achieve fidelity in friendship.

They each enjoy “human” canned tuna fish. This is not good according to the experts. So I will wean them off people food with a wee bit of “Science Diet” canned cat food, and more and more dry food.

(Later in the day Ada emerged again, ate some dried food (yeah!), and allowed me to pet her).

Two people asked why I have black cats. It’s nothing to do with the colour. I think that it’s because I like symmetry.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Am I stupid or what?

Adams has not returned. I hope that he is safe.

So I returned to the Humane Society today and adopted "Tuffy", an eight year female, to be company for Adelaide.

I have renamed her "Abigail" in honour of President John Adams' wife.

The two cats are sussing each other out, but apart from a bit of hissing from Adelaide, they seem to be intrigued with each other.

Adelaide seems to have needed a bit of extra TLC this afternoon. She's been a bit stand-offish with me.

(But all the literature and lore suggests that two cats do better than one. So I think that Addie will adjust with grace).

I'll keep you posted!

See pics.



Sunday, 4 May 2008

Sermon for May 4th '08

Sermon for May 4th 2008
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at All Angels by the Sea, Longboat Key, FL

Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14 + 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

I grew up in the west of England, the very rainy west of England. I remember the clouds in winter. There could be cloud cover for weeks on end, and I would sometimes wonder if I’d ever see the sun again.

In my early twenties I worked for what was then the Westminster Bank. I was assigned to a branch in Chew Magna, an extremely pretty north Somerset village. Twice a week I would be sent in a taxi, with a black leather bag full of money, and an aged “guard” named Percy, to our sub-Offices in West Harptree and in Blagdon. These villages are in the Mendip Hills. The rain clouds would come scudding over the hills - wind-chased. They were a beauty to behold.

I miss those clouds! And I miss the Mendip Hills, as well as the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.

None of us will ever forget those old “Wendy’s Hamburger” advertisements, in which a delightfully crusty older woman, supposedly in a rival restaurant, would look at her hamburger, and squawk “where’s the beef?”

As I read today’s portion from John I sighed “where’s the story?” For here John is strong in the abstract concept of “glory”, but weak in narrative.

We must turn to Acts, and other places, for the story. Luke, the author of Acts, is quite sparing in his language. He says “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight”.

This is a reference to what the Church calls the “Ascension”. When Luke says that Jesus was “lifted up”, that may be taken as metaphorical rather than descriptive language. (We use similar language when we say that someone has “gone up in the world”)

But it is the cloud which is significant.

This is the cloud which the Israelites followed by day in the wilderness. It is the cloud which descended when Solomon’s Temple was dedicated. It is the cloud, which, in a vision, Ezekiel saw leave the Jerusalem Temple, and arrive with the exiles in Babylon. It is the cloud in which Jesus is bathed when he is with Peter, James and John on the mountain; and converses with Moses and Elijah.

The cloud, which we imagine as white, bright, glorious and luminescent is the visible sign of G-d’s very presence.

It is G-d who leads the Israelites in the wilderness; it is G-d who descends into the Jerusalem Temple; it is G-d who comes to be with the exiles in Babylon. It is G-d who speaks approvingly of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration; it is into
G-d’s very presence that Jesus enters in the Ascension.

And that is what John means by glory and glorification.

Jewish and Christian scholars use the same word to describe this glorious presence of G-d. It is the word “shekinah”. It is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “to be present with”. A fascinating fact about this word is that it is in the feminine gender.

The feminine presence of G-d with us. What a great thought!

The complicated language of John, when Jesus says that he glorified the Father on earth, and asks that the Father will glorify him in G-d’s own presence- is not the language of theological conundrum.

It is the language of tender affection, in which the Father is fully present in and to the Son, and the Son is fully present to the Father. It is the language of attention, tender attention.

For us to be glorified is to bask in the tender affection of the feminine presence of G-d.

Throughout my life I have experienced the clouds. Sometimes they are the clouds of the Mendip Hills, bringing beauty, and refreshing rains.

But often they are the gloomy clouds of depression, very much like the six weeks sun-blotting clouds of winter in South West England. Those of us who live with depression know the feeling all too well. It is as if a dark cloud decides to rest upon us. There is little to nothing we can do to make it go away. As it came without invitation, it will leave without farewell.

It is hard to know or feel the tender love of Shekinah presence when the cloud of depression obscures most joy, and beauty and love.

It is in those times that I value most a human presence. But I want a presence not words. This is not the time for advice or counsel. It is the time for a listening ear.

And I have come to believe that one of the greatest spiritual gifts by which we can glorify each other is the gift of silent attention. It is the gift of presence.

In this world of sound bites, and pundits, and self improvement Oprah style, I crave that the Church will be a tender feminine presence for each of us. Not a place where we are lectured. But a place where we are heard. That’s glory.