Saturday, 28 June 2008

Dale and Dickie

I often hang my hat at All Angels-by-the Sea on Longboat Key, near where I live in SRQ.

It’s a neat parish, and the Rector (the Revd. David Danner) and I “read each other” well.

All Angels is blessed to have a terrific organist/ choir director. His name is Dale Hooey. We are professionally in respect and admiration of each other.

Yesterday I e-mailed my dreadful pun to Dale, and he replied with an A grade, noting that he had been a teacher.

I asked his subject, and to my delight (but not surprise) he said that he had been a Music teacher in Grades 1-12.

I thought “no wonder that he is such a good Church Musician”.

For I was reminded of my music teacher in what Americans would call High School. I was at Fairfield Grammar school from 1955-1960. There I was blessed to come under the tutelage of W.J. Richards, the Music teacher

Of course we called him “Dickie”, as we had done with another Mr. Richards the music and class teacher at Eastville Junior Mixed School (for Americans - this approximates to a Middle School).

W.J. Richards at Fairfield was one of the best. To him (as well as to my Dad and Mum), I owe a debt of gratitude for an appreciation for Choral Music.

But Mum and Dad- former Methodists - were stuck in the Victorian Protestant tradition of “Cantatas” - pious and somewhat syrupy settings by such luminaries as John Stainer and W.H. Maunder.

They knew almost nothing of the great J.S. Bach Cantatas..

W.J. (Dickie) Richards introduced me to Bach, and to a broader canon of choral music.

I sang in his choirs - first as a boy soprano, and later as a bass.

The Fairfield Grammar School Choirs and Orchestra under Dickie were legendary in Bristol.

Once a year we would pack Bristol’s Concert Hall (the Colston Hall - capacity 2,200 persons) for a concert of choral, orchestral and madrigal music.

One year the school orchestra, aided and abetted with teachers, performed the “Toy Symphony” by Haydn. (but see )

We, kids as we were, were amused to see our teachers “playing” the more exotic “instruments” for that Symphony.

But the Choral tradition represented Fairfield at its best.

We sang many of the greats from the folksong and classical traditions. I learned texts and melodies which remain with me nearly 50 years later.

The school hymn was “When all Thy mercies O my God” by the Deist, Joseph Addison.

We sang it to the tune “Contemplation” by Frederick Ouseley (see Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1950 # 177), thus producing the famous “Fairfield sound“.

That sound was so good that the B.B.C. had us sing a programme called “Sunday Half Hour” - a Sunday evening programme of hymn singing.

It was then that we sang the powerful Chartist hymn - “When wilt thou save the people?

( )

and another radical text “Raise the stone and thou shalt find me, cleave the wood and I am there“ .


The “Fairfield” sound was so good that we were selected to sing for a public performance of the double chorus “Come ye daughters share my mourning” from J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion”. Heady stuff indeed when I was aged 12 or 13 and my voice had not yet changed.

The moment I remember most was when, at our annual Colston Hall concert, we sang “The Heavens are Telling” from Haydn’s “Creation”. That was a memorable moment as my pal Stephen could also sing it with us.

For you see, he is Jewish, and this was a wee bit from the Christian musical tradition which he could sing with integrity.

My teacher, “Dickie” Richards, introduced me to the wonderful Western choral tradition.

I suspect that Dale Hooey did the same for all the school students who met him in his 35 year school teaching career.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Tonight, and a terrible pun.

Sarasota and Bradenton have a goodly number of gay and lesbian residents, mostly in the 55+ age group. (Younger gays and lesbians tend to settle in Fort Lauderdale, on the east coast of Florida).

But the communities have never been able to sustain a decent gay/lesbian friendly bar. There is one such establishment, but it is dreary and scuzzy beyond belief.

So “we” were delighted to learn that a new bar was opening tonight. It is owned by the folks who also own a half-decent Italian Restaurant which is next door. In fact, there is a door between the two establishments.

The bar is called “Martinis” and it is a nice part of town.

My neighbour Ed Green and were to have gone to the Theatre tonight, with tickets he had been given.

I’d invited Ed to dinner before the theatre, and in the meantime I read reviews of the New York production of the play “The Good Body“, by Eve Ensler.

I printed this review for Ed to read, and he had the same reaction as I:- “this is not a play I want to see”.

“Let’s have dinner” Ed said, “and then check out the new bar” (it’s a 1 ½ miles from where we live).

So that we did, and were distinctly impressed. The place has a good ambiance and a lovely d├ęcor.

It was crowded tonight (opening night). Ed and I encountered many friends.

I am not a bar-hopper, and in fact rarely frequent bars.

But it will be nice to have a glass of wine, a soft drink, or a cocktail before dinner next door.

And it will be nice to have a place to “hang out” with lesbian and gay friends where “everybody knows your name”.

I thought that I would not have much to blog about tonight, but the trip to “Martini’s” gave me fodder.

I’d planned to simply tell you the awful pun joke I made up yesterday.

“Did you hear about the 14th Century man from Bohemia who decided to become a Knight in Armour?”

This is the origin of the phrase “the Czech is in the mail”

(Groan if you must!)

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Please do not yell at me

You may or may not have noticed that in recent weeks I have written next to nothing about the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

This is in part because so many other “bloggers” are having their say.

But it’s mostly because I cannot endure “yelling”. And there is a great deal of yelling in the Church these days.

My Dad was a “yeller”. That’s the only way he know how to deal with nine children. He would often scream “I’ll tan your hide”, meaning “I’ll “whoop” your rear end until it is turned into leather.

This was only a threat. He would hit us, but never “whooped” us with his belt. But he yelled a lot.

We, the nine, vowed that we would never do the same. One of my brothers “heard himself” yelling at his young son, and in hearing this he realised that he sounded just like Dad.

This brother vowed that he would never yell again, and instead developed a pattern of conversation and listening with that son. Thank God he did so. He and the son have a loving relationship, based not on fear, but on understanding.

I hate it when people yell at me. A dear friend in SRQ did so some 18 months ago. It was about nothing important, but I reacted viscerally.

After a few days we had a great conversation in which he explained why he yelled (he was so, so tired), and I expressed that yelling brought back many bad memories.

It was a blessed and reconciling conversation.

On Wednesday (25th June ‘08) the Director of Volunteers at Resurrection House yelled at me. She was angry because we three morning volunteers had to leave “on time” at the end of our “shift”, and the afternoon volunteers had not arrived.

(Truly that was “her problem” and not mine - I simply could not stay late as I had a lunch date).

I felt a rush of anger. But I am learning not to react from anger, but to wait for a time for reasoned conversation.

For when I am angry at being yelled I, I am likely to yell back.

I restrained that anger, and left for my lunch date.

The Director of Volunteers and I will have a peaceable conversation about this next week.

And I plead “whomever you supervise (children, volunteers, employees and the like), NEVER yell at them“.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


Not much to report today, so here are some sillies

1. I just gotta go

2. When you know that it will be a bad day

3. Belly button jewelry - Alabama

4. Belly button jewelry - Florida


Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Lowered ears

I wandered outside a few minutes ago (19:15 hours on June 24th). There was thunder in the air, and I wanted to enjoy it.

Down the road came “Sid” in her wheel-chair with her dog, Sparky. Sid has M.S. and is a living “miracle”.

Then “little Betty” arrived with her pooch “Cocoa”. We call her “Little Betty” to distinguish her from another Betty (who is but marginally bigger!).

Soon we were by Jane, another neighbour.

We exchanged bits and bobs of news, mostly about the illnesses of our various neighbours. (That’s the rule of life when you live in a 55+ community!)

Then little Betty said “Michael, you’ve had your ears lowered”.

Yes indeed. I went to my local Barber Shop today, (a wonderful and funny place) and asked for a “buzz”.

Not as a fashion statement, but because my good dermatologist, Karen Stroble has identified some pre-cancerous spots on my scalp (Actinic keratosis) - which have not been responsive to the usually effective zapping.

So now I have to treat them with that noxious cream “Carac” which played such havoc with my face earlier in the year.

It is simply easier to apply “Carac” to a semi-bald pate.

And I have to be careful. For Dr. Stroble also removed a Squamous-cell carcinoma from my left hand last week.

Monday, 23 June 2008

A tough morning.

“There’s trouble at Mill”.

That is the phrase (allegedly) used by mill owners in the North of England when the workers became restless (usually for a very good reason).

It’s how I felt at Resurrection House today. M.B. (another volunteer) and I got downright testy with a few of our guests. They were pressing us to provide services on a morning when the facility was stretched to its limits. We, the volunteers, can only do as much as time allows.

One guest was lying to me, and trying to manipulate me. I knew it, and I called his bluff in a blunt and fierce manner.

Another guest (a woman for whom I am very fond) got very “shirty” with me when I said “no, I cannot take in your laundry - we are backed up”. When she challenged me on this I was equally “shirty” in my response.

My colleague M.B. was pushed to the limits by another guest for whom he was doing a favour.

Well, we wish that we could always be gentle and sweet with our homeless friends. We want to do this, but sometimes our patience is stretched.

At Resurrection House it is stretched because (especially on Monday mornings) we have too many guests. We could probably serve 80 folks with some modicum of efficiency, but when 150 or so homeless people enter, we simply cannot cope.

I understand the frustration of our guests (they are treated despicably in every part of their lives).

But what I do not understand is why leadership cannot lead.

Our Director is a fine and dedicated “bloke”, but he cannot say “no”. Great leaders know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”.

The Co-ordinator of volunteers is a wonderful woman, but she leads by reaction, rather than by action.

In other words, she is helpful enough when we encounter problems, but she never takes pro-active steps to ward off the problems before they occur.

It’s hard to serve the poor.

It ‘s fabulous to serve the poor.

But if you are in any position of leadership - do, please remember that “leadership must lead”.

If you do not know and do this, you may well lose your volunteer help.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

A good day in SRQ, and my sermon this morning

It’s been another great day in SRQ. The Rector at All Angels by the Sea is on vacation, so I presided and preached there this morning. It’s a very joyful and relaxed parish.

My friends Barbara, Kay and Ben attended, and they retired to my home afterwards for lunch. I baked some cod and served it with peas. I intended to serve rice also, but I burned it in the saucepan. We had juicy pears and cheddar cheese for dessert.

Here’s my sermon.


Sermon for June 22nd ‘08. The Revd. J. Michael Povey at All Angels by the Sea, Longboat Key, FL

The Eucharist included the blessing of the Marriage of Gail Yanov and John Root.


Gospel reading

Matthew 10:24-39

24“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.



I am delighted that your Rector David and his wife Wafa Danner are away today. For that means that I can be here to celebrate with you the love and commitment of Gail and John! And it is my especial honour to welcome the Revd. Jack Chrisman from St. Boniface to share in this joy.

Through a wonderful bit of happenstance Gail and I were table mates at All Angels’ Twelfth Night dinner earlier this year, so she and I are not utter strangers. And who could not like John. He is, after all, a Brit by birth!

My first thought was to be all sentimental and mawkish about marriage, taking you into that fairy tale world which those of us who have never married often inhabit. But then I encountered today’s scripture passages and groaned. “Why could we not have had something gentle, loving and sweet?” The answer is easy. There is very little that is simply gentle, loving and sweet in Holy Scripture. It is a difficult set of books.

So, first by background.

1. That word Beelzebub means “Lord of the House”, or perhaps “Lord of the flies”. It’s a word used to describe malevolent evil. It had been said of Jesus that his power to expel spirits came from Beelzebub. It is a dangerous matter when good is put down as evil, and evil is identified as good.

2. The passage mentions hell. The Greek word is Gehenna, a shorthand for the Valley of Himmon just outside Jerusalem. That “valley” had been a place where child sacrifices had once been offered. By the time of Jesus it was the Town dump - where smouldering fires never went out. Gehenna was a place of despair and uselessness - as good a description of hell as we could imagine. To be in hell (and it’s mostly on earth) is to be in a place of utter despair and uselessness. My friends, the homeless at Resurrection House live often in hell.

3. Let’s not be too facile when we identify Christianity with something we call “family values”. Jesus was not a family man, nor did he think that family was all that important. He and other biblical characters engaged in quite unconventional relationships, which G-d was prepared to bless.

The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in Common Era 70 was cataclysmic in so many ways. For the Jewish people it meant that there was no longer a land, a City, or a Temple by which they could identify themselves as a people. Henceforth their religious and civic life must needs be re-defined. Many saw the opportunity for reform, that is re-formation.

From those two reform movements emerged two distinct types of religious life. One led to modern day Judaism, a faith centred in the schul and in Torah. The other led to Christianity, a faith centred on Jesus, a reforming Jew.

Matthew is writing at a time when the divisions between these reform movements are becoming acute. He places harsh words on the lips of Jesus, eager as Matthew is to establish the boundaries by which the Jesus movement could identify itself. So he speaks of divisions and families fractured. I hope and trust that his words are descriptive rather than prescriptive. In the end, he is saying, there are commitments which transcend familial ties.

Matthew would agree with the crusty Yankee in Robert Frost’s poem who insists that “good fences make good neighbours”. (Frost, as the first voice in this poem does not agree! “Something there is” he says, “which doesn’t like a wall”).

There are boundaries, which are important. There are walls which are dangerous.

The walls which are dangerous are those which cause us to identify the folks on the other side of the wall as “them” or “they”. Matthew gets close to this when he refers to “those” who can kill the body.

Whenever we speak of Jews, or Muslims, or immigrants, or blacks, or the poor, or gay and lesbian people as a collective “they” we move close to a dangerous stereotyping. The path from stereotyping to scape-goating is a very short one. We have learned this from the very violence humans have done to “others”, not least the Christian violence against Muslims and Jews.

But boundaries are something different. We need them chiefly in human relationships.

One boundary is the important one we draw for ourselves, enabling us to recognise the “I” in relationship to “you”. Humans who are boundary-less in their relationships with others are at the least pitiable, and at the most dangerous.

But it is always a boundary which enables a person to recognise the “you” with whom that person can engage in relationship. My good sense of “I” enables me to rejoice in the possibilities of encounter with “you”.

That is why, of course, Jesus continues to attract and intrigue us. His uniqueness is not so much a matter of divinity - but it is totally a matter of humanity. The “I” of Jesus is real and constant enough to draw us in to friendship and relationship.

A lovely progression from “I” and “you” is to “we”. No to a “we” which disdains or fears “them” , that is “those people”. But a “we” which embraces and includes them. That is Church at its best!

Gail and John, you are each wise and experienced enough to be more than secure in your sense of self. It is that wisdom which calls and enables you to embrace the “we” which is your marriage. Oh, we are tickled pink that this has happened. May you be given many years to delight in each other in every possible way.

Pray G-d you will never erect walls between each other, or between you and all your other friendships of a lifetime.

You will need boundaries for rest and refreshment. You’ll need those boundaries to rejoice fully in the “we”-ness of your marriage. Pray G-d too that they will be flexible boundaries, wide and strong enough to embrace and include many others.

That is the way of Jesus!