Friday, 15 August 2008


Some folks say that cats have a mind of their own. I disagree. Cats have at least three minds of their own!

Ada, the older cat is becoming much more affectionate. She will actively seek out my company.

The other day she sat on my desk chair, on top of the back of the chair, whilst I worked on my computer. She was happily perched on no more than four inches wide by two feet long.

And she will “bat” me with her paw when she needs attention.

When I take her to the Lanai, she is fine as long as I hold her and caress her. But as soon as I let her free she retreats to my bedroom and hides under my bed until I entice her out with a cat snack.

Adelaide is “Miss Independent”. She wanders all over my home, always seeking something new.

I had friends in for lunch today and I mentioned that neither of the cats ever jump up on laps.

Whereupon Adelaide jumped up on to the laps of first Kay, and then Ben.

Adelaide loves to be on my screened-in Lanai. There she sits on a chair and surveys the world outside: fascinated with lizards, ducks, squirrels, bees and flies.

If I try to pick her up she runs away. But once I have “caught” her, she loves to be caressed.
Each cat adores me because I am the source of their food.

And I am besotted with them because they are cats!

No blog tomorrow as I'll be in Fort Myers again.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

What's in a name?

I was a member of staff in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts between 1980 and 1984, as well as being Vicar at St. Christopher’s Church in Chicopee, MA.

One of my diocesan colleagues was Canon W.D. Crockett. That middle initial stands for “David”, and yes, he was “Davie Crockett”.

He was a short man, but filled with pep and vinegar. Everyone loved Davie Crockett. He preached for me one Sunday at St. Christopher’s. The lesson had something to do with the name of Jesus (probably Philippians 2:1-11) and I can still hear Canon Crockett’s opening words.

“What’s in a name?” he said.

David’s wife was Eleanor. She was a bit vague around the edges, and none of us were surprised when she later succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease. She was with us that day at St. Kit’s and I asked a nice woman to sit with Eleanor Crockett for the service.

But I “almost died” with laughter when that woman, at coffee hour, introduced Eleanor to another congregant with the words “I want you to meet my friend “Biffy Crickett”. For the longest time thereafter David and I would refer to his wife as “Biffy”!

Names: What’s in a name?

I have always been happy with my names, John and Michael. I am John in England and Michael in these United States. I am grateful that Mum and Dad gave me such “normal” names. After all, I could have been called “Felix Peregrine”. (Look up the entomology of those names to get my humour).

So it is my joy to remember first names at Res. House.

One woman is called Tara, but her middle name is Faye. She giggles with delight when I call her Tara Faye.

Another woman (in her seventies) is Mary Wilson. I told her that the late Prime Minister of England was knighted and became known as Sir Harold Wilson. His wife was Mary; hence she became Lady Mary Wilson.

So I always call our guest “Lady Mary”. She beams with pleasure, and it is more than a joke. Despite her homelessness she is indeed “Lady Mary”. I frown and grunt when other volunteers call her “Mare”.

Then we have three young men with the unusual first name of “Cornelius”. They are each aware that this is a biblical name. One of them is an outrageous and funny gay man. I call him “Queen Cornelius”. He is tickled pink by this moniker.

One of the service clerks at my local Publix supermarket is Christopher. I asked him if he knew the meaning of his name (“Christ-bearer). He did not, so I filled him in.

A few weeks later he stopped me. He said “My Dad asked me the other day if I knew the meaning of my name. I was happy to tell him ‘yes’, a customer at Publix told me!”

A check out woman there is “Marina”. I asked her today if she knew that a deceased member of the British Royal House was Princess Marina”.


The checkout clerk knew all about it. She related that soon after she was born her mother’s friends would ask her “what kind of a name is Marina?”. The mother would reply “If it’s good enough for a Princess, then it’s good enough for my daughter”.

Names are important. I named one of my cats "Adelaide" mostly because I love that name. Besides which, one of my favourite young teenagers in Pittsfield was Adelaide,

The other cat is "Ada", named for a favourite Great Aunt.

Let's have more Adelaides and Adas!

Enjoy your name!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A tough day

This, that, and a bit of the other.

It was a tough day at Res. House.

B. was mad at us because she had missed our three calls on the P.A. system for her shower. She was adamant in her belief that we had not called her, and that we were plotting against her so that she could not shower.

She launched into an all too familiar diatribe against me. “What kind of a Pastor are you?” she asked and added more crap like that. Then she stated that she would report me to the Director of Res. House.

Lacking in patience or charity, or maybe calling her bluff, I immediately asked my supervisor to talk with B., which she did. There are days when we volunteers “don’t take no shit”.

V. was spoiling for a fight. He’d had an encounter on the streets with M. last night.

M. showed up at Res. House, despite the fact that he has been banned for anti-social behaviour -- we call it “red-jacketing”.

I asked the Boss to expel M. which he did. But M. continued to hang out in the street outside, whilst V. and others taunted him from the doorway.

By now the Boss was busy, and I had to ride hard on the taunters and tell them to come inside. I like V. and I did not want him to have a rumble which would have led to his arrest.

Later Police Officers arrived and warned M. off for trespass. But the Officers hung around and V. got nervous lest he too would be arrested.

The Police had a description of V. as dressed in a black tee shirt, so another volunteer kitted him out with another shirt, and we let him leave by the back door.

V. is no angel, but we go easy on him for the sake of his girlfriend J.

By noon my buddy volunteer Mike and I were ready to leave, more than ready.

I went to the office where my boss and my supervisor were chatting. “I have one word with which to describe this morning” I said. Then I yelled out “SHIIIT”. That broke the tension, and we each laughed.

I am also mad at the Religious Right and John McSame for the lies they are spreading about Senator Obama.

The Religious Right ( the Evangelicals with whom I was raised) do a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more” act in which they suggest that Senator Obama is a Muslim.

‘Tis a pity that these ”born again, Bible believing” Christians do not honour the commandment which says “Thou shalt not bear false witness”.

For they imply a lie when they suggest that Barack Obama is a Muslim. He is Christian.

But there is a deeper and more important issue. So what if Senator Obama happened to be Muslim? Is there to be a religious test for candidates for political office in these United States?

I would sooner vote for a progressive Atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or Rastafarian candidate than for a regressive born-again Christian.

These moralists of the right have a double or triple standard. Filled with moral rectitude as they are, they yet back Senator McCain who ditched his first wife for a wealthy woman half his age.

It pains me to note that Evangelical Christians in the U.S.A are liars and hypocrites.

For that is the tradition in which I was raised.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Fort Myers and Cape Coral, FL

I’ve been down in Fort Myers these past two weekends, and will be there again Aug 16/17.

There I have been serving as summer supply Priest at St. Hilary’s Church.

It’s been fun!

Fort Myers is some 80 miles south of Sarasota, on Florida’s West or Gulf coast.

In 1850 a Fort was built there to “ward off” the Seminole Indians. (It was named for Col. Abraham Myers).

See for an account of the shameful episode in American history which led to the forcible removal of Seminole Peoples from Florida.

And see for a Wikipedia account of Seminole history.

In 1885, Thomas Alvah Edison built a winter home on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River in Ft. Myers. In 1916 his friend Henry Ford purchased the adjoining property. See

The beauty of Ft. Myers is the broad estuary of the Caloosahatchee River. The sadness is that the estuary is inaccessible. It is lined with Condominium complexes and gated communities. This means that the river is viewable only from the bridges over to Cape Coral. If only some walk-ways, and bike trails had been created along the river banks.

Cape Coral is to the west of Ft. Myers. It is a coastal Cape. Developers built a huge and complex system of Canals on Cape Coral, so that many homes have “water-front” views.

But I find it to be soul-less and barren. There is no “there there”. I stayed in a pleasant enough condo there last weekend. I had my canal view.

I also noticed that about one in seven properties are for sale. Cape Coral is one of those over-developed areas in which all manner of unwise mortgages were granted by greedy banks and mortgage companies.

That’s what happens when the so-called “free market” operates.

Monday, 11 August 2008

How blessed I am to know this man

Volunteer known as a steady hand offering help

By Cathy Zollo

The man muttering garbled English, the one everyone else assumed was drunk that day a few years back at Resurrection House, caught Ray Grills' attention and had him sending another volunteer to investigate.
The man, it turned out, was profoundly deaf and needed a hearing aid, which volunteers arranged.

It is just one of the stories they tell about Grills at Resurrection House.

Now 93 and one of its longest serving volunteers, he arrives four mornings a week before 7 a.m.

He readies a breakfast of cereal, pastry, coffee and tea for the crowd that gathers out front. He washes, dries and folds some of the laundry they left the night before. He lays out towels for the ones who want to shower.

"We'll put out the milk just before they come in," he says.

And just after that, he slips out the back door -- sometimes before the first homeless person walks in the front.

"He's a behind-the-scenes kind of guy," says Bill Wilson, development director at the center.

Grills, a retired chemist, does this work just a few blocks from his condo that overlooks Sarasota Bay.

He could spend his days relaxing by the pool or passing the time some other way, but says, "I'm not built that way."

Despite an ankle brace that keeps his foot from misbehaving, Grills is built for running.

Spreading a white quilt made of race T-shirts on his bed, he says, "I've run enough so that every one of my grandchildren and children has got one of these."

His cat is sleeping on another. A row of shirts hang in the closet behind him, awaiting a sewing needle.

Grills mostly walks these days, often up to six miles, but in 1996, he represented Resurrection House, carrying the Olympic torch through the city.

Jane Grills, his wife of 57 years, lived to see that. She died in 1998, so now it is just Ray and a big orange cat named Little Guy living at the Sarasota Bay Club.

He moved into the condo so he could have the same view he and Jane had from their house on Bird Key.

"I look out over the same water," he says staring out the window.

The son of an Illinois coal miner, Grills' childhood lacked nothing but had no extras. His mother, wanting Ray and his brother Charles to escape the small town, made them take the high school courses to get into college.

It paid off.

Charles went on to work for Walt Disney, becoming an animation camera pioneer. Ray earned a doctorate in chemistry and spent 34 years working for DuPont, including heading the company's operations in Argentina for more than three years.

But he seems more inclined these days to talk about Resurrection House.

"I'll do anything for them," he says.

It is evidence of the philosophy he adopted from John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church: "Do all the good you can, by all means you can, in all ways you can, in all places you can, at all times you can, to all people you can, as long as ever you can."

When he is not at the Resurrection House, Grills helps put together lunches for Meals on Wheels and volunteers at his church, First United Methodist. He is also a founding father of the the Community Foundation of Sarasota.

"He is the person you can always count on," said David Proch, executive director of Resurrection House. "He'll always go that extra mile. He's always willing to come in early and pick up extra responsibilities when we're in a pinch.

"He's pretty inspirational."

As for the deaf man Grills spotted mumbling in the common room years ago, he got a job right after getting the hearing aid and has never returned to the streets.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Sermon for August 9/10 2008

The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Hilary's, Fort Myers, FL

1 Kings 19:9-18

9At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 10He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." 11He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 14He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." 15Then the Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."



Matthew 14:22-33

22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." 28Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." 29He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."



We've all heard the jokes about priests, ministers and rabbis walking on water. They are jokes. We cannot! And that is just as well. For if we could, we'd become unbearably arrogant.


And let's not worry too much about Jesus walking on the water. For the miracles attributed in the Gospels to Jesus, are not matters of razzle-dazzle magic. Nor do they "prove" anything about Jesus' Divinity. Many other great religious traditions have stories of the miraculous; they seem to be par for the course for spiritual leaders.

The reports of Jesus' miracles seem to make two major points.

The first is that they display Jesus' compassion for the sick, the poor, the abused and the neglected. They are trying to say "God is just like this". God is filled with compassion for the nobodies.


And lest you are tempted to think that the "nobodies" are someone else, just remember that night when you woke up at 2:00 a.m., could not sleep, and began to think "I am a nothing and nobody. If I died tonight, no one would miss me". God is filled with compassion for you.


The second is that they are trying to teach the disciples and us what it means to follow Jesus. I say again, Jesus is not interested in magic. Jesus is all about calling us to follow him, and in doing so to discover the heart and mind of God.

What we can say about miracles has been well said by the eccentric theologian John Dominic Crossan. The following words are attributed to him, or to his thought.

"We can still look for the miraculous in the grace-induced interruption of the laws of human nature".

The grace-induced interruption of the laws of human nature.

Surely we have heard of them.



The coward becomes fearless. The feeble become strong. The careless become caring. The selfish become generous. The sinners repent. The whiners become grateful. The foul mouthed sing the praises of God.


All these, and many other miraculous changes in human nature are possible in the decision to follow Jesus.

Peter had made that decision to follow Jesus. He knew that faith was not about accepting certain doctrines, or assenting to certain theologies. He knew that faith was the decision to act. And act he did. He took a bold step, and having done so, he became afraid.

As did Elijah. Having, with boldness taken on the prophets of Baal, and having triumphed, he became terrified and ran away to the cave. The "bold one" is on the pity pot in the passage we read.

That also happens to us. We take a bold step in following Jesus, and immediately become afraid. Is this because we have "little faith"?.


The marvellous young theologian Sarah Dylan Breur suggests that when Jesus says to Peter: "you of little faith" he was not condemning Peter for having "little faith", rather he was commending him, in effect saying "all you need is a little faith to be delivered from fear".


Yes indeed, the opposite of faith is not doubt, it is fear! Fear paralyses us. A little faith allows us to get out of the boat.

Sarah Dylan Breur writes this:

"In other words, faith is about doing. A faithful person eventually gets to the point at which s/he can say to God, "I don't know where you're going, but I know that wherever it is, I'd rather be drowning with you than be crowned by somebody else."

She goes on to say: That kind of trust in Jesus, in my experience, comes from experience with the person of Jesus. The kind of trust I have in Jesus has come as I've experienced Jesus' generosity and mercy, so much that I'm pretty sure that if Jesus is involved, then following Jesus is where I'm going to experience the most of the goodness and mercy God has to offer.

That's what we are saying to the children (we are baptising today) (we baptised last night). We are giving them a mini drowning in water, so that they will grow up knowing that it is better to drown with Jesus than to be crowned by the world. And so we sing


We have decided to follow Jesus (3) No turning back (2)

The world behind us. The Cross before us (3) No turning back (2)

Though none go with us, still we will follow (3) No turning back (2)