Saturday, 23 August 2008

Ho Hum

Senator Barack Obama has announced his running mate – Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. I am not excited. It feels like a move to the centre, which is probably the only way to get elected.

But for me, some of the sparkle has gone out of Senator Obama’s campaign.

The Olympics are winding down. I have not watched a single moment of any event. It’s all a big commercial yawn so far as I am concerned.

The Chinese Government has proved its mastery of control freakery. We are headed that way in these United States.

Tropical Storm Fay missed Sarasota all together. We got not one drop of rain. Now she is lumbering across the Florida panhandle - good news for that rain deprived region. She also may be headed towards New Orleans - bad news for that City.

We are getting our usual daily rains in SRQ, but, welcome as they are, they have nothing to do with Fay.

I’ve spent most of today labouring (and I mean labouring) over the sermon I will deliver tomorrow morning at St. Margaret of Scotland Church, just east of Sarasota on State Route 72. Their Rector has had to leave town to take his daughter back to College, so I am leading three Sunday morning services.

But I did have a nice break. A friend called unexpectedly, and he visited for a few hours. We chatted out on the Lanai, and then I made a simple dinner for the two of us. It was nice to have a buddy in the house for a while.

I’ll post my sermon tomorrow evening.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Bush, McSame and Obama

"By all reports George W. Bush has been faithful to his wife. If only he had been so faithful to the Constitution, the American people, and those silly little things we have in this country called laws."

I have been using the above quotation as a “signature” on my e-mail. I use it because I believe in the Constitution, the People, and Laws.

I am an un-reformed “Lefty”. So there is little breathing space for me in these United States.

I will of course vote in the November Presidential election for Senator Barack Obama, and not for Senator John McSame. I’ll do this because I believe that Senator Obama will bring a change in tone to Washington - from confrontation to co-operation.

But I am frustrated that the campaign is developing into the “oh so usual” tit for tat and “gotcha” slogans. I so wish that my candidate would take the high ground and challenge us to return to the roots of Constitutional Government and the Bill of Rights.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Down memory lane

Mum never baked cookies.

We had biscuits in England, and we bought them at the shop. “Custard Creams”, “Ginger Biscuits”, “Jammy Dodgers, “Digestives” (always called “Disgustives”) and “Chocolate Digestives” were amongst our favourites, as well as “Jaffa Cakes”, a biscuit with a chocolate coating and an soft orangey centre.

Mum baked cakes on Saturdays. She make a mean fruit cake, and muffin sized cakes with raisons, currants and sultanas.

She’d make little jam tarts and also my favourite, a pastry shell (maybe 2 ½” across) filled with jam that had been mixed with desiccated coconut.

She’d bake wonderful pies: apple, rhubarb, gooseberry, or blackberry and apple, always served with hot “Bird’s” custard, or with evaporated milk.

She also would make a fine meat pie for Saturday lunch.

Dessert on Sundays would be apple pie, and/or wonderful rice pudding. In the days when milk was not homogenised, the cream would rise to the top, and form a slightly burned crust which was much to be desired.

My oldest sister Maureen still bakes a great apple pie with the greatest pastry (“crust” in America) which will melt in your mouth.

When we had an ear-ache Mum or Dad would pour warmed olive oil into the ear, and seal it with cotton wool (“cotton” in America). If there was no oil in the house, then salt would be heated and placed in a child’s cotton sock, to be held against the ear.

If we were not feeling unwell, then an egg beaten up in milk would be prepared. The modern health-nuts would freak out over this, but I always enjoyed it so much.

Castor Oil was a dreaded cure for constipation. So was the “tonic” prescribed by the Doctor, for sickly children. It was filled with iron.

(My “Nanny” was a teetotaller, but she would nip on “Sanatogen”, a so-called “tonic wine”, for reasons of ill-health! [It was a port type wine reinforced with iron.] I once stole a swig, and was duly punished after Nanny “turned me in” to Dad).


In winter our home was always cold. No-one had central heating in the England of my youth. We had an open coal fire in the “front room” – wonderful for toasting bread on a long fork when the coals glowed.

In due course Dad installed an enclosed anthracite burning stove in the kitchen (which is what we called our dining room – food was cooked in the “scullery”). That small room could become quite cosy.

Then there were hot water bottles: filled with boiling water, and placed in our beds to take the chill-off. Nanny had a stone one which was considered old fashioned. You could also purchase hot water bottles made of aluminium (aluminum in the USA) but these were always too hot for the feet.

The top of the line hot water bottles were made of rubber.

I always hated them and would toss them out of my bed. I loved to get into a cold bed and allow my body heat to do its work. In the mornings only my nose would be cold!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Not much to blog about today......

.... so here is an awful "Blonde" joke.

Bob walked into a sports bar around 9:58 PM. He sat down next to a
blonde at the bar and stared up at the TV.

The 10:00 PM news was coming on. The news crew was covering a story
of a man on a ledge of a large building preparing to jump.

The blonde looked at Bob and said, "Do you think he'll jump?"

Bob says, "You know, I bet he'll jump."

The blonde replied, "Well, I bet he won't."

Bob placed a $20 bill on the bar and said, "You're on!"

Just as the blonde placed her money on the bar, the guy on the ledge
did a swan dive off the building, falling to his death.

The blonde was very upset, but willingly handed her $20 to Bob,
saying, "Fair's fair.. Here's your money."

Bob replied, "I can't take your money, I saw this earlier on the 5
PM news and so I knew he would jump."

The blonde replied, "I did too; but I didn't think he'd do it again."

Bob took the money......

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

"As I was going up a stair

I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today.
I wish that man would go away."

So it has been with Tropical Storm Fay. The storm was not here today. It moved east somewhere south of Naples (maybe 125 miles south of Sarasota), and has hung around south central Florida all day. That area is receiving a good soaking, good for the Everglades and for Lake Okeechobee.

Sarasota has been scarcely affected.

At 7:00 a.m. when I walked, there were lovely cooling breezes. They have hung around all day, but now they are much balmier.

Low clouds have been scudding across all day, but they have refused to release any rain.

Banks, schools and local government offices were closed all day in anticipation of a major storm.

The United States Post Office was open, and mail delivery was normal.

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" (Unofficial USPS motto)

My friend Ben and I decided to go out for a late breakfast. He suggested “Toojays”

Toojys is a local Jewish type deli. It was a good choice.

We ordered corned beef hash with poached eggs, and scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Then we divided the plates, each of us having a half of hash and a half of scrambled eggs.

This was the first “big” breakfast I’ve had since January ’08, when I started to eat more wisely. Boy – it was delicious.

Downtown Sarasota was deserted and so quiet. It reminded me of the “enforced godly” Sundays of an England of years ago when 99.9% of businesses were closed. It was a good quietness today.

Back at home I caught up with some ironing, and then wrote a brief Church paper on hospitality which has been on my mind for months. I’ve submitted it for publication.

Even though I am now retired, this day felt like a bonus day for inactivity, so much like the snow days in Massachusetts.

And I am glad that “Fay” never became a hurricane.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Better get ready


This is the first line of a wonderful Negro Spiritual. Yes, they are still “Negro” spirituals, called thus to be faithful to an historic word.

“You’d better get ready” for the judgement day is the theme of the spiritual.

Today we’ve all been getting ready for Tropical Storm Fay, which may yet become Hurricane Fay.

Earlier it seemed that the storm would come up the west Florida coast. Now the prognosticators see it moving east across central Florida.

Despite the bellowing of the newsreaders on radio and television, the meteorologists have been much more honest. They have warned us to be prepared for a hurricane in the Sarasota/Bradenton area, but also made it clear that the storm could by-pass us.

I’ve gotten ready. My plants in pots have been moved from a garden area in my car port into my laundry room. (No-one wants clay pots to be flying around in a storm). I have good supplies of fresh foods and bottled spring water. I’ve checked my flashlights (torches in the U.K.), and made sure that my Coleman camping stove works.

At this moment (6:57 p.m. Eastern summer time, on August 18th 2008) I am ready.

I’ll let you know tomorrow what actually happened.

Better get ready!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Nincompoops and a sermon

Dream, dream, dream”. So sang the Everly Brothers.

We all dream when sleeping. Some of us remember those dreams when we awake.

For two years I’ve had dreams with a re-current theme. In them I am at St. Stephen’s in Pittsfield, MA or at St. James’s in Cambridge, MA. In each dream I should have left a month or two before, always to move to Atlanta, GA.

Sometimes the dream says that I should have been moving at Atlanta to take up a new Rectorship. Sometimes it’s been to work for the National Westminster Bank.

But it’s always Atlanta. Who knows why?

And in these dreams, I am still in Pittsfield or Cambridge long after I should have moved to Atlanta. Always I have not packed my bags, nor sold my house, nor confirmed to the Church or the Bank that I would accept the new position.

Last Friday night I dreamed that I was still in Pittsfield, long after I should have moved. In the dream the new Rector at St. Stephen’s arrived a day earlier than was planned. I remonstrated with him for arriving too early.

“Oh”, he said, addressing me, “you are nothing more than a socialist gnat”. I protested, but he continued to complain. I asked him what he meant by this.

He replied “I am here a day early because there is such a mess to clean up. You are nothing but an incompetent nincompoop”.

When I awoke on Saturday morning I remembered this dream so well, and started to giggle. I thought this: “ It’s the incompetent bit that I resent”.

With that in mind, here is my sermon at St. Hilary’s, Fort Myers, FL from August 16/17, 2008


Sermon for August 16/17
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Hilary’s, Ft. Myers, FL

Isaiah 56 Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. 2Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil.
3Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and do not let the eunuch say, “I am just a dry tree.” 4For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. 6And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

Matthew 15 10Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”
21Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.


She was sitting on an old green leatherette sofa outside the Sacristy at St. Stephen’s Parish in Pittsfield. How I disliked that sofa. It was weary, old and battered. I could not wait to get rid of it.

It was frequently the resting place for weary and battered people who stopped by the parish office for a handout. And there she sat.

She was what we used to call a bag lady. I was in no mood to help her. I was tired and cranky, and I wanted nothing more than to shut up shop and go home for the evening.

I gave her short shrift. But with a twinkle in her eye, and an audacity born of hundreds of rejections she took me on. She simply would not take no for an answer. She persisted, and I gave in. I handed her the ten bucks or so that she demanded. She had enlarged my


We stood in the ancient Roman ruins in Tyre, South Lebanon. “We” were a group of eight tourists on a mini ‘bus tour out of Beirut. We’d been to Sidon where we seen the Crusaders’ “Castle in the Sea”, and wandered the ancient Souk.

Now we were in Tyre in the Roman ruins, which had been bustling with life two thousand years ago.

One of the tourists was a French Roman Catholic Priest. He wore his clerical collar, and was accompanied by two middle aged women. He asked if he might read something. Reaching into his pocket he drew out a typescript. As he began to read in French I got it. The reading started with these words “Jésus se rendit dans la région de *Tyr et de Sidon”. I got all teary eyed, and when he was finished I told the story from memory, in English.

Jesus had fed the multitudes, healed their sick, and encouraged Peter to “get out of the boat”.

Twice he’d retreated from the hurly burly to pray. Then he had taken on the religious guardians of sound doctrine, the Pharisees, by questioning the need for Kosher eating practices. He is questioning the established religious boundaries. But a new challenge awaits him.

He and the disciples move out of known territory into the region of Tyre and Sidon. And there she is, this Canaanite woman who dares to take him on. “Send her away” cry the disciples, which is precisely what Jesus is inclined to do.

He implies that she is no better than a begging dog. After all, he knew the scriptures well enough, those scriptures which told the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites.

But with an audacity and wit born of rejection, she reminds Jesus that even dogs get the table scraps.

Jesus replies with a term of courtesy and honour. “O woman” he says, and that “O” is not reflected in our English text.

There are those who say that Jesus knew all along that he would grant the woman’s request, and that he was merely testing her faith. I do not believe that. For just as Jesus’ miracles are not about magic, so his encounters are not about semantic trickery. It seems clear that Jesus sense of his mission is growing and changing. God’s gracious compassion, to which he was always bent, challenges borders and boundaries, even those of Jesus.

We should not be surprised. For a regular theme of the Hebrew Bible with which Jesus is so familiar, is one which pushes frontiers. We read this in the passage from Isaiah. The Law of Moses specifically banned eunuchs from participation in Temple worship. (See Deuteronomy 23:1 and other passages), but Isaiah has a broader vision:

“To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off”.

There is a delightful and rather naughty pun in this text. Eunuchs are males who’ve indeed had a body part cut off. But the Lord says through Isaiah that they will be given an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

According to Isaiah, that which had been excluded is included. And the Jesus we try to follow included a Canaanite woman, who should have been excluded,

The earliest members of the Jesus movement got this well. The first Gentile follower of the risen Jesus was – of all things, an Eunuch. What’s more he was a Black man. The next was a Roman Centurion.

And very soon the leaders of the Jesus movement began to understand that all Gentiles who had faith could be included, male and female. It’s been a closely guarded secret, but many of the first leaders of what became Christianity were women: one of who is named as an Apostle.

Somewhere along the line, the Church began a process of exclusion. An elite religious leadership class which was entirely male emerged.

To be sure it was challenged. It was challenged by the powerful Abbesses of Monastic Christianity who wielded as much authority as their male counterpoints. It was challenged by St. Clare who was as influential as her better known companion St. Francis. It was challenged by the mystical St. Catherine of Sienna, who at a time when there were three rival Popes, (yes three!), knocked their heads together for the good and unity of the Church.

But for centuries many people were excluded from Church leadership because they were female, or Black.

We are rediscovering the powerful witness of women in the Gospels. We have sung about women such as Mary of Nazareth; the Samaritan woman; and Mary Magdalene, who was a sinner. (Episcopal Hymnal # 673).

In this day and age our beloved Episcopal Church has the brightest and most savvy Presiding Bishop in a generation, she is The Most Revd. Katherine Jefforts Schori.

Some in our Church would wish to exclude the Rt. Revd. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire. I’ll admit my bias, Gene is a friend of mine with whom I have ministered on and off for more than 25 years. He is a born again man of God. I am proud that he has been included.

I am in danger of going on a rant, but I refuse to listen to African Bishops who have multiple wives, or who have taken mistresses; and American Bishops who have been twice divorced and now live with a third wife - giving us scolding lectures on what they call “Biblical morality”. Doubtless this is in part because I am a gay Priest, but I hope that it’s also mainly because the drift of scripture is towards inclusion.

It’s not that we don’t need boundaries. (Boundary-less people are dangerous). But it is that we need very broad and flexible frontiers.

So it is I pray that our Church will continue to be a people of green leatherette sofas.

I end this week not with a song. but with these words.

It’s not from the Bible, but it is a poem I love, which brims with Biblical sentiment.

He drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

("Outwitted" by Edwin Markham)