Showing posts from 2009

Her name is Marlene

Her name is Marlene. We first met about three years ago, in a supermarket. It’s one of those upscale places with over-priced organic produce, dairy products and meats, but also with an amazingly good selection of cheeses. I was the customer. She is a check out cashier.

Marlene’s accent sounded vaguely English, but as we began to chat she told me that she is from Malta. Marlene is the only Maltese person I’ve ever met. She lives in SRQ with her husband.

Her presence radiates with happiness. She has a ready smile which she is always glad to share. I’ll wait in line at her till even if other lines are empty, this for the sheer pleasure of seeing her.

There was a period when I thought that she had left the store. It turns out that she had tried her hand in the store’s kitchen. It was to my immense relief that she decided that the kitchen was no place for her, and she returned to the check-out.

I saw Marlene today, and waited in her line despite the “shipping order” which was bein…

Once in a blue moon

I understand that “blue moon” is what we call the second full moon in a calendar month. So tomorrow’s full moon will be a “blue” moon, and it will be on New Year’s Eve. What fun: “once in a blue moon” on December 31st 2009.

The “almost blue moon” was spectacular tonight as I walked with my dog. It was twilight. The air was crisp. Sister moon shone so brightly in the eastern sky.

Looking west, the sky was golden yellow, with a string of off-white clouds. The trees were in silhouette.

The mallards were already resting at pond-edge. Eight restless muscovy ducks waddled towards us with all due speed, hoping for handouts from the human and canine walkers: - ducks doomed for disappointment.

“G-d’s” creation was indeed beautiful, leaving me to “give thanks to him – the Giver good”.

And yet - I could not but forget that “G-d” is an artist who does not finish her work.

So much of the beauty that I enjoyed was the work of human hands:- the human made pond, the silhouetted roof tops, and t…

Dr. (Samuel) Johnson

“On Point” is a rather good radio programme which emanates from station WBUR in Boston. I often listen to the programme from  my car radio.

The topic today was a new biography of Dr. Samuel Johnson, by Jeffrey Meyers.  The programme may be accessed at:

It put me in mind of some of the pithy and wise “sayings” of Samuel Johnson.  Here are some of them.  (The final one is my favourite).


One of the disadvantages of wine is that is makes a man mistake words for thoughts.

None but a fool worries about things he cannot influence.

The future is purchased by the present.

I deny the lawfulness of telling a lie to a sick man for fear of alarming him; you have no business with consequences, you are to tell the truth.

It is unjust to claim the privileges of age and retain the playthings of childhood.

It is better to live rich than to die rich

Pleasure is very seldom found where it is sought. Our brightest blazes are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.



Doritos -   oh how I want some Doritos!

I have forsaken my favourite unhealthy snack for more than six weeks, in favour of some weight loss.

I am munching celery, and grapes.

  oh how I want some Doritos!

Jane Williams

I am either blessed or cursed with the ability to remember the slightest details – details of events/incidents/conversations which reach back for at least 60 years.

Such memories are often triggered when some song or other surfaces in my mind, and then in my voice.

As I was walking Penne today, a song from the pen of an iconoclast, William S Gilbert (he of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) came to mind. It’s from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “The Sorcerer” (1877). In that operetta the song is assigned to the ageing clergyman Dr. Daly, who reflects on his days as a young Curate. The lyrics are reproduced below. As you read them, do remember that W.S. Gilbert was poking fun at the Clergy. The song is known as “A pale young curate”.

The memory of the song took me back to the time when I was a theological college student in England.

Soon after Christmas (1973 or 1974) I was selected, together with other students from St. John’s College, Nottingham U.K. to attend a conference at the love…

My best Christmas gift.

There were young triplets at St. Boniface Church on Siesta Key yesterday for the Christmas Day Eucharist. Two boys and one girl aged maybe 5 or 6.

They were at Church with Mummy and Daddy, and with their grandparents. I surmised that the family were at home for the holidays.

Two of these children, a boy and a girl were deliciously shy. The other boy was less inhibited.

As they knelt at the altar rail I could not see their faces. So I also knelt, so that I could give them God’s blessing, laying my hand upon each head and saying “the blessing of Christ, the bread of heaven”.

Before I could get back on my feet the less shy child looked me in the eyes. Then he reached out his hand and placed it on my head, in wordless blessing.

He had given me a wonderful Christmas gift, one which left me all teary eyed.

The work of Christmas

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner
To teach the nations
To bring Christ to all
To make music in the heart.
Howard Thurman

A Christmas Meditation by J. Michael Povey

In Willa Cather’s short story “A gold slipper”, (published in 1920) the author has introduced us to Marshall McKann, a straight-laced, dull and pedantic business man.

Cather tells us that McKann’s “religion was not very spiritual, certainly, but it was substantial and concrete, made up of good, hard convictions and opinions. It had something to do with citizenship, with whom one ought to marry, with the coal business (in which he own name was powerful), with the Republican party, and with all majorities and established precedents.”

In the story McKann has a conversation with Kitty Ayrshire, a famous singer. He had with great reluctance attended a recital she gave at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall, and now they find themselves to be riding the same train to New York City.

Kitty tries her best to shake his solid convictions about artists. He is certain that that they all are “light people….who have no depth”.  McKann confesses that he had been dragged to the concert. 

Kitty respond…

O Holy Night. ( My re-blog from December 10th 2008)

O Holy NightEpiscopalians/Anglicans have been quite snobby about the Christmas Hymn “O Holy Night”. It’s been a bit too flashy for our culture.

I was introduced to it some 45 years ago when my friend Kitty Draper would play it for us, and for her daughters Yvonne and Marilyn.  She loved the Nat King Cole version, and so do I.

The first link below will tell you something of the history of this song. Note please the abolitionist sentiments of the American translator. That's what makes the song so powerful.

READ all about it here:

Then, if you will, listen to the Nat King Cole version on YouTube
 (Google/Videos -  O Holy Night/ Nat King Cole)
Here is the text
 1. O holy night, the stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and gloriou…

President Obama - the best!

Those of us who are left of centre in our political convictions are often very idealistic. Our ideas are worthy and good, but often they will not fly in the real world of hard-nosed politics.

We were exultant when Barack Obama was elected to be our President. We expected great things of him. We were too starry eyed to see the world of real politics. So we are a bit discouraged, and far less exuberant about his Presidency.

The American contribution to the climate change conference in Copenhagen falls far short of our ideals, as do the likely changes to our health care system.

Nonetheless if John McCain had been elected...........?

It is all too easy for us to forget that the United States of America is an essentially “right of centre” country, and that any President must lead at least from the centre.

We also forget that the American Senate is innately conservative (note the lower case “c”), and is therefore very unlikely to vote in favour of truly radical measures.

In other words, P…

Let down by a Mennonite.

In the England of my youth all but a few retail businesses were forbidden by law to do business on Sundays.
“Newsagents”  those little shops which sold newspapers, magazines, tobacco products and sweets (candy) were allowed to open at least on Sunday mornings.
Then there were the “Off Licences”.  These shops were those which were licenced by the local authority to sell beer and spirits for “consumption off the premises”.   
Off Licences” also carried a limited inventory of those other products which under law could be sold on Sundays.  I cannot remember the details, but I do remember that the list of “approved products” was entirely inconsistent.
Pubs were allowed to open for a few hours at lunch time, and for evening hours. 
Some of those pubs also had an additional door leading to a little counter at what was called a “jug and bottle”. There you could purchase beer or ale which was drawn from barrels in the cellar to the jug or bottle you bought with you!
These Sunday trading laws reflec…

Washington D.C. and a blizzard

American eastern coast states from Virginia all the way up to New York are being assailed by an early and major blizzard. The storm is expected to hit Connecticut and New York tomorrow.

It’s been tough for those who live in northern Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. Driving is dangerous, and many airports have been closed. Annapolis, MD reported 20 inches.

There is some humour here. A friend in Maryland wrote (with affection) that her cross-dressing neighbour was shoveling snow in his cheer leader outfit.

‘Tis fortunate for most that this is a weekend storm.

Fortunate for most, but not for all.

Spare a thought for those retailers who have counted on sales during this weekend before Christmas to come out even. The paucity of shoppers will affect them deeply.

Some will go out of business. Others will lay off workers. A “winter wonderland” is lovely enough, but it will spell desolation for some owners of retail businesses and their employees.

The foolish piety of a loner

In the days when I was much more self-righteous and snotty than I am now (it’s not all gone), I would take pious delight in refusing invitations to parties during advent. That piety helped to mask the fact that my gregarious outer man masks a truly inner loner. I am a loner, but I have already been to two holiday parties this year. In both cases, right up until the moment I had leave my home I yearned for a sneeze which could be translated into a cold, and thus provide a great excuse not to attend. Today’s party was down in Venice and it was for the out gay men at my Church a.k.a.  “The Belles of St. Boniface”.    I’d hoped that my car would not start, or that it had a flat tyre. “No such luck” I muttered as I began the 25 mile ride to my hosts’ home in south Venice. Once there, I had a lovely time.  The hospitality was gracious, and the food was good.   (Not to rub it in for those of you who live in colder climes, but it is nice to be able to eat outdoors by a swimming pool in mid Decembe…

Santa, and being nice.

The recorded music which is broadcast at one of the local supermarkets has been telling me since mid-November that “Santa Claus is coming to town”, and that “he knows when you’ve been naughty and he knows when you’ve been nice”.

Santa has not yet arrived, and frankly, I am tired of being nice!

What is it with cats?

My junior cat Adelaide consistently ignores me. But she demands attention the moment I sit down in an armchair to read a book.

On the other hand, my senior cat Ada will seek attention only when, (a) I am trying to nap on the sofa, or (b) when I am enthroned on the toilet.

My next door neighbour is a very angry and hostile woman. I hear her frequently when she is yelling (and cursing) at the mail man, the landscapers, the UPS man, or the trash collectors --- or me. And I mean frequently.

I can hear these angry diatribes from inside my house.

Yesterday it was the turn of her care-giver who had done something wrong, or failed to do something right. My neighbour told the care-gi…

Anxiety in the face of abundance

The First United Methodist Church in Sarasota hosted its 7th annual Christmas Banquet for homeless and needy people.
It’s a classy affair. The tables are set with linen table cloths and good cutlery etc.  Each table has a magnificent and seasonal centre-piece –  a different one on each table -  made by church members in a friendly competition.
Church members wait on tables, and the food is more than excellent:  turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, dressing (stuffing) and good vegetables – followed by excellent homemade desserts.
The whole event runs like a well oiled machine. I estimate that there were close to 200 guests, served by about 50 volunteers.
Congratulations to the members of First United Methodist Church, for this extraordinary hospitality. The event is as far from a “soup kitchen” as you could imagine. It is truly a banquet.
My role was to “work the crowd” as folks lined up outside the Church.  Many arrived more than an hour before the Banquet began.  I knew about 70% of the guests, …

Jack Chrisman's sermon at St. Boniface, Siesta Key, FL on 13th December 2009

The Revd. John "Jack" Chrisman has enjoyed two careers.

The first was in the U.S. Navy from which he retired as a Captain.

The second was as a Priest in the Anglican Communion. He trained for the sacred ministry in England, then served parishes both there and in the U.S.A.

Jack and his wife Donna washed up in second retirement on the shores of Sarasota. We have become good friends.

Jack preached last Sunday at St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key where both he and I are Priest Associates.

I was greatly "fed" by his sermon which is reproduced here (with his permission).




Holiness and madness -- like genius and insanity -- have traditionally been viewed as closely associated.

It does not take any stretch of the imagination to see John the Baptist take his rightful place among those religious leaders who, by their radical relationship with God and their unorthodox sty…

God is in his heaven?

I write at 9:40 p.m. on Monday 14th December 2009.
My home is so peaceful.  The cats, Adelaide and Ada are resting comfortably.  My dog, Penne has been a wonderful “friend” all day.
The Florida weather has been most favourable, enabling Penne and I to take some lovely walks.
I’ve done “normal” things - eating, shopping, laundering sheets and towels, visiting the library etc..
I also did some laundry and shopping for my good pal Ben (he is still relatively immobile following his ankle fracture).
Later in the day my good friends Ron and Charlotte brought dinner to Ben’s home, and we feasted on their excellent fish soup and fabulous salad. Bob, another friend, joined us.
I’ve wanted to say “God is in his heaven, all’s right with the world”.
But the restless part of me has also been present. 
Yes, it’s been a wonderful day. But it has also been a hellish day for so many people in so many places in our world.
So, on this good day I have also meditated on Bob Dylan’s song.  It is not great poetry,…

Hymns at Church in Sarasota today (published Dec 13th and revised Dec 14th)

Soon after arriving at my parish Church this morning I scanned the service leaflet, and then let out a groan.

I wanted to leave right away.

That was not because of the congregation, or because of the ministers.

My parish has a more or less lively congregation.

It has superb ordained ministers.

The parish prides itself on being “progressive”, and I have no quarrel with that.

So, why did I want to leave?
It was on account of the hymns for the day, which were anything but progressive. That’s not the fault of the parish. It’s the fault of the Episcopal Church hymnal.

We opened with “On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry” (Episcopal Hymnal #76), and ended with “The King shall come” (Episcopal Hymnal # 73). These two (predictable) Advent hymns share banal, prosaic and pedestrian texts; and dreary tunes. Neither of them has a word or melody which might excite the imagination.

So we sing them on account of their familiarity. Indeed they are so familiar that we do not have to think about their mise…

Irish Evangelical Statement - new link

Try this link, then go to Community alerts

American evangelicals could/should learn from their Irish evangelical friends.

The Irish Evangelical Alliance has issued a statement about the proposal which is before the Irish Government regarding “Civil Unions”

I find this statement on behalf of Irish Evangelicals to be utterly refreshing, especially in the light of the angry voices we hear from American Evangelicals and Fundamentalists.

There are three aspects which I like.

1. Irish Evangelicals are being totally faithful to their own understanding of the Gospel.

2. Their entire tone is irenic and gracious. There is not a single note of anger or judgment.

3. There is a clear recognition by the Irish Christians that they live in a post-Constantinian world.

Here is the link for the Irish Evangelical Alliance

Now click on “Community Alert” (on the right).

I’d love to know what you think.

Things that keep me awake at night

I purchase those easy to use disinfecting wipes.  The ones I use are a store brand, but they are most likely made by Lysol or Clorox.
I am not exactly certain that they are any more efficacious than hot water and a bit of dish detergent, but they are mightily handy.
I think that it’s the name that seduces me into the purchase. “Disinfecting wipes” has an allure of safety.  After all, according to the label, they kill 99.9% of bacteria in 15 seconds. I try not to worry about the 00.01% of un-killed bacteria! 
And there is also the advertised“lemon scent”.  Who would ever doubt that “lemon scent” makes all the difference!  One of these days I will try to purchase some “lemon scented” lemons.
Today, in a fit of curiosity I read the “fine print” on the label.  It included these words:
“It is a violation of Federal Law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling”.
Having read  this I am terrified that the FEDS will soon be after me.   
True enough I have not tried to eat one o…


There was a story today on N.P.R. (National Public Radio) about the possibility that President Obama will next year visit Indonesia, where he lived as a child.

The American Ambassador in Jakarta stated that our President would like to take his wife and children to the town and neighbourhood where he once lived.

The Ambassador said that President Obama would like to visit his “old haunting grounds” in Indonesia.

I have heard of “old hunting grounds”, and of“old haunts”.

I am not surewhether the Ambassador uttered a malapropism, or if he truly thinks that the  phrase is “old haunting grounds”. 

I am sure that I often regress to an  “old haunting ground” in which my memory takes me to the mistakes, sins, failures, and stupid acts of years gone by.

That memory often keep me awake at night. Damn it. I so wish that I could escape the haunting of my memory, despite the facts that ---

I cannot change the past.
My old haunts were mostly superb.
My old hunting grounds were fine.

 It is my “old haunting …

Too dreadful for words!

After my morning shower this day I grabbed the nearest shorts and shirt to head off to Resurrection House.

My appearance was greeted with amazement by the Res House guests, and with laughter by the staff and volunteers.

Plaid on plaid.

Oh my. I should either be more careful, or hire a dress consultant!

I am not proud of this photo', but I hope that it will make you giggle.


In my sermon last Sunday I ventured to say that many folks say “I’m fine” when they really want to say “go to hell”.
One worshiper, as he exited, said:  “Thanks for your sermon Michael.  I am fine”
I replied: “go to hell”.
Then we both doubled over in laughter.
Before Church I chatted with an Acolyte.  She is in the fourth grade.  She told me about her weekend homework science project.  It involved checking the enzyme levels from a piece of raw liver when it is bathed in hydrogen peroxide.  For goodness sake - this is amazing. 
When I was in fourth grade I was just learning cursive (“joined-up”) writing, and had received absolutely no education in any of the sciences.
I have re-discovered parsnips. I am on the cusp of being obsessed with them. (I roasted some for dinner tonight -  together with carrots, onions and chicken thighs).
As I was checking out at a Publix Supermarket yesterday, the woman in line behind me saw the parsnips in my shopping basket and asked “ar…

Sermon for 6th December 2009.

 I departed a bit from my prepared  text as I preached it yesterday.  I have included some of my ad-lib remarks, and though those inclusions might not be my exact word - they represent well what I was trying to day.

Sermon for 6th December 2009. The Revd. J. Michael Povey at All Angels by the Sea Church, Longboat Key,FL
Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 3:1-6

“Go to hell!” I’ve often wanted to yell that at some person who has wronged, annoyed or hurt me. In fact, I have yelled it, usually from the safety of my car, when some idiot or other has cut me off, or forced me in to another lane. If the car that has cut me off has one of those “Jesus” symbols, then I want to call out “repent you hypocrite"

“Go to hell” is a fairly safe imprecation, for after all, we no longer believe in hell. Perhaps we believe that there is some dark corner of the universe reserved for serial murderers and rapists, or for monsters such as Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and their many acolytes. 

But on the whole we are optim…