Thursday, 19 February 2009

Au revoir (and a hymn text)

There will not be an entry on Povey Prattle for a couple of weeks. "The Pove" will be otherwise engaged.

Look for this blog again on March 6th.

In the meantime sing/pray/meditate upon/or simply read this song.

It's been my direction towards hope ever since Hunter Pope died.

1. Will you let me be your servant?
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
to let you be my servant, too.

2. We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are travelers on the road.
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.

3. I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night time of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you;
Speak the peace you long to hear.

4. I will weep when you are weeping.
When you laugh, I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
till we've seen this journey through.

5. When we sing to God in heaven,
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we've known together
Of Christ's love and agony.

6. Will you let me be your servant?
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
to let you be my servant, too.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Molly Pope - aged 12, twin of Hunter comments on his funeral plans and on the press coverage of Hunter's death

Molly sent you a message.

Subject: Hunter

The wake is on Friday at Brady & Fallon Funeral Home on Tower Street right by the Forest Hills T-Station

The funeral is on Saturday at Saint James Episcopal Church in Porter Square

He'll be wearing the 'Free Hugs' T-Shirt he made on Friday for Valentines Day (Thats why he wouldn't stay home from school)
The camo pants he was obsessed with
No shoes (he NEVER wears shoes)
He'll have his lion blanket (whenever someone touched it he made my mom wash it)
He'll be in a box because it fits him and he hides in boxes a lot
and we're going to cremate him on Fern Hill in the Forest Hills Cemetery

For anyone who doesn't know, he died of influenza type B, and they couldn't keep his heart going and they couldn't stabilize him, it ended up being heart failure

And the news got it all wrong, they took all the wrong information on purpose

When they came to interview us, we told them that it had nothing to do with the fact that he didn't have his flu shot because it doesn't effect Influenza B. However, the front page of the Herald (the people who interviewed us) said "He didn't take his flu shot"

And we told them a million friggin times that it didn't matter, but they didn't listen.

They asked me "Do you miss your brother?"

And then he walked away

He probably only said it to trigger tears, but he did a bad job because we were just mad at him instead

The news man had terrible fake hair :)

Anyway, if you think you knew him well enough to come, if you were good friends, if you want to see him, whatever reason you have, you're welcome to come

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


Hunter Pope

Hunter’s family came to St. James’s, Cambridge, MA in about 2002.

Hunter’s Mom had played her flute at a wedding there. She was so delighted with the Liturgy that soon afterwards she, her husband Ken, and their four children became regular attenders.

In due course I drove from Cambridge, MA to Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA to have dinner with the six Popes: Ken and Tess (parents), Ramsey and Connor (older twins), and Molly and Hunter (younger twins).

It was a jolly evening. Each of the Popes responded to my silly-ness, and laughed alongside me.

Each of them: except for Hunter. He refused to look me in the eye; and refused to giggle with us.

After dinner, Ramsey, Connor, Molly and Hunter took their baths. Then we all went to a bedroom for a story, and for bedtime prayers.

After a bit of romping, Hunter stood up on the top level of a bunk bed.

He looked down, and then said something which I have never forgotten.

He said: “Michael Povey, I like you”.

Those were the first words he ever addressed to me.

He did not say “I love you”. He said “I like you”.

Sometimes it is better to be liked than to be loved.

Now HUNTER, aged 12, has died. I will never again hear him say “Michael Povey, I like you”.

So I want to cry.

I hope that you also will shed your tears.

The photo’ (above) is of Hunter and his twin sister Molly.

Monday, 16 February 2009

A joyful reunion. A ghastly tragedy.

A joyful reunion

My Brasilian friend Gabriel and I drove to Lakeland, FL (about 70 miles north east of Sarasota) to have lunch with my niece Anne Weston, her husband Stuart and their daughter Olivia. The Westons, from England, are on vacation at Disneyland – which is maybe 40 miles east of Lakeland.

Anne and Stuart had told Olivia that she would be meeting her “crazy Uncle John”. I lived up to that appellation by being silly enough to make Olivia giggle.

I’d officiated in Bristol, England, at Anne and Stuart’s wedding, but had not seen them since my mother’s funeral in 2001. We had a lovely time together today.

jmp, Stuart, Anne, Olivia.


A ghastly tragedy.

Also in 2001, or maybe it was 2002 a wonderful family joined St. James’s in Cambridge. They were the parents Ken and Tess Pope, and their four children - two sets of twins - Ramsey and Connor, the older boy twins, and Molly and Hunter, the younger boy/girl twins.

We became fast friends. I ‘specially bonded with the children as I am also a twin.

On Sunday (15th) young Hunter became very ill with influenza. He was rushed to the hospital, but died on Sunday evening from complications of the influenza which affected his heart. He was 12 years old.

(Can you damn well envision that - a 12 year old who dies as a result of flu?)

My heart has been aching and breaking all day for the Pope family, especially for Molly the surviving younger twin.

His funeral will be on Saturday 21st Feb. I will not be there, but my heart will be with the Pope family, with the good people of St. James’s, and with their fine Rector, Holly Lyman Antolini.

In the providence of God I had already planned to be in Boston a week later on February 28th. I will carve out some time that day to be with the Pope family.

Hunter Pope (1)

Hunter Pope (2)

Sunday, 15 February 2009

My sermon this morning

Sermon for 15th February 2009
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at All Angels by the Sea, Longboat Key, FL
2 King 5:1-17; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1:40-45

I look at my cats. They are each black with those gorgeous greeny-yellow eyes. Their needs seem simple. Food is at the top of their lists, followed by sleep. They are devoted to keeping themselves clean. On occasion they will play, chasing each other around the house, or even better, toying with a hapless lizard which has come indoors by mistake. My cats, Ada and Adelaide can be aloof or clingy. Sometimes they will ignore me, other times they beg for my attention. They like me most when I tickle their ears.

I look at my cats. Then I look at myself. My needs are simple too. Food, shelter, sleep: the occasional bit of play. I sometimes crave company. I often like to be alone.

We look at ourselves. At first blush we are clearly animals. Food, shelter, procreation are at the top of our lists. Some of us are solitary animals, other prefer the company of the pack. We enjoy beauty – and perhaps many animals also do. We set our boundaries, and guard our territories in an animal like way. Some of us are like Ada who hides under the bed when a visitor enters my home. Some are like Adelaide who flirts with every visitor.

We look at ourselves. We know that we are animals. But we believe ourselves to be more. We are ever asking the question “what is this life all about?” We cannot know whether or not animals reflect in this way. But we, homo sapiens, upright walking apes – search for meaning.
We find it in relationship with parents, siblings, spouses, children and friends. We find it in learning and study, in vocation and career. We encounter meaning in music, theatre, art, dance, sport, literature and comedy. We have a deep sense of what is right and what is wrong, as we deal every day with that part of us which we call conscience, or that part of our communities which we encounter in law. As well as basic right and wrong, we have a keen sense of what is fair or unfair, of what is just or unjust.

And we, not now the entire human family, but we who are in this place on this day, search for meaning in this strange community activity which we call worship. Something within us says that a weekly gathering for worship may in and of itself shed light on who we are, and on who we’d like to be. Because we believe this to be important we come in our best clothes and with our best manners.

All too sadly we sometimes leave a part of ourselves at the door to the Church. We may be afraid to bring our mean-ness, our despair, our disappointments, our self indulgence, our lusts and our lies into this place. Tis a pity for there is much in our gathering that can heal these wounds; give fresh hope; or lead us into repentance and renewal.

Having gathered, we do the oddest thing. We listen to ancient readings from a series of books we deem to be sacred, trusting that in that listening we shall be moved to equilibrium, equanimity, forgiveness, hope, and a belief that in the ultimate sense “all shall be well”.

Pause to think for a moment of the strangeness of what we have done. We have listened to a tale from the ancient near east, a tale of a servant girl, an army commander, a king and a prophet. There is a lot of wry humour in that tale. We read a snippet from a letter from a first century Christian leader to some Christians in the Greek city of Corinth. We heard a bit of Mark’s breathless and excited romp about the early days of Jesus’ ministry.

We, who have been doing something like this for 50, 60, 70 or even more years slip in and out of listening to these old writings with as much ease with which we slip in and out of an old and favourite pair of slippers. Familiarity has not brought contempt, for the binding of the books proclaims it to be a Holy Bible.

But there is a form of familiarity which leads to a “taking for granted”. Those of you who have been married for a wee while know much about this.

Familiar indeed, yet the clergy insist that the passages be read each Sunday, and the congregation would be astonished if they were omitted. For we know, or we hope to know, that there will be something in these words which will move us towards wholeness. Something which will help us to know who we are. Something which will guide us towards whom we need or want to be.

These old writings are pregnant with a host of meanings. The preacher will help us to bring those meanings to birth, but we too must be in spiritual labour in order to bring forth something new.

I’ll make a few suggestions about two of today’s readings, but there are many more understandings which you may seek for yourself.

First: The way to wholeness may be shown to us by unlikely people, and in unexpected ways. It is the slave girl who told Naaman’s wife that there was hope for his healing in Samaria. It was the prophet, the man of God as he is described; who did not engage Naaman face to face, but instead sent a messenger to him with strange instructions – “go wash in the Jordan seven times”.

(Parenthetically I note that Naaman twice got his come-uppance - first when the King of Israel threw a hissy fit, second when Elisha the prophet did not fawn over him, but simply sent him a message).

A slave girl points Naaman to the way of wholeness. Maybe my Mexican yard man could do the same for me! Naaman is told to do a crazy thing – to wash in the Jordan. It could be in the craziness of serving the poor that we find wholeness and meaning.

Second: Let us not over-value the meaning of a shrine. Naaman wanted to take two mule loads of Samarian soil back to Syria, perhaps there to enshrine it as a totem, a good luck charm, or perhaps as he said to remind him to worship but one God. Naaman needed to hear that God is God of all the earth, and that no earthly place can enshrine God. Not even this lovely building! Let’s also be aware of the danger when we deem any land to be Holy.

The gospel passage yields a similar idea. In last week’s passage Jesus refused to stay in Capernaum, the scene of his great success. He insists on moving on to the next towns and villages. He could well have stayed in Capernaum – it was a decent enough place, and there established himself as the local healer. He’d have been very successful, and the townspeople would naturally have wanted to build a shrine for his ministry.

But he moves on, for he knows that whilst wholeness has to with physical health, there is much more than that to it. It has to so, he will tell us, with forgiving our enemies, with being generous to a fault, with praying for those who wish us ill, with challenging the oppressions of ruling elites.

Perhaps that’s why he groans when the leper comes to him. Our nice English language text says that he was moved with pity but the meaning is deeper than this. The word in Greek suggests that Jesus let out an angry groan from the depths of his being.

Was the groan because he despised the system which excluded the leper from society, synagogue and temple? Was the groan because he loathed all those things in human life which lead to broken-ness and loss of meaning? Was the groan because he did not wish to be pigeon-holed as a magician with healing hands?

We do not know. But I am glad for the groan which suggests that Jesus might be angry. For a Jesus who gets angry is much more real than the “gentle Jesus meek and mild” of childhood hymns and adult fantasy.

No shrine for Jesus, for there is a world to be saved: to be brought to wholeness and integration.

Now we are the shrines in which Jesus is to be found. We who seek wholeness are the vessels in and through which our broken families, communities and nations may be made whole.

That’s quite a trip which Jesus has laid upon us.

It’s the trip of a life time!