Saturday, 14 March 2009

Reunion time

It’s been a time for reunions.

Just a few weeks ago I had lunch in Lakeland FL with my niece Anne Weston and her husband Stuart, visiting from London. I’d not seen them since my mother’s funeral in 2001.

Up in Boston I was present for the 20th anniversary celebration of the Ordination of the Rt. Revd. Barbara C Harris - the first female Bishop in the Anglican Communion. We were at the Cathedral Church in Boston, and as well as giving and receiving a great big hug with Bishop Barbara, I was able to connect with many friends and colleagues.

And I went back to St. James’s in Cambridge for Sunday morning worship, my first “homecoming” since I retired from there as Rector in June 2006. Mostly I was happy to see the children – they are dear to God.

I also got reunited with snow. Between 8 and 10 inches fell on Sunday night. I was not happy to be back in the business of sweeping that wretched stuff off my rental car.

Tenderly and gracefully – from all side, I was able to spend some time with the Pope family whose 12 year old son Hunter recently died.

From New York City to Tampa, Gabriel and I were reunited with a train. It’s a 25 hour journey, but the train is comfortable and the food good. It was a beautifully relaxing way to return to Florida. The senior citizen fare is a meager $99. I am happy to see that the new administration will invest deeply in Amtrak - our “national” passenger rail system.

A couple of days after arriving home in SRQ friends of about 44 years, Colin and Lorraine Cooper from Bristol, U.K. came for lunch. They were vacationing nearby.

Then yesterday I had a call from Bob and Monica Jones - former Pittsfield parishioners.
They have retired to North Carolina, and were visiting their son Michael who lives and works in Tampa. I had not see Bob and Monica in all of 15 years, and we had a jolly lunch. Naturally I took them to the restaurant at the Bobby Jones Golf Course!

I am getting reunited with my body and still take daily exercise. This morning I drove downtown and walked over our lovely Ringling Bridge and back. It took about 50 minutes, and I enjoyed lovely breezes from the bay.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

eeeeeeeeeeeek (e)

What is it with the letter “e”. That letter gets attached to all manner of words.

Some of you have seen signs such as “Olde Towne”, or “Ye Olde Shoppe”.

Here is SRQ we have developments such as “Georgetowne”; “Palm Aire”; “Olde Oaks”.

I wonder why such good words as Georgetown, Air, or Old need the “e” suffix.

Makese Noe Sensee toe Mee.

Fond lee

Johne Michaele Poveye

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A land fit for heroes?

Army to review Fort Bragg's punishment for wounded

Wed Mar 11, 7:11 PM EDT

The general in charge of the Army's more than 9,000 wounded soldiers said Wednesday he is ordering a review of how the ones at Fort Bragg are being punished for minor violations. Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek said he is asking the Army Surgeon General to look at all discipline that has been taken against soldiers in the base's Warrior Transition unit to make sure each case was fair.

Cheek's comments come a day after The Associated Press reported that soldiers in the unit are being disciplined three times as often as those assigned to the base's main tenant, the 82nd Airborne Division. The AP also found that discipline rates vary widely across the Warrior Transition system; some units punish their soldiers even more frequently than the one at Fort Bragg, while others are far more lenient.

"We are transparent enough in this that we want to make sure that we aren't doing anything bad by our soldiers," Cheek said in a phone interview from Washington.

The Army set up 35 Warrior Transition units two years ago to help soldiers navigate the medical system and monitor their progress and treatment following the scandal over shoddy conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

More than a dozen current or former soldiers who have been assigned to the transition unit at Fort Bragg told the AP that its officers are indifferent to their medical needs and punish them for the very injuries that landed them there. Officers who oversee the unit said they hold the wounded soldiers to the same performance standards as able-bodied troops, arguing that it helps them get back into fighting shape.

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said his group is hearing similar things from soldiers throughout the Army. The service needs to view injured troops as patients more than soldiers, he said.

"There is still this culture of toughness that is pervasive throughout the military," Rieckhoff said. "They are probably in the minority, but they need to alter the system so that you don't have a guy with a head injury getting screamed at for missing formation."

Cheek said he is "very confident" that Lt. Col. Jay Thornton, the Fort Bragg transition unit's commander, does what's best for his troops.

"He has done good things for our Army and our soldiers there," Cheek said. "I think there is much more positive than negative, but that said, we'll take a look at it. We don't want to disadvantage a single soldier."

Several members of Congress also weighed in Wednesday on the allegations in the AP report. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said the Senate Armed Services Committee is looking into the allegations but not yet formally investigating.

"It is my hope that we can get to the bottom of this issue," Burr said by e-mail.

Congressman Larry Kissell, whose district includes parts of Fort Bragg, plans to visit the base at the end of March.

"Above all else, we must ensure that our military heroes are treated with dignity and respect," Kissell said in an e-mail.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said he heard about the problems at Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion last month when a group of soldiers came to Long Island to share their experiences. He said what he heard "sent chills up his spine," and he vowed to seek legislation to resolve the issue if the problems don't clear up soon.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, 9 March 2009

More vacation stuff

Washington D.C. is by any chalk a magnificent capital City.

See the following for the concept of the City by French architect Pierre L’Enfant.'Enfant

I was in D.C. for a couple of days during my recent holiday.

There I was able to visit the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art and view a wonderful exhibition from Pompeii.

And in the West Wing I enjoyed great photo’s “The Americas” by Robert Frank.

I also enjoyed one of the few fee-paying Museums, a museum of news known as the NEWSEUM.

It is a fabulous place for news-junkies such as I.

After a surfeit of Museums I headed out, with my Brasilian friend Gabriel, to DuPont Circle.

There we had a lovely and relaxing dinner with Gary, son of my friends (from 1976) Don and Barbara Hauler, and his partner Ed.

“To heck” I say with Miami, Disney, California and all the popular spots. Washington D.C. is THE place to visit in these United States of America.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

More about my holiday later.

Yesterday I drive down to Ft. Myers, FL to officiate and celebrate at a Saturday evening service, and then three on Sunday morning.

This was at St. Hilary’s Church, in the absence of the Rector, the Revd. Robert (Bob) Hennigan.

It was lovely to be “back in the saddle”. I’ll also be there the next two weekends.

My sermon is posted below, for what it is worth. (Sermons sound better than they read!)

After the 11:00 a.m. service I hoved out to Cape Coral. There I had lunch with St. Hilary’s parishioners, Ray and Lori Uhrig.

Lori grew up in Pittsfield MA and attended St. Stephen’s Parish in that town.

I was the Rector at St. Stephen’s between 1984 and 2000.

There I got to know and admire Lori’s Mum: Debbie Herrick Bessette.

By the grace of God, Debbie was visiting her daughter in Fort Myers and I was re-united with her today.

It was so lovely to see Debbie – 6 degrees of separation and all! She is a dear sister!

Here is my sermon.

Sermon for March 7/8 2009
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Hilary’s Church, Ft. Myers, FL

Genesis17:1-7;15,16: Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38

I am not much of a gambling man. I know that the odds are stacked against me. Every now and then I’ll buy a lottery ticket, knowing of course that in fact I am paying additional taxes. Years ago I had a parishioner who would go each year to the Races at Saratoga, New York. I’d give her a dollar to place a bet for me, but I never won a cent. Once I was in a Casino on the island of Aruba to cash a refund check from a tour company. I’d planned to spend about five bucks on the slots, but it was only when I was flying home from Aruba that I realised that I had cashed the check, and then had walked straight out.

I am not much of a gambling man. I know that the odds are stacked against me.

The odds were stacked against Abram and Sarai. God had promised to make them the parents of many nations. But here they are Abram at 99 years old and Sarai not far behind. Old people they were, and childless. What are the betting odds that Sarai could have conceived when Abram’s body was as good as dead, and Sarai’s womb was fruitless?

(Incidentally – we do not know exactly why their names were changed - there are a myriad of theories about this).

Abraham and Sarah took a bet on God, even though the odds were stacked against them.

Jesus was another one who gambled on God. All to ready as we are to assert Jesus’ divinity, we want to ignore his humanity.

The very human Jesus trusted in the faithfulness of God from his baptism and temptations forward. He took the risk that to proclaim the reign of God as good news for the poor and the under-classes would lead him into conflict with the political and religious rulers of his day. And so it did? Jesus was crucified because he had upset the apple-cart of the day, proclaiming the some who were last would be first; that our enemies were to be blessed; that our creditors be forgiven their debts. He broke the rules and enjoyed many a party with the bums and dropouts. He cared not one wit for the strict instructions of religious rules. He offended most people and his best friends never quite understood him.

Abraham and Sarah not only took a bet on God’s faithfulness, but they did something about it. They had sexual intercourse in their old, old age. Good for them - and Isaac was conceived. They did their bit, and God was indeed faithful

Jesus took a bet on God’s faithfulness, even through a savage public execution. He did his bit, and God was indeed faithful when Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day. Even death cannot kill Jesus’ bet on God’s goodness.

This business of being Christians is not all that much about Church, and hymns, and liturgy.
Just as the bread we buy in the supermarket is more important than the wrapper, so the faith we live is wrapped in Church, hymns and liturgy, but we are fed by the faith, not by the wrapper.

The faith is taking a gamble on God – even when we believe that the odds are stacked against us. If we are deeply honest, we know that the words of religion that we speak express our fears more than our faith. So we bet our lives on God.

Last weekend I was in Boston. I visited with a lovely family whose 12 year old son had died of complications from influenza a week before. His name was Hunter. He leaves a twin sister Molly, two older brothers Connor and Ramsey, his Mum and Dad, and a host of people who loved him.

His Christian grandfather said, when he heard of Hunter’s death, “I have a bone to pick with God”. Amen to that.

The family and their closest and best friends are confused and angry about this awful death. You would be too.

So we all have a bone to pick with God, even as we take a bet on the faithfulness of God. The odds are stacked against us. But we still gamble on God.