Saturday, 27 November 2010

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (1)

 Here is a political prognostication made just before an American election: 

“The people of this country are in a humour where they don’t want to hear any reason...they want change and I think they are going to get it, but if they get it, in less than a year they will be the sickest country that ever walked the face of the earth, or else I will miss my guess”.

When was this statement made?   

Was it just before the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of these United States?

Was it just before our recent American mid-terms (after which the Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives)?

Neither!  The statement was made by Colonel Henry Stimpson in the run up to the 1932 presidential election.

Stimpson had served as Secretary of War from May 1911 until March 1913 under President William Taft (R)

Later (March 1929 – March 1933) he was Secretary of State under President Herbert Hoover (R).

His prognostication was made in 1932.  It was about the Democratic Party candidate for the Presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

After the election Stimpson met Roosevelt. He (Stimpson) found Roosevelt to be intelligent and competent. 

Stimpson (ever a Republican) went on to serve in the Roosevelt (and Truman) Cabinets from 1940 -1945.  He was back at his old job as Secretary of War!

( I have gleaned all this information from David Halberstam’s  book “The Best and the Brightest” – Random House, 1969)

Friday, 26 November 2010

For Sale

The Revd. Bob Ginn, a colleague from Western Massachusetts days, sent me this photo' of the Church of the Good Shepherd, West Fitchburg, MA.

I served at Good Shepherd from 1976 -  1980, and was ordained Priest there in December 1976. They were four joy-filled years.  I left Good Shepherd to work on the staff of the Bishop of Western Mass., and to be Vicar of St. Christopher's in Chicopee, MA.

Hindsight suggests that I should have stayed longer, but I was starry eye'd at the prospect of being a member of Diocesan staff, and so I left.

The Good Shepherd congregation, much depleted in more recent years, has now joined forces with God's people at Christ Church, Fitchburg.  It was a wise move, but I feel a little sad as I see the "For Sale" sign.

The Church of the Good Shepherd

My immediate predecessor at the Church of the Good Shepherd was the Revd. DeWolf Perry.  He, and his wife Kitty became my  good friends.   I insisted that they should continue to worship at Good Shepherd after DeWolf's retirement soon after my "priesting". They did so, for our mutual joy and benefit.

They were terrific mentors.  So I spent many a good hour at their home at 48 Hubbardston Road in nearby Princeton, MA.
Now, by ironic coincidence, DeWolf and Kitty's children, Jim, Dain and Tinka have come to the inevitable and sad decision to sell the house.
It is a place of many memories. 
In true New England style I always entered through the back door. I spent many a  relaxed hour on the back porch, sipping iced tea, chatting gently, and enjoying the inevitable summer geraniums.
I spent even more hours inside the home; having a simple lunch or dinner; being directly mentored by DeWolf; and absorbing Kitty's wisdom.

I remember a lovely party there after the baptism of Tinka's first child, Ricky.
There is also a somber memory.  Dear DeWolf lay a-dying in a hospital in Worcester, MA.  Kitty was there with their children. I was there too.

Kitty could not bear to stay in the hospital.  So I drove her back home to 48 Hubbardston Road.  There we sat and waited for the 'phone call which would tell us that DeWolf had passed.  That call came in due course.

I adored Kitty, and will ever be humbled by the memory of sitting with her as we awaited the news of DeWolf's passing into life eternal.

48 Hubbardston Road, Front
48 Hubbardston Road, Rear
Interior 1
Interior 2

The Church building in Fitchburg, MA  called "The Church of the Good Shepherd" is now for sale.  48 Hubbardston Road, Princeton MA is also for sale.

I bid a sad farewell to these bricks and mortar.  They were vital shrines for me. In new ownerships they will never again be my homes.

But the blessed and holy memories of life, love and laughter in both places will sustain me until the moment of my death.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Sermon for Thanksgiving 2010:

Sermon for Thanksgiving 2010:  The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key, FL

Ben is aged three. When he thinks that no one is watching he pulls the hair of his two year old sister Helen.  She begins to cry.  Mum had in fact had her eye on Ben.  She says “why in the world did you do that?  Tell Helen that you are sorry”.  Ben tells his sister that he is sorry.  But he is not!

Aunt Felicity is visiting.   She hands a gift to Helen who rips it open, and then rushes off to play with these new silly bands. “You come back here at once”, say Mum, “and say thank you to Aunt Felicity”.  “Thank you” mutters Helen. But we know that she hardly means it.

Saying sorry and saying thank you.   

These we are trained to say from our earliest days. We are trained to say them so that they will become a way of life. Saying sorry, and saying thank you, are a couple of necessary foundation stones if we are to build decent societies.

From time to time these foundation stones get covered with debris.  This great American feast called Thanksgiving is a day on which we, of necessity, clear away the debris, and learn again to say sorry, and to say thank you.

Just a block or two north of Lockwood Ridge Road on 17th Street is the Cornerstone Baptist Church.  A Spanish speaking Baptist congregation also uses the building.  As we turn right to drive north on Lockwood Ridge we see another Church on our left.  It is called “The Living Sanctuary”.  It bears every mark of being an evangelical Church.  Just up the road on the right is the Kadapa Meditation Centre – a place for Buddhist prayer.  In a little while we pass Iglesia De Los Hermanos on the left.  Next come the not quite completed building which will be a home for the Islamic Society of Manatee and Sarasota Counties.  Soon we’ll see a sign for the Sarasota Friends Meeting.  Then comes the Episcopal Church of the Holy Nativity.  Almost opposite is Northminster Presbyterian Church, which also provides space for the Centro Evangelistico Relexiones.

So, within two and a half mile’s worth of Lockwood Ridge Road (or just off it) there are ten centres for religious groups.

They are in my neck of the woods, so I drive by them frequently.  They give me pause to say sorry, and to say thank you.

For this I am sorry:

            that I lump all Baptist Churches together, and hold them in a fair bit of scorn.  

 that I have next to no tolerance for fundamentalist/evangelical Churches.

 that I often think of Islam as a hostile religion, and that I have never taken the time to explore the many Islams.

that I frequently get bothered when I hear the Spanish language in shops and restaurants, and that I forget that there were Spanish speaking colonialists in what we now call the United States, long before my English ancestors came to colonise.

that one of the early acts of those same ancestors was to strip Mary Dyer naked to the waist, and then hang her for her terrible crime of being a Quaker in Congregationalist Massachusetts.

For this I say thank you:

that the Baptists were amongst the first to insist on the freedom of conscience for every believer.

that Evangelicals have a passion to bring people into a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

for the Muslims who serve in our schools, hospitals, armed forces and Congress to help in the creation of a better America.

to the Quakers who remind us of the importance of silence as we listen to that spark of God within each of us, and for their powerful witness to non-violence. 

for the Buddhist reverence for the whole created order.

I do not believe that we can or should apologise for our historical mistakes.  Such apologies may have a “feel good” factor, but not much more.

But I do believe that we can become a wiser and more mature nation as we acknowledge those mistakes, and then resolve to learn from them.

On this Thanksgiving I am grateful for a two and a half mile stretch of Lockwood Ridge Road on which the very best of American religious diversity can be noted.

And I also know that we shall grow in wisdom and maturity when as a nation we move from anger and reaction into gratitude and thanksgiving.  That’s why we have such a day as this.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

For the fruit of all creation,
thanks be to God.
gifts bestowed on every nation,
thanks be to God.
For the plowing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future needs in earth's safekeeping,
thanks be to God.

In the just reward of labor,
God's will is done.
In the help we give our neighbor,
God's will is done.
In our worldwide task of caring
for the hungry and despairing,
in the harvests we are sharing,
God's will is done.

For the harvests of the Spirit,
thanks be to God.
For the good we all inherit,
thanks be to God.
For the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all that love has found us,
thanks be to God.

Words: Fred Pratt Green

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Thoughts on the cusp of Thanksgiving

During recent weeks I have:

1.  Enjoyed a lecture about “The Wisconsin” a private and luxurious rail car owned by circus magnate (and Sarasota resident) John Ringling and his wife Mable. (Yes, that’s how her name was spelt).  “The Wisconsin” has been renovated and has pride of place at our local Ringling Circus Museum. 

2.   Heard a lecture about Abraham Lincoln. It was delivered by Justus Doenke, a retired Professor of American history at Sarasota’s New College. Justus is a fabulous teacher. His lecture was a tour de force.   Justus and his wife Carol are members of All Angels Church on Longboat Key (Sarasota, FL) where I have gotten to know them.

3.  Attended the (almost) world premiere of a new musical “Bonnie and Clyde”.  It was staged at the Asolo Repertory Theatre here in Sarasota.   My bet is that it will be taken to Broadway and beyond.

4.  Read and enjoyed a fabulous biography of Catherine the Great of Russia, (by Virginia Roundling).

5.  Had a lovely supper at the home of my friends Bill and Patrick after which, (with six other guests). I and they watched the comical/farcical movie “Waking Ned Devine”. (In Great Britain and Ireland this movie was entitled simply “Ned Devine”).

6.      Attended the Sarasota Opera’s production of Cinderella (by Rossini)

All this is to say that “retirement years” can be the greatest.   

When I was in parish ministry I never allowed myself the joys of “culture”.  I thought that life was all about the Church and about being a faithful Pastor.

Be that as it may, I now know that in retirement that I have been blessed, as I have moved out of an exclusively religious box into a world of many boxes.

For this, and for so much more, I am grateful. 

 This deep sense of gratitude will lead me to a super appreciation of the United States festival of “Thanksgiving” two days from now.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Screw Turkey Day

On Thursday November 25th (God Willing) most residents of the United States of America will celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving.  I will be one of them.

This public holiday is called “Thanksgiving”.  Did you see that?

It is not called “Turkey Day”.  We are not being called to celebrate what many of us will eat.   

(If that were the case we could also name it “Sweet Potato with Marshmallow Day”, or “Pumpkin Pie Day”, or “Mashed Potato Day”).

The day is NEVER “Turkey Day”.  (Do you get my point?)

It is ALWAYS “Thanksgiving”.

That’s a terrific name for a holiday.  

It calls us to be mindful of all those parts of our “uber privileged” American way of life for which we offer thanks; and for all those people to whom we are appropriately thankful.

And for some, it is a reminder of the plight of residents in these United States who are “under privileged”.

Yet others will want to focus their thanksgivings with gratitude to God/Allah/The Holy One, (however they name that mystery of creation and evolution which has brought us to where we are.)

Screw “Turkey Day”.

Be humble and grateful on “Thanksgiving”.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

My concerns

My concerns are for:

Liz, a young mother of three, and wife of Matt.  She has particularly nasty cancer. Liz is the daughter in law of my good friends Ron and Charlotte.

Brenda, also a mother with cancer.  Her husband is Dudley.  He is my brother Martyn’s long time work colleague.  I had a nice visit with Dudley and Brenda last year when I was in England.

Sgt. Michael Cachat, U.S. Army National Guard.  Michael is serving in Afghanistan. He was one of the young people who attended St. Stephen’s, Pittsfield when I was the Rector.

My brother Martyn, who will have an angiogram, then possibly angioplasty in the near future.

My twin Elizabeth, who has been diagnosed with M.S.

Pam, a parishioner from Chicopee days.  She is “down” with shingles.

“G.D.”  a cheerful man who used to sit in the pew on front of me at St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key, FL, who is in prison for 60 months for the crime of securities fraud.