Saturday, 1 January 2011


In my native land the date is always given in the order of day/month/year.

In my adopted land is it given as month/day/year.

It seems to me that there is a logical progression in the British system, viz: we count up days to make a month, then count up months to make a year.

There was transatlantic unity today.  We each could write 1/1/11.  On November 20th of this year the British will be able to write 20/11/2011 -  a pleasure which will be denied to we Americans!

When announcing the time it used to be that Americans would say "twenty til" (the hour) or "twenty five after the hour", whilst at home we would say "twenty to" or "twenty five past".

Nowadays fewer and fewer people wear watches. Instead they use their mobile phone to discover the time, displayed of course in digital mode.  Thus there is a generation on both countries  who will announce the time as a series of numbers, i.e. 10:40, rather than "20 til" or "20 to".

This way of telling the time is  all very convenient and useful, and I have no deep "beef" with it. 

Save to say that the older way of telling the time carried with it a sense of the passage of time.  Saying that the time is "twenty to/til eleven", or "twenty five after/past eleven" conveys more than saying that it is "10:40" or "11:25".

That's why all my house clocks and my watch are analogue (save one which is linked by radio to the atomic clock)  To look at the face of a clock or watch gives me a sense of the time in relationship to the entire day.

Six of us gathered today to celebrate the 80th birthday of our beloved English-born St. Boniface parishioner, Muriel Quinn.  She hails from Oldham, Lancs. We had a lot of fun as we greeted her with "Land of Hope and Glory" and serenaded her with "She's my lassie from Lancashire".  Three of we guests were from Britain, and our hosts had spent many years there, so we each got a bit sentimental and teary eyed as we also sang "And did those feet in ancient times".

After the birthday lunch we had a spontaneous sing-a-long around the dining table.  One of our songs was "My Grandfather's clock" -  which we sang with great gusto.

My grandfather's clock
Was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half
Than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn
Of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.


Ninety years without slumbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
His life seconds numbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
It stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

I have two "wind up" clocks -  a 30 day wall clock and a 7 day mantle clock.  In the quietness of my home I am often soothed by the "tick, tock, tick, tock" of these clocks.

I rejoice in the digital age.  I think that it is a pity that my younger relatives and friends will never doze off  for an afternoon nap with the soothing sounds of "tick, tock, tick, tock"!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

. Of making many books there is no end

Our fabulous Sarasota County (FL) Libraries uses an automated checkout system by which receipts are issued when book are borrowed.

I kept all my receipts for 2010 and thereby discovered that I borrowed and read 54 books during the year.  One a week is not too shabby!

I major in history and biography.  This year I’ve read some biographies of fabulous women whose lives inspire me.  They include Catherine the Great of Russia, Queen Elizabeth I of England, Queen Anne (legally the first Queen of the United Kingdom).

Equally if not more inspiring have been the biographies of Anne Hutchinson (a woman who defied the male leadership of the Massachusetts Bay Colony);  of Ida Tarbell, a remarkable investigative journalist;  and of Dorothy Parker – an American ”wit” but much, much more than simply a “wit”.

In fiction I have been engrossed with the works of the great Willa Cather. I enjoyed “Death comes to the Archbishop”, (it is one of her finest novels), but her “My Antonia” charmed me even more.

I learned a great deal from a biography of the one and only Confederate States of America President – Jefferson Davis; and of the ghastly English fascist and H-tler sycophant Diane Mosley.

One a lighter side I giggled my way through “The finer points of sausage dogs”, and “Portuguese irregular verbs”, together with “At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances”: each by Alexander McCall Smith.

(I purchased but one book this year, using a Barnes and Noble gift card which had been given me at Christmas 2009.  It was a sweet book, also by Alexander McCall Smith, entitled “La’s Orchestra Saves the World”. Having enjoyed this book immensely I sent it  to my Pittsfield friend Gwen Sears, asking that she would read it and then pass it on to yet another person.  My hope was that person after person would read the book, write her or his name on the title page, and then “pass it on again”.  I wonder if this has happened.)

Earlier this month I read the story of an Iranian dissident, Zarah Ghanramani.  It’s an astonishing and haunting tale of a young woman who defied the current and ghastly Iranian regime.  The book is entitled “My life as a traitor”. It should be a “must read” for those who, like I, are deeply committed to progressive feminism.

Back in September I was browsing the library shelves for some fiction by Taylor Caldwell.   I selected “God’s Little Acre”. ‘Twas  only when I got home that I realised that  I’d selected the wrong Caldwell.   My book was by Erskine Caldwell.  It’s searing novel (published in 1933) about the industrialisation of the “South”. 

This 77 year old novel is at the top of my 2010 “favourite reading” list.
Despite the warning of the biblical book “Ecclesiastes” (see the above  title for this entry), 

I will be back at the Library in early 2011.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages.

My pal Ben and I, together with Ben’s friend Claudette (visiting from Stephentown, New York) took ourselves this afternoon to Sarasota’s “PAL Sailor Circus”.  More about that in a minute.

Before the performance we had lunch at the wonderful “Panera Bread” (just across the road from the Big Top on Bahia Vista Street).  “Panera Bread” is a fabulous franchised cafe at which the soups, salads and sandwiches are superb.  The place was mobbed, but we eventually found a table for two, around which we made room for three.  This table was alongside a wall.

Once seated, I looked to my left.  At the very next table were two women from St. Boniface Church.  We chatted for a bit.  Then I looked back, and immediately behind me were two women from All Angels Church.  We also chatted.  Next, a husband and wife took the table immediately in front of ours. “Gosh and golly” – they were also from St. B’s.

I try not to be paranoid, but it felt odd that I was surrounded by six people from the two parishes at which I serve!  (Were they there to check up on me?!). 

Sarasota has a great Circus heritage.  It was for many years the winter home of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus.  (My home is built where the circus used to winter).

In keeping with that heritage we have the “Sailor Circus”, which is a fabulous organisation for children.  

(I am told that it was at one time a part of the Sarasota High School whose sports teams have the nickname of “Sailor” – hence the title of the circus).

These days it is sponsored by the Police Athletic League -  hence the name “PAL Sailor Circus”.  It is a year round activity for children and youth, drawing school children from at least 38 local schools.

This afternoon’s performance was entirely terrific.  It involved at least ninety-eight school-children, ranging in age from (say) 8 to 18.   

The trapeze acts were delightful, as were the jugglers, the clowns, and the four feet high children on six feet stilts.  It was great to see the fourteen youngsters who were tumblers.  And the sight of forty children on unicycles brought smiles and cheers all round.

Most impressive were the four young women and one young man who “flew through the air with the greatest of ease - such magnificent youths on the flying trapeze”!

The highlight for me was to see and enjoy four children from St. Boniface Church as members of the Circus.  Congratulations Hannah, Jacob, Logan and Skailar!

The lowlight was that there were no Hispanic or Black children in the show.

Above all else, it was an immense joy to see these ninety-eight children give of their very best with incredible skill and athleticism. 
 It was heartening to note that this skill and athleticism was rooted in cooperation, rather than in competition

There’s a concept for us!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Resisting the Alleluia creep

There’s a story that sometime around 1980 a Pentecostal Christian attended an Episcopal Church with her friend from work.  During the sermon, the visitor began to utter a few fervent “Alleluias” in accordance with her heritage. 

 A frosty man seated in front of her turned around and glared.  “We don’t say “Alleluia” in the Episcopal Church”, he hissed.

Her Episcopalian friend squeezed her hand and said in a loud whisper “Oh yes we do, it’s on page 366 in the Prayer Book”.

Indeed the 1976/79 Book of Common Prayer offers Episcopalians the chance to express fervent alleluias; indeed “double alleluias”.  We do so between Easter Day and the Day of Pentecost (The Great Fifty Days), at the dismissal. At that point the Deacon exclaims: “Alleluia. Alleluia. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.  Then the congregation responds with “Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Alleluia”.

 It’s an exciting affirmation of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus it is a powerful liturgical moment which  the Prayer Book reserves  to those “Great Fifty Days”, which we observe as “Extraordinary Time”.

Many congregations are now, (aided and abetted in many cases by their Cleric) extending that “double alleluia” to “Ordinary Time”.  In some places the double alleluia is becoming the year round norm. 

The alleluias are often shrieked out, in a manner which Alan Greenspan might describe as irrational exuberance, or which I would call congregational self-congratulation.

This bothers me. So I was heartened to learn that a friend of mine, a Priest who lives in Maine is similarly bothered.

I suspect that we each would say that our “botheration” is rooted in this: “If the extra-ordinary becomes ordinary, then that “extra-ordinary” is sadly diminished.

That concept is not reserved to matters liturgical.  Most Americans enjoy our Thanksgiving holiday as an extra-ordinary day marked in particular by the foods we eat.  But if on every Thursday of the year we feasted on  turkey with chestnut dressing, sweet potatoes, peas with onions, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and pumpkin or pecan pie (etc, etc) then the fourth Thursday of November (in the U.S.A.)  will cease to have its particular meaning.

And so it is in the matter of the “Alleluia creep”.

In some places the “irrational exuberance” leads to the congregational recitation of a triple alleluia, each one being uttered louder than the previous.  

The American Prayer Book wisely reserves a triple alleluia to only one liturgy (so far as I am aware).  It is in the Liturgy for Christian Burial. There we hear these faith filled words “All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia”. We are thereby  “thumbing our noses at death” – so to speak.

I respect and honour the biblical wisdom of the American Prayer book which restricts double Alleluias to  Easter, and triple Alleluias to Burials. That prayer book wisdom is meet and right.  

Indeed it is meet and right to resist the “Alleluia creep”.  What do you think?

Monday, 27 December 2010

Back in the saddle

I have been back in the saddle in recent days. It was my privilege to preside at five celebrations of the Eucharist, and to preach three sermons.

Thursday 23rd Dec.  At the weekly Healing Eucharist and Sermon at St. Boniface on Siesta Key, FL.

Friday 24th Dec. As Presider on Christmas Eve at St. Boniface Midnight Mass. (The Rector, Ted Copland had laryngitis).  I arrived home at 12:45 a.m. Christmas Day.  I had forgotten how I used to get so “wound up” after Midnight Mass that I could not sleep for a while!  So it was 2:00 a.m. afore I went to bed  (my usual bedtime is 9:00 p.m.!)

Saturday 25th Dec.  As Presider at the 11:00 a.m. St. Boniface Christmas Day Eucharist (the Rector still had laryngitis!).
(My good friend and colleague Andi Taylor the Assistant at St. B's  preached different sermons at Midnight Mass and on Christmas Day.  She was smoking hot each time! [She and I knew, liked, and respected each other in Massachusetts.]

Sunday 26th Dec. (Boxing Day).  I presided and preached at 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.  at my “other parish”,  All Angels by the Sea on Longboat Key, FL,  so that its good Rector David Danner could have a Sunday off.  I had one sermon for 8:00, and another for 10:00.

WOW!  I am grateful for the trust bestowed upon me by the two Rectors.  And I think, (as it has been said), that it is better to wear out than to rust away.

Here are Christmas Eve pics of me with Andi Taylor and with Ted Copland. (You'll see the St. B's Deacon, the Revd Alan Rogers in the mirror.  He was taking the photo'!)