Saturday, 8 January 2011


I am saddened, angered, frustrated, and confused about political violence in so many lands.

An American Congresswoman was shot today in Arizona.  Many prominent  political leaders in the U.S.A. have condemned this outrage, as well they should. 

This shooting illustrates that our democracy (and our ability to engage in civil discourse)  has very shallow roots.

But, in the absence of others, I ask you to note this:

That a nine year old girl was killed in this murderous rampage.

She was nine years old.

I cannot even begin to share the grief of her parents

Friday, 7 January 2011

My Rector is retiring.

My Rector is retiring in May of this year.

To be accurate he is not "my" Rector, he is the Rector of St. Boniface Church on Siesta Key here in Sarasota.

To be even more accurate, he is first and foremost my brother in Christ, Ted Copland.

Ted was ordained 43 years ago,  He has been Rector at St. Boniface for twenty years.  His skilled, wise and firm leadership has enabled St. Boniface Church to become one of the most whole and healthy parishes in the Episcopal Church.

My first reaction to the news was to think and say "good for you Ted  (and good for your wife Judy)".  My own adventure into retirement has led me into the happiest time of my life, and I know this will be true for Judy and Ted.

 Then I became a wee bit anxious.  For you see, I have always been the Rector who has left: -  Fitchburg for Chicopee, Chicopee for Pittsfield, Pittsfield for Cambridge, and Cambridge into retirement.  I always assured the people of God in those places that though we would miss each other, in the love and faith of God they would do well with whoever became the new Rector.

But I've never had a Rector leave me!  Hence my anxiety.  It is impossible to imagine a St. Boniface Church without Ted and Judy.

What is possible is to envisage a St. Boniface's which grows even more strong in faith and good works.  This growth will continue the day after Ted leaves, thanks to the grace of the Holy Spirit and the strong cadre of wise lay leaders.  That same Spirit and those same leaders will work together to call a new Rector.  

Whoever she or he is will inherit "* a field of health growth"  which has been splendidly plowed, watered, fertilized and nurtured these past twenty years under Ted's fine stewardship.

(* see 1 Corinthians 3 v 9 )

That being the case, I (and we) are also feeling appropriately sad because our Rector is retiring.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The Magi

"Blogger" has been doing strange things with the entries which I "cut and paste" from a word document, e.g. publishing some of my text in upper case/capital letters.  This is beyond my control!  But I have changed the template on this blog to see if this will solve the problem.

Last evening (Jan 5th) I presided at an Eve of the Epiphany Eucharist at St. Boniface Church on Siesta Key here in Sarasota FL.

I did not preach.  Instead I played a track from a C.D. on which T.S.Eliot reads his fabulous poem "The Journey of the Magi" (Thanks to Regina who gave me this C.D.).  I gave out printed copies of the poem so that the worshipers could both see and hear the words.

Here is the text of the poem, together with  with a link to YouTube on which T.S. himself can be heard reading it.


The Journey of the Magi,  T.S. Elliott

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Longing for beauty

I live in a world in which there is so much ugliness. I see this in the ghastly and terrifying ways in which humans engage in angry and cruel behaviours -  from the family to the nation state. I see it in the ways in which humans have desecrated and defiled the earth, the rivers, the oceans and the sky.  I see it in the appalling ways by which religious leaders (who should, one would think, know better) treat women.

My list could go on and on.  Maybe you have a list of your own.

In the midst of this, I find myself longing for beauty.  This came home to me full force the other night in a dream.  More about this later, but do pay attention to your dreams.

The beauty of which I speak is that which is never sought.  It comes all unexpectedly, and in my case it often provokes tears. 

I think of the first time I heard a piece of music named “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” by George Frederick Handel.   I was a wee shaver of a lad, maybe five or six years old.  What I heard was so beautiful that I began to cry.

Then there was the face of Rina, a septuagenarian woman of Italian birth. She was a parishioner in Pittsfield.  I was moved to tears by the beauty of the face of an old woman.

When I first heard T.S. Elliot’s poem “The Journey of the Magi”, I was similarly moved.  The 43 lines of this poem led me to a place in which I said “This is so beautiful -  how could another man sum up all my hopes, fears and desires with such fearful accuracy?” 

The poem will be my blog tomorrow.  In the Christian calendar Jan 6th is the “Feast of the Epiphany” -  a commemoration of the visit of the wise men to the child Jesus.  (The poem needs to be read out loud!).

This unexpected beauty is wonderful. It is also troublesome, for we can never return to it.  Beauty is experienced in the minute.

My dream was powerful.  In it I was driving a car through some streets in England, on my way to “somewhere”. The dream-journey took me to a valley, and now I was not driving, but hovering.

I was hovering over a place with such incredible beauty.  It was a gentle valley, with lovely meadows, and a fast flowing river.  Even as I hovered (seeing the dream scene in full colour) I was aware that this was a place of unutterable beauty. I thought (within the dream) “I know this place”.

The dream moved on and I was back into City driving. I wanted to go back to the lovely valley, but try as I might, I could not find it again.

That dream has haunted me for days.  It has reminded me that I cannot go back to an earlier experience of beauty.  What I experienced “back then” was a gift for the moment.  I’ll never again weep at the sound of Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”, try as I might.

But the dream has also made me long for sensitive eyes and ears, and smell, taste and touch which will be sensitive and receptive to “unutterable beauty” whenever it chooses to surprise me to tears.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Cats, Dog. Me and God

Ada, my senior cat, is so gentle and sweet.  She eats well and sleeps a lot. She loves to be near me.  If I allowed it she would sleep on my bed, with her little head resting on my outstretched hand. Should I give her no more than a “wink and a nod” she will jump up onto my lap and snuggle in,  ready for each and every caress.

Junior cat Adelaide is a non-stop prowler.  She wanders around my home from dawn to dusk seeking I know not what.  She is also a “whiner” and issues frequent and insistent miaows, (not meows!).  She will often walk very near to me, but if I reach out a hand to smooth her, she will run away.   But sometimes she is close enough for me to seize her (I have to be quick!). Just as soon as I have plonked her on to my lap she ceases her miaowing, and purrs with delight as I massage her ears.

Penne the dog is anxious to please me.  When we are in the house she checks up on me about every thirty minutes.  When we walk out she frequently looks up at me, seeking (I think) my encouragement and re-assurance that she is a “very good dog”.

There is a bit of Ada, Adelaide, and Penne in me.  I see this in my interactions with other people, and in my inconsistent relationship with “G-d/The Holy One/The mystery of our being/ The evolutionary process” - whatever you call it.  I’ll leave you to figure that out.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Oh my!

Oh my!  I had it fixed firmly in my mind that the party yesterday was for Muriel’s 80th birthday ---   don’t ask me why.

A couple of time at the party she insisted that she was but 74, but I thought that she was being coy about her real age.
In my defence (?) -  I remind folks that eighty is the new sixty!

Of course, the real reason for my mistake is that I have only two ‘O’ levels.  That’s why I make so many mistakes over and over again.  (There’s a bit of a private joke between Muriel and I there).

It was a wonderful party.  Muriel had this to say about it:
I celebrated my 74th [NOT 80th!!] birthday in grand style yesterday--wined,dined AND serenaded by the incomparable 'Brit Birthday Bashers"--British humour at its best!
Thank you one and all for your wonderful birthday wishes, be they expressed in person,by telephone or online.You truly made this birthday one I shall never forget!

Muriel is famous for her hats

So I borrowed a hat to help celebrate her birthday

Michael, Andrew, Sue, and Jack sing to Muriel