Saturday, 25 June 2011

From the closet to pride.

Some 32 years ago I attended a four day christian education conference in St. Louis, MO.  There was a huge attendance with folks from all over the United States and Canada.  Just about every “mainstream” protestant church was represented. 

If my memory is correct the conference was organised to launch a new ecumenical church school (sunday school) curriculum.

It was a heady event for this fairly recently ordained priest.

Came the closing eucharist, and in the prayers a man “dared” to pray “for our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers”.

His prayer made me so angry.  “Why”, I asked myself,”does he have to bring this into our worship?”

My anger arose from being deeply closeted and utterly hypocritical.  Truth to be told I had been flirting with a very beautiful Presbyterian man earlier that day.  

 But I had managed to live my life in compartments.

One of the compartments allowed me to flirt with other men.

Another compartment made me angry that “the gay and lesbian issue” should be brought into worship.

It’s been a long 32 years. During that time I have been closeted, semi-closeted, fearful, and risk taking. 

As recently as the year 2000 I accepted a call to be the Rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church, Cambridge, MA having obfuscated in my replies to questions about why I had never married.

On the other hand I had created and enabled a gay and lesbian fellowship at St. Stephen’s, Pittsfield, MA where I had been Rector from 1984 – 2000. 

For you see, I had been all in favour of liberation for my dear parishioners, but I had been unable to accept God’s graceful liberation for myself.

I am sure that some of the parishioners in Fitchburg, Chicopee, Pittsfield and Cambridge had “sussed me out”.  But they and I were content to live in a conspiracy of silence.

In the end closets, silence, and obfuscation are dangerous. They are dangerous for the ones who keep the secret.  They are dangerous for the one for whom the secret is kept.

In my long journey I have not have been always truthful about myself. But I have never allowed gay or lesbian christians to be thrown to the wolves.

In my long journey I did not “come out” in the public arena until (with my Rector’s permission) I outed myself in a sermon at St. Boniface Church, Sarasota FL, about 22 months ago.

Today June 25th 2011 I attended my very first “gay pride” event over in St. Petersburg, FL.  I did more than “attend”.  

Indeed I walked with pride with “the friends of St Aelred” from the S.W. Florida Diocesan Cathedral; and with good friends from my home parish, St. Boniface, Siesta Key. FL

I was energized by the hundreds of “walkers” representing so many religious, civic, political, and social organisations.

I was delighted to see families with children who sat kerbside to cheer us on.

I was amazed to see the thousands of people who lined the streets to wish us well.

All this after a day on which the New York State legislature approved same sex marriage in that State:  - (bravo to those Republican legislators who broke ranks and voted for equal treatment under the law).

And in a strange way I am also glad that I live in a country in which the anti-gay folks can make their voices to be heard, and their signs to be read.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Breaking the rules

1.     Four weeks ago I enabled my nephew (Sam aged 15) to break the rules.  I did so my allowing him to “drive” our rented Jet Ski/ Wave Runner.

The rules state that that drivers should be aged at least 16, and/or have taken a course in boating safety.

My heart/intuition told me that Sam is a very sensible and reliable young man; and that he needed a few minutes of freedom, adventure and bliss.

2. Our County, City, and Condo Association rules state that dogs must be leashed at all times when they are outside.  These are sensible rules: they are designed to enable the safety of the dogs, and the safety of humans.

Notwithstanding the wisdom of the “dog leash laws” I occasionally take Penne off her leash, and then delight as she races and bounds around. I did so earlier this evening.

It was I who enabled first a nephew, and then a pet, to live outside the rules.

And it was I who was willing to take the responsibility if things went wrong.

I believe that the loving G-d longs for us to act freely even if we break her/his rules, provided that:

 (a) (We) are willing to take responsibility for our own rule breaking, and that

(b) (We) are willing to take responsibility for any harm caused by our actions

Thursday, 23 June 2011

"Whitey" Bulger and "Southie":

Today the newspapers have been filled with the story of the arrest of the reputed Boston Mobster, James “Whitey” Bulger in California.  He has been on the lam for sixteen years.

Whitey Bulger was a legendary figure in South Boston (“Southie”).

“Southie” used to be a predominately Irish community, with enormous rates of poverty. 

“Whitey” was viewed there as a Robin Hood character – stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Even today (June 23rd 2011) I heard one old Southie man say “he never let people go hungry”. 

And a young Southie woman said “He’s 82 years old, they should have left him alone. I am sure that he has changed. I am sure

But it is entirely clear that this semi-folk hero was capable of abominably vicious, cruel, and murderous behaviour.

Today’s news surprised me.  I had thought that James Bulger was either dead, or that he was beyond the reach of the law in some remote or obscure place. 

I give kudos to the FBI which, overcoming past and documented corruption in the Whitey Bulger case, acted like the RCMP and “got their man”.

If you are interested in the Southie story I urge you to purchase the following. It’s a sad, truthful and poignant story of Southie and Whitey Bulger. (It’s a tale which both increased my understanding, and made me weep.)

Here is a review of the book.

Here is the first chapter.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

On the cusp of a rant

I am on the cusp of a rant, so I’ll keep this brief.
In the United States our politicians are obsessed with “national security”, (‘tis probably true in other countries).

So we have a huge “national security apparatus” including the military, the CIA, the FBI, the “Patriot Act”, and a myriad of other agencies.

The focus is on supposed terrorist threats at home and abroad. The costs are enormous and beyond comprehension.

I believe that there are far greater and more urgent threats to our security. I list them.

1.   Climate change

2.   The need for pure and potable water

3.   The depletion of the ocean’s stocks of edible fish

4.   The wholesale pollution of many of our planet’s oceans

5.   The unhealthy and dangerous foods which are hawked by agri-business

6.   Over population

7.   The international “house of cards” in banking, derivatives, and other dubious financial schemes

Enough already, but I fear that our “civilisation” is close to imploding.

Of course I hope to be proven wrong, but my “reading of the tea leaves” suggests a scary scenario.

In all of this I express two great sadnesses.

a.   That my President, Barack Obama has been co-opted by the national security apparatus and therefore he fails to see the greater threats.

b.   That the Churches are so concerned with doctrine and survival that they have lost a moral compass with which to help to shape the future.

Psalm 55 verses 11 and 12 seems to be so very apposite to my mini-rant.

11 Day and night the watchmen make their rounds
                             upon her walls, *
    but trouble and misery are in the midst of her.
12 There is corruption at her heart; *
    her streets are never free of oppression and deceit

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Diane Rehm Show

One of the finest programmes on America’s NPR (National Public Radio) is the “Diane Rehm Show” out of WAMU and NPR.

Diane is a superb interviewer and interlocutor.  She is fantastically honest and balanced in the questions she asks of her guests.  She has a great skill in teasing out honest answers.

It is wondrous that Diane Rehm (aged 73) still has a broadcasting career given her health history (see more about this on the website).

Diane never comes across as an ideological feminist (not that such a position is wrong -  we need many more feminists in the public realm).

YET I am always delighted to hear the list of the producers of her show, viz: Sandra Pinkhart, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, and Sarah Ashworth.

What a delight it is to listen to a programme which is hosted by a woman, and produced by six other women!

It’s a vital, necessary, and important counter balance to the testosterone driven world of news and communications.

Yeah for Diane and her staff!

Monday, 20 June 2011

. Should auld acquaintance

Joyce is  a dear friend.  I admire and respect her greatly.  We’ve known each other for about 16 years.

  Our friendship began when she and her late husband Michael moved to Pittsfield, MA and became involved at St. Stephen’s Parish in that City.

Joyce and I last saw each other some three years ago when my Brasílian friend Gabriel and I flew out to Phoenix (where she now lives), and spent a few days enjoying the Arizona desert, and basking in Joyce’s hospitality.

She’s in Miami, FL this week for a conference related to her work (with Hospice of the Valley, Phoenix AZ).   So she flew in a day early, and I drove from SRQ to MIA so that we could enjoy each other again.

It was a brief enough visit, but I would not have missed it for the world! We hooked up at a La Quinta Inn near the Miami Airport, and scarcely stopped talking for 18 hours! (Well, we did each manage to get five hours of sleep!).

Last evening (19th June) we drove into South Beach, Miami.  There we oohed and aahed at the Art Deco buildings, and enjoyed dinner at  where we sat at an outdoor table, admired all the beautiful people*, and ate very good food.

Maya is hardly a classical tapas restaurant. It serves larger portions than the “tapas” tradition would dictate.  Nonetheless we ordered and shared four dishes, each was utterly delicious!

1. Beef Carpaccio.  2. Spicy Calamari.  3. Chorizo with Garbanzo beans in a tomato sauce.  4. Avocado salad. * The people around us were indeed beautiful and cool. 

South Beach is reputed to be very gay, but you’d hardly have known it.   We saw only one young gay male couple who walked by, all unabashed and holding hands. We goggled at gorgeous young women in very skimpy clothes:- perhaps they were “would be models”.

We saw many lovely and handsome couples, in town to celebrate Juneteenth and/or Father’s Day. In the midst of all this energy and beauty, Joyce and I were delighted to be together, and to enjoy good (but pricey) food.  I have a number of after-thoughts:

1.     La Quinta Inns deliver a good product at a fair price.  I recommend them.
2.    The “Greater Miami” area is hopping and filled with energy.   It makes Sarasota feel like a funeral home, (but I still prefer Sarasota – only because it seems to be more manageable.). 
3.    I hate driving alone, but the over 500 miles round trip (tiring as it was) was so worthwhile – cos I got to be with my dear friend Joyce. 
4.    I was away from my home for just about 30 hours. But I missed my dog Penne so much. I am grateful to Jill who “dog-sat” for me. 
5.    Sorry – no photographs. The battery in my camera was exhausted. 
Last of all:  I met the most pretty and friendly cat, who hangs around at the La Quinta Inn (East) near the Miami Airport.  It seems that she was abandoned there by her former “owners”.  [The La Quinta chain is very pet friendly].  Members of the La Quinta staff make sure that this abandoned cat is well fed. But “Lord above” I would have brought this lovely “stray cat” home with me save that I already take care of two formerly abandoned cats: my dearest Ada and Adelaide.