Saturday, 24 September 2011

Randi and her boys

Randi lives in a neighbouring community.  I do not know her last name.

But I know that she had an illustrious career as a dog trainer.  She now owns four sheep dogs, all “rescues”, including a German shepherd. 

Randi is completely mobile, but her husband needs to use an electric wheel-chair.

They say that “necessity is the mother of invention”, and Randi has put this proverb to good use.  She zooms around the neighbourhood in the wheel-chair, and her four leashed dogs trot along merrily, enjoying their work-outs.  It’s a wonderful sight.

Here are some pics of “Randi and her boys”.  Sadly they do not convey the wonder of the sight when they are all in full trot.

Friday, 23 September 2011

St. Boniface Church - trial run audio sermon

St. Boniface Church on Siesta Key in Sarasota FL is working towards having audios of sermons on its website.

My 8:00 a.m. sermon was recorded last Sunday and is attached to the website for a trial run.  will take you to the website.  Then click on Worship.  Go to the bottom of the page top hear the sermon.  The sound quality is a bit quirky at the beginning.

The sermon is based on the parable of the workers in the vineyard  (Matthew 20:1-16)

I was surprised to hear how “English” I sound.  I also thought that my voice sounded a bit “parsonical”, and that was not good.

And of course it’s hard to perceive from either a written text or an audio only version the sense of engagement with the congregation which brings preaching to life (or kills it!)

It’s also a bit hard to discern the two places when I was speaking tongue in cheek (here they are in the text form)

1.     And, truth to tell, life has been very unfair to me.  If I had gotten only that which I’d deserved I most certainly would not have been living this comfortable retirement life in Sarasota.  I don’t deserve this.  It’s all been a gift

2.      Let’s take another look at the story.  Let’s imagine ourselves not as the workers, but as the landowner. Let’s imagine that we have been richly blessed in any number of ways. Blessed with education, Blessed with holy friendships. Blessed with food and shelter.  Above all blessed with something we never deserved or earned: blessed with the mercy of  God.  Oh, life has been so unfair to us. God has been so unfair to us.  It’s so unfair that we have received such blessings. (It’s hard to preach with my tongue in my cheek!).

Thursday, 22 September 2011

As I walked out

On Tuesday 20th September 2011 I was honoured to be a guest for dinner at the Lakewood Ranch, Florida home of Muriel Quinn, a St. Boniface Church, Sarasota parishioner.

Muriel hails from Oldham, Lancashire.  She is a fabulous woman of my generation, a former teacher of the French language, and now a wonderful singer in our Church choir.

It’s “kinda” cool that she and I have become friends in the fourth quarter of our lives.  Since my move to Florida in 2006 I have come to understand that we humans are never too old to make new friends.

Muriel served us superb rib eye steak, together with baked potato and a delicious salad. ‘Twas a good evening.

Muriel was very happy to include my dog Penne in the invitation.  I was so proud of my pooch.  After her quick exploration of a new space she relaxed and settled down, causing not a moment of anxiety. ‘Tis so wonderful that I can take Penne out to dinner, knowing that she will be so well behaved.

Earlier as I drove to Muriel’s home I passed a wee pond at which I saw a roseate spoon bill.    What a thrill.  These are the most gorgeous of water fowl.

A few minutes later I drove past two sandhill cranes. These are also entirely lovely birds and I uttered a wee note of joy when I saw them.

I did not have my camera in the car, so the pictures of sand hill cranes and a roseate spoonbill are from “the web”.

But not so the rainbow:  this is a photo’ which I took earlier this evening from the back of my home.  Humans can become very jaded or bored -   but their spirits are so often lifted by the sight of a rainbow.

Roseate Spoonbill (from the web)

Sandhill Cranes (from the web)

Evening Rainbow  (my photo')

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Class warfare (Retail 3)

It cannot be easy to work as a cashier/clerk in a retail business.
The hours are long, and/or unpredictable.  Most of them are spent standing up: - it’s leg and back aching work.  The pay is low, and in these United States the benefits are minimal (few or no paid holidays, no health care insurance, no pension scheme).
And that’s just the start.

1.   The local store management might be considerate and understanding, or it might be tyrannical – I’ve seen both.

2.   But the regional management (at, for example, a district office) seems to have no understanding of human needs. That level of management lives in the world of goals, objectives, spread-sheets and sales targets.  Theirs is a deeply de-personalised world.

3.   If the store is quiet the cashier/clerk is expected to “tarry forth” and stock shelves, all the while with “eyes in the back of her/his head” for the lone and impatient customer who comes to the check-out with his gallon of ice-cream and five out of date coupons.

4.   If the store is busy the cashier/clerk is expected to wait on fifteen customers each bearing fifteen items and fifteen coupons all in the space of fifteen minutes  (well you get the picture!).

5.   Ah yes – the customers!  Many (if not most) of them are likely to be cheerful and understanding folks.  Not a few of them are lonely folks who enter the store not so much to buy as to chat.  But then there are the perpetually angry bastards who spew venom at the cashier/clerk for a thousand reasons or none.

I was in one of my local supermarkets this morning.  My clerk/cashier was Jessica.   She is a single mother (probably in her early thirties).  She has two part time jobs, and works long hours with low pay to support her and her child.  I am always happy to see Jessica.

She seemed to be sad today. I asked her about this, and she told me that it had been a morning during which several customers had yelled at her -  about matters beyond her control.  I did my best to assure her of my respect and admiration. 

In truth I wanted to stand next to her, ready to punch the next obnoxious customer on the nose.  Jessica should not have to suffer as a result of such out of control behaviours.

American Repuglican and Tea Party folks have accused President Obama of waging class warfare as a result of his proposals for a more just tax code.

They, of course, have written the “class warfare” script with their relentless attacks upon: the poor; the lower incomed; the minorities; the union members; the school-teachers  ---  the list goes on and on and on.

I want to begin some class warfare on behalf of the Jessica’s of this world who, against all odds, work their buns off in order to provide basic housing, and a simple diet for themselves and for their family members.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Retail (2) Good - Odd - Not so good - Very bad. At Best Buy

GOOD    I visited our local “Best Buy” to shop for a Tablet. I knew a little bit about the difference between the iPad and the Android systems.  I also knew that I’d be likely to use the Tablet for features such as internet access, Skype phone service, and e-books – but that I would not often  (if ever) use it to download music or movies, or to play games.

The man who waited on me was polite and attentive. I’ll call him “Rod”.  He “knew his stuff” and clear and concise in addressing my many questions.  This was customer service at its best.

I bought a Toshiba “Thrive” Tablet.  (Yes I know that iPads are sexier and are set up for so many more Apps, but they are also more expensive -  and I will not be in the market for many of the Apps).

“Best Buy” always has a front desk staff member who greets customers as they arrive, and salutes them when they leave. On that day I asked this “greeter” to convey to “management” that I had been well pleased with the service “Rod” had provided, and especially that he had not tried to sell me something which I did not need.

ODD  “Rod” had assured me that “Best Buy” staff are not on commission, and that once I had made up my mind any staff member could help me. 

So it was “Doug” (not his real name) who took care of me when I was ready to buy.   He opened up a locked cabinet ‘neath the display shelf, only to discover that it was void of Thrive Tablets. 

That meant that he had to wander off to a store room in the nether regions of the shop to see if there were any “Thrives” in stock. This took him about ten minutes.

It struck me as a bit odd that a store which is devoted to electronics did not have a more sophisticated system for inventory management.   I would have thought that in such a store:

a)  (a)  There would be a computerised system to ensure the replenishment of in-store products, or that

b)  (b)  “Doug” would have been provided with some sort of hand held device by which he could check whether or not products were “on shelf” in the back room.  (I’m just saying!).


“Doug” found me a “Thrive” from the back room.  But he was not qualified to ring up my purchase.  So I was handed over to “Pete”. 

“Pete” seemed to be very bored with his job.  First he sent “Doug” off on another peregrination to find just the right to enable WiFi access at my home. That took about ten minutes, during which it became clear to me that “Doug” was a mere gopher.

Good old Doug found the router. 

Then the comedy began. Bored “Pete” got onto his hand held; chatted on a blue-tooth device; and then entered what must have been a zillion key strokes on the “cash register” - all in the noble effort to set up an appointment for Best Buys “Geek Squad” to come to my home to set up a WiFi connection.

I almost “lost it” in laughter.  I was giggling about this “electronic age”.   In the old days “Pete” would have pulled out a ledger or journal, and with a stubby pencil he would have arranged my installation appointment in about two minutes (max). In the new electronic age this process took nearly 20 minutes.


The employees at my local “Best Buy” stores in Sarasota (there are two of them) are almost exclusively white and male.   I know that with a wee bit of creative imagination and recruiting “Best Buy” could employ many more women and minority males.

It’s not only that they could. For this customer they should.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sermon for 18th September 2011.

Sermon for 18th September 2011.  The Revd.  J. Michael Povey at St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key FL
Matthew 20:1-16

When you’ve looked at a bin of onions in your local store have you ever thought “that vegetable has a dry and brittle outer skin, it can’t possibly be good to eat?”

When you’ve looked at a bible have you ever thought “that book has a distinctively unattractive and slightly forbidding cover, it can’t possibly have anything worth reading”?

The business of understanding the books of the bible is a bit like peeling an onion.  We need to get beyond the obvious surface, and then go layer after layer. In that process we discover that biblical texts are capable of a multitude of meanings.

One of the layers in today’s story raises the question “why did Matthew include this story as he assembled his writings?”   If you know a bit about the gospels you will recall that “Matthew” is a nom de plume for the leader or leaders of an early part of the Jesus movement.  In the first place, all the members of this movement were Jewish.  Then Gentiles became attracted to the Jesus movement and its message of the Kingdom of Heaven.  To some, these Gentiles were “Johnny come latelys” who were getting the same benefits of the mercy of God without having “worked all day”: that is without having to be faithful to the Torah with its challenging requirements for living a Godly life.  

We can suppose that some were saying: “it’s not fair. We have been slogging along all day long to be faithful to God and these Gentiles – these lazy un-documented  -  oh I meant un-circumcised Gentiles are getting the same mercy as God has given us. It’s just not fair”.

“It’s not fair”.  We probably learned to say that soon after we learned to walk and talk.  We have an immature expectation that life should be fair, particularly if that “fairness” is weighted in our favour.  It may not be fair that a younger sister or brother had a slice of cake which was smaller than ours, but it’s certainly fair that we got the bigger slice!  

Much of our spiritual and emotional growing up has taught us that life is indeed not fair.  It wasn’t fair to the almost 3,000 people who perished in the World Trade Centre atrocity, nor was it fair to their dearest family members and friends. It isn’t fair to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been rendered homeless by flooding in Pakistan.  

And, truth to tell, life has been very unfair to me.  If I had gotten only that which I’d deserved I most certainly would not have been living this comfortable retirement life in Sarasota.  I don’t deserve this.  It’s all been a gift.

“That’s not fair” was probably in our minds and almost on our tongues as we heard the gospel again today.  We cannot but hear it through our ears which have been tuned to the free market capitalist system.  The story sounds “all wrong to us”.

Hold on will you!  What we have read is a story!  It’s just a story.  It’s a story which is designed to shock us, and at that level it works. 

But it is not a story about economics or labour practices.  It is a story about mercy.  And mercy is to be valued far above and beyond our notions of fairness, because mercy is rooted in justice.

Our Assistant Rector Andrea Taylor helped me to understand this.  She pointed out that those day labourers who were not hired until the eleventh hour had also had a tough day if it.  For their day had been filled with anxiety and a sense of impending doom that if no one hired them, then they would have to return to their homes shame-faced in the knowledge that their families would not have food the next day.  Remember these are day labourers who lived from pay check to pay check – on a daily basis. The landowner’s action was not rooted in fairness, it was rooted in mercy. “Blessed are the merciful” says Jesus, “for they shall obtain mercy”.

And  yet, we still do not like this story.  I think that it’s because we see ourselves as exclusively members of that first group, those who work all day, those who we think, surely deserved more.  

We have absorbed the message that what we do is more important than who we are. And ... oh my goodness ...  I do so much for God --- for the Church --- for my family.   None of them are very grateful.  I receive a mere pittance of thanks.  And in this downward spiral of self justification and self pity I forget that it’s all about mercy.  I forget that my desire to serve God and the Church is rooted in gratitude for mercy.  And God offers all the mercy I need.

Let’s take another look at the story.  Let’s imagine ourselves not as the workers, but as the landowner. Let’s imagine that we have been richly blessed in any number of ways. Blessed with education, Blessed with holy friendships. Blessed with food and shelter.  Above all blessed with something we never deserved or earned: blessed with the mercy of  God.  Oh, life has been so unfair to us. God has been so unfair to us.  It’s so unfair that we have received such blessings. (It’s hard to preach with my tongue in my cheek!).

“Imagine that”, hell no!  It’s a fact.  We are indeed the rich landowners who have received so much, and it’s all been a gift.