Saturday, 10 January 2015

A prayer for my friends

A prayer from the Episcopal Church Prayer Book: - 

for my friend Sally C as she moves towards death, and for her husband Jim C and their daughters Ann and Mary.

Mary C is an especially beloved friend from my days at St. James's, Cambridge, MA

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie **

**  Title taken from an article by that name by Arthur Chu in  "The Daily Beast".

Following the ghastly and murderous rampage against staff of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, so folks have taken to saying and writing "Je Suis Charlie" as an expression  of support for the freedom of the press.

I cannot say that.

Of course I deplore the massacre  (why do we always have to include such disclaimers?)

Of course I believe in freedom of expression and freedom of the press (although the press in the U.S.A is not nearly as free as we would like to believe).

But Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie.

Charlie Hebdo is allegedly a satirical magazine.  I am all for satire.  But the best satire is subtle, and not immediately obvious.  (I think of  some of the satirical articles in "The Onion" which are so close to the truth that they are often taken for truth and passed around the internet).

Having (to the soiling of my eyes) seen some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons I believe them to be crude, vile, and entirely unpleasant.  They show all the old (and too familiar) caricatures of the avaricious hook-nosed Jew; the corrupt, mendacious and hypocritical Catholic Priest; and the violent and blood-thirsty Muslim.

They are on a par with some of the filthy anti-Jewish propaganda of the N-zi regime  (and of some elements in the modern Arab Muslim world).  They show no signs of subtlety, but are sophomoric (to say the least), and disgracefully crude (to say more). 

They feed into all the mean and miserable words and thoughts of  xenophobes, bigots, and racists everywhere.

Bigotry and hatred are bigotry and hatred, even when they mask themselves as humour or satire.

I do not believe in censorship by the State.  But I do believe that self-censorship is often wise -  it is an expression of humility.

But  with every respect for the dead and their grieving family members I have to say again that I deplore the massacre, but  Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Retirement life: Wednesday and Thursday, 7th and 8th December 2015

Wednesday mornings see me at Resurrection House (a day shelter for homeless people in SRQ), to lead a prayer service.  Attendance has been sparse in recent weeks.
But on both Wednesday 31st December 2014, and on Wednesday 7th January I met two different homeless men who each wanted to talk about their lives and failures.
I don't normally offer counsel, but on both weeks I decided to listen, and to respond with care.
In each case the men:
1. Blamed others for the failures which best them.
2. Could not be honest about their own responsibility, until I pressed them not to evade the truth.
3. Found many reasons to reject my suggestions regarding possible ways out of their mire.
"Tut tut", you say.
"Oh yes", I say. "I am often just like that".  I want to blame others for my failures; I fail to be deeply honest about my life;  I reject those suggestions which might upset my apple-cart (even though those suggestions might lead to a greater wholeness in my life).
I am them, except that I have a home and an income.
On the first Wednesday of each month I often share Holy Communion with a small group of St. Boniface Parish (SRQ)  folks who gather every Wednesday for a pot-luck dinner. (On the other Wednesdays of the month the group prays with the Anglican/Episcopal service of Evening Prayer, a service which does not need or require the presence of an ordained minister).
I like this service so much: 
First  because  (as it takes place in the parish hall) I can take my dominatrix (Penne my dog), who is universally adored. She now recognizes the space, and gets very excited when we get out of my car.  Last night the small group members were impressed because she was willing to lie down on command.  I said "just wait until you see her make the sign of the cross"!
Second because the "informal" nature of this service allows me to have great latitude in the way it proceeds.  (Of course I like being "in charge"!)
Last evening I chose not to preach.  Instead, after the bible readings, we kept silence.  (There is something which is mystically wonderful about shared silence).
The group, (assailed as we all are by too many words), expressed deep gratitude for this opportunity to be in a shared and prayerful silence.
I drove over to Lakeland FL today  (seventy miles away)  to have lunch with my beloved Dr. Grace Jones (a friend and contemporary from my Pittsfield days) and her new beau - a wonderful man named Mack.  (Grace, from Connecticut, and Mack, from Hawaii,  are  holidaying in Orlando, some fifty miles away from Lakeland).
Oh my goodness, it was such a deep joy to be with them.  I "adore" Grace, and I was delighted to meet Mack.
(We ate at a "Panera Bread"  - which brought back happy memories of the only other time I have been in that particular restaurant in Lakeland, five or six years ago.  That was when I hooked up with my dear niece Anne (from the U.K of course), her husband Stuart and their daughter Olivia - who were on holiday at Disney.)
Since I was to be away for about six hours, Miss Penne stayed with my "two doors away" neighbours Ed and Eddie  (the folks I visit in their summer home in Hendersonville, N.C.).  Penne is incredibly fond of Ed, so she settled down and relaxed in their home.  They enjoyed having her as a guest.
Of course she engaged in a disgraceful display of irrational exuberance when I got back home.  Anything less would have dismayed me. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Westb-rough B-ptist Ch-rch and the N-w Y-ork P-lice Dep-rtm-ent.

If you wonder about the hyphens in the title -  I use them to try to escape from folks who troll the net and make nasty comments.

Many of us have been greatly disturbed at the actions (or threatened actions) of some members of the infamous antigay  Westb-rough B-ptist Ch-rch, who have demonstrated at funerals (including funerals of military men and women who were killed in action).

There has been a consensus "across the board" (right-centre-left) that funerals are not the place to make political statements.

With that consensus in mind,  I suggest that the actions of some members of the NYPD (and other forces)  at the funerals of recently murdered NYC police officer are equally indecent.

One of the NYPD unions is convinced that the Mayor of New York City is insufficiently supportive of their service.  That union leader appears to believe that Mayor De Blasio should have unequivocally condemned public witnesses (demonstrations) against "out of line" cops.

Mayor De Blasio is well aware of our constitutional freedoms (such as they are), and he is well advised to support the rights of public assembly and of freedom of speech, even as he expresses appropriate public sympathy, outrage  and concern at the murder of those two policemen.

The Mayor's delicate tightrope walk is not enough for certain members of the NYPD who wish that he would in some way or another be opposed to those who protest against police brutality.

With that in mind they have, in  recent days,  "boo'ed" the Mayor, and turned their backs on a large-screen monitor of the Mayor's comments at a funeral of one of the slain officers. (Turning one's back at a T.V. monitor is a bit childish, n'est pas?)

It seems to me that their actions are utterly disrespectful of the men who were slain, and of their grieving family members.  Surely that shared grief should have trumped their political disagreements with the Mayor. 

Surely we all agree that funerals are not the place to make political statements - whether by members of the  Westb-rough B-ptist Ch-rch, or by members of the N-w Y-ork P-lice Dep-rtm-ent. 

Bear in mind that the NYPD is in contract negotiations with the City of New York.

There must be a way by which we can be supportive of Law Enforcement Officers,  whilst we also assert the right of ;peaceful protest against infringements on our liberties.

It is essential to assert that all Law Enforcement officers must operate under civilian oversight, lest we allow the police to be a law unto themselves:- which will be a journey towards a Police State.


(1)  I have a nephew-in- law who had to leave the (London) Metropolitan Police Force  following his serious injury,  (he is now blind in one eye), at the hands of a recalcitrant arrestee.

(2)  I have a great-nephew who has recently joined that same (London) Metropolitan Police Force.

(3) I respect them highly.

(4) See the following for some information about violence towards cops in the U.S.A.

 From “The Atlantic”  (Internet edition January 2015)

Here's Radley Balko quantifying those "risks" police officers face:

Policing has been getting safer for 20 years. In terms of raw number of deaths, 2013 was the safest year for cops since World War II. If we look at the rate of deaths, 2013 was the safest year for police in well over a century .... You’re more likely to be murdered simply by living in about half of the largest cities in America than you are while working as a police officer.

Nearly half of those deaths are from automobile accidents. Balko is somewhat frustrated that despite the empirical facts around policing, nothing seems to penetrate the narrative of police living under constant threat. Why? Is it that most people are just basically ignorant of the information? Is it that most people just believe, uncritically, what police officers tell them?

Monday, 5 January 2015

Jesus the surfer?

He was walking towards me on the other side of the street -  and the colours he was wearing were so bright and vivid that he could not be missed. Multi-coloured tee shirt, shorts with bright coloured trim, and tri-coloured sneakers.
Then he crossed the street just ahead of me, and I called out "great colours".  He, a lad of about seventeen, said "did you notice the tee shirt.  It's the resurrected Jesus, you can tell that because of the wound marks in his hands.  And because he is resurrected he does not need a surf board".
"Google images" enabled me to find an advertisement for that tee-shirt.

It was the young man's way of "witnessing".  He was so sweet, so sincere, and so engaging that I decided to say nothing except that I thought his shirt was cool.
And of course -   we believers also project so many of our own  hopes, prejudices, political ideas and thoughts onto the enigmatic Jesus of Nazareth, even if we do not wear tee-shirts.
None of us can lay claim to absolute  knowledge of the "real Jesus", (not even the New Testament writers).  ****
But we persist in the hope that in him we find way, truth and life.
(I draw a line at the idea, espoused by some American right wing Christians, of the "Heat Packing Jesus")

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Morning bonus

As I walked Penne in the semi-darkness soon after 6:00 a.m. today I paused to watch the first morning flight from SRQ airport,  as  the plane first flew east, and then made a huge turn, first to fly west, and then north.

As I looked into the western sky I forgot the plane and began to enjoy the almost full moon in the western sky.

The moon was shining bright in a gap between the clouds.  It was lovely, so very lovely. (Isn't it so great that the bright shining of  an almost full moon (or a full moon) still evokes delight.

This morning there was a bonus.  As I gazed west I saw a shooting star (or maybe a meteor). It evoked more than delight: -  for a second or two I was filled with wonder; a great antidote to my sometimes jaded view of life.