Saturday, 21 February 2015

Marriage equality?

Back in my Chicopee days (1980-84) I agreed to offer prayer at a ceremony in which two women would pledge their love and fidelity to each other.  Some called these ceremonies "Holy Unions".
Then I chickened out (to my shame). I was afraid of my Bishop and his likely unfavourable reaction.
In Pittsfield  (1984 -2000) I offered prayer at two such "Holy Unions", one in the Chapel at St. Stephen's, and another in a Hotel Ballroom.  I was beginning to lose my fear of Bishops.
This was nn the basis that God "blessed" the relationships between Ruth and Naomi, and between David and Jonathan (without believing for a moment that those biblical tender friendships were in any way comparable to modern understandings of same sex relationships).
Those ceremonies had no legal force.  But the legalities began to change in  the U.S.A  particularly in Massachusetts back in 2004, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that same sex marriages were permissible.  (The route to that decision was far more complicated than I could explain in a few sentences).
The then Bishop of Massachusetts ( the late Bishop Thomas Shaw), ruled that Clerics in the Diocese could bless same sex marriages, provided that the Civil Ceremony had been conducted by a Justice of the Peace (or some other authorized person).
Thus it was that in 2006 I presided at a Eucharist of Blessing for the Senior Warden at St. James's, George Van Hazinga, and his partner the Revd Ed. Greene.
Their legal marriage took place in our parish hall, from whence we proceeded to the Sanctuary for the Eucharist and Blessing.
I had taken care to share my decision with the Vestry  (the ruling body in a local Episcopal Church). I made it clear that I was not seeking their permission, but that I valued their opinion.  I asked the members of the Vestry to speak - one by one.    I heard joyful affirmation from every member except one.
She, a congenitally conservative parishioner from the West Indies said something like this,   "I used to be against gay and lesbian couples until two lesbians moved into the house next to mine.  I grew to like them, and to appreciate their relationship.  I still do not know what to think about the blessing of the Church on same sex marriages, BUT I WILL ATTEND THE CEREMONY".
What a grace-filled response.  She attended the Eucharist of Blessing!
Incidentally, when the Liturgy called for a Prayer of Blessing, I invited all Ordained Ministers of whatever denomination  to join me at the Altar.  If my memory serves me well ten other Ministers joined with me in that Blessing.
Because of Court rulings same sex marriages are now legally permissibly in conservative Florida.
(My local Bishop of South West Florida has not authorized  Clerics to preside at them).
But (with his knowledge) I attended the wedding of my friends Rick and John last Friday at our local Unitarian-Universalist congregation.  The ceremony (for me) was a bit arid because there was no prayer, and no mention of God. Such is the wont of some U-U's.
AND FOR  GOODNESS SAKE , I am still not sure what my theological mind thinks about such ceremonies.    But I was present because of my fondness and respect for John and Rick.
Rick and John exchange vows.
Exchanging Rings
My friend Ben - on the left, with another friend Bob to his right.
A gorgeous after wedding feast.
The Cake
Rick's poodles Louis (l) Vuitton (r)

My dog Penne is crazily in love with these two poodles. She sniffs their nether regions at every opportunity.  They do not resist!
Here I am with Vuitton
My "bestie" Ben and I tuck in to our lunch.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Is Rudy Guiliani a racist? Does President Obama love America?

Former New York City Mayor said this yesterday at a political gathering in Wisconsin.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Mr. Giuliani said at the event. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”  (Quotation from the N.Y.Times)

Of course Hizzoner was right in one aspect. He is quoted as having said "I know this is a horrible thing to say".  It is horrible.

Was it a racist statement (as many have claimed)?   I simply do not know, for I do not know what is in the ex-Mayor's heart.

But what did he mean by "He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up"?   I ask: "Is there a standard "all-American" way in which children are brought up?  Or are there many ways in which children are brought up, and by which they become loyal, useful and caring citizens?

Does President Obama love America?  I simply do not know, for I do not know what is in the President's heart.

But it is hard for me to understand how he would and could  endure "The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune" ( Shakespeare)  if he did not desire and work for the very best for all Americans.

That I believe he has done  (even as I have disagreements with some of his policies).

For you see,  "love"  can be defined in all too many ways. It is a slippery word.  It can, for instance, be used to get one's own selfish ways ( e.g., "I want to have sex with you because I love you", OR "I am only saying this because I loved you", etc. etc.)

Love is more than a catch phrase to end conversations "Love you!":  it is more than running up the flag and saluting it (any knave can do that).

I believe that the truest love is that which wants the very best for others, and speaks and works to enable that to happen.

On that basis I believe  that my President works tirelessly for the best for all of us, and speaks and works to make that happen. For that I honour him, even when I disagree with him.

Would that ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani could have a similar generosity of spirit.


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Ash Wednesday: Anglo-Catholics, Protestants, and Puritans.

For reasons which are lost in the mists of history, the congregation in which I hang my hat does not have an early morning Ash Wednesday service.  The morning service there is at 10:00 a.m. which for folks like I who arise at 4:30 a.m.,  is the middle of the day.

So today I took myself to Sarasota's  Anglo-Catholic "The Church of the Redeemer"  for their 7:00 a.m. service.  Now there's a sensible time!

I rarely attend "Redeemer" (a strong, growing, and thriving congregation) because that congregation will not allow the ministry of ordained women, a sine qua non for me. 
(More's the pity since Redeemer has solid preaching, seamless liturgy, and superb music).
With those reservations in mind, (and despite the all-male presence at the "Altar"), I was glad to be there this morning.
With about sixty others (at 7:00 a.m.!) I relaxed in a simple and unfussy Liturgy.  But I was "most glad" and grateful for the sermon which was preached by the Rector at Redeemer, Fred Robinson.
He reminded us that when we were baptized, our parents made the decision to raise us as Christians, and that the Minister made the sign of the Cross on our brows.
He went on to say that we, grateful for our parents' decision, "ratified" that  choice when we chose to be confirmed - signifying our own choice to "follow Jesus".
He linked this with the sign of the Cross, made with Ashes, and placed on  brows on Ash Wednesday with the central and vital truth that Christians are those who have decided to follow Jesus.
Within his sermon we sang (a-capella): 
"I have decided to follow Jesus (x3)
No turning back, no turning back"
Fred's sermon ( as the Puritans might have said)  "spoke to my condition".
Ash Wednesday  brings out my Protestant self, so although when I was a Rector I "imposed"  ashes with wild abandon,  I did not receive them today:  such are the minor inconsistencies  of life.
Ashes or not I am grateful for my brother Fred Robinson's sermon today.
Ashes:  Remember that thou are dust, and to dust thou shalt return. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Shrive(n), Shrove, and Pancakes

In middle English the word "shrive" meant "to confess one's sins, and to receive priestly absolution (and penances)  on the day before Ash Wednesday.
Hence that day became known as "Shrove Tuesday" i.e. the day on which one was "shriven".
The word survived the Protestant reformation in England, and although the "Romish" practices of auricular confession, absolution and penance were rightly  abandoned in favour of the gospel message of "free salvation" in the name and grace of Jesus Christ, the "Shrove Tuesday" tradition would not die.

It "hung in there" via the old tradition of using up eggs and oils for Lent in favour of the meatless days of Lent.
What do you do with eggs and oils?  You make pancakes!

That tradition was so deeply rooted in English and Welsh (but not Scottish) consciousness that even in deeply protestant Churches  (such as the Plymouth Brethren in which I was raised), we had pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (which we called "Pancake Day").

But these were not the indigestible and globby "pancakes" of the American tradition (the ones which have to be drowned in genuine Maple syrup or faus Sugar syrups to be made palatable.

In truth they were really "*Crepes", which would be sprinkled with sugar, and with a bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice, and then rolled up.

So darn good.  What an annual treat.  And a labour of loving intensity for our Mum.

* (We probably called them "pancakes"  so that as proud Englishmen/women we would not have to use a French word!!).
American pancakes (ugh!)
U.K. pancakes/crepes (delicious!) 
Pancakes/crepes with sugar and lemon juice.  Our Shrove Tuesday "treat"

To amend an old saying:  "you can take the boy out of England, but you cannot take England out of the boy". 

Monday, 16 February 2015


The word conveys the sense of listless or sluggish, (according to the O.E.D.)

I have been logey all day long, so much so that I wanted to re-schedule my date to share Holy Communion  lunch with St. Boniface Parishioner Carl H-K at the assisted living residence which is his home.

I did not do re-schedule, , for who knows:  I may be even more logey tomorrow; then comes Ash Wednesday with its own freight, and on Thursday I am supposed/required to attend a Diocese of South West Florida events for clerics:  -  a communion service, followed by a bun fight (a.k.a. lunch).

In the event Carl and I had a pleasant visit as we shared Communion, and the lunch was (as always) first class.

The logey-ness has persisted. You know all about it: :  -  that feeling of tiredness around the eyes, with weary limbs, and a somewhat dizzy head.

Miss Penne has kept me on my feet  (yes, we've had our usual five walks -  totaling three miles).

Who could resist her "beseeching" and beautiful brown eyes?  NOT I SIR!

I'll be in bed soon after 7:00 p.m. this evening, and yes, I'll do the patriotic American thing by swallowing two "over the counter" sleeping pills.  Gotta keep the economy and "Big Pharma" in good shape. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

"And I say to myself 'what a wonderful day'" (with a bit of sadness)

A bit of sadness.

I think that it was on Wednesday last that I decided to visit George M at "The Pines" Nursing Home and Rehab Centre here in SRQ.

George (God bless him) was the son, grandson, and brother of  Ministers in the Episcopal Church.

I met him first  (with his brother Bill) at the Episcopal Church on Longboat Key, (All Angels by the Sea"), and later at St. Boniface Church on Siesta Key.

His brother Bill was a retired Minister, who died last year. 

George himself has had a hard time in recent years.  First he had a leg amputation (because of a mean and nasty infection),

and second because of some surgery on his spine ( surgery which did not go well).

Hence he was at "The Pines" for rehab. That's why I visited him.

Yesterday (14th Feb 2015) George ate his breakfast at The Pines, and then scooted out in his wheel-chair to sneak a smoke on a patio (where he and I had sneaked smoke last Tuesday).

BUT, after this cigarette, George keeled over and died.

I will miss him, even as I am grateful for the grace which urged me to visit with him last Wednesday.



1.  Liz C was a parishioner at St. Stephen's in Pittsfield,  I like and admire her, even though we have not see each other in fifteen years.

She let me know that she would be in Englewood, FL this weekend to visit her Mum, and that they would like to hook up with me. (Liz teaches at the Conte School in Pittsfield, MA where she knows some of the grand-children of the late Barbara Hanger).

With that in mind I asked our Rector if I might preside at the 11:15 a.m. Eucharist today at St. B's so that I could "strut my stuff" for Liz and her Mum.

He readily assented.  This was so damn cool, for the preacher was our Assistant Rector,  Andi (Andrea) Taylor who I adore.  We love ministering together. (Andi and I knew and liked  each other in the Diocese of  Massachusetts).

Andi's sermon was outstanding.

2.  The Sunday 11:15 a.m. service at St. B's often features church music from the classical era. 

Today was no exception.   The anthem was "The Heavens are telling the Glory of  God"  from the Oratorio "Creation" by Haydn.

That took me back to some fifty-six years ago when I sang it with  the superb choir of Fairfield Grammar School (Bristol, U.K.) at our annual concert in Bristol's Colston Hall.  I thank God for Fairfield's Music Teacher W.J. (Dickie) Richards who introduced me to great music.

3. One of the regulars at St. B's 11:15 service is a fabulous (octogenarian?)woman whose name is Adelaide F.  I love to watch her as we recite the Nicene Creed.

For you see, Adelaide does not merely say the Creed.  Her entire affect and body language indicates that in fact she is praying the Creed. 

I watched  her this morning at Creed tine, and got all misty eyed.  Her prayerful recitation of the Creed is inspiring,