Saturday, 17 February 2018

Allan Rogers - superb Deacon, and Richard Baxter noble Puritan.

It was my sad duty this morning to attend the Funeral service for the Revd. Allan D. Rogers aged 68.

I say duty because the last thing I wanted to do was to be at the funeral of this good man.  But I was there because doing the right thing should be more important than doing simply what pleases me.

Allan was a Deacon par excellence, a faithful husband to his wife Holly through her long illness, a devoted father to their only child Sandie and her spouse Rebecca;  and a beloved Rogers family member (his parents and his two sisters yet live).

Equally important Allan was a passionate Christian, a worthy and trusty servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So many of us at St. Boniface Church in Sarasota also thought of Allan as a good friend during his fifteen years of service in the parish.

The Liturgy of the Episcopal Church served us well this morning. The familiar words of the Book of Common Prayer are an anchor in times of joy, and in times of unspeakable grief.

To my personal delight the opening hymn was "Ye Holy Angels Bright" by the godly and gracious English Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691).

In my opinion it is one of the finest hymns in the English tradition.  It speaks of a fabulous descending hierarchy of song

The Angels to "assist our song".

The Faithful Departed to "God's praises sound, 
as in his sight with sweet delight  ye do abound".

The Church on earth to "adore your heavenly King, and onward as ye go  some joyful anthem sing"

The individual Christian to "bear thou thy part, 
triumph in God above: and with a well-tuned heart 
sing thou the songs of love!' 

I so much like the fourth stanza.  Baxter does not bid us to have a well tuned voice, but a well tuned heart.

Utterly beloved Allan D. Rogers had that well tuned heart!    Oh such gratitude for Allan. Oh such grief that he died. His life was filled with praise,


Full text of the Baxter's great hymn.

Ye holy angels bright, 
who wait at God's right hand, 
or through the realms of light 
fly at your Lord's command, 
assist our song, 
for else the theme 
too high doth seem 
for mortal tongue.

Ye blessed souls at rest, 
who ran this earthly race 
and now, from sin released, 
behold your Savior's face, 
his praises sound, 
as in his sight 
with sweet delight 
ye do abound.

Ye saints, who toil below, 
adore your heavenly King, 
and onward as ye go 
some joyful anthem sing; 
take what he gives 
and praise him still, 
through good or ill, 
who ever lives!

My soul, bear thou thy part, 
triumph in God above: 
and with a well-tuned heart 
sing thou the songs of love! 
Let all thy days 
till life shall end, 
whate'er he send, 
be filled with praise!  

(as sung in Manchester (U.K.) Cathedral)

Friday, 16 February 2018

Adventures with Uber

I chose to use UBER for my trip downtown and back yesterday.

It's fun to watch the graphic on my smart 'phone, showing the journey of the nearest available driver.

It's possible to see the wrong turns the driver takes, or  the U-turns she or he has to make because GPS/SatNav is not always reliable.  I watch, and want to say "no, no, not that way".

The driver on my first journey was chatty beyond belief.   I heard all about his wife and family, his hopes to buy a "fixer-upper" home, his dreams for his daughters, and his philosophy of life.

He was the quintessential first generation immigrant who wants no more than to earn, to save, to buy a home, and to make a better life for his family.

There was one wee problem. I sat in the front passenger seat, and every time he talked to me he turned to look at me, and not at the road ahead. I suppose that it's good that I was not seated in the rear, nevertheless the ride was a bit hairy. (And I kept my mouth shut about some of his bizarre theres about life).

The driver on the way home was from Palmetto, FL (some 15 miles north of downtown SRQ  via not very fast roads).

He is very new to South West Florida and utterly unfamiliar with Sarasota.

I watched his approach on my 'phone, and thanks to the graphic I saw  that he had arrived at the back entrance to the Church not the front.

As we journeyed home I realised that he had not entered the destination (my home) on the GPS/SatNav, instead it was still set to the Church address.   The GPS/SatNav voice kept urging us to make U-Turns  (to take us back to the Church), so I had to keep saying "don't do that, listen to my instructions instead".

He told me that he lurks in the downtown SRQ area at lunch time, and then goes near the airport at about 2:00 p.m.

It's a hard way to make a living.  I got the impression that my two drivers were doing all they could to scratch out some extra income via UBER.   That's why my (voluntary) tips were on the generous side.

UBER is a good model for business when capitalism is unrestrained and not regulated.

But it has a downside.  Many New York, NY traditional cab drivers have been so undercut by services such as UBER and Lyft that they can no longer earn a living wage (hard to do under any circumstances).

See this

Despite the Trumpian/Tea Party/Republican Party call for de-regulation I am in favour of wise Governmental regulation which  clips the wings of unrestrained Capitalism.  

President Theodore Roosevelt (R)  got it right:

Square Deal

"Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and commonsense."... "We must treat each man on his worth and merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive no less.""The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us."
New York State Fair, Syracuse, September 7, 1903

Thursday, 15 February 2018

A Lecture I attended today

It was sponsored by 

My ticket came via good friends Ron and Char who were unable to use their season ticket today.

The Lecture was given by

 Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter and editor and Emmy award-winning producer/correspondent, is one of America's most distinguished journalists. His current best-seller, Who Stole the American Dream?, is a portrait of the past 30 years of U.S. political and economic history. 

In 26 years with The New York Times, Mr. Smith served in Saigon, Cairo, Paris, and as bureau chief in Moscow and Washington. In 1971 he was on the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for the Pentagon Papers series. In 1974 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Russia and Eastern Europe. 

Smith's Lecture was titled "How Has President Trump Delivered for His Constituents? "

The answer is "very well" if you are a part of Trump's Core 

Constituency: White Evangelicals, White Males without a College 

Degree, and the rural poor.

Hedrick Smith's lecture was cold comfort for leftish and liberal 

voters such as I.

In my opinion Trump is a con artist "par excellence", and a Snake Oil salesman "sans pariel".

Giggle with me in that I can only use the French language to express my dismay and despair at the actions and inactions of the Trump Presidency. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Psst. Don't tell anyone

Psst.  Don't tell anyone  that I went to Church today, for the first time since May 2017 (Except for a  September Sunday in the U.K. when I attended Christ Church, Downend, Bristol, with my good friends Colin and Lorraine).

I seem to have lost the point of Church attendance, and I do not miss it.

But today is Ash Wednesday

so I took myself to Sarasota's downtown Episcopal Church  (the Church of the Redeemer).

Redeemer is very conservative and high church and will not allow Women Priests, so it could not be my regular Parish.

But this low church liberal attends there every Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  The early service (7:00 a.m. today) proceeds without fuss and bother, it is gentle and serene.

And I like and respect the Rector, Fred Robinson.  He and I have this tender bond -  we know that we'll see each other at least twice a year.  We find this to be lovingly amusing.

I am not crazy about "The Imposition of Ashes". 

Notwithstanding this the Litany of Penitence from the Episcopal Church Prayer Book "spoke to my condition" today.  Here's a bit of it:

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.

Have mercy on us, Lord.


We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.

Have mercy on us, Lord.


We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,

We confess to you, Lord.


Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,

We confess to you, Lord.


Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,

We confess to you, Lord.


Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,

We confess to you, Lord.


Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,

We confess to you, Lord.


Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,

Accept our repentance, Lord.


For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,

Accept our repentance, Lord.


For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,

Accept our repentance, Lord.


Such powerful and challenging words  which this miserable sinner truly needed to hear and pray today.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Mardi Gras/Carnival/Shrove Tuesday

The day before Ash Wednesday

Known in exuberant communities   as "Mardi Gras" (Fat Tuesday) a day to enjoy fatty foods before the Lenten Fast, or as "Carnival" (farewell to meat) for the same reasons.

In more austere places it is "Shrove Tuesday", a day to be shriven (absolved) from sin before the austerities of Lent.

In the U.K. and Commonwealth countries it has the more prosaic and practical name of "Pancake Day", or "Pancake Tuesday" (using up eggs and fat before Lent).  **  More about this below.

I should have eaten a wonderful Rib Eye steak today with its delicious fatty veins, perhaps with chips (French Fries) cooked in Lard.

Instead I made a more restrained batch of Black Bean soup (with pearl onions).

Utterly delicious

Then  I threw caution to the winds by making Rhubarb Fool for dessert. Oh that vein clogging whipped cream!


Many local Churches offered Pancake Tuesday suppers.  I avoided them like the plague.

These globby/stodgy/clogging  creations are made just about palatable with a judicious sprinkling of  genuine Maple syrup.

Maple Syrup is very expensive so they are usually swamped with ghastly and sickly sugar syrup.  Ugh!

My soul and body long for English Pancakes (truly Crepes).

They were a once in a year treat, squirted with fresh lemon juice and a half-teaspoonful of sugar, then rolled up to enjoy.

Mum made them only on Shrove Tuesday; such a labour intensive task when there were  nine children to feed. "Good ole Mum!"

Maybe my taste buds remember them so well because they were an annual treat.

I can smell them even as I write!

Chris Mazdzer rocks, and my sudden interest in the 2018 Winter Olympics. (and a Baptism!)

Chris Mazdzer won the Silver Medal for the Men's Single Luge in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea, a fabulous achievement.

I am not a great fan of sports so it took a while before I realised that I know Chris's parents.

They (Dr. Ed Mazdzer and Marty Lawthers) were great and gracious parishioners when I was the Rector at St. Stephen's, Pittsfield MA.

Ed. a gentle and gracious man, was doing his residency (?) in Neurology  at the Berkshire Medical Centre.

Marty is  a brilliant, joyful, and wise woman who enhanced our Parish life.

We  were so sad for us and glad for them  when they  left Pittsfield so that Ed. could establish his practice in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

I am 99% certain that I baptised the future Olympic Champion at St. Stephen's Parish in Pittsfield.

I cannot remember the ceremony itself and I bet the same is true of Chris!

But I am so happy for Ed and Marty, and for Chris, his twin younger sisters, and his girl friend who are in Korea even as I write.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Lucrezia Borgia 1480-1519 A woman to admire.

Lucrezia Borgia

"History is written by the winners".  They were mostly male. They often got it wrong. They damned Lucrezia Borgia because of her family.

Lucrezia Borgia (1480 - 1519) was the daughter of  Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia who became Pope Alexander VI,  and his mistress Vannozza dei Cattaniel  (also the mother by Alexander of Lucrezia's brother Cesari).

The Borgias,  ( in truth "Borjas", of Spanish heritage. from Valencia) were viewed as outsiders and with disdain by the Italian nobility.

Father Rodrigo and son Cesari Borgia were power crazed, violent, sexually cruel and avaricious.  And they were patrons of the arts!

As Pope, Rodrigo Borgia, now Alexander VI, was the head of the Catholic Church, and the head of the Papal States.

He was not much interested in religion, but he used his role as Pope to make money for his own wealth, (selling Bishoprics and Cardinal's hats etc).

He was chiefly concerned with defence and enlargement of the Papal States, and his own political power.

Thus he was in confusing and shifting alliances with various other Italian Duchies, Kingdoms and States: (Milan, The Venetian Republic, the Kingdom of Naples etc, together with the French King and the Spanish House of Aragon: sometimes they were allies, sometimes they were enemies. (Think modern day Syria).

To these political ends Pope Alexander and his wicked son Cesari arranged three marriages for Lucretia.

"Her family arranged several marriages for her that advanced their own political position including Giovanni Sforza (Lord of Pesaro), Alfonso of Aragon (Duke of Bisceglie), and Alfonso I d'Este (Duke of Ferrara). Tradition has it that Alfonso of Aragon was an illegitimate son of the King of Naples and that her brother Cesare may have had him murdered after his political value waned" (from Wikipedia).

Her first marriage was annulled (by her father the Pope of course!) on the dubious grounds that Giovanni Sforza was impotent.

Her second husband, Alfonzo of Aragon was murdered either by, or on the orders of Cesara Borgia.

Her third marriage, to Alfonso d'Este came after long and difficult political and financial negotiations  between the Papacy and the Este dynasty. (Lucrezia had no role in the negotiations  surprise, surprise!).

Once in Ferrara, Lucrezia gained  the respect of her father-in-law  Ercole I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara.

When he died her husband Alfonso became Duke, and she Duchess.

They seem to have had a loving and tender marriage. He was no saint and had numerous sexual liaisons when he was away in battle.  She  (as was common in those days) had secret lovers.

But in the frequent and many absences of Alfonso she was loved and respected as a firm, gentle and just "ruler in absence".  She is to be admired not damned.

Of course the life of Lucrezia is far more complicated than I can convey in a blog.

Thus I recommend the book "Lucrezia Borgia" by Sarah Bradford, Viking Books, 2004,  which I have just read.

"History is written by the winners".  They were mostly male. They often got it wrong. They damned Lucrezia Borgia because of her family.  

Not when you read Sarah Bradford's superb biography of Lucrezia.