Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pet Blessing on Sunday

Come to All Saints on Sunday at 5 p.m. with your companion animal (appropriately caged or leashed) for the annual blessing of the pets. Eucharist with Canterbury MSU will follow immediately after the blessing, on the lawn in front of the church.

Bring a friend or neighbor along to share the joy!


+ Kit

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sowing Seeds of Hope ... That's All Saints!

In 2007, the vestry voted to use the entirety of the Van Auken seminarian fund to support a single seminarian ... Wisnel Dejardin, of Haiti. The money we provided was used by Virginia Theological Seminary to provide English language immersion for Wisnel last summer, prior to his entering VTS this fall.

Wisnel had to go from no English to Master's degree-level English in just a few months. He began seminary classes in August, with a jump-start in Biblical Greek. He is taking a full load this fall, including New Testament and Old Testament, in addition to pastoral training classes and that pesky Biblical Greek. All Saints' financial support of his English training has made it possible for him to even attempt this course load (with the help of a regular English tutor).

Of course, once we did this, the Van Auken fund was emptied. So one man from the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere would get a shot, but what about others?

Virginia Seminary recently announced that it has received a grant to provide similar English-language training for incoming seminarians from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The Carpenter grant will provide in-country training as well as U.S. immersion for seminarians from these two countries.

All Saints' support for this immersion program was a first for VTS. Now with the Carpenter grant, what our one parish did one time, will transform into a long-term program that will benefit others.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rummage Through Our Rummage Sale

There's an Undercroft full of stuff waiting for you at the rummage sale. It runs today, Friday, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This seems to be the year of the vacuum cleaner and the coffee maker. But there's lots more than that to explore.

+ Kit

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 20

A man had two sons ... Jesus loves these parables with fathers and sons. This one is about the sons who were asked to go work in the vineyard. One said no, and went anyway. The other said yes and did not go. The one who did as his father bid was the one who said no and went anyway.

Everytime we think it's just about believing the right way, Jesus comes along to remind us that we have to do the right thing. To walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Are you doing or just believing this week? Are you out there in the vineyard? If not, why not?

+ Kit

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Praying for the Economy

I read that Trinity Episcopal Church on Wall Street (which was such an important pastoral presence after 9/11) has become a refuge for the battered New Yorker again. Specifically, the workers of the financial district, who are coming to midweek services to pray and to cry, and even to ask the clergy for financial assistance.

It is tempting, when one is a faithful, regular churchgoer, to want to look down one's nose at the folks who only show up during a national or personal crisis, or who only turn up on Christmas and Easter. But those very people are the reason we keep our doors open and our community strong. So that when they come to our churches, whatever is driving them, they find us already worshipping, already witnessing, already ready to welcome them in Christ's name.

+ Kit

Monday, September 22, 2008

Collecting Your Clutter

The basement of the church is now receiving your items for our fall rummage sale (this coming Friday evening and Saturday day). This is a good time for you to go through your closets and cull out those things you no longer need or want and bring them by for the sale.

But may I suggest that you make this a spiritual practice? You can do this in several ways.

1) As you clean out the clutter, think about what clutter in your mind or life you need to remove to make more room for God. What's filling up your thoughts and energies that you might lay aside?

2) As you sort, you will invariably come across things that once had meaning for you, that once were fresh and new, that once amused you (or simply that once FIT you!). As these items pass through your hands, say a prayer of thanksgiving for the time they were useful. Or ask for healing for a time that was not pleasant. Or pray for the strength to diet back into that size pants again. But use the objects as a way to open up conversation with God.

3) Pray for the people who will purchase your items. Pray for their health and happiness, their future and their security.

And Rebecca McKee would want me to add -- if your spirituality finds its meaning in action, she could use your help sorting, selling and cleaning up!

+ Kit

Friday, September 19, 2008

Christians and the Election

The best thing out there on faith and the election is this piece by Sara Miles.

Please read it, prayerfully and thoughtfully. Please forward it to people you know who are just a little more tied up in this election stuff than they might want to be if they sat down and asked, "What Would Jesus Do?"

And pray.



Thursday, September 18, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 19

Pay day for the workers in the vineyard brings some startling surprises in
this week's gospel lesson. Those who worked all day get paid the usual daily wage.

And so do the ones who only worked one hour.

How do you hear this lesson, living in a union community? It's certainly not fair. But is it unjust? Who is God in this lesson for you, if the ones who work the least get paid the same as the ones who work the longest? What does that say to you about God's generosity and our own small-mindedness?

Have you ever gotten goodness you did not earn?

+ Kit

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Putting it Back Together

Last Saturday, with the sermon still only partly written, my computer went crazy. The virus protection program started saying viruses were trying to invade. I rebooted, and the whole thing got very strange, error messages, threats, requests that I click here, click there.

My computer had been invaded by a dozen or more viruses and it needed to die. Wendell couldn't make it better. I was freaking out ... all my pictures, all my sermons, class notes, stewardship letters, genealogy charts ... (at least all my emails live on the web). The SERMON! (Well that got finished late at night at church.)

The computer died. I managed to scrape off it my documents and my pictures. That was it. Wendell reset it to factory settings and it was fresh and new like the day I got it. Every single program, document, etc. had to be reinstalled.

It made me extremely grouchy.

It also made me realize how extremely petty my grouchiness was. Because if I was this worked up over one computer, imagine how I would be if I were the woman in the picture above, sorting through the wreck of her Texas home after last weekend's hurricane, searching for pieces of her grandmother's china.

From the bridge in Mirebalais, Haiti, to the flattened landscape of Galveston, to the overflowing Grand River, Ike left his mark in a wide swathe. So many people felt the storm's destructive force.

In the end, it's your health and life and the safety of your loved ones that counts. But once that is assured, cleaning up, rebuilding, restoring, can take years, as we have seen with Katrina. It creates financial hardship, physical deprivation, stress, grief and anger.

Please: pray for all those affected by the storm, from the Caribbean to the Midwest.
Please: consider making a donation to the Red Cross or Episcopal Relief and Development.
Please: Remember to keep a sense of humor when life's little problems loom large. Things could be much worse.

+ Kit

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Ike is still on my mind ... I dreamed about Haiti last night, and I am concerned for friends and colleagues in Texas.

As this massive storm approaches the U.S., keep all affected by it in prayer. Also, I saw today in the paper that these storms have put the Red Cross deeply in debt. The Red Cross is always there during these catastrophes. Please remember the Red Cross and also Episcopal Relief and Development with your gifts.

+ Kit

Thursday, September 11, 2008

From "90210" to the Pulpit and Back

The Rev. Ann Gillespie has taken a trip back to her roots as a member of the cast of "Beverly Hills 90210". She plays alcoholic Jackie Taylor, Kelly's troubled mom.

After a career in Hollywood, Gillespie (the daughter of an Episcopal priest) got tired of the Hollywood scene, felt the call and moved her family across country to attend THE Protestant Episcopal Seminary in Virginia (also known as Virginia Theological Seminary, alma mater of mine and Sarah Midzalkowski's.) Now she is associate rector at historic Christ Church-Alexandria, Va., where George Washington once worshipped.

But when "90210" returned in a remake version this fall, they wanted to keep Jackie Taylor as a character. Gillespie took off the plastic collar and headed west once more, to play the sort of person she would spend hours counseling in real life.

Lots of clergy have "previous lives" that their parishioners don't really know much about. Chaplain Sarah, for example, worked in costuming on Broadway for several years, on shows like "The Lion King." I was editor of Discovery Channel's print magazine.

But then God gets all in the mix, and the church gets all in the mix, and the next thing you know, it's the plastic collar and the pulpit.

Or not. God can call us out of one career into another that actually has nothing to do with the Episcopal Church. The challenge is to be responsive to those movements of the Spirit that lead us from one stage of our life into the next, from one vocation into another.

+ Kit

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 18

This week's reading from
Exodus takes us to the shores of the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds), where the Israelites find themselves up against the water with the Egyptians at their backs. It's like one of those cop show chases, where the suspect ends up in an alley, back to the wall and no way out.

Except in this case, God has no intention of letting the Egyptians recapture His people. Moses miraculously parts the water, the Israelites pass through, the Egyptians are drowned as the waters return.

You can get into endless debates about the historicity of this ... was there a tide that cleared the sand, was there a wind that blew the waters back, was there even a Moses or an Exodus at all ...

I would rather ask the question: What does it mean to follow a God who will NOT let you return to slavery? Who will not let you go back to your old ways, your old habits, the leeks and onions of Egypt? What does it mean to follow a God who "makes a way out of no way?"

When has God made a "way out of no way" for you, delivered you from the brink of destruction, brought you safely through at last?

+ Kit

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I am Religious, Not Spiritual

“I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious.”

This has become an incredibly popular statement in recent years. In a Beliefnet excerpt from his book, “Spiritual, But Not Religious,” Robert C. Fuller estimates that about one in every five people describes themselves this way. The increasing individualism and consumerism in modern culture has also extended into the realm of the spiritual. People who describe themselves this way see spirituality as something private, not public, something personal, not communal, and something they can design and control and devise, rather than something handed to them by an institution of some sort.

Fuller quotes researchers who say such folks are “less likely to evaluate religiousness positively, less likely to engage in traditional forms of worship such as church attendance and prayer, less likely to engage in group experiences related to spiritual growth, more likely to be agnostic, more likely to characterize religiousness and spirituality as different and nonoverlapping concepts, more likely to hold nontraditional beliefs, and more likely to have had mystical experiences.”

Practically, this statement – “I’m spiritual but not religious” -- has a way of raising a wall between a regular, church-going sort of person and a friend or colleague who has no intention of becoming a regular, church-going sort of person. It says, “Back off. Don’t butt into my private relationship or lack of relationship with the Divine. I know all about you ‘religious’ folks. You want to tell me I’m going to hell or imply there’s something wrong with me. Well, I have my own way of connecting – or not – with God. So shut up.”

Well, that’s how I hear it any way. It may not be what is intended, when the person speaks it. But it cuts. It says to me that the person believes that “spiritual” is somehow more authentic, more noble than “religious”, with its checkered history of pogroms and persecutions, its tedious liturgies and self-righteous evangelistic approaches. It makes me -- as a sort of regular, church-going person who actually is religious -- feel like a representative of the Spanish Inquisition or a denizen of the shiniest buckle in the Bible Belt.

But I have decided to feel inferior to these “spiritual but not religious” people no more. I am going to claim my identity as “religious but not spiritual.”
What do I mean by that? I mean to celebrate the fact that one can become part of a faith community and enter into its life and practices and find meaning there, without ever having been smacked over the head by a supernatural experience. That one can choose to adhere to the tenets and expectations of a religious community and let that life of following those expectations create a space within one’s soul where the spiritual might occur. That – much like entering into a long marriage, rather than looking to hook ups for love and affection – one might find that the long, tedious, faithful activities of a committed relationship actually can make one a larger and more loving person than one would have been otherwise, left to one’s own devices.

I mean that discipline, duty, and devotion to a religious community can work as well for the spiritual life as it does for the physical life. No one says, “I’m athletic but I don’t work out.” No one says, “I’m tennis player but I have no partners.” To become athletic, a person has to move. It helps even more if one joins a team or a health club or gets a personal trainer. To become a tennis player, you have to play tennis with other people. You can only get so far whacking the ball against a concrete wall day after day.

Religion, admittedly, has brought the world its share of grief. But religion has also given the world hospitals and health clinics, universities and inner-city schools. Religion has fed the hungry and clothed the naked. Religion gave us Habitat for Humanity. It gave us Bach. It gave us Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Religion, faithfully practiced, might even help the “spiritual but not religious” folks to grow more spiritual, to be more connected to God, and to give them fellow travelers on the way who can help them in their spiritual quests.

I’m glad that I am religious. My religious life forces me to think about God even when I don’t feel like it. It inspires me to be a better person than I actually want to be. It connects me to people I never would seek out on my own and helps me to relate to them as my brothers and sisters in the eyes of God. It believes for me when I don’t feel like believing. It prays for me when I can’t pray. It opens the pathway to God for me, week in and week out, and invites me to take another step along the way.

So, yes, I have joined the “I’m religious, but not spiritual” group on Facebook. I honestly think that this may be an idea whose time has come -- especially for those shy and staid sort of folks who go to church dutifully every Sunday, cook casseroles for families with new babies, work on the Habitat house, make a pledge, show up at church clean-up day, haul their protesting teenagers to youth group, who remember their church in their will, but who … urk … cough … struggle to offer up an extemporaneous prayer, or to articulate what exactly it is they are doing here, anyway.

There are more of us out there than you think. Religious, but maybe not quite so spiritual.

+ Kit

This piece appeared yesterday on Episcopal Cafe.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hurricane Ike Batters Mirebalais

Well, after dodging two hurricanes, the little town of Mirebalais, Haiti, is getting hit with heavy rains and winds from Hurricane Ike. This is the town where the Haiti Outreach Mission has its clinic and orphanage. It is also the home town of Wisnel Dejardin, the seminarian we are sponsoring at VTS.

Here is the report from Dominique Matthews that I received today:

Hi Everyone,
Just spoke to both Fr Jeannot and Fr Faublas. The rain started in Mirebalais last night and things are getting a bit rough over there. The bridge that is just around the corner from the Mirage Hotel that leads to the orphanage is gone. Fr Faublas is unable to get to the orphanage at this time. A lot of people have lost their homes. We are praying that water does not start to get to the orphanage itself.
There is a bridge near Montrouis that was also demolished by the water. The only way to Port-au-Prince now is thru the new road, however there is concern for the bridge we take from PAP to get to Mirebalais, if anything happens to that bridge then they will be completely cut off from PAP.
Please let's join together in prayers for the people of Haiti, and most specifically for the people of Mirebalais. Our prayers are also with Fr Jeannot & Fr Faublas because they have a lot on their hands with Parishioners without homes and there may be some deaths as well. If I remember correctly there are lots of little houses near the bridge.
I will keep you updated as to what is going on.

We'll have more information as we get it. Right now I have not heard any news that Fr. Jeannot and Fr. Faublas are going to change their plans to come to the U.S. for the HOM annual meeting on September 21. So we still hope to host Pere Jeannot in church in a couple weeks.


+ Kit

Friday, September 5, 2008

What's YOUR Favorite Hymn?

And why?

You can use the "comments" button to reply.

+ Kit

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 17

The gospel lesson for
this week presents one of the sanest, most straightforward methods of resolving conflict between two people.

That Jesus, he knew what he was talking about. And what he was talking about was not talking but listening.

In the community of Jesus' followers, we are supposed to listen honestly to a brother or sister if they have a complaint against us. And the brother or sister with a complaint is supposed to trust that they can be heard. Because even if the one person doesn't listen, you go back with two or three others to support you. And if the one person STILL doesn't listen, you state your complaint in front of the whole community. And if the person STILL doesn't listen, that person is to become to you as a "Gentile and a tax collector."

Hmmm, who was Jesus always trying to reach out to? Gentiles and tax collectors.

So Jesus is telling us how to go about being heard, and to trust that eventually we WILL be heard. That we can be restored to right relationship with someone in the community, if we just hang in there with it.

Is All Saints that sort of community where this sort of listening and reconciliation can happen? What do you think?

+ Kit

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Well, That's That, Then

I know, summer's been ending for weeks, as MSU and LCC got back to work. But the first roar of the school bus always means summer's end to me.

One year, on Labor Day, our community pool was about to close for the season. It had been a long, glorious summer, our kids just the perfect age to participate in all of it -- swim meets, sharks and minnows, hanging on the snack bar window, rocketing off the high dive. There were about 20 children in the pool when the final whistle blew. But they weren't ready for it to be over yet.

Slowly and reverently as their parents watched, they formed a long parade and slowly swam around the perimeter of the pool. And as the lights flickered on to illuminate their progress, one girl stopped at each light, dipped below the surface and kissed it farewell. Summer ended with that solemn parade.

Now it's time for something new, and for the same old rituals as well. The first home football game is next Saturday. We'll bless the Sunday School teachers in church next Sunday. And things will rev up and start to get humming again.

But I hope each of us can take a moment today to say farewell to summer in a way that works for you, that honors the beauty of the season, that prepares you for what God is about to do with you next, as fall approaches.

+ Kit

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Anglican Communion as Family

In the September issue of The Record, our Diocesan newspaper, Carol Cole Flanagan offers an insightful look at the Anglican Communion as a family -- the sort that can put the "fun" in "dysfunctional."

The article also gives a quick look at some of the ways that the late great rabbi, Ed Friedman, applied family systems theory to organizations. Ed realized that any organization is an organism, and human organizations organize themselves according to certain principles.

Basically, your family works like a family, but so does your workplace, so does the church, so does the choir, and so does your bridge club. That's why Bowen Family Systems Theory, which Murray Bowen developed in his work as a family therapist, has become so widely applied in any number of disciplines. It really explains why groups of people behave the way they do. Understanding why can help you function better in any group, whether that's ECW or the PTA, in the weekly department meeting or in the classroom.

We'll be looking at some of these organizing principles in the Wednesday night class that starts September 10 -- Family Ties That Bind. We start with supper at 6 p.m., then the class runs from 6:30-7:30 p.m.