Monday, October 5, 2009

So what really happens in the Eucharist?

The short answer is ... we don't know.

However, I understand that there was a lot of discussion following Carrie Euler's presentation on Eucharistic controversies during the Reformation. People want to know... well, what do we think now?

It would be easy to take the dodge offered by (or attributed to) Elizabeth I:

Christ was the Word that spake it,
He took the bread and brake it,
And what that Word doth make it,
That I believe, and take it.

But we ought to be able to do some theological exploration around this. What do we think is happening in the Eucharist?

For now, I offer you this short essay I wrote some years ago on the matter. Later, we can talk more.



I believe that Christ is the Word of God, and that as that Word, Christ is made manifest throughout the entire Eucharistic action. Humans use words and gestures to communicate with each other; if God wants to communicate with humans, as we believe God does, what better way than to use the means of human communication, words and gestures, speech and symbols? And what better way to enter into full communication with humanity than in the Incarnation, by becoming an embodied human being, able to understand us by living as one of us, able to communicate with us by being one of us, using the media of our world – words and gestures, speech and symbols, to speak with us?

As God revealed God’s self to the Israelites, they began to set that revelation into words that described the history of their encounters with God. First the Law, the sacred covenant that outlined the nature of their relationship with the Creator. Then the Prophets, who interpreted Israel’s life with God against the backdrop of the Law and called Israel to true relationship with God. Then the Writings, the prayers and songs and wisdom and stories that described the everyday nature of life with the One God. These writings grew out of Israel’s liturgies of worship, and once written down, were used in Israel’s liturgies of worship in a mutually interpreting feedback loop of revelation and praise.

But to communicate effectively with humanity and to enter fully into human life and to redeem it, that Word became enfleshed, we believe, in the man Jesus of Nazareth. In his life on earth, Jesus used the media of human communication – words and actions – to combat evil in all its forms. In his death on the cross, Jesus used the entire medium of human life to conquer evil once and for all. Following his resurrection, his ongoing Body in the world, the Church, also used words and actions to retell this story of redemption, to recreate it for themselves in liturgical gestures and words that would make the truth of our redemption in Christ present to the community and to the world.

That is the story of our redemption that we re-tell and re-enact in every Eucharistic celebration – the story that is encoded in the Biblical narrative, the story that is re-told, re-taught, and offered in prayer during the entire Eucharistic liturgy. And I think that this is no mere memorial or remembrance of what Christ did. It is a liturgy that prays for God’s grace to enter into the gathered community so that it may become the Body of Christ in the world by feeding on the real Body of Christ we experience in the Word and in the Bread and Wine.

God is seeking us, God is reaching out to have a relationship with us, and we respond to God in faith when we hear that call. We first we hear that longing for relationship in the Word read in Scripture and unfolded for us in the Sermon. We hear the Biblical narrative, we hear the Word of God. When a word is spoken, it expresses a self-disclosure on the part of the speaker. When that word is the word of Scripture spoken in the Eucharistic liturgy, it is a self-disclosure on the part of God. It is God’s testimony to the truth that God loves us, God desires our relationship, God acts to redeem us so that we can share that relationship with God. We are confronted with God’s missionary Word, calling us into relationship. We respond in faith and prayer, opening our hearts so that we can encounter God in this Word. The Word calls us; the Word also stands over and against us, becoming the basis for our relationship with God, the ground for God’s judgment of our lives and behavior.

As we encounter this Word, as we respond in faith to the truth of God’s Testimony in that Word, we long for a deeper communion with God, a fuller encounter. God has already been made manifest to us in the proclamation of the saving Word and in our response to the truth of the Word’s testimony in prayer. Christ has already become present to us. But as with any loving relationship, the words also call for gestures, for touch, for embodiment, and so we move into the actions of the Eucharist seeking a deeper Encounter with God.

Macquarrie points out that in the Eucharistic liturgy, the presence of Christ is a personal one – in which communication takes place between two persons. But it is also a multiple one. Christ is present in the word which speaks his truth, in the priest who presides, since Christ is the presider at every Eucharist, in the gathered community, which is one body with him, and in the bread and wine which focus his presence for us (pp. 126, 127). We are embodied beings, and so we seek to touch God, to encounter an embodied God, and Christ bespoke Bread and Wine as the means by which God could be embodied after the physical form of Jesus was no longer present with us.

Bread and Wine are symbols of the sustenance we need to survive. When they become symbols of Christ present to us and with us, the elements’ function as purely physical sustenance become functional as spiritual sustenance as well. Christ could have chosen any physical element to embody himself for us. He chose Bread and Wine to speak his presence to us because they already speak to us. His choosing of Bread and Wine amplifies their symbolism of life-sustaining reality into a symbolism of the life-sustaining reality that is Christ himself.

With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Christ became present to everyone who believes in him. But the coming of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist focuses Christ’s uncontainable presence in these elements. As embodied beings, we need to touch the Body of Christ, just as the disciples touched their risen Lord on Easter night (Luke 24:36 ff.). Focused in the elements of bread and wine, we touch Christ there, we feed on him in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving, and we do it in profound unity and communion with Christ’s gathered Body, present there at the altar rail with us, present in the communion of saints with us, present in the final eschatological banquet with us. Time collapses in the Eucharist, all time is as one, and the icon that gives us the glimpse of that eternal banquet is the entire Eucharistic liturgy, building to the climactic communal moment in which we are united with each other and with the Holy Trinity by means of the sacramental eating and drinking.

So are the bread and wine changed into flesh and blood? I think God is bigger than that. It can’t be reduced to that. It also denies the reality of the Incarnation, when God became human, but did not change that human form. If we believe in the Incarnation, then we must believe that God uses the sacraments in the same way, entering, but not changing, some created stuff so that it can speak the Word to us, bear Testimony to us, create Encounter for us, so that we can be drawn in to the deep, self-giving communion of God’s love within God’s self, a love which cannot be contained, but which spills out to draw all of us into that deep, self-giving love.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hope for Overwhelmed Moms

I am excited about the new MOPS group that will provide support and fellowship for mothers of children up through 6th grade. This group is open to the entire community, not only All Saints folks, and the first meeting is featuring a wonderful speaker.

Karen Hossink, an Okemos author, has written a book about her struggles with parenting and her growing awareness that the challenge of child-rearing is making her the woman God believes her to be. The book is called "Confessions of an Irritable Mother: Hope for Overwhelmed Moms."

As one who has walked the long path (and continues to walk it ... they're never really done, are they?) of parenting, I appreciate her honesty about the challenges and her graceful ability to see God's hand in even the more unattractive moments of motherhood.

I hope you will invite your mothering friends and neighbors to join us this Friday evening. Potluck at 6 p.m. and Karen Hossink will speak at 6:30 p.m. Pass the word along!

+ Kit

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Meditation on Stillness

This video, by Eric Law, an Episcopal priest who has written extensively on inclusion and acceptance, reminds us ... on the brink of a busy academic year ... to be ...

still ...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Who Are We When our Walls Fall Down?

That is the poignant question asked by an Episcopal priest, Tom Ehrich, in an essay in the Indianapolis Star. In this essay, he defends the moves the Episcopal Church has made to broaden its inclusion, but he critiques our beloved church as an institution that has "rewarded institutional tinkering and stopped dreaming. We depend on style and not substance. We worry about inherited property and not about the world outside our doors. We fuss about who is ordained when we should be nurturing healthy congregations."

I hope you'll read what he has to say. I wonder what your response might be ...

+ Kit

Friday, July 17, 2009


OK, against my better judgment, I am going to start posting Twitter updates. If you are a Twitter person, and want to receive updates, there is a button on the blog you can click to "follow" me. Mostly I will be posting tweets related to upcoming events or news about All Saints, and not (as on Facebook) whether I went to Crunchy's or Harrison Roadhouse for a burger.

So if you want Twitter updates about All Saints, click the magic button, or follow me at RevKit (or email ...

I'll be working on my hip social networking skills now ...

+ Kit

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Hopeful, and Quintessentially Anglican, Approach

Resolution D025, as passed at General Convention yesterday, offers the Episcopal Church an astonishing way forward in the great messiness that has marked the debate about full inclusion of GLBT people.

Quite simply, it tells the truth. It tells the truth about who we are as the American branch of the Anglican Communion. We are a church that has listened to the lives and stories of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters; we have observed them exercising holy and life-giving ministries in every corner of the church. We are a church that understands them to be baptized people, the same as anyone else, and we are a church with laws (called canons) that particularly forbid non-discrimination in the ordination process. We are a church that is not of one mind on how to move forward on the question of ordinations of GLBT people, and is not of one mind on blessing of same-sex unions, or marriage -- in states where that is legal -- between two people of the same gender. We are a church where some dioceses will ordain gay and lesbian people, and some dioceses will not.

We are a wonderful collection of faithful people on a journey to deeper understanding and love of one another, led by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. But it is a journey, and it is not over yet, and so this resolution offers a wonderful declaration of where we are right now, vis a vis the Anglican Communion, the question of gay ordinations, and our ongoing differences of theology and interpretation.

This resolution does four very important things:

1) It affirms our intention and commitment to remain in the Anglican Communion, continuing to do ministry and mission in developing countries, and continuing our financial support of $661K of a $1.8 billion budget -- a significant contribution from any one member church -- for Anglican Communion programs and ministries. It says that we intend to stay at the table and play.

2) It recognizes that we have participated fully in a "listening process" requested by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988 and 1998, to listen to the experiences of our GLBT brothers and sisters. And what we have discovered is ... wow! They are people. And Christians! And they do wonderful ministries at every level of the church! And generally function like every other baptized person.

3) It reminds everyone that our church has laws (canons) and some of those laws relate to ordination, and that those laws have non-discrimination policies attached to them, and that there is no LEGAL impediment in our church to QUALIFIED, DISCERNED, GLBT folks to being ordained, provided they go through discernment processes like everyone else and are selected for the ordination track.

and finally, and most important, and most ANGLICAN of all it says,

4) We understand that good and faithful people are not of one mind about this stuff and we are on a journey together and we are not going to agree on all of this right away.

So, does this mean that gays are allowed to be ordained? In dioceses where they are currently being ordained, that will probably continue. Sometime soon, some diocese will probably elect another gay bishop (note ... we've always had gay bishops. Bp. Otis of Utah came out after he retired.). Other dioceses won't be ready yet. No diocese will be forced to ordain GLBT people.

Will we get kicked out of the Anglican Communion? That's still a future possibility. However, we are not alone. Other provinces of the communion are also moving forward with rituals for blessings of same-sex unions, and are ordaining qualified and called gay and lesbian persons. Our mission and development work in the Global South continues to express our love for all our brothers and sisters, and our willingness to work together on areas where we do agree, to end poverty, to increase health, to create fulfilling lives for all God's children. The Archbishop of Canterbury said as much to General Convention ... that if the Anglican Communion didn't find the Episcopal presence so necessary, this would not be so difficult.

However, the "restraint" exercised by the Episcopal Church for the last three years, (a resolution passed in the waning hours of the last General Convention called for restraint in the elections and consecration to the order of bishop of people whose "manner of life" posed a difficulty to the wider communion) did not stop bishops from crossing provincial and diocesan boundaries. It did not stop other bishops, parishes, even entire dioceses from trying to leave the Episcopal Church. It may have gotten our bishops to the Lambeth Conference, but the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, a canonically elected, approved and consecrated bishop, was still "uninvited." Other bishops from the global South still stayed away from Lambeth, unwilling to share fellowship and communion with "heretical" bishops.

So perhaps it is just time to tell the truth. We do want to remain in the Anglican Communion. We do understand that GLBT people have gifts to offer our church and our world. We intend to follow our canons. We know that people are not of one mind about this, and we intend to go forward together anyway, messy, confused, but together.

And hopeful.

+ Kit

Monday, July 13, 2009

How to Start Your Monday

1) Sit still in a place that you like. It should not be a place where you see any work or tasks that you need to accomplish.

2) Sit there for five minutes. Be aware of your surroundings, the temperature, the sounds you hear, the things you see. Be completely present to the moment and to the place. If your mind starts running ahead to what you need to do today, just set that aside and return to quietly observing your surroundings and being present.

3) Say "Thank you." Take three deep breaths. Stand up slowly.

Now go about your week.


+ Kit

Saturday, July 11, 2009

From Hatred to Hope

I went to downtown East Lansing this morning to check out the Sidewalk Sale, and ended up in Kirabo, the fair trade store. At the checkout counter, there was a basket of these tiny crosses. They are made from spent bullet casings left over from the brutal civil war that raged in Liberia in the 1990s. The artisans who make them created them to witness to the triumph of hope and healing over the hatred that destroyed so much of their lives and well-being.

My last parish had a number of Liberian members, refugees from that civil war. Their stories were challenging, horrifying, and tragic. Although many of them, in the end, were able to tell their own tales of redemption. The one story each person always told however, was of unswerving faith in God. When a roomful of Liberians sings "It is Well With My Soul" at the top of their lungs, and when you know what they have come through and risen above, how can you not believe?

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

+ Kit

Friday, July 10, 2009

Back to Blogging -- General Convention Thoughts

Hello, there has been a hiatus in my blogging efforts. Periodically in my career as a writer I have simply run out of things to say (this can be a problem when preaching almost every week!). I try to respect those periods as times of silence and restoration, and allow God to work with me when my busy brain and keyboard fingers are still for a while.

Nonetheless, "Saints Alive!" is back for now. I want to share with you some thoughts about our church's General Convention, meeting in Anaheim, California. General Convention is the governing body of the Episcopal Church. It meets every three years in a legislative/party/family reunion/convention type setting to do the work of the church. To decide the direction of our denomination. To rewrite the canons (church laws) that govern how we work together. To pass resolutions that speak to the world at large with the voice of Christian justice and concern. To ponder liturgy, polity, politics.

The Episcopal Church was born in the period after the American Revolutionary War. Anglicans in America had to figure out how to be a new kind of Church of England, when the nation was no longer a British colony. The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America was born in 1789 in the city of Philadelphia. You may recall that our US Constitution was written in 1789 in Philadelphia. There are strong similarities between US governmental structures and our own church structure.

General Convention is a bicameral body. The House of Bishops and the House of Deputies (made up of clergy and lay deputies elected from dioceses) work much like our Senate and Congress, developing legislation, reconciling differences in legislation passed by both houses, and articulating the voice and direction of our denomination. The House of Deputies is presided over by Bonnie Anderson from our own Diocese of Michigan. The House of Bishops is presided over by the Most. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of our church. The Presiding Bishop is also the chief executive officer of the Episcopal Church, and is in charge of the administration of the denomination in the three-year intervals between General Conventions.

But General Convention itself sets the guidelines, the rules, and the direction of the Episcopal Church. And so, if you are curious about where we are headed as a denomination, and what is going ON out there in Anaheim, here are some preliminary notes, and also sources where you can keep updated:

1) The first two days of convention have been occupied with the beginning of legislation, the presence of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and the beginning of a process called "public narrative" that may help us each tell our own stories and hear others' (rather than talking past one another, which we too often do).

2) Major issues of concern are first ...a shrinking denominational budget (like everywhere else, money is tight) and whether we can keep our commitment as a denomination to give 0.7 percent of our budget to work toward the UN Millennium Development Goals. And second ... the ongoing discussion of inclusion for LGBT people. For example, in states where same-sex marriage is legal, should churches and dioceses be able to bless and celebrate those marriages? And what about the resolution passed in the waning hours of the last General Convention, resolution B033, that encourages dioceses to refrain from electing bishops whose "manner of life" poses difficulty to the wider Anglican Communion?

3) There is a barrage of information coming out of General Convention. And if you like that sort of thing, you can follow blogs, get Twitter "tweets", watch videos, debate on bulletin boards, until you have no time left to eat or to think. If you don't have that much time or interest, but want to follow the activity at General Convention, here are the three best resources I have found:

-- Episcopal Cafe. Edited by journalist Jim Naughton, this blog is following items of significance and general interest.

-- Convention Daily. This is a daily newsletter that everyone on site at GC2009 receives. It is updated daily, and covers the events of major significance in a traditional newspaper-type format.

-- The GC Media Hub. I find the Media Hub totally overwhelming and confusing. HOWEVER, Heidi Shott, of the Diocese of Maine, does a video segment called "The Daily Wrap" at the end of each day. The Daily Wrap does a TV-style report on the events of the day, which is short, comprehensive, and entertaining. You can find The Daily Wrap by rolling over the tiny, square icons to the right of the page, until you see Daily Wrap.

And finally, one of the most encouraging side activities at GC2009 is the construction of a house for Habitat for Humanity. The house is being built in sections INSIDE the convention center. Affordable housing in the LA area is hard to come by. This home will make a difference in one family's life in the LA area.

+ Kit

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What Your Kids Can Teach You

This article in Slate ponders the mystery of what kids get out of worship. It is fascinating to watch children explore their spirituality and experience God in ways that might challenge us as adults. They ask questions we find hard to answer. They celebrate aspects of religious life in ways that make us uncomfortable ... all you have to do is hear them discussing the size and nature of the communion bread they receive to realize that worship is vitally important to them, and everything they do in worship means something.

Most importantly, when kids enjoy coming to church, to Sunday School, to worship, they prod and provoke us to understand and life our own faith. They look to us to put our money where our mouth is ... in our attention to worship, in our knowledge of the Bible, and in the ways we live as a Christian the other six days of the week.

They are watching us. Do we make it worth their consideration?

+ Kit

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Archbishop Desmond Tutu Visits CMSU at All Saints

Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited with our Canterbury MSU students today in the Undercroft, sharing thoughts and wisdom with these young adults as they prepare for their lives and vocations in the wider world.

Local clergy were invited to attend with their wardens,and Bishop Wendell Gibbs and his wife Karlah joined us for a tea lovingly prepared by women from All Saints and St. Paul's.

Bp. Tutu had all sorts of wonderful advice for the students, most importantly, he told them, "Don't stop dreaming. Don't get seduced by the cynicism of your elders. Dream about changing the world and go out and do it."

He also shared his tips on how to win the Nobel Peace Prize: 1)Have a big nose. 2)Have a short, easy to remember name. 3)Have really sexy legs.

Kudos to CMSU chaplain Sarah Midzalkowski for arranging this wonderful visit for the students and for letting some of us share in the day.

+ Kit

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Taking Action for Children

Justice and advocacy for children has long been an important aspect of our calling to Christian witness and service here at All Saints. Our annual observance of the Children’s Sabbath, frequent collections to furnish apartments for children leaving foster care, layette and teddy bear collections, and our work with the families at Haven House, the project at the orphanage in Haiti, all show our commitment and concern for the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society.

This month, we have an opportunity to ally with local churches to speak out for equity and justice for the children of mid-Michigan. Action of Greater Lansing, the interfaith justice network, of which All Saints is a member, has chosen to focus this year on children’s health. Specifically, working to make sure that the new Children’s Health Initiative (CHI), coming into being in our community, will address the health needs of ALL area children, regardless of whether or not their families have insurance or are able to pay.

Last fall, the Action member congregations voted to focus on the lack of user-friendly, centralized access to human services in the Lansing area. The research committee that tackled this broad request soon learned about the CHI --an effort of local parents, health care providers and organizations--to create a children’s health center where pediatric sub-specialists – the doctors your child must see when the primary-care doctor cannot address all their health needs – can provide care for children with serious health problems. Currently, families must travel to Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids or even farther for their children to receive care. The CHI would bring this kind of care back to the Lansing area for our local children.

Action’s interest is to make sure the CHI meets the needs of all children in our area … not simply the ones whose families can pay. You can imagine the kind of burden this need for specialty care places on poor and uninsured families and their children – 40 to 50 percent of the children in our area are on Medicaid. Traveling to distant doctors, trying to retain a job, caring for the other healthy children in the family, all without financial resources, is vastly more difficult for poor families than for those of us with insurance, education and financial security.

There is a key event coming up where our presence is necessary to show our support for uninsured and underinsured children.

Everyone is asked to come to the Nehemiah Assembly and to bring THREE PEOPLE. The Nehemiah Assembly will be held at Union Missionary Baptist Church, 500 S. MLK Blvd., on Tuesday, May 12 at 7 p.m. We will bring leaders from MSU and Sparrow Hospital to hear our request for the CHI and for a commitment to serve all children, regardless of ability to pay. Our Action goal is to turn out 600 people at this assembly. Your presence is so important!

Come out to this event. Bring your family members, friends and neighbors to the Nehemiah Assembly. Speak out for Lansing area children, who need our voice and our commitment.

Feel free to speak to any All Saints Action team member ... me, Janet Chegwidden, Pam Miklavcic, or Gus Breymann, with your questions.

+ Kit

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rebuilding Ingham

More than two dozen All Saints folks spent their Saturday helping to restore the home of a woman in South Lansing, through Rebuilding Ingham. Rebuilding Ingham, formerly known as Christmas in April, sends out teams on a Saturday in April to repair the homes of elderly and ill people who are not able to repair their own homes, and who cannot afford to pay for others to do it.

Our team assisted a woman with diabetes, lupus and other medical conditions. They built a handicapped ramp, repainted the home's exterior, and the living room and hallway inside, cleaned up the yard, and generally made it more habitable and comfortable for the homeowner. All before the torrential rains started!

Special thanks to Neil and Carolyn Plante, who always do an excellent job organizing this annual event. And thanks to all the All Saints folks who pitched in.

(Pictured above, from top to bottom ... Katie Ellis and Rachel Korest; Deb Babcock and Jean Lepard; Cassandra Peyerk and Amy Maffeo; Larry Hart.)

+ Kit

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Haiti Update and Coffee Fundraiser

Sunday during coffee hour, members of the mission trip to Haiti will report on our work there, what we did and what we learned. We'll have an a/v presentation, and a chance for you to hear from the group about what was meaningful to us.

Also, Cafe Rebo, a Haitian coffee, will be available for sale -- both whole beans and ground. A 10-ounce bag of either costs $8. The proceeds will serve as a fundraiser for the Haiti Outreach Mission and its work in Mirebalais.

See you Sunday!

+ Kit

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another Poem

From Anne Porter's Fire, and Torrential Rain

Fire, most beautiful of flowers,
Whose only perfume is brightness,
You have no season, and you bloom
On the highest of high altars
And under the vagrant's pot.
Through centuries on centuries
Like Christ you are everywhere,
To kindle the half cigarettes
Which the homeless find in the gutters,
And the tall paschal candle.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Seven Stanzas at Easter

By John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Telephone Poles and Other Poems © 1961 by John Updike.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More About Faith ... And the Bible

As usual, Father Matthew Moretz tells it better than I can ...

How to grapple with the Bible, particularly the question of Biblical inerrancy.

+ Kit

Sunday, April 19, 2009

David Sedaris on Faith

Here is the full quote from "Jesus Shaves" by David Sedaris, as I quoted him in the sermon this morning.

I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with. In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom. Why bother struggling with the grammar lessons of a six-year-old if each of us didn't believe that, against all reason, we might eventually improve? If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes. So why stop there? If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilities the benefit of the doubt? I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next. The virgin birth, the resurrection, and the countless miracles -- my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe...

The essay is wonderful in its entirety. Warning: One very, very bad word closes the essay out.

+ Kit

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Jokes

The Orthodox traditions call Easter Monday a day of holy hilarity. It is a day to remember God's great joke on the cosmos in raising Jesus from the dead. So it is a day for celebration, and for telling jokes. Do you know a good Easter joke? Share it in the comments section (see green link at the bottom that says "comments", click and share).

Here's my favorite:

Three blondes died and are at the pearly gates of Heaven.
St. Peter tells them that they can enter the gates if they can
answer one simple question.

St. Peter asks the first blonde, "What is Easter?"

The blonde replies, "Oh, that's easy! It's the holiday in November
when everyone gets together, eats turkey, and are thankful."

"Wrong!" replies St. Peter, and proceeds to ask the second blonde
the same question, "What is Easter?"

The second blonde replies, "Easter is the holiday in December when
we put up a nice tree, exchange presents, and celebrate the birth
of Jesus."

St. Peter looks at the second blonde, shakes his head in disgust,
tells her she's wrong, and then peers over his glasses at the
third blonde.

He asks, "What is Easter?"

The third blonde smiles confidently and looks St. Peter in the
eyes, "I know what Easter is."

"Oh?" says St. Peter, incredulously.

"Easter is the Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish
celebration of Passover. Jesus and his disciples were eating at
the last supper and Jesus was later deceived and turned over to
the Romans by one of his disciples. The Romans took him to be
crucified and he was stabbed in the side, made to wear a crown of
thorns, and was hung on a cross with nails through his hands.
He was buried in a nearby cave which was sealed off by a large

St. Peter smiles broadly with delight.

The third blonde continues, "Every year the boulder is moved aside
so that Jesus can come out... and, if he sees his shadow, there
will be six more weeks of winter."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

Today is Christ's great Sabbath. Jesus rests from his labors. His work is done; nothing more is needed. The stone is rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb, and Jesus -- dear, dead Jesus -- is safely laid away in death and darkness.

After yesterday's two services ... three hours of meditations on the Way of the Cross from noon to 3 p.m., then the Prayer Book Good Friday liturgy last night ... I asked my husband as we walked home from church under the Paschal moon:

"Well, do you think we've got him locked up for good in that tomb this time?"

As much as we love the pomp and pageantry of Easter, the promise of hope and new life, most of us are very uncomfortable with the idea of resurrection, that illogical, unscientific, irrational concept. We would rather imagine Jesus at rest, at peace, a good man unfairly killed, like Martin Luther King or Abraham Lincoln or Gandhi. The tomb is actually a comfortable place for most of us to leave Jesus.

So we can rest this day along with Jesus. Today we don't have to ponder any deep theological concepts, like how the death of Jesus saves us from Sin, or was the resurrection real or just a mass hallucination, or what all of this will mean to us come Monday morning. We can just rest, with Jesus safely tucked away where he can't trouble us or disturb us.

But starting tonight, the rest is over, the comfort ends. Tonight we light a fire in the darkness. Tonight we tell those ancient stories of our creation, our fall, our deliverance, our hope. Tonight we trust the future enough to baptize a child into it. Tonight we burn candles, shout songs of praise and allow our complacency to be uprooted once more, as the stone rolls away from the door and Jesus busts out to rock our world again and again and again.

+ Kit

The Great Vigil, with Holy Baptism and the First Eucharist of Easter begins at 8 p.m. today.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

From East Coker:

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees
The fever sings in mental wires
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses and the smok is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood --
Again in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

T.S. Eliot

Good Friday meditations on the way of the Cross from noon to 3 p.m. today. Good Friday Prayer Book liturgy with choir, 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Paschal Moon

Last night, the full moon, the Paschal moon (from the Greek transliteration pasch of the Hebrew word for Passover, pesach.) appeared. The first night of Passover was observed by our Jewish brothers and sisters, and we look ahead to this evening's Maundy Thursday celebrations, and the remembrance that our eucharist rises out of the Passover supper, observed by Jesus and his friends, who were -- after all -- Jewish.

This moon has caused a deal of controversy in the Christian church, as early Christians struggled to determine the correct day to observe Easter. In the earliest days of the church, it tracked with Passover, but occasionally, Passover is celebrated before the spring equinox, and the church fathers decided Easter had to fall after the spring equinox. The formula -- roughly -- is that Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

But not always, and there have been debates about it through history as vigorous and vicious as the debates we now conduct over human sexuality. This Wikipedia article can tell you more than you ever want to know, including how Christianity in England abandoned its Celtic practices and became Romanized ... all over a fuss about the date of Easter (and how monks ought to cut their hair!).

I prefer to look into the sky in the evening, and think of a poem by American poet Anne Porter ...

In Holy Week

While we're asleep
The paschal moon is shining
High above the trees.

And high above the trees
Even while we're sleeping
Easter is growing
In the paschal moon
Like a child in its mother.

-- Anne Porter

+ Kit

Maundy Thursday service of Holy Eucharist with footwashing and stripping of the altar, tonight at 7 p.m. The night watch with the Reserved Sacrament begins immediately after the service.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tenebrae -- A Service of Gathering Darkness

Tonight, the students and chaplain from Canterbury-MSU will lead a service of Tenebrae at All Saints. Tenebrae is the Latin word for "shadows," and this service is designed to capture the emotional aspects of the gathering darkness of Holy Week.

It dates from monastic times, when some of the late night services, Matins and Lauds, were moved to the evening of the night before for a special Holy Week observance. The service is a series of readings and psalms that evoke the sorrow and suffering that Jesus must undergo. As the readings progress, the candles on the altar are extinguished, one by one.

Finally at the end of the service, only one candle remains, representing the light of Christ. It is taken away and hidden. A loud noise is made, symbolizing the earthquake at the resurrection. The candle is returned to its stand, symbolizing the light that shines in the darkness, which the darkness cannot extinguish. The congregation then departs in silence.

The service tonight will include Taize-style chants to aid our meditation and prayers. There will also be visual displays to lead us through the journey to the cross.

If you have never attended a Tenebrae service, you should come and experience this ancient, meditative and moving worship.

+ Kit

Tenebrae will be held in the main sanctuary tonight at 7.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Holy Tuesday

Jesus was already in Jerusalem when some Greeks came to his disciples and said "We wish to see Jesus."

Do you wish to see Jesus this week? It won't be like a Sunday School picture, gentle Jesus meek and mild, holding a lamb or patting a child on the head. This is Jesus showing us something very important about who he is and how much God loves the world. It's not that God is a divine child abuser, beating and killing a son instead of us. It's not a festival of blood and guts, as Mel Gibson would have had us believe.

It's that Jesus remains absolutely faithful to his identity as God's son; he remains absolutely clear about who he is and what he is doing here; he walks right into the center of power of his world and religion, unmasks all the ways that world and religion crush the life out of people, and because he unmasks those powers, they turn on him and kill him.

And so all the ways we fail him, fail his father ... all the ways we collapse under the weight of the world's evil and our own fallen natures ...all of that does not stop him. He goes anyway, he goes where we cannot go, he goes in a manner we could never attain. He goes even when it looks like God has abandonded him completely.

He does not fail us. Ever.

Can you see Jesus this week?

+ Kit

(Holy Eucharist is offered this evening in the chapel at 7.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Monday

The readings for today tell the story of the woman who anointed Jesus prior to his passion and death. In the version we heard yesterday, in Mark, Jesus tells his friends that she has done a good deed, she has already anointed his body for burial.

As always in Mark's gospel, there are only ever a few people who see what Jesus is really doing ... demons, a blind man, a sinful woman. The people who think they know Jesus and understand him ... his friends, the authorities ... don't get it at all.

Can we try this week to see all the ways we avoid looking at Jesus' death? Can we look at him with the open gaze of the centurion at the cross, or with the extravagant thanks of the woman with the ointment?

+ Kit

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How Many Episcopalians Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?

The traditional answers to this question are:

1) My grandmother GAVE the church that light bulb!


2) What was wrong with the old one?

I would add a third ...

3) Remember that light bulb we USED to use? Can't we have that one back?

George Clifford writes at Episcopal Cafe this week about the human longing for stasis, and the inevitability of change. He says in a changing world, humans often think of religion as an anchor, something to hold them fast amid the storms of life.

He suggests a different metaphor ... that religion should be not an anchor, but a rudder, helping us to steer ourselves toward God. As we continue in the waning days of Lent, it is important to remember that Lent calls us to change, fundamental change, and that our religion can be the rudder that guides us through that change.

Clifford writes: I still find myself reluctant, at times even unwilling to change. Lenten self-examination requires me to overcome my psychic inertia, dislike of conflict, emotional preference for stasis, and other opposition to change. I know that religion that fails to change loses its ability to serve as a rudder for navigating toward God's light and life abundant. A healthy, dynamic faith frees us from dysfunctional stasis and moves us forward on the Jesus’ way, more fully experiencing the abundant life we celebrate at Easter. So I engage in the hard and often unpleasant work of self-examination and of examining my understanding of Christianity.

How is YOUR "hard and often unpleasant work of self-examination" going this week?

+ Kit

Monday, March 30, 2009

Down the Lenten Home Stretch

The Episcopal preacher Fleming Rutledge says we all "flunk Lent." How is your Lent going? Ready to take a big W and withdraw from the course? Or are you willing to go all the way and get that 55% overall grade for the six weeks?

There is one week left before Holy Week. This is a good time to examine the past weeks of Lent. What has been working for you in your discipline and devotion? What have you neglected? Have you gotten closer to God? If not, why not? If not, what might happen in these last few days to help you hear the voice of the Holy One?

Above all, take time between now and the flurry of devotion that begins next Sunday to STOP. BREATHE. BE AT PEACE. Let the silence and austerity of Lent invade your mind and soul for five minutes at least. God can work miracles with any small scrap of ourselves that we are willing to hand over.

+ Kit

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bracelets in Action

I've moved mine twice so far. It's proving a good reminder to not let my tongue run away with me.

James 3:5-18 The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature,and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8 but no one can tame the tongue -- a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters,this ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters,yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Complaint-Free World ...

A while ago, I noticed that Pastor Sam Duncan, of Lansing Church of God in Christ, had a purple rubber bracelet on his arm. When I asked about it, he told me about the Complaint-Free World project. Based on a book by Will Bowen, the project aims to create a world of positive cooperation. It starts with a purple bracelet. Because theory says to change a habit takes about 21 days, you put a purple bracelet on your left wrist. The goal is to keep it there for 21 days. The only problem is, if you complain, gossip or criticize, you have to move it to the other wrist and start over again.

This is not to end positive work for change, or to become a doormat. As Eckhart Tolle says, "Complaining is not to be confused with informing someone of a mistake or deficiency so that it can be put right. And to refrain from complaining doesn’t necessarily mean putting up with bad quality or behavior. There is no ego in telling the waiter your soup is cold and needs to be heated up—if you stick to the facts, which are always neutral. ‘How dare you serve me cold soup…?’ That’s complaining.”

Lately, I have found it all too easy to take the complaining route instead of the positive change route. It is fun to complain about the weather, the students, the economy, the people who cut in front of me at Meijer, the people who don't pick up after their dogs, people who don't think like me or who don't like the same things I do. It is easy to find fault with others, instead of looking for fault in myself. And it is way too easy to join in with a group of others to tear down some other person or some other project, rather than to build it up.

So Pastor Duncan brought me a bag of purple bracelets. I am on day 1. I have about 30 more bracelets to share with anyone else who might want to try this experiment.

In the meantime, before I open my mouth, I'm giving it the complaint-free test: Is it necessary? Is it truthful? Is it kind?

+ Kit

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Back Safe and Sound

We got home late last night after a long and tiring week. But we accomplished much in a short time.

At the orphanage, we left behind a thoroughly cleared garden. A compost pile, with directions on how to continue to compost. A variety of vegetables planted now that the rainy season is coming, and the children helped put the seeds into the ground. I cannot say enough how hard this group worked, in 90 degree weather, to accomplish the garden. Marlene Cosgrove, Colleen Hegg's mom, was the master gardener coordinating the vision. Colleen, Gina Mazzolini, Wendy Hedeen, Pam Miklavcic and Carol Mader, a priest from this area, (and me too, a bit ...) worked to remove pounds and pounds of trash, to dig out buckets of rocks, to trim back foliage and dig beds, and create pathways, and establish the compost pile. We hope that by involving the children in cleaning and planting the area, that they will want to continue to help the garden grow.

Inside, Eddie Aparicio, a friend of my son Andrew's, coordinated the mural project. Eddie is a student at the Maryland Institute and College of Art, and this was his first mural. He and Andrew prepared the wall, then began the arch in the color of the Haitian flag, with the seal of Haiti at the top. On Wednesday, the children took turns donning a surgical glove, having their hand coated in paint, then leaving a handprint behind in the arch. The adult staff at the orphanage, and all the adults from the mission team who worked there, also left their print on the wall. Thursday, they spent the day finishing up the mural.

Two solar ovens were left behind with the cooks at the orphanage to practice with. While the ovens are too small to really be used for cooking for all those children, it is our hope that the cooks will experiment with them for bread and other goods and think of ways to use more ovens in the future. Also, Wendy Hedeen and the orphanage children created drainage areas for the pipes that shoot water off the roof of the orphanage when it rains. This will help prevent erosion of the yard in the rainy season.

We left behind toys and soccer balls, jump ropes and games, which the children seem to enjoy using when their homework is done. They play nicely with one another and treat the toys with care and respect, so we hope they will last a long time and brighten their lives.

On Wednesday night, there is always a program for HOM volunteers by the local churches. We were all as excited as any proud parent when the children from St. Blaise Orphanage led off the evening with a song. They were beautifully dressed, their few dress-up clothes having been carefully ironed by the orphanage workers during the day. You should know that one woman washes all 52 children's clothes each day by hand in a metal tub. From 9 till dinner she sits at the side of the orphanage and scrubs each article of clothing until it is clean then hangs it to dry. The children looked beautiful, thanks to her, and sang even more beautifully.

Also, a beautiful group of women from St. Pierre Episcopal Church sang at this event. They sing a capella with the most exquisite harmonies and hand gestures. Pere Jeannot says they are going to make a CD this summer and he promised to bring many copies of the CD when he comes to the U.S. next fall for the annual HOM meeting. I know I am going to want to give them as Christmas gifts, and they will make a wonderful addition to the alternative Christmas market. Take a listen ...

Finally, Thursday was a glimpse at a potential future for the fisheries project that was outlined in the most recent issue of the diocesan newspaper The Record. Pam Miklavcic and I, along with Roger Matthews and Jim Schairbaum from the HOM Board, and Pere Jeannot, went far into the Haitian countryside to explore this possibility. We went past the town of Cange, where Paul Farmer founded his famous Partners in Health program, over the mountain to the town of Thomonde. There, the project leader from Food for the Poor showed us their fish ponds which are in the process of being dug, along with a second site for six more ponds.

But more exciting was discovering a site nearer to Mirebalais. One of Pere Jeannot's churches, St. James, is out in the countryside near a river. The church also has a small school, with students up to age 19 or 20. They need to learn trades and crafts that can help support themselves and they are very interested in tackling a fish pond program of their own. Not far from the church, we discovered a beautiful piece of sloping land that has great potential for as many as six ponds to raise tilapia to feed the community and to sell at market. The property is owned by the man who owns the hotel where we stay every year, a man who has created fish ponds like this on his own farm, which we also looked at. So there is hope that this site might become a pilot project for the people of St. James's church. Much more remains to be done, but there is a vision.

This is in addition to the many other HOM projects going on this week ... the clinic, the mobile clinics out in the mountains, the dental teams going to the schools with fluoride treatments, the construction crew building shelving in the orphanage, the dentists at the clinic pulling hundreds of teeth, the ESL classes taught by the priests Chris Yaw and Carol Mader, evening Bible studies for Sunday School teachers at St. Pierre, VBS activities for the orphanage students, teacher in-services for the instructors at St. Louis and St. Pierre's schools. So much was accomplished, but so much more remains to be done.

Finally, in the marketplace in Mirebalais, Pere Chris discovered the dirt cookies we have read so much about. They cost 12 cents apiece, and are made from oil, sugar, and fine dirt from out in the mountains. I will have them to share tomorrow at our Sunday services. Despite everything we did, this is a country with profound issues of hunger, poverty, malnutrition, poor health, subsistence agriculture, and a government that is disfunctional at best. Nevertheless, the Haitian people endure, with dignity and courage, with intelligence and hope. There are many, many more things we can do in the future.


+ Kit

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Working Hard

Day two of operations. A lot got done yesterday in many different locations. A medical team went to Desvailleux, up in the hills, to treat people there and do dental care. In addition to seeing 200 people, they saved the life of a baby that had accidentally drunk gasoline through an amazing emergency intubation.

In Mirebalais, the clinic is open, and Dick Johnson is seeing patients in the front office, and Monica Stafford is yanking out teeth back in the dental clinic. There are so many babies this year. I had a prayer station in the courtyard in the morning to pray with the patients as they waited for their prescriptions.

The orphanage project is coming right along. The garden is being cleared of amazing amounts of trash, including razor blades, glass and silverware. Marlene Cosgrove, Colleen Hegg, Carol Mader, Gina Mazzolini are all digging in the hot sun to get ready to plant and to prepare compost piles. Inside, Eddie Aparicio and my son Andrew are getting ready to lead the children in painting a huge mural on the wall of their dining room.

The many, many toys and art supplies that we sent were received with nothing short of amazement. These children had never seen an Etch-a-Sketch or Legos, or had ever done a pattern matching puzzle. They had no toys at all. At the end of the day, each child received one of the Beanie Babies donated by Cindy Collins and Heather Spotts. Now every child has at least one toy to call his or her own.

In the afternoon we ran a Vacation Bible School. I told a Bible story to one group of children and led them in a related game. Another group worked in the garden to learn to care for it. Another group played in the toy room and another group went out in the yard with all the soccer balls we brought. Then they all rotated around. We are going to run the VBS for three days this week. It is fun for us to spend time with the children.

Today we put the solar ovens to work, and showed the orphanage cooks how they work. We are hoping that the rice will be done by the time for the noon meal. The children should be able to start painting their mural tomorrow.

Much to do in a short time. There is also the fishery project to explore. Pam Miklavcic has just finished explaining sustainable fisheries to a class of high school seniors. Pere Jeannot is trying to find ways to get education and employment for his graduates, and we are hoping to interest some of them in working with us on fish ponds, perhaps in exchange for scholarships to university later. We hope to travel into the country tomorrow and Thursday to look at potential sites, and to see one fishery already in operation through Food for the Poor. This is a potential area of interest for us, but it is still in the very early stages.

That's all from here, for now. Peace and prayers to all. We are well.

+ Kit

Sunday, March 15, 2009

We are Here!

Just to let you know the HOM team arrived safely in Haiti, in two batches. One group on Friday and the second group on Saturday. Our folks arrived, and the Episcopalians promptly went off to church. Friday evenings in Lent, Pere Jeannot does the Great Litany, with a long teaching sermon and prayers. It was an excellent introduction to the culture for the first-timers, and also good for our souls.

Saturday was spent sorting vitamins, Tylenol, Tums and other medicines to get the clinic ready to run on Monday morning. We did good work, and it is ready to go.

Today began with Mass at St. Pierre at 6 a.m. There were many special musical offerings, and a longish sermon by your rector ;-) so we finished around 8 a.m. After breakfast, it was a ride up the road to the little Episcopal church, St. Andrew, at Trianon, where there is also a school. We had Mass again, with slightly less music and a great sermon by Father Chris Yaw from St. David's in Southfield.

It is now after lunch and most of the group has gone off in buses to see Cange and some of the other HOM schools and churches out in the countryside. Pere Chris and I are going to Pere Jeannot's Sunday School at 4 p.m. I'll be talking with the young ladies about women's ordination and being a female priest.

Tomorrow the hard work begins. Keep us in prayer.

+ Kit

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Leaving for Haiti

Tonight, the All Saints contingent of the Haiti Outreach Mission team will leave the parking lot around 2:30 a.m. By 2:30 p.m., we will be in Haiti for the second time this year, participating in HOM's annual mission trip to Mirebalais.

Our work there will include helping in the medical clinic, where Dick Johnson and Monica Stafford will offer their services. And also an intensive week of work at the St. Blase orphanage, where we will reconstruct the garden, start a composting system, provide solar ovens for the cooks, create a mural and offer Vacation Bible School activities for the children. Pam Miklavcic, who built fish farms in Togo in the Peace Corps, will also help explore fishery opportunities in the area.

I'll be blogging if possible, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you can support our trip and the people of Haiti in two ways:

1) Take a day to be in solidarity with the people of Haiti. Eat like a Haitian ... one meal at mid-day of a bowl of rice and beans. Drink only water. Let this be a Lenten fast for you, and pray during the day for Haitians (and for millions of people around the world) for whom this is their daily fare.

2) Please pray for every member of the Haiti Outreach Mission, but especially for our team: Wendy Hedeen, Monica Stafford, Dick Johnson, Gina Mazzolini, Colleen Hegg, Marlene Cosgrove, Andrew Carlson-Lynch, Eddie Aparicio, Pam Miklavcic, Carol Mader and me. Pray that our hearts will be open to meet Jesus as he comes to us in the people of Haiti. Pray that our work there will be of benefit. Pray for our safe journey and a safe return home.

Remember also our friend and seminarian, Wisnel Dejardin of Mirebalais, as he continues his studies in Virginia.


+ Kit

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Despising the Pleasant Lands

My son remarked last night that almost all of his Michigan-born friends continually complain about living in Michigan, and can't wait to move somewhere else. Coming from Maryland, where people are rabidly proud of their Orioles, crab cakes and Baltimore (even though it's a lot like it's pictured on "The Wire"), this continues to surprise him. "Even my New Jersey friends love New Jersey, and everyone knows that it's a hell hole," he said.

No, all his Michigan friends want to move to Florida.

Which is funny, because my younger sister has lived in Florida most of her life. And she hates it. She calls her town of Bradenton "Bradentucky" and says that every time she gets on a plane to go somewhere else, she thinks, "At last! I'm going to civilization!"

She wants to move to San Diego or L.A. I imagine out there, there are people who hate California, too ... for its wildfires, pollution, traffic, pomposity, etc. I bet some of them want to move to that paradise on Earth, Hawai'i.

Which is funny, because people who live in Hawai'i can also start to hate it. In her new book, "Acedia and Me: Marriage, Monks and a Writer's Life," Kathleen Norris (who grew up in Hawai'i, and spends a good part of her life there now, caring for her aging mother) writes about a terrible phenomenon that the island dwellers experience.

Many people stationed in Hawai'i with the military or large corporations come to feel a nagging contempt for the place. They hate the ocean because it reminds them that they are living on an island in the most isolated island chain on earth. They dismiss paradise as "the rock," and refer to their sad condition with perverse pride as "rock fever."

Norris sees this alienation from place as a symptom of a spiritual illness that prevents us from being happy where we are, that cuts us off from joy in our lives, joy in our relationships, and joy in God.

Look outside. This is one of the ugliest sorts of days Michigan has to offer. Can you see the beauty in it? Can you figure out a way to love this pleasant land and not despise it? To be at peace where you are planted?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Addendum ... If They Only Knew How Hip We Are!

As a follow-up to the previous post, I note this blog entry by Brett McCracken, who asks "Are you a Christian Hipster?"

The sort of Christian he describes comes from the new "emergent" movement in young, GenX and GenY Protestantism. These younger folks are eschewing the megachurches of their Baby Boom parents to re-invent or reclaim a Christianity that, well, to me it looks awfully Episcopal. See what you think:

Things they don’t like:
Christian hipsters don’t like megachurches, altar calls, and door-to-door evangelism. They don’t really like John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart or youth pastors who talk too much about Braveheart. In general, they tend not to like Mel Gibson and have come to really dislike The Passion for being overly bloody and maybe a little sadistic. They don’t like people like Pat Robertson, who on The 700 Club famously said that America should “take Hugo Chavez out”; and they don’t particularly like The 700 Club either, except to make fun of it. They don’t like evangelical leaders who get too involved in politics, such as James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, who once said of terrorists that America should “blow them all away in the name of the Lord.” They don’t like TBN, PAX, or Joel Osteen. They do have a wry fondness for Benny Hinn, however.

Christian hipsters tend not to like contemporary Christian music (CCM), or Christian films (except ironically), or any non-book item sold at Family Christian Stores. They hate warehouse churches or churches with American flags on stage, or churches with any flag on stage, really. They prefer “Christ follower” to “Christian” and can’t stand the phrases “soul winning” or “non-denominational,” and they could do without weird and awkward evangelistic methods including (but not limited to): sock puppets, ventriloquism, mimes, sign language, “beach evangelism,” and modern dance. Surprisingly, they don’t really have that big of a problem with old school evangelists like Billy Graham and Billy Sunday and kind of love the really wild ones like Aimee Semple McPherson.

Things they like:
Christian hipsters like music, movies, and books that are well-respected by their respective artistic communities—Christian or not. They love books like Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider, God’s Politics by Jim Wallis, and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. They tend to be fans of any number of the following authors: Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, John Howard Yoder, Walter Brueggemann, N.T. Wright, Brennan Manning, Eugene Peterson, Anne Lamott, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Henri Nouwen, Soren Kierkegaard, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Annie Dillard, Marilynne Robison, Chuck Klosterman, David Sedaris, or anything ancient and/or philosophically important.

Christian hipsters love thinking and acting Catholic, even if they are thoroughly Protestant. They love the Pope, liturgy, incense, lectio divina, Lent, and timeless phrases like “Thanks be to God” or “Peace of Christ be with you.” They enjoy Eastern Orthodox churches and mysterious iconography, and they love the elaborate cathedrals of Europe (even if they are too museum-like for hipster tastes). Christian hipsters also love taking communion with real Port, and they don’t mind common cups. They love poetry readings, worshipping with candles, and smoking pipes while talking about God. Some of them like smoking a lot of different things.

It's clear that the Episcopal ethos has much to offer the rising generations. So what are we doing to tell them that?

+ Kit

Whither Christianity?

A survey released today, The American Religious Identification Survey, shows a dramatic drop in the last 18 years of people who identify themselves as Christian. In 1990, 86 percent of those surveyed said they were Christian. That number is now 76 percent. Of those who say they are Christian, fewer are willing to identify with any denomination at all. As USA TODAY put it, "When it comes to religion, the USA is now the land of the freelancers."

This survey describes something that many of us in organized religion have observed for years now. Our society is becoming increasingly hostile to religion, or simply ignorant of it. In 1992, Episcopal priest and author Loren Mead wrote "The Once and Future Church", describing a world that is post-Christian, a world in which the old meanings of religion and religious institutions have broken down, a world which more closely resembles the mission field of the earliest apostles than at any time in history.

Word of this shift has not, by and large, made its way into the local parishes and congregations of the United States. Most of us have not noticed that our peers, our co-workers, the students we teach, our neighbors, may not have any knowledge of Christianity, or any interest in it at all. We wonder why birthday parties, soccer games and other events get scheduled on Sunday mornings. In large part, it's because Sunday is more available because many people have no affiliation with, or interest in, a local church.

So we work under old assumptions that no longer apply to the world we now inhabit. Assumptions like, "they'll all come back when they start having kids." Assumptions like, "we need to teach people how to be Episcopalians." Assumptions like, "it's rude to talk about faith or invite people to share my church."

What is happening in our world is unprecedented, and it is happening fast, as the survey reveals. This is not even about the survival of the Episcopal Church. This is about learning how to share our Christian faith, our belief in Jesus Christ as Lord, with people who no longer understand what this means, because they have never been raised in the faith.

Look around our own parish, and make an estimate of the average age of our members. Look at the average age of newcomers who seek us out. I will tell you quite frankly, they are Baby Boomers and older. We have some younger families, some younger members, but they are not here in the numbers they were ... twenty years ago, say ... when Baby Boomers were young parents, teaching Sunday School and running committees.

When I ponder the future of All Saints, I honestly wonder where we will be in 20 or 30 years. We are a wonderful community with much to share. Our faith in God and our love for one another has sustained and supported us for 55 years. But unless we learn to share this faith and this community with generations yet to come, generations who find us increasingly meaningless in their world, I wonder what will happen to this parish, to the Episcopal Church, and to American Christianity in 50 years.

Because as the survey shows, this is not simply an All Saints issue. It's not even just an Episcopal Church issue. This is a national issue that reflects the decline of religious participation across America.

One thing is for certain. The old assumptions no longer apply. The old way of seeking and incorporating new members no longer applies. The old way of speaking, or more likely, NOT speaking, about our faith no longer applies.

What do you think?

+ Kit

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Author Thomas Lynch Comes to All Saints

Michigan native, poet, author and undertaker Thomas Lynch will launch our Lenten educational series on the spirituality of the end of life.

Author of "The Undertaking: Tales from the Dismal Trade" as well as other books of essays and poems, Lynch has a deep, yet whimisical approach to the craft of tending to the dead and their families. We are delighted that he'll join us at All Saints.

Bring a friend, because all are welcome to this event. Tomorrow night, Wednesday, March 4, at 7 p.m. in the main sanctuary. The evening actually begins with a service of Healing and Holy Eucharist at 5:30 p.m. in the chapel, followed by our Lenten soup supper at 6 p.m. in the Undercroft.

See you there!

+ Kit

Monday, March 2, 2009

I am an Episcopalian ... Are You?

On Ash Wednesday, the national church launched a website called I Am An Episcopalian. Here, short videos offer real Episcopalians a chance to tell their stories about this church and what it means to each of them.

The site offers a chance to upload videos from other Episcopalians, which will be reviewed prior to posting. What might each of us at All Saints say about being Episcopalian? What stories would we tell? Would anyone be interested in posting videos of our stories to the iamanepiscopalian website?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

from "Ash Wednesday"
by T.S. Eliot

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Bless├Ęd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pancakes, Paczki and King Cake

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), a day to eat and eat and eat, prior to the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, when, of course, we will all fast all day long ... right?

Many cultures have ways of celebrating this last moment before six weeks of fasting and abstinence. In Brazil and the Caribbean, there is Carnival, with parades and partying in a very serious fashion. Mardi Gras in New Orleans also taps the party spirit with its parades, and multicolored King Cake (with a variety of small charms baked inside to bring the finders an assortment of luck in the years ahead).

But for those of us from Northern European cultures, the key element of Fat Tuesday seems to be fried food ... paczki, a deep-fried jelly donut from Poland ... faschnacht, a deep-fried donut from Germany ... or pancakes.

The tradition was to use up all the fat, butter and sugar in the home prior to the fast of Lent. Apparently, all these cold-weather cultures decided donuts and pancakes was the most efficient way to do that. This has led to strange manifestations in our culture ... National Pancake Day at IHOP tomorrow, and the appearance of paczki in all our local groceries.

But the most important cultural manifestation from our perspective is the annual Church Pancake Supper. We will celebrate our Fat Tuesday tradition at All Saints at 6 p.m. tomorrow in the undercroft with more pancakes than you can cram into your face ... also activities for the children and the burning of last year's palm branches to make this year's ashes for Ash Wednesday.

Come and pig out with us tomorrow. And don't eat too many paczki, or you won't have room for pancakes!

+ Kit

Friday, February 20, 2009

Alone Time? What's That?

This video was posted over on Episcopal Cafe. I watched and first, recognized myself, and second, realized that this portrays reality for most people under age 40, and certainly under age 30.

I like Facebook, and many of you are my Facebook friends. But I wonder about this sense of being continually available, continually on, continually plugged in. Do I need to know that Clare's house is clean and she has marzipan? Or play yet another Scrabble game? Or follow one of Tamara's links?

I have been pondering whether to give up Facebook for Lent. Watch the video, and then use the comment function to share your thoughts on whether I should or not ... or what electronic umblical cord you might think about laying aside for six weeks.

+ Kit

Zulu Basket Sale Benefits South African Students

Today and tomorrow, you can visit All Saints, where the LATTICE organization is holding its annual Zulu Basket Sale.

The sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at All Saints Episcopal Church, 800 Abbot Road, East Lansing. More than 150 museum-quality Zulu baskets and a special, small shipment of Sikhosiphi Nene's beaded jewelry will be on sale.

Prices for the baskets range from $18 to $280, depending on size, color and complexity of the weave. Jewelry will sell for $12 to $60.

All proceeds go to provide scholarships for Zulu students in KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reading Ahead: You May Ask Yourself, Well, How Did I Get Here?

When last we left Jesus and his friends, it was at the end of Chapter One of Mark's gospel. A lot had happened in just a few verses. John appeared in the wilderness, announcing the Messiah. Jesus turned up, was baptized, then driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted. He returned to Galilee, began his ministry, called disciples, healed in the synagogue, healed Peter's mother-in-law, went out to other towns to proclaim the message and healed a leper.

Whew. That was one intense chapter.

But now, as is its wont, the lectionary schedule of readings has picked us up just as we were ready to dive in to Chapter Two, and plopped us here, on this mountaintop, with Peter and James and John and Jesus ... and Elijah and Moses!

And -- as Talking Heads memorably said -- you may ask yourself, well ... how did I get here?

The Last Sunday after Epiphany is always given over to this story of the Transfiguration. Whether or not it makes any sense. So we have gone from Chapter Two to Chapter Nine of Mark in the blink of a week. What have we missed in the interim?

Healings, controversies, fights with Pharisees and others, calling of the twelve apostles, casting out of demons, telling of parables (which no one understands), the beheading of John the Baptist, feeding of the 5,000, walking on water, and finally, finally, after chapters and chapters of no one understanding who he really is, he asks his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"

And Peter says "You are the Christ," and Jesus begins to tell them that the Son of Man must go to Jerusalem and be handed over to the authorities and be crucified and on the third day be raised. And Peter doesn't like this idea and scolds Jesus, and Jesus lays him out and says "Get back, Satan!"

And tells us what it means to follow him: "If any would be my disciple, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

OK, NOW we can talk about what Jesus and his friends are doing on this mountaintop.

This mountain top is the hinge point of Mark's gospel. On the front side of it, only the demons know who Jesus is. His identity is a secret. He does great deeds of power. He heals, he exorcises. Now, here on this mountain, his friends hear the voice that only Jesus heard at his baptism. The voice from heaven that declares Jesus his son. They see Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets. They see Jesus as he appears to his Father, shining and pure and good.

Everything after this is an inexorable walk to the cross. There are few, if any healings after this moment. Jesus seems powerless, yet powerfully focused on the road to Jerusalem. He is on the move, teaching his friends what must happen, yet they don't get it. He is trying to explain to them what it looks like to walk the way of the cross.

We pause here, on the mountain, looking down at the road out of Epiphany into Lent, the road that leads to the cross. We know who Jesus is in this moment of glory on the peak. Will we recognize him when he is lifted up, broken and battered, on that cross?

That is the question for the next six weeks. How shall we answer it?

+ Kit