Thursday, May 31, 2012

What Priests Want You to Know

I found this on another blog (Dirty Sexy Ministry) and thought it worth posting and linking here...

The short list:

1. Your minister has a personal life.

2. Sundays are long days for us.

3. Clergy have to flip switches in ways that are not good.

4. We miss the parishioners we bury.

5. We are not particularly good at disappointment.

6. Life happens at the church every day of the week.

7. Many clergy only get one day off a week.

8. Church life is often feast or famine.

9. We don't remember what you tell us on Sunday. Please, email us or write it down.

10. We make mistakes.

Read the whole thing here:

The Lord's Prayer

vavma' QI'tu'Daq, quvjaj ponglIj: ghoSjaj wo'lIj, qaSjaj Dochmey DaneHbogh tera'Daq QI'tu'Daq je. DaHjaj maHvaD DaHjaj Soj yInobneS, 'ej yemmeymaj tIbIneSQo' maHvaD yembogh nuvpu' DIbIjbe'moH. ghotlhu'moHneSQo', 'ach mIghghachvo' ghotoDneS. reH SoHvaD wo', HoS je, batlh je.

(in Klingon!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Now for some humor before Trinity Sunday

God Quietly Phasing Holy Ghost Out Of Trinity

HEAVEN—Calling the Holy Trinity "overstaffed and over budget," God announced plans Monday to downsize the group by slowly phasing out the Holy Ghost. "Given the poor economic climate and the unclear nature of the Holy Ghost's duties, I felt this was a sensible and necessary decision," God said. "The Holy Ghost will be given fewer and fewer responsibilities until His formal resignation from Trinity duty following Easter services on April 20. Thereafter, the Father and the Son shall be referred to as the Holy Duo."

From The Onion (FEBRUARY 26, 2003)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day Prayers


O God of all the ages, as we gather here this Memorial Day weekend, to remember and honor the heroes of our past and our present, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women serving in our armed forces at home and abroad. Support them in the day of battle, and in the time of peace keep them safe from all evil; endue them with courage and loyalty. And when they return to their homes, guide them as they reconnect with their family and their community. Help us remember our civic duties and honor the freedoms won for us that we may be faithful in that trust to guard and protect them for all the people of this land and for the generations to come. Grant this our prayer in your most Holy Name. Amen.


ALMIGHTY God, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. We particularly remember those men and women who laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to those who are commemorated on these memorials and those in our hearts, your mercy and the light of your presence. And give, O Lord, to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will and that we may walk away from this place today, grateful for what has been given to us. Grant this our prayer in your most Holy Name. Amen. 
(both adapted from other sources) - Recited after the 2012 Memorial Parade of Monroe

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 20 Sermon

Last week I spoke about our God who moves in mysterious ways, using a hymn and story from the poet William Cowper. One who would have understood that saying was St. Paul.

Before he was St. Paul, his name was Saul. And he thought he knew what he was supposed to do…

He was not one of the first 12 disciples, in fact, he was a persecutor of some of them, but in a flash of light, his life changed. Saul came so close to God and God came so close to him in that event that he would come to a new understanding of what God wanted him to do. His life and his name changed in the encounter with mystery!

Saul would become Paul, and he would become a saint in the church because of his witness to the world. But we must remember how this all began…

1. Paul’s (or should I say Saul’s) life began in Tarsus, in south central Turkey, (the place of the first meeting between Mark Antony and Cleopatra). He was named Saul after the first King of Israel. He and his family were both Jewish and Roman Citizens. He loved learning, he knew the Greek language well but he loved Hebrew and his faith.

2. This led him to leave Tarsus and to make his first journey as he went to study at the temple in Jerusalem. Scripture tells us that he was as a student of Gamaliel the Elder, or at least within his school of the Sanhedrin. He worked hard to keep all the laws of the Torah. But Saul was troubled by the Christians who claimed Jesus was the Messiah. Saul persecuted Christians.

3. And then as he traveled to Damascus because he heard there were Christians there, He experienced God on that road to Damascus. A blinding light knocked him down – the voice of Jesus asked why he was persecuting him. And his companions took him to Damascus because he could not see. Taken from Acts 9:1-9.

4. He stayed with Ananias in Damascus, a Christian who was reluctant to minister to Saul because he knew he was a persecutor of Christians. But God told him to take care of him and Ananias did. Saul was healed from his blindness and no longer persecuted others, instead his name changed to Paul and he proclaimed the Good News of Jesus. When others wanted to arrest him for this change of heart, he escaped from Damascus, being lowered over the wall and he spent time in the desert.

5. He taught about Jesus. He took many journeys along the Mediterranean to tell others his experience. A story from Acts 17, tells of Paul before the Athenians on Mars Hill, helping the Athenians learn that this unknown God that they worshiped was the God Paul knew. For Paul listened to the longing in their hearts for faith and hope and love, he saw their intellectual curiosity and their restless creative spirit, and spoke boldly of God who is near each one of us, “in whom we live and move and have our being.”

5. He wrote letters to new churches. We remember their names from the people he wrote to… Corinthians, Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, Romans…and nearly every Sunday its one of his epistles (letters) that we hear that help us how to live as Christians in our world today, just as he had written to the Christians so long ago guiding them on how to live in that love that he found in Christ, that they can share in their places (churches). Some of those letters may also have been written by students of Paul.

6. Then finally, he went to Jerusalem for the last time, in a ministry that probably lasted around 30 years, he went to preach the Good News and while there he was arrested by the Romans. And being a Roman citizen from Tarsus, they sent him to Rome to await his punishment.

7. Even in house arrest in Rome, he continued to write and support the Churches. And then it came time for Paul to face his punishment, and he was martyred by the Romans; years later the Roman Emperor Constantine who converted to Christianity would build a church on the spot where tradition said he died.

8. The church of St. Paul Outside the Walls was built there in 324.

and the early church who Paul helped develop, though of him as a saint and St. Paul still lives, because his letters are still read in churches today. We hear the accounts of his life from the Acts of the Apostles and we continue to try to live as Christ would have us live. Much of his work was to try to say how his hate had turned into love and how everyone (jew or greek, male or female, slave or free – galatians) has a place with Jesus. He begin to settle churches where people could show how this was to be done, to love one another. And he preached to everyone whom he met.

God moves in mysterious ways and Paul found that out on a road to Damascus long ago.

Paul came so close to God and God came so close to him that he would understood what God wanted him to do, to share the love of God & not hate others in God’s name and now it’s up to you & I, to go share that love with others and live into God’s mysterious ways. Amen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Praying for Norah

Our little one is having surgery this morning at Yale. Please remember her in your prayers.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Living in between times... (religion & spirituality collide)

The author Diana Butler Bass has written an excellent article, based I believe on her new book Christianity After Religion.

Read her article here: when-religion-and-spirituality-collide/

Here is an excerpt:
Until recently, the archbishop of Canterbury was chief pastor for a global church bound by a common liturgy and Anglican religious identity.

Expectations for religious leaders were clear: Run the church with courage and vision. Bishops directed the laity, inspiring obedience, sacrifice and heroism; they ordered faith from the top.

Today’s world, however, is different.

All institutions are being torn apart by tension between two groups: those who want to reassert familiar and tested leadership patterns — including top-down control, uniformity and bureaucracy; and those who want to welcome untested but promising patterns of the emerging era — grass-roots empowerment, diversity and relational networks. It is not a divide between conservatives and liberals; rather, it is a divide between institution and spirit.

Top-down structures are declining. In the Anglicans’ case, spiritual and institutional leadership have been severed. The emerging vision maintains that spiritual leadership must be learned, earned and experienced distinct from, and often in tension with, the ascribed role of bishop.
So what does this mean for us?

May 10 Sermon (Easter 6)

“The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles…”
There is an old saying that says “God works in mysterious ways.”

I am not sure why this surprises us so often but it does, that God seems always to be working beyond us, outside the confines of the boxes we keep trying to put God into…

Consider our collect of the day and the words “you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding.” God who created us each in God’s image, has prepared good things for us, but they are beyond our understanding.

There is mystery there and that is where our faith steps in.
When Peter saw that the gentiles also had the Holy Spirit he asked, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
Peter’s faith compelled him to baptize the gentiles, even as he tried to fathom God’s work among them, because that is not who God works with. Other disciples back home, were less then pleased and criticized his work. He ate with the unclean gentiles. Peter returned to Jerusalem to take them through what happened, & explain to them the circumstances. Then they came around and recognized God at work even among the gentiles!

Things happen and looking back we see the hand of God…

William Cowper was an English poet of the 18th Century and probably one of the most popular poets of his time. His work focused on the everyday life of the English and the English countryside. His worked helped change the nature poetry of his day. His faith life found solace in Christianity but his life was filled with doubt and despair.

There is a story told of the unusual circumstances under which William Cowper wrote one of his hymns.
The story goes that Cowper had sunk to the depths of despair. One foggy night he called for a carriage and asked to be taken to the London Bridge on the Thames River. He was so overcome by depression that he intended to commit suicide. But after two hours of driving through the mist, Cowper’s coachman reluctantly confessed that he was lost. Disgusted by the delay, Cowper left the carriage and decided to find the London Bridge on foot. After walking only a short distance, though, he discovered that he was at his own doorstep! The carriage had been going in circles. Immediately he recognized the restraining hand of God in it all.

Even in our blackest moments, God watches over us. Convicted by the Spirit, he realized that the way out of his troubles was to look to God, not to jump into the river. As he cast his burden on the Savior, his heart was comforted. [from various sources]
With gratitude he sat down and penned this hymn:
God moves in a mysterious way
his wonders to perform:
he plants his footsteps in the sea,
and rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
the clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break
in blessings on your head.
Although Cowper felt divine providence had guided him away from the brink, he knew he didn’t understand it all for the last verses also tells us that we cannot always know…

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
but trust him for his grace;
behind a frowning providence
he hides a smiling face.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
and scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
and he will make it plain.
The challenge for Cowper is the same for us, to trust God for his grace, for God will interpret God’s work and make it plain in God’s time.

In our days, when so much seems in upheaval, we long for certainty, we long for the answers.

And yet, our God waits for us on our journey, waits for us to be open to what may be, when God will make it plain to us.

“With God, one does not just mark time, rather one walks on a path." is how Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it.

Jesus said, “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."

The journey before us is shrouded before our eyes and yet Jesus tells us that our calling is to bear that good fruit, to love one another, to trust in God’s grace for as we walk that journey, we will find God in our midst and as Cowper would understand, blessings will break upon us. Amen.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On Marriage in CT

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Ordained Ministry:

We, the bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, want to take the opportunity in this "Episcopal Epistle" to reflect with you on Christian marriage and, more specifically, how we are to understand pastoral and liturgical practices related to marriage here in our diocese at this particular point in time. The invitation for this reflection grows out of Resolution #6 - "Permitting the clergy of the Diocese of Connecticut to voluntarily officiate marriage of same sex couples" from our 227th Diocesan Convention in October 2011. We are thankful for this resolution and the opportunity to discuss our current understandings of pastoral responses related to Christian marriage.

The first resolve of Resolution #6 "urges the Bishop of Connecticut (and we understand the episcopate to include the diocesan and bishops suffragan) to acknowledge that there are people living in same-gender relationships of mutuality and fidelity who want to be married by their clergy. . ." We bishops know personally that there are good and faithful lesbian and gay sisters and brothers in Christ in the Diocese of Connecticut who seek to be married by their clergy within the context of their worshipping Christian community; and we give thanks for their faithful Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The second resolve of Resolution #6 asks "that the Bishop of this Diocese permit the clergy of the Diocese to determine the appropriate generous pastoral response to meet the needs of the members of his or her own local eucharistic community, including officiating at weddings of same-sex couples, and acting as legal agents of the State in signing marriage licenses." We very much appreciate the intent of this resolution. The Episcopal Church, however, has not yet embraced marriage equality for all people. In this The Episcopal Church lags behind the statutes of the State of Connecticut. More specifically, the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage service in the Prayer Book articulates that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that the union is between a husband and a wife. Similarly Canons 18 and 19 of The Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church: 2009 describe marriage as between a husband and a wife. All clergy, including bishops, have vowed "to conform to the doctrine discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church" as put forward in The Book of Common Prayer and The Constitution and Canons. We, as bishops, do not have the independent authority to change the Church's definition of marriage as currently articulated in these documents.
We do believe that the current definition of marriage in our Church is oppressive to gay and lesbian couples who seek the same recognition and blessing of their relationships that heterosexual couples receive. This causes us great sadness, and we further believe that the Church's position limits our witness to God's mission of restoration and reconciliation for all people in Christ Jesus. Only the General Convention, however, can resolve this situation of inequality. It is thus beyond our power to give clergy permission at this time to officiate (in a legal sense) at weddings of same-sex couples and act as legal agents of the State by signing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples. It is heartbreaking for us to have to say this, yet our understanding of our responsibilities as bishops lead us to this conclusion.

The 2009 General Convention of The Episcopal Church has passed Resolution B056 that says: "bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church." At the present time, "generous pastoral response" in The Diocese of Connecticut is understood as allowing for the blessing of same-sex unions as best interpreted by the clergy and pastoral circumstances of a local eucharistic community. Priests, responsible for the liturgical life of their congregations, are urged to work with their lay leaders to establish parish norms and guidelines for the most robust and generous pastoral response possible for lesbian and gay Christian sisters and brothers seeking the Church's blessing of their relationships characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful and honest communication, and holy love. These guidelines might include the services of a Justice of the Peace or other qualified person who can legally officiate at a marriage of gay and lesbian couples in the State of Connecticut.

Resolution B056 also asked the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of The Episcopal Church to develop theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender unions and report to the 77th General Convention.We have seen drafts of the Standing Commission's report both at our House of Bishops Meeting and at the recent Province One gathering in preparation for this July's General Convention. We expect the 2012 General Convention to consider trial rites for the "Blessing of Same Sex Couples" as well as address the legal implications of blessings of same-gender relationships in states where marriage equality exists. We look forward to revisiting our diocese's liturgical, pastoral and legal position on same-gender blessings and marriage in light of the decisions of General Convention this summer.
Finally, we would like to begin a discussion, in general, about the legal and ethical ramifications related to clergy of this diocese signing a License and Certificate of Marriage for the State of Connecticut. There are some in The Episcopal Church today who believe that the Church should no longer act as an agent of the state in any legal matters. They maintain that it is inconsistent for The Episcopal Church to claim "separation of Church and State" when it comes to matters of the payment of property taxes and at the same time act as an agent of the state in the signing of a License and Certificate of Marriage. Also, for the sake of justice, some clergy choose not to sign marriage licenses for heterosexual couples in order to stand in solidarity with our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers who are currently excluded from marriage in The Episcopal Church. Perhaps it is time for clergy of The Diocese of Connecticut to consider not signing a License and Certificate of Marriage for heterosexual couples married in the Church. This could easily be accomplished by inviting a Justice of the Peace to participate in the service and then sign the License and Certificate of Marriage. We look forward to discussing these ideas with you at the upcoming Clergy Conference, in clericus meetings, and in other venues.

We, the bishops of Connecticut, appreciate that we are living in in-between times with respect to the Church's position on marriage equality. We hope and pray that the guidance provided in this "Episcopal Epistle" will give some clarity to clergy providing care to all seeking the blessing of the Pastoral Offices of The Episcopal Church.

Ian, Jim and Laura
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas
The Rt. Rev. James E. Curry
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens
The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut