Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A truly English Service of Readings and Carols

Fr. Jonathan has posted a truly different, beautiful and moving Lessons and Carols at St. Laika's. You don't have to wait until this Sunday. Christ is born. Come, let us worship.

Then, this Sunday we will be celebrating Christmas Lessons and Carols at Grace Episcopal Church in Norwalk, Connecticut. The season of celebrating the birth of our savior is not yet ended - Come, let us worship!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Here comes the snow!!!

The snow was forecast to begin at 10:00 a.m. and at 10:00 a.m. exactly, just as we began the first hymn, it started to snow.

But we still have over 40 people, which is not bad for a snow-phobic people like Norwalkers. And the service was joyous. Wonderful. And we had lunch after - hopping john, salad, jello with fruit, clementines, brownies Mexican style - mmmmmm - coffee and juice. What a great bunch of folk.
Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Happy New Year! Feliz Año Nuevo!

Enjoy the snow.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Feast of the Incarnation

While all things were in quiet silence, and that night was in the midst of its swift course, your almighty Word, O God, leaped down out of your royal throne, Alleluia.

Ernest F. Rotermund, September 18, 1920-December 20, 2010

A Celebration of the Life of
Ernest F. Rotermund (Ernie)
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Homily: The Reverend Lois Keen

Occasionally you may meet someone who is beloved by everyone, unconditionally.

Seldom do you meet, however, someone who seems to have nothing in him except love for everyone. Someone through whom the love of Christ shines. That was, and still is, Ernie Rotermund.

During World War II, Ernie served with the Army Aviation Engineers building runways in advance of the fliers. It was said of him that he was trying to win the war single handed. He was the first one on the ground and the first one to start to get to work. He was always on the front line. When I heard this story this week, I heard it as evidence of Ernie’s love. And I wondered why, until yesterday when I thought, well of course. Ernie was the kind of man who would do all he could to get the war over as soon as possible so the world could go back to trying to love one another.

No one can engender the kind of unconditional love that people have expressed about Ernie, without being a loving soul himself. His family say he was kind to everyone. Everyone who knew him said he was a sweet man. My own experience of Ernie was that you could only respond to him with love.

Betty is Ernie’s first love. Flowers are his second love, one he shared with Betty and their family. There was the greenhouse, and then the florist shop. And even after they were sold, there were still the relationships with the flower growing community. Ernie continued to make floral creations, especially for Grace Church, and the whole family came here to deck the church in poinsettias at Christmas, and with lilies at Easter.

Ernie once said to me that he thought of himself as an artist, one whose paints were his flowers. I agreed with him; he was an artist. It takes a certain kind of love to be able to create what Ernie did with flowers. Especially to create art that is as fleeting as the lives of flowers.

Ernie loved to build stone walls. This love sent Ernie, Jr. this week to reflect that his father was both the keystone and the cornerstone of their family. The keystone is the stone in an arch that takes the weight of the other stones. The cornerstone is the first stone laid, from which the rest of the edifice grows. Ernie, with Betty, built a great family, and accumulated an enormous edifice of friendship. All the family leaned on Ernie, bringing their questions and hard decisions to him.

The memories remain. The friends and family remain. The love remains.

And so does the keystone and cornerstone. For although Ernie is not here, his love and strength were reflections of our Savior, Jesus the Christ.

Jesus said, “Do not be troubled. Trust in me.” When his family leaned on Ernie, they were leaning on Christ. What Ernie’s and Betty’s family and friendships have become, were built on the foundation that is Christ.

Ernie has been raised to new life in Christ. It is for us the living to lean now on Jesus, to trust Jesus, and to not be troubled.

There is a golden cedar in Riverside cemetery. Ernie used to take care of that tree, trim and prune it, and, yes, take cuttings from it to use in arrangements and decorations. The final resting place of his body is in sight of that golden cedar, chosen for Ernie on purpose. Here is a place he can be remembered.

But Ernie himself lives on, in the church where he was a lifelong member, in this place where he and Betty sat together for worship faithfully week after week, in the memories of those he loved and in the hearts of those who love him still.

Love never dies. Ernie still lives. He is with God. He sees Christ face to face. But so long as there is even one here who loves him, he will also always be with you.

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

I like to think that those who have gone before us are helping Jesus prepare our places in heaven. With his love for building walls and making art with flowers, I believe the places Ernie is helping to prepare will be some of the most beautiful of all.

Almighty God, our Father in heaven, before whom live all who die in the Lord: Receive now our brother Ernie into the courts of your heavenly dwelling place. Let his heart and soul now ring out in joy to you, O Lord, the living God, and the God of those who live. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Eve of the Feast of the Incarnation

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?*
For neither before you was there any seen like you, nor shall there be after.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why do you marvel at me? The thing which you behold is a divine mystery.

Alleluia, our Savior is at hand:
O come, let us worship, alleluia.

O God, you come into our darkness to shine with the brightness of the one true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy the Light of Christ perfectly in heaven; through the One who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2nd Day Before the Feast of the Incarnation

O Emmanuel,* our Sovereign and Lawgiver, the desire of all nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

3rd Day Before the Feast of the Incarnation

O King of the nations,* and their desire, the corner-stone making both one: Come and save us, whom you formed from the dust.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

4th Day Before the Feast of the Incarnation

O Dayspring,* splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Monday, December 20, 2010

In Memorium

Ernest (Ernie) Rotermund
September 18, 1920 - December 20, 2010

Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and my light perpetual shine upon him.
May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


The Advent Question

"Advent asks the question, what is it for which you are spending your life? What is the star you are following now?"
--Joan ChittisterThe Liturgical YearThomas Nelson, publisher (November 3, 2009)more here

Sermons and bone marrow donations

Yesterday in my sermon I concluded with the current status of a child in Norwalk, CT who needs a bone marrow donor in order to survive the leukemia that has returned stronger than ever after rounds of chemo and radiation. His name is Sebastian and he lives on hope - and his beautiful smile.

After worship and the Vestry meeting, our Deacon and I went down to St. Thomas the Apostle Parish gymnasium to get swabbed and be entered in the national bone marrow register, only to find that you have to be within the age span of 18 to 55 to be a donor. I am 65. I was very disappointed, to say the least.

But then the very kind information volunteer told me that they were taking donations of $1 on the other side of the gym. Well, at least this was something I could do at my aged stage of life so Deacon and I went over and put money in the big, clear, plexiglass cube on the donation desk. I put in all the "1's" I had. They volunteers smiled - grinned, actually - and thanked us and then one of them blew a horn and other took of noise-makers and the entire gymnasium erupted into applause that went on and one until we were out the door! Now that's the way to greet a voluntary donation! I really felt I had been useful after all. Thank you, God.

This morning the Norwalk newspaper, The Hour, reports that over 300 people registered yesterday with the bone marrow bank. Hallelujah. May there be a match there for 7 year old Sebastian.

"Now hope hat is seen is not hope. For who hopes/awaits for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." (Romans 8:24b-25)

For what do you hope this last week of Advent? Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

5th Day Before the Feast of the Incarnation

O Key of David,* and sceptre of the house of Israel, who opens and no one can shut, who shuts and no one can open: Come and bring the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

6th Day Before the Feast of the Incarnation

O Root of Jesse,* standing as a sign to the people, before whom kings shall shut their mouths and whom the nations shall seek: Come and deliver us and do not delay.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

7th Day Before the Feast of the Incarnation

O Adonai,* and leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

Friday, December 17, 2010

8th Day Before the Feast of the Incarnation

O Wisdom,* coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, ordering all things well: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent 3 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

This is the first Advent for Iglesia Episcopal Betania as congregation in residence at Grace Norwalk. This year on December 4 the youth worked to turn the Grace side chapel, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, into a shrine in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the month of December.

Our Lady the Virgin Mary appeared to a mestizo, Juan Diego, in Mexico on December 12, 1531. Mestizos, those of both Aztec and Spanish birth, were reviled by both cultures. The miracle of this apparition of the Virgin Mary is that she did not appear as a white, European Mary, as in other latino countries, nor did she appear as a native person, an Aztec. She took the form of the most reviled - a mestizo. She called the mestizos "mis hijos", my children. Unheard of. And her miracle - roses in a season when flowers did not bloom - turned the Spanish bishop's heart.

Today La Virgen de Guadalupe is known not only as the Virgin of Mexico; she is celebrated as Our Lady of All the Americas.

On the day of her feast, last Sunday December 12, Iglesia Betania held a mass in her honor and the people kept vigil at her shrine at Grace after the service. It was very moving to see the effect of being given space for this shrine, and the presence of the Virgin herself with them, on the people of Betania.

But the latinos are not the only ones who are being effected by her presence with us. People can sense Our Lady is truly there. I will not presume to speak for them. But I can speak for myself. When I knelt to pray before her image, I began merely being polite, and faithful to another peoples' tradition. In an instant I knew and felt differently and found myself crying as I asked her to help us, to soften hearts where they need to be softened, especially toward the latino people among us not only at Grace but in all Norwalk, and to strengthen and stir up those who need to catch the fire that is Christ with us.

The Holy Spirit side chapel at Grace will remain dedicated to Our Lady, the Virgin of Guadalupe, through New Year's Day. I have a feeling this will make a difference in the life that takes place at 1 Union Park in Norwalk, Connecticut. I don't know how; I only know that as I knelt before her, I knew I had been heard, and that my prayer mattered.

One and a half weeks of Advent remain. Make time for silence. Make time to stop, wait, ponder. Something is coming. We may think we know what it is. But be prepared to be surprised.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent 2 2010

A light in the darkness: Sula after the fashion of John Singer Sargent

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent 1, Monday 2010

I'm glad I took the dog out this morning for a second walk along the bike path. After my morning cup of tea, after my morning prayers, after I broke the ice on her backyard water tub ( Ice! ), I decided to take her for another walk. If I hadn't, I would have missed the frost. It's not the first frost but it is the first really good frost on the open grasses along the bike path.

Ice and frost. Winter is coming. This morning the zinnias in the garden are truly browned and dried out. Time to cut them down and let them lie in the garden, shelter and food for small birds. The sunlight coming into the living room has shifted. It's good journaling and praying light.

This year Advent caught me by surprise. In church terms I was ready - services planned, bulletins ready. But in personal terms I realized that this year, for the first time in over a decade, I had forgotten that I begin an Advent discipline of prayer, readings, writing and art on the Monday before Advent 1. And then I realized that maybe it's time to do something different.

I don't know what it is. I'm beginning by clearing up cluttered spaces in the house. And by eating my breakfast at the dining room table without a television to watch or the blogs to read. This year I am waiting, and I don't know that for which I wait. Maybe less sentimental magic and more of something else.

My prayer time was consumed by memories of the end of chemo and radiation three years ago. I re-read a journal entry from September 2007. That, too, was a time of not knowing, of waiting, of hoping for something not known or seen. Meanwhile, one pile of clutter to clear away. Plenty more for the rest of Advent!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Give Thanks to God this Week!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Have a safe and joyous weekend. See you in Church.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sermon for November 14 2010

Sermon November 14, 2010
The Reverend Lois Keen
Grace Episcopal Church
Norwalk Connecticut

Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9: Isaiah 12:2-6
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

A number of people asked that I post my sermon from today. It's on my sermon blog, but just in case you don't know how to get to my sermon blog, here it is, on Ramblings. Enjoy. The first line is from the Collect for the day:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning…”

A friend of mine once said that the scriptures are meant to be chewed, like a good meal. And once you have chewed over and tasted and savored a piece of scripture, you return to it again and again, finding different flavors. All holy Scriptures are written so that they never lose their savor. The hard news is that scripture is not for a light read. Like a good meal, it asks for attention, time, discernment.

My grandmother was a fundamentalist Baptist. I grew up thinking the Bible was a rule book, a rule book that I could never measure up to. When I became a preacher I learned that people wanted me to be able to tell them how a particular reading from the gospel relates to their everyday lives.

I stopped reading the Bible as a rule book when I first read St. Paul writing that the Law cannot save anyone; all it can do is point out our faults. Only Jesus can save us from ourselves.

As to scripture relating to our everyday lives, I’ve discovered that some scriptures might related to my life today and others don’t, and on another day, entirely different scriptures will relate and those others no longer relate. Eventually, I realized this thing of scripture “relating to my life” was just another way of seeing scripture as a rule book. If I can only crack its code, I’ll know how to live so that I will be lovable in God’s eyes and get to heaven when I die.

But even so, reading the scriptures are my joy and delight. And I have learned some important things from reading scripture, from chewing them slowly, over and over again.

The first thing I learned is from reading the Psalms. Some of the Psalms are hard to take. There’s a lot of desire for revenge, anger at God, anger and hatred of enemies. I think maybe the worst example comes from Psalm 137: “Remember the day of Jerusalem, O LORD, against the people of Edom, who said, ‘Down with it! down with it! even to the ground! O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy the one who pays you back for what you have done to us! Happy shall he be who takes your little ones, and dashes them against the rock!”

I bet you're glad we never read those last three verses in Church on a Sunday. What in the Name of God are we supposed to learn from that?! If all scripture is meant for our learning, what can we learn from such a scripture as this?

And yet, from Psalms like 137 I learned the most important thing I was ever to learn from scripture, the thing that has become the core of my reading of scripture: If the Psalmists can say anything – anything – to God, so can I.

There’s nothing so horrific in my thoughts or desires that God hasn’t heard before. There’s nothing God can’t take that we hand out. Even if I’m angry with God, the one totally safe place in all the world where I can take those feelings is to God. The scriptures teach me that: The one true safe place in the world is God.

This is huge. All my reading of scripture happens from within this place of safety.

Following that revelation, I learned from the scriptures as a whole, starting with Genesis all the way through the Revelation to John that the people of God have been on a spiritual journey for thousands of years, and we still are. The writers in the Bible tell the story of that journey through their understanding that God is working in their lives. They tell the story by remembering how they have responded to God – obeying, disobeying, following, ignoring, taking God for granted, returning to God. They tell their God stories: One day I was here, and God spoke, and I either obeyed and found abundance or I turned away and was sent into exile until I learned to return to God.

These stories are not dead stories. Yes, they take place in a time long, long ago. Some of them go back to before written history. But the story of the Jewish people, and later the story of the early Christians, is our story, too.

The books of the Bible are not the last word, they are the first word; the beginning of a story that keeps on being told. New chapters are added with each life that is lived. Your story, my story are each chapters in this ongoing story of humankind’s spiritual journey with God.

And we are all headed to the same place. Our stories are each different but we are all headed for the heart of God, where we already live but will not fully know it until all the stories are told.

I learned one more thing from reading and chewing and savoring scripture. When I was growing up, my mother, who had a prejudice against Jews, taught me that the Old Testament God was a god of vengeance and the New Testament God was a god of love. I believed this because she told me it was so.

In my thirties I read the scriptures for myself and I learned that this was not only not a helpful way of understanding the scriptures; it is also not true.

The God who speaks today’s words through Isaiah in the first reading and the canticle is the same God who Paul credits with his unhelpful and judgmental declaration that those who do not work are not to be allowed to eat. The God who Jesus declares will bring destructive signs for us to watch for, including betrayal, hatred and death, is the same God who promises restoration and reconciliation to everyone:

“For I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind…no more shall the wound of weeping be heard…or the cry of distress…The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox…”

Surely it is God who saves us. God is our stronghold, our defense, and our Savior.
The collection of stories we call The Bible, and the collective stories of our lives reveal this promise. No matter how dire, these stories, taken all together, reveal the promise of hope to which we cling, the hope we hold out to others without hope, the blessed hope of God’s eternal, unconditional love in which we already live, though we may not yet know it fully, now and for all eternity.

Give thanks to God. Make God’s deeds known among all peoples, by word and actions and love. Sing God’s praises. Cry aloud, ring out your joy, for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel, and his steadfast love will never fail.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Pics from Saturday November 6 1st Ayreto Hispano. People are already talking about next year!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kirsten Thien "Delicious"!

My niece's latest CD has been released - the title, Delicious. Here's a link to a fabulous preview and review of the album, at and here's the link to her website, at .

This is a shameless family-self-promotion but this talent is worth it. You should be able to hear cuts from the album if you go to her site right now! Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You are not alone

I have just returned from a vigil in support of LGBT youth, and against bullying, particularly homophobic bullying. It was held on the front lawn of the Norwalk, CT City Hall. The Mayor of Norwalk was there as was a huge crowd.

There were teens there as well as older people like me. The teens told the bravest stories. I am proud of them, and I want to remind them, and you, you are not alone. Even if all the humans in your life seem to desert you, God is still with you, and unlike human love, God's love is absolutely and totally unconditional, no strings attached, there for the taking and always with you.

Do not listen to anyone tell you anything different. No matter how convincing their argument to the contrary, walk away and remind yourself of this: God loves you unconditionally, just as you are. You are, just as all people are, created in the image and likeness of God and it takes every person ever born and ever to be born and not even ever born to even come close to portraying the image and likeness of God. So yes, I am saying, the image and likeness of God includes LGBTQQI persons. Or as one group's acronym says, GLOW - Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever! and that Whatever! includes even me, straight through no choice of my own.

If you need a safe place, there is the Triangle Community Center at 16 River St. in Norwalk, 203-853-0600. And if you want to hear from the lips of a clergyperson that you are beloved of God, call me, 203-866-8426. That's my confidential line. No one but I has access to messages left on that line.

And if your parents or friends are freaked, you just send them to me. You are not alone in this. You are not alone. Period. And I don't say that just because I went to a vigil tonight. This is what I have taught and preached even from before I went to seminary in 1994. So I way it one more time: You are not alone.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


By the way, lest this sign get lost in the end of the day, Xena Warrior Princess Dog of all Norwalk and I were in the back yard of the rectory this morning, Sunday Oct 3, when from behind us, from the direction of the church, flying low over the garage, came a small bird, followed by a sharpie (sharp tailed hawk) followed by a red tailed hawk. The small bird got away. The sharpie and the red tail perched in the tree to the side of the rectory driveway, and both stayed there until finally the sharpie flew off and the red tail didn't bother to continue the chase.

Now that's the way to start a Sunday morning, even if I did have no voice for the service to follow.

Sunday Eucharist October 3

I have lost my voice. I had a horrible upper respiratory thing that went to my lower throat area and whilst it was finally breaking up last night, this morning I awoke with no voice.

So what did we do at Grace Episcopal, Norwalk? I'll tell you what. I gave a typed handout to my chief cook and bottlewasher - the crucifer - that stated the case and outlined the solution. She found others to help and the service was lovely. Lay people led all of the service. I stood up at the appropriate moments and did the hand actions. I had a very brief, concise sermon photocopied and it was handed out after the gospel. After everyone had a chance to read it silently to themselves, they broke into small groups and discussed it. It went way over the 5 or 6 minutes I had estimated for that discussion - it was lively!

Now that's church.

One person commented that it was nice to be able to say the words to the Eucharistic Prayer. I'm just delighted to serve a congregation that is willing to "punt" when necessary and to do so with grace (no pun!), dignity and competency. It was a truly lovely service. Thanks be to God.

Now, if you missed Communion, or Holy Eucharist, or Mass today, you can still celebrate with St. Laika's Online Church sermon included, Father Jonathan Hagger presiding via audio file. Go there, worship, and then come back here and let me know about your experience. As a parish priest myself, I'm finding it comforting to go online, sit back, and let someone else do the "heavy lifting" whilst I relax into saying my prayers along with the audio and spend time doing nothing during the music except being open.

The Peace of Christ be with you, this day and always.

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Virtual Church Launched!

Dear friends,

I commend you to two new websites.

The first is St. Laika's Church, the Reverend Jonathan Haggard chief blogger priest. If for no other reason, try St. Laika's as we say daily prayers together, with Fr. Haggard leading us by podcast. Music is included as are the lives of the day's saints.

St. Laika's came to birth as those who frequent Fr. Haggard's blog OCICBW... realized the blog community was stronger than the content of the blog itself. We found ourselves praying for one another, giving to support mission together, writing to support one another in good times and bad. When Fr. Haggard found he was going to be "between parish posts" for some time, we urged him to start a virtual church. We prevailed upon him to name it "St. Laika's" for many of our saints - as well as blogging "bishops" - are beloved animals known for their courage and grace. St. Laika was our first name saint, being the dog who went into outer space alive, although her humans had no intention of bringing her back but instead deemed her life worthless except for what it could tell them about space. She went out alone; she died alone. Those of us who love animals call that martyrdom. We call upon St. Laika when our own animals are in distress.

It is all good fun; like all good fun, it is also serious. We mean that which we laugh at and with.

To keep us on the straight and narrow and to give us a core spirituality, Ellie Finley, a solitary religious, has opened a companion blog, "The Anchorhold" with links to other sites that help us with our spiritual development.

I commend both the Church of St. Laika and The Anchorhold to you.

I don't know if the program through which I have this blog allows for a "blogroll", but if it does, I request the web and blog administrator to add these two sites to it. I also ask him to add them to the web page of Grace Episcopal Church.

The Lord be with you and your spirit. Daily let us pray together and enjoy.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Xena does flagger training at Watkins Glen

While I was on vacation with my humans, mom and dad, my human mom got to drive on the track at Watkins Glen International Speedway and I got to stand in the flagger station, number 4, so I though I'd learn how to be a flagger. I thought it would be funny to throw a yellow "slow down!" flag on my mom but I couldn't get it over the railing. Here are my pics from my self-taught flagging.

Xena Doggie Warrior Princess blogging on vacation

Dogs who live rough on the streets don't get vacations. In fact we don't even got to sleep because we always have to keep one eye open for danger.

Now I live with two human guardians and this year I got to go on my first vacation. Yea!!! We went to Watkins Glen, NY to the road race track there. Here are some of my pic from vacation.
This is in the car.

This is me at the race track, with some pics of the cars on the track. Check out my reaction to the big iron pounding sound of the Porsches!

Mostly, this is what I did on my vacation:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dog Heaven

Take a look at this post from the MadPriest. I am definitely thinking about introducing this Sunday afternoon service. Our Chapel of the Holy Spirit is perfect - no pews, open space. What can it hurt? I really like the part about passing the dog biscuit basket along with the offering plate. I know a few people who would love to be able to bring their dogs to church. I think St. Francis Sunday would be perfect.

And I am serious.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We Shall Overcome

DeanB replied yesterday that he would sing a chorus of "We Shall Overcome" in honor of the vigil held last night. It seems to have worked, Dean. We had a very good turnout. The gathering was orderly. Only one protest, shouted from a car as it drove by. Three people from Connecticut government were there. People came to give witness with their bodies not just locally but from New Haven and Hartford.

One speaker said, when she was growing up if you saw someone being bullied you went and stood with them. Another said, as a Christian, it's well and good to stay home and pray. It's better to get up, leave your house, and stand with those for whom you are praying.

An inspiring evening. An evening of hope - and hope is for that which is as yet unseen - peace, wholeness, unconditional love.

We live in a time when, for reasons passing understanding, false truth is being created out of lies or even nothing at all, for the purpose of fomenting fear, anxiety and anger. The TV personality Stephen Colbert calls it "truthiness", as in, I get to say what is true even if it's a lie. The people are believing it and the perpetrators' payoff is power. Stir up enough anger and fear and you become powerful.

I choose the powerfulness of Christ Jesus, who stood up to the bullies, sided with the "dangerous" ones, and chose to die for love of all.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

goldfinch revisited

Yesterday I watched as a goldfinch plucked petals off a zinnia flower to get to the immature seeds at the core. My first thought was to chase it away and save my zinnia, but I didn't. Today I think, the zinnia was serving its purpose, hard as that is for me to let it give itself up to destruction to feed another.

I'm struggling with my sermon for tomorrow. Yet another "prophetic" one instead of a comforting, send the people away feeling better about themselves sermon.

The whole of the gospel of Jesus Christ is summed up in his words to the woman bent over: "You are set free!" Just like last week's revelation that Jesus's Peace is not the peaceful rest we expect but, rather, "strife closed in the sod", bringing division, Jesus's Freedom is not even close to our political freedom, which the state giveth and can take away, or limit, closing some out and deciding who to let in. Jesus's Freedom is freedom from fear, releasing us to be as subversive, radical and scandalous as he was. His Freedom is the escape from Egypt. It is the rescue at the Red Sea.

Jesus's Freedom, given to us freely, costing us nothing but costing him his life, challenges us to expect our worship to leave us challenged to do what he did: set people free. Free from our cultural norms that say, "Hate your enemy. Fear those not like you. Shun them. Deport them. Close your borders." Jesus's Freedom challenges us to a religion that demands much of us: Release the captives, give sight to the blind, heal the lame, honor God's image in all people, love all people exactly as much as God has loved us - endlessly, giving up His life for us.

Tuesday I'm going to put my money where my mouth is. There will be a prayer vigil in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Fairfield County at the 1st Congregational Church in Stamford. This is not a political act. This is a gospel imperative. Jesus said, "You are set free." It behooves me to act like it. It behooves me to proclaim that freedom with my body and my actions. It behooves me to give thanks by standing up for those considered by some to be enemies.

Even if Islam were my enemy, it would still behoove me to act without fear but with the freedom bought for me by the blood of Jesus Christ, and with knowledge aforethought stand up in love with my supposed enemy. Since I do not consider Muslims, or Islam, to be my enemy, this is not a hard thing to do. The difficulty comes in how those who are my fellow Christians and friends will respond to my decision to follow my Lord into Stamford on Tuesday night.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A community of Love

I am stunned to find myself replying, "Me, too" to a comment on this thread at Episcopal Cafe. The Taize Community is celebrating its 70th year of service to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, humankind, and the Church Ecumenical.

The comment to which I replied asks if anyone else besides the commenter has longed for a Taize community here, and I found my heart saying, "Yes, me too." It was a moment of clarity.

Now I know what I want to do with a sabbatical - go to France, to experience the Taize Community firsthand. Of course, for all I know, there are already little-known or unknown communities around that fill the bill. If any readers here know of such a community, please let me know.

Monday, August 9, 2010

More flocks

Monarch butterflies are starting to flock to the zinnias. I love this time of year (except for the heat and hummidity!).

Free gold

Last Friday I looked out the rectory kitchen window and watched as a goldfinch flew in and perched for some few seconds on one of the zinnias in the kitchen garden.

This morning I saw a flit of gold outside my church office window. I watched for it to perch and it was a yellow warbler.

Enjoy. I did.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back from Vacation

I'm back from a week of vacation with Newlin and Xena, Warrior Princess of All Norwalk. I suspect Xena will sneak in here and blog her own point of view of this past few days. For me, the time was restorative. I enjoyed the setting of the place Newlin's "handlers" rented for his this summer, on the east shore of Lake Seneca in the Watkins Glen area. The back yard falls off to a field of queen ann's lace and apple orchard. The orchard is not kept up and is all the more charming because of that. I'll cut in some photos later in the week after I'm caught up on other things.

The highlight of the week was the last day, Sunday. Xena and I left with Newlin at 5:15 a.m. for Prime Hook Beach, just south of Milford and north of Lewes Beach, Delaware. The occasion: a birthday party for my oldest brother's spouse. And it was extraordinary, for Douglas's birthday was, finally, the catalyst we were all looking for over the past several years to bring all us Thien kids together in one place again. Yes, we were all there - amazing! Along with our two nieces, one of whom is Kirsten Thien, Rock Star.

My brother had brought in a three man band and Kirsten, her partner, and her dad (the middle Thien kid) brought their guitars and we had a jammin' good time. Our next goal: Thanksgiving together in NYC, Spanish Harlem.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shameless Promotion

I have just learned that my niece, Kirsten Thien ( )will be the featured performer at Redding Concert on the Green this Sunday, July 25 from 6-8 p.m. weather permitting. The link to the Redding Concert on the Green site is here
(Hope these links work.)

Kirsten is a blues singer/song writer with a solid background in that old time rock and roll, learned at the knee of her father, John Thien. She sings a mix of old favorites and her own stuff, which is pretty darned good. (When I refer to "my niece the rock star", this is she!)

I hope to be there, weather permitting, and I thought some of you might like to know about this, too.

Thank you for putting up with this shameless relative-promotion.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Evangelism? People younger than 40?

Episcopal Cafe has posted this article from the Alban Institute here

I commend it to you as well as the first comment on the article. I invite your discussion and look forward to hearing from you. For instance, if our website offered you your own blog, would you use it? What do you think about Tom Brackett's comment that most evangelism efforts are self-serving, aimed at the survival of a parish institution? How and what would we do differently, in order to focus ourselves outside of ourselves and instead on speaking the good news of God in Christ?

I also take this opportunity, regarding the suggestion we cease using the word "evangelism" and use faith-listening/faith-sharing instead, to tell you we will begin learning together how to do that at Grace Episcopal Church starting in the fall. Watch this space!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Living with Wildlife

Well, we're accustomed to see, and always delighted with, the Grace Church Hawks, one of which routinely perches on the steeple cross.

We're getting tuned in to the various bird songs that we hear in this little plot of the city of Norwalk, graciously near the thin strip of wild land between the bike path and the route 7 connector.

But the last thing I ever hoped to see here a 1 Union Park at the corner of Mott Avenue in Norwalk Connecticut was an adult fox walking across the garth, the lawn between the two arms of the building of the church. A red fox. Or I should say a brindled red fox - patches of gray here and there. And a big one.

6:00 a.m. Hope it keeps safe. Fox are one of those species that have adapted to living among humans. City foxes were not what I expected. A very delightful start to a Saturday. Shades of the fox who used to sleep during the day on a greeny tussock at the edge of our woods in Southern Chester County Pennsylvania. Very nice indeed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Answer

The first Thien's on this continent were German. They came seeking not just religious freedom, as so many Germans did, but freedom FROM religion. Johan Heinrich Thien was a Freethinker. In the town he founded, Thiensville, Wisconsin, no churches were permitted and the only symbol was the cap of freedom on a pole.

For three generations the Thiens spoke only German. My grandfather put a stop to that; he refused to teach my father German. Dad only knew what he picked up here and there.

What did my ancestors contribute to the U.S. American culture, in spite of being hardheaded about holding onto their language and culture? Kindergarten and early childhood education, and jelly donuts!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


This week I learned that when my father's people came to this country, they were not welcome. People from their country didn't speak English here and they did things their own way. For four generations my ancestors spoke only the language of their homeland. My father was the first to learn only English and not to have to speak the old language at home.

However, they did bring some customs that we now tend to think are U.S. American, as well as introducing some foods we now take for granted.

From what country did my father's, and my, forebares come? What customs, and what foods?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Our Katharine - a Presiding Bishop for All People

In response to a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury, addressed to all Anglicans worldwide and designed to chastise The Episcopal Church, headquartered in the U.S.A. , our Presiding Bishop, the equal of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori made this response:

Katharine is my hero. The Episcopal Church is for everyone. The Episcopal Church is...
Bring your own brain Bible study
Bring your own ideas, your own dreams community
Bring your own self - your whole self - followers of Jesus
Bring your own voice worship
worship that is timeless
worship that is timely
worship that is thoughtful
worship that is provoking
worship that is deeply prayerful and reflective
The Episcopal invites you, your whole you.
Enter, rest, and pray. (c) Lois Keen, June 4, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

The confessional

Most people, even Episcopalians, don't think of Episcopal priests as hearing confessions in the sense in which Roman Catholic clergy do. But we do. And the same seal of the confessional applies, although maybe not in law in the same way as the law recognizes that seal for Roman Catholic clergy. I would probably have to accept the possibility of serving time for contempt of court. I don't know. I hope I never have to test it, but so few people have come to me for the sacrament of "Reconciliation of a Penitent" as we call confession, that I doubt I ever will be so tested.

Having said that, I've been part of a discussion on a closed Facebook page about paedophilia and the seal of the confessional. If someone were sexually abusing his or her child, for instance, and came to me and confessed under the seal, would I honor the seal or would I report that person? That's the question.

In seminary we learned that as Episcopalian clergy we may just be expected to report the person. So we discussed what we each might do in order to care for the victim and honor the person confessing. I've been thinking about all this again, and I've come up with this:

Child abuse is personal with me. I do not think I would be the right person for someone who was abusing a child, actively, to come to for confession. I think I should warn people who come to me for confession - not counseling, where caveats do exist for this situation, but confession - that if I hear such things I will violate the seal and report them. I will also probably have to renounce my orders for having done so.

If someone no longer abusing begins to reveal such things I would also terminate the session if they had not taken action to make restitution for their crime against the child or children - confessing to the police, thereby giving the victim some shred of hope, and making sure the child or children heard from their own lips that it was the prepetrator's crime and not the child's.

I write this, knowing that I believe that when we confess, the forgiveness had already been given, and I use "had...been" intentionally. God doesn't wait for us to be penitent. I believe this. God's forgiveness is already there. I believe this, too. Our penitence is for us to be able to begin to live life more fully, more abundantly. This I also believe. Our penitence is not to be expected to make the victim of our sins feel better and accept us. That is a different category entirely. Only the victim can make that decision and the victim has no responsibility to take us back even if she or he does forgive us.

All this I believe.

Still, I do not think I could usefully sit with a perpetrator of crimes against children, UNLESS the perpetrator was coming to me, not under the seal of confession, for me to support them in going to the police, and in doing those things needed to make things right for the victim(s). After giving up to the police, and submitting to whatever is needed to make the child safe, then I would be glad to hear confession and pronounce absolution.

So, I guess this is a public notice that if you are a perpetrator of crimes against children, and you want forgiveness without doing the work of restitution, I'm not the person to whom you want to confess. I'm not proud of this. I'm being honest. I don't want to fail you; I want even less to fail your victims. I say this, knowing you yourself were probably victimized and are acting out in order to make your violated inner child feel better, more powerful. This is a complicated issue. And in this moment, at this time, I want to help you, and I also want not to be part of the continued, unrepentant violation of children in the present moment.

I'll keep praying on this. And working on this. And may the Peace of God, which passes all understanding, especially my understanding, guard your souls this day and always.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Spring in Connecticut

Two robin fledglings in the yard this morning with their parents.

Begonias planted as bare roots one week ago are thriving even in the cold.

Had a salad of our garden arugula and baby lettuces last night.

Labyrinth walkers sighted in the parking lot.

The "cold furnace room" alert has gone off in the church because the temperature has dropped below 50 degrees, because the furnace has been shut down for the season.

Ah, Spring in Connecticut! where I wear a heavy Norwegian sweater to walk the dog in the morning and by the time I'm in the office, I have to turn on the air conditioner.

But the highlight today is those two robin fledglings. That means the adults culling our yard for nesting materials are getting ready for their second brood. And unless you're being awakened at 4:45 a.m. by the screaming of robins outside your window in the morning, you have no idea what this means. Still, those fledglings are awfully cute with their short little tails...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Resurrection continues

Remember this post? About the sage plant?

Soon after that post, I read that if a sage plant doesn't like where it is, it means the place will not be good for the humans.

Well, I have good, resurrection news! The plant is spindly, yes, but it is alive, it has several branches with leaves, and it is going to bloom!

Now, true, there are only four buds on the whole plant. But there are four buds!

I noticed them this morning, and this same morning one of the Grace Hawks was again perched on the tip of the steeple cross. Now I call that good news.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Read this from The Lead

Go to this link and make sure you read the fifth comment, from JC Fisher, who writes, "The church isn't ours to lose: Christ has already won!"

Happy Eastertide!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easter 4 when we realize the dogwoods are about 2 weeks early

I'm seriously overdue for a post. C'est la vie.

This afternoon was the monthy Open Air Chapel service. Beginning Easter Day we moved the location of that outdoor worship to the sidewalk leading up to the front steps of the church. Today was our second service at that location.

Inside the church, L'Eglise Baptiste Haitienne was in full swing of worship. Outside, at the bottom of the steps up into the church we had our little portable altar (really a food service cart - how appropriate!) and a hardy band of five, in very chilly, gray, cloudy, threatening weather, out under the sky, saying Eucharist together.

Across the street, in the park, a man on a bench watched from a distance. As we were getting ready to begin, a man and a woman walked up and asked us about what we were doing. We invited them to stay but they declined, saying they were just interested.

Cars came down the hill of Bedford St., and around the corner of Mott avenue, some of them slowing down to catch a glimpse of what was going on.

As the worship leader, I was aware of competing with the sound of traffic, but not fazed by it.

And I thought, "Remember the vision that brought you into ordained ministry in the first place?"

The vision was of an orange peel, turned inside out. As I reflected on that vision over the years, much like Julian of Norwich reflected for twenty years on her initial visions, I came to understand this as a metaphor of what I was being called to midwife the church to be.

At one point I even fleshed out that inside-out orange peel: It is as if the baptized people gather inside a church building only for the purpose of gathering to leave together. They say a prayer for the endeavor, line up behind the cross, and then, all of them, clergy, laity, everyone, singing some hymn or other, begin to process behind the cross, down the aisle of the church, out the doors, and into the community, where, on the front lawn, or in front of the courthouse, or in a park or wherever outside, they make Eucharist in public.

I came to understand that we need to get outside of our buildings, literally. We need to be focused on the community around us, outside our church building walls, and we need to be taking our worship out into that community every Sunday.

Lots of people, mostly clergy types, have tried to tell me that this vision is just a metaphor for the people going out into the world after worship to live what we have done inside the building. I disagree about that meaning for this vision.

We have been inside our buildings for eons now. For a long time we could just sit there and expect people to come in the doors, making church inside buildings possible. In some places this is still happening, and good for those people.

However, between that vision and the places I've been called to serve in my short eleven years as a priest, in those places, those communities in which people are not flocking to churches, it is time to literally get outside of ourselves and outside of our buildings. Take it to the streets. All of us. I wonder, if we did that, every Sunday, if the baptized would realize what it means to take the gospel out of worship and into their daily lives. I wonder if we made a vision, a metaphor, concrete, it would deepen spiritual lives.

I wonder if, when we finally realize God has no interest in saving dying churches nor in saving institutions, but rather in gathering us into parthership with Him/Her in the mission of reconciling love in the world, we might truly become living images of Jesus's words to the disciples: "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
(John 12:32)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Hawks of Grace

This morning, Sunday April 18, Xena, Warrior Princess of All Norwalk, and I walked out on the deck. Suddenly Xena stopped, and looked up slowly. I followed her eyes and there, in the top of the tall, spindly pine tree, was a hawk. It plucked - yes broke off - a large twig, and flew away with it in its beak. Must be nest - building time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Just think. All those wonderful services during Holy Week, the presence of the Latino congregation of Iglesia Episcopal Betania with us most of that time, potluck supper together on Maundy Thursday IN THE CHURCH!, Padre Jose washing the feet of the newest born member, Emanuela, born just six days before, so many young people's feet washed, Good Friday with over 30 children plus adults, so many it took three processional crosses to enable every child to have the opportunity of carrying a cross to the "tomb". What a Holy Week. The Vigil was wonderful. The lilies arrived in time and were all over the church.

All this leading up to the grand festival of the Easter Day services.

It's 7:30 a.m. on Easter Day. Newlin is in front of the church putting up the pop-up tent over the sidewalk announcing the 2:00 p.m. Open Air Chapel service to follow the main 10:00 a.m. service. He has just sighted one of the red tailed hawks on the crossbar of the steeple cross. I take the dog on her leash out to see what he's doing and see an osprey sailing over the property. Miss Xena Warrior Princess Labrador of all Norwalk greets her "dad" and I decide to run her back to the rectory.

And down I go, on my face, wrecking my shoulder, bleeding from a cut over my eye, messing up my left knee. I drop the leash sometime during the fall. Miraculously, Xena stays put. Newlin doesn't even know I've fallen until I see that my glasses are twisted out of shape and he hears me shout something about "my glasses!" He grabs Xena. I can't get up. He helps me into the house and grabs bags of peas and corn from the freezer to put on my eye and my knee.

We spend Easter Day in the Emergency Room, mostly because I react badly to the narcotic painkiller they give me and my blood pressure goes down through the floor. All that work of love to get to Easter Day - and I missed it. Missed it more than I ever thought I would, considering my favorite Easter service is the vigil.

Where is the resurrection? Well it's not what you think. We live in the resurrection. Every bit of our lives is lived in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes there are those "little" resurrections - love out of the ashes of loneliness, peace out of despair, joy discovered in the midst of pain - and Easter Day was not without its miracles.

Pastor Paul, retired priest of the Haitian Episcopal Church in Stamford, was in the congregation when it was announced I had been hurt and wouldn't be there. He got up, went into the sacristy, vested and volunteered to take the service. So, Eucharist instead of Morning Prayer. And John, the Senior Warden, said, "I have an old Easter sermon" and dug it out and preached. The church was "packed" according to one email I got wishing me well. Barb administered the sacrament of Laying on of Hands for Healing and saw to it that Pastor Paul (Pere Paul) had everything he needed as celebrant. Barb and Carol took the Open Air Chapel service. And people were reminded once more, resurrection is here, now, always, everywhere.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia!
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Good News

Newlin and I are relieved - one of the neighborhood red tailed hawks made an extended appearance on the top of the steeple cross yesterday afternoon. It seems to be okay. The only thing better would have been to see both of them at the same time. For now, to know one is all right will do nicely.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grace hawks

I worry about the hawks. I haven't seen them since them for almost two weeks, since the nor'easter that did so much damage. I have visions of a nest destroyed, of birds plucked from the sky and cast down. Foolish, I know. Nothing is permanent. But I miss them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Most Beautiful

The Most Beautiful is a Japanese movie from 1944. Girls have left their homes to live in an optics factory supporting the war effort. Each girl, having left the soil of her birth, has brought with her soil from her home. Each girl's soil is placed in the vegetable garden of the dormitory. When they long for home, they go out and stand on the soil of their home and their birth.

Newlin and I have moved so much. When we moved from the home we built in Southern Chester County Pennsylvania, we dug up an enormous sage plant, or at least as much of it as Newlin could fit in a planting tub we had, and transplanted it in the soil of Milford Delaware. When we moved to Ridgefield, we dug it up again and, leaving it in the tub this time, as its permanent home, it moved with us to Boothwyn Pennsylvania and again here, to Norwalk Connecticut, where we replanted it in the ground at 20 Hudson Street.

Every year I pruned out the dead branches. Every year, wherever we went, the sage bloomed, beautiful pale purple blooms. By this time the plant measured almost three feet high and at least three feet across in any direction - a truly heroic plant.

When we moved from Hudson Street to our current home in the rectory of Grace Church, we transplanted it into the soil under the kitchen window of the rectory. This time, the sage has not weathered the move. This year there will be no profusion of purple blooms.

I thought at first the entire plant had died, but I see there are about 15 leaves on three or four thin stems that are fighting to remain strong and alive. Not enough plant to support flowering, but still I will cut out the dead wood for the sake of the part of the plant that wishes to live, no matter the circumstances.

And when I grieve or rejoice, or just plain miss having a home of my own, I will remember The Most Beautiful - I will stand on or near whatever bits of the soil are left from our home in Southern Chester County, putting down what roots I can until I'm uprooted once again to live and even thrive in another place.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Prayer requests

This is new on this blog, to post prayer requests, and really, they are my requests for your prayers. But the persistence of there being no jobs for those out of work is hard to bear. I ask you, then, to pray for those who are unemployed or underemployed, especially, Jackie, Lewis, Kathy and those others who you are invited to name in the comments below.

"Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. We pray they all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, that they may receive just payment for their labor, and that their families may be sustained through this ordeal; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." (BCP pg 824)


A week or so ago I watched on television "The Nun's Story" with Audrey Hepburn. The heroine became a nun so she could be a nurse in the Congo. Again and again the lesson was taught her that in joining the convent her first purpose must be to become a good nun. Our heroine has trouble with this throughout the movie and in the end realizes she must leave the order.

My heart broke for her. All that she was told, about putting discipline and obedience to God above everything else spoke to a place deep within myself, at least a wish that living in the world could afford me a life of putting God first, putting obedience to a rule of life first, trusting God so much that it would be okay to leave a piece of work or even a person at a particular time to attend to prayer, trusting that God would take care of that which I had left for the moment.

I find it hard to write what I felt, to explain the longing that still remains with me over a week later, to articulate this in a way that does not sound like giving up, or running away; to articulate it in a way that is more like running toward.

This longing comes at the same time we heard in one of our Lenten classes, The Radical Jesus, our presenter's understanding of what Jesus meant when he said, "Your faith has made you well." She said Jesus was saying that, for instance the woman with the hemorrhage, always had it in her to be healed of her bleeding. She needed no intermediary.

Well, leaving aside all the years the woman spent seeking doctors who could cure her, to no avail and to her own impoverishment, essentially our presenter was saying that we don't need Jesus or God. God has placed within us all that we need, if we will have the faith to believe that. Our presenter did not say this in so many words, but the idea that I might not need God hit me like a ton of bricks. If not God, then I am left with only myself, and what is God for, then?

And I was struck with those same bricks again: God is for worshiping. Full stop. For adoring. For praising. For thanking.

Would that I could reach such a place in my search for the Face of God that worship of God alone would be sufficient. But where does that leave most of the world? And does Jesus not say "Come unto me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest."

Taking all this together, I believe this: that God in Christ Jesus through the workings of the Holy Spirit continually invites us into relationship with That One Which is Holy, and a relationship includes adoration, certainly, and also taking and receiving of burdens for sharing. We take on Haiti, Jesus takes on my fears. I also realize that if my relationship with God is solely about my dependency on God "fixing" things, it is very one dimensional, and not a true relationship at all. I want more than that.

And so I am back to that kind of surrender expected of the nun. I remember reading about this movie, which I had never seen even though it dates back to the 1950's, and hearing in what I read that the heroine was right to rebel and the convent was archaic and even cruel in expecting a nurse to leave a patient on the first stroke of the bell calling her to prayer. After seeing the movie, I became impatient with our heroine. The nuns set to teach her were not as uni-dimensional as I had thought they would be. If they had been, I would not have been drawn again to a longing that has arisen in me from time to time over the course of my almost 65 years in this life.

I remember telling my Baptist grandmother when I was six years old that I wanted to be a nun. I remember that the day before Newlin asked me out on our first date I had just made the decision to tell my priest that I was going to begin the journey to becoming a nun. I still have the dream that it might be God's desire for me that should Newlin pre-decease me I would spend the remainder of my years as a nun. Of course, I could just be given to romanticism, which of course I am.

And still, it could be deep calling to deep. "You say in my heart, 'Seek my face'. Your face, Lord, do I seek." (Psalm 27:8) This is true. This is still the core of the depth of my being, as poor as I am in realizing it in my daily life.

Lent is nearly half over. May the Holy Spirit bless you with the kind of troublesome thoughts that serve to draw you closer to God. I know She has so blessed me!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Meditation Wednesday after Lent 2

It was a long time ago when Newlin taught me to sight birds through binoculars and I discovered hawks. They became and still are for me reminders of God's presence.

At one time in my life - the years of magical thinking (as though those years were over!) - a hawk sighting encouraged me to think something good was going to happen. Then came the day I sighted fourteen hawks on my way to work. I thought, "What really wonderful thing is going to happen!" but I got to work only to find that the head trauma facility in which I worked was begin closed down by the parent company for not being profitable, all our clients were to be shipped out to other rehab facilities or nursing homes and we were all being canned.

From that day I got scared whenever I sighted more than three or four hawks in one trip.

Actually, I don't think the hawks have anything to do with telling the future. But I still get a twinge of fear now and then. We just went a whole week without a sighting of the Grace Church resident hawks. Then over the weekend we got this picture and since then I've seen both of them every day. Maybe they are a sign. Of what, I don't know.

Or maybe they're just hawks - and wonderful!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Holy Cross

We're on a roll today.

Just half an hour ago BP and I watched a hawk fly low over our back yard next to the church. Then I looked at the cross on the top of the church steeple and saw the hawk, I thought, but now, there was the hawk we saw coming toward the hawk on the cross from the left. And then, we saw them start mating.

Both of us ran for cameras but of course we were not in time. By the time we got back to the yard only one hawk was there. She remained for about 5 minutes and then flew away.

BP asked if hawks mating on the top of a church steeple cross was some kind of immaculate conception. I don't think so, but who knows.

snow day redux

Well, things are improving in the basement mi casa. Beloved Partner has rigged up a rube goldberg contraption to funnel the water pumped up to the driveway spout to the other side of the driveway from the house and out to the street. The level of water is finally going down, probably due to us no longer recycling the water from outside to basement, up the spout, to the outside and back into the basement. Yea!!!!!!!!

It's still snowing. Yea!!!!!!!!

Snow Day!!!!

It's snowing!!! Yea!!

The rain yesterday flooded the rectory basement. Booooooo!

Newlin has today off because the snow! Yea!!!!!

He has spent last night and most of today in the basement dealing with the water. Booooo!

The sump pump was working. Yea!!!!!

It quit this morning and another inch of water collected. Boooooo!

Newlin got the pump to work again. Yea!!!!!!

He's still in the basement, dealing with wet things and sweeping the five different streams of water that keep coming in toward the hole in which the sump pump is placed. Booooooo!!!!

There is a sump pump. Yea!

It is not located at the lowest spot in the basement. Boooo. And it drips out into the driveway. Boooo. And then rolls down the driveway to re-enter the basement at one of the leak points in the foundation. Boooooo. Boooo booooo booooooo!

But it's snowing!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meditation Wednesday after Lent 1

Blog Notice

I regret I have had to reinstate comment moderation. I will try to check in at least once a day. We've had a nice long run of not having to enable this safeguard, and with luck those days will return again. For now, please bear with me. God bless you all.

Meditation Tuesday after Lent 1

Today at Starbucks one of the young women at the counter asked me what I'm giving up for Lent. I said, "I'm giving up doing nothing in the morning!"

Once again, this Lent I have taken on a particular discipline, which I hope will become a discipline for life. It never has yet done that, but I try anyway. Maybe this year it will happen...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Meditation for Ash Wednesday

Last Sunday we had a Valentine service, to celebrate love in all its diversity. There were decorations - hearts of all sorts - all over the building, including six hanging hearts in the coffee room and the hall entrance to the church itself.

I took down all the paper hearts, but I left up the hanging hearts and the window cling hearts for Lent. We closed out Epiphany celebrating God's love for us, our love for God, our love for others, God's love for others and I want to carry that recollection of love through all of Lent.

God sent Jesus for love of us; God sent Jesus to love us. Jesus went to the cross for love of us. God raised him from the dead as a ratification of the Triune God's unconditional, universal love. We keep Lent because we love God, and Jesus, because they first loved us. We keep Lent in thanksgiving for, and remembrance and celebration of their love for us. We keep Lent to remember to love others because we first were loved. Lent is all about Love.

And so, the Valentine's day hearts will stay up at Grace Episcopal Church, at the corner of Mott Avenue and Union Park, in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blog a Dog by Xena, Warrior Princess of all Norwalk Connecticut

It's snowing!!!!

I love the snow.

I run and push my face in it and my nose comes up all white.

But even more than snow, I love huge chunks of ice!!!!

I finally dug out these huge chunks last night and one of my human companions had to stay out with me until I was exhausted, pushing them, throwing the smallest one up in the air and pouncing on it, chewing on it - ice is wonderful! I can play all by myself with it and don't have to depend on the humans. (If you look at the picture real hard, between my two front feet you can see one of my chunks of ice - yeah!!!)

Of course, they think they have to supervise me. And they're right, if I'm out nosing around the yard, because I just love to cheek some old, empty hazlenut shell and chew on it in secret. The MOM is always saying, "Leave it. Drop it." errrrrrrr.

But the ice is no danger, is it? So this morning, DAD went inside and made his coffee. I could see the two of them watching me through the windows and laughing. I pretended that I suddenly realized they weren't there and then ran like heck for the porch. Then when the MOM opened the door to let me in, I stood there and looked at her, and then I ran back to my ice! She was supposed to follow but she didn't. Too bad for her if she doesn't know how to play!

But I have to say, I probably would've stayed out there playing until my heart burst, so it guess it was a good thing the DAD came out with the leash and took me in. Now I think I shall sleep all day, then keep them up all night trying to get them to go outside with me again and PLAY!!!!!!!!!

P.S. This is Xena, in case you didn't know. I still haven't put up my own blog, but why should I, since the MOM doesn't seem to mind my sneaking in and using her blog to post my stuff. YAY!!!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dog Blogging

Hi. I'm Xena, Warrior Princess. My mom is revLois. This is her blog. Maybe she'll let me set up my own blog someday but for now she doesn't even know I've figured out how to type and how to post. This is my picture. I'm quite beautiful, don't you think?

I have more pictures but because I'm all one color my humans haven't quite got the knack of capturing my essence every time.

I have to go now before She Who Must be Obeyed (leave it! drop it! let's go! kennel up!) returns and finds me here. I will try to post again.

By the way, I hear there are dog bishops out there in blog land. I would love to hear from you. Perhaps you could give me spiritual direction.

Uh oh, I hear HER coming. Bye!

Pet Peeve of the Day

When someone has an appointment with me, I meet them in the parlor at the church instead of my office, so I can't hear the phone ring. When someone comes into my office unscheduled, which is often and which is wonderful, when the phone rings I ignore it. The telephone is not allowed to interrupt people's time with me or mine with them.

So what's with the perpetual presence of the phone in the ear? Some of my fellow clergy, and I'm sorry if some of you are reading this but not sorry about what I'm about to write, some of my fellow clergy are never without that tiny phone hanging from their ear. The mere presence of it tells me that while having a conversation with them, I could be interrupted at any time in mid sentence by the much more important call coming into their ear.

Why is that call so much more important than the person in front of us?

I'm out of touch, I know. And I don't care if I'm marching to a different drummer. If you are talking with me, you will have my full attention, to the best of my ability to give it to you. If you are phoning me while I'm in the middle of having a conversation with someone who is in front of me, it is true that you will have to wait. In this day of instantaneous response, and lack of ability to delay gratification, this sounds harsh. When I do not answer the phone, then, imagine you are the person in front of me.

And may the Peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the love of God and of the Child of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday Treat

For a treat, I present a really good Indie (independent artist), Kirsten Thien. Enjoy. Unfortunately I don't know how to imbed full tracks. Sorry. But what you do get is worth the time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thought for the Day: Sorrow

I've been reading the book of Lamentations in the Bible, alongside a book by Eugene Peterson called Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work. The first four chapters of Lamentations are acrostics - each verse starts with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The fifth is not an acrostic but it has only as many verses as the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Whatever we might learn from the text of Lamentations, according to the wisdom of Peterson we can learn this from the format the writer chose: It is right to grieve, to give time to sorrow. It is also right to look for the end of that grief, that sorrow. Once you start a chapter in Lamentations, you know that the grief will last only until the last letter of the alphabet. There will be an end.

This has been my practice for a long time. I remember the practice about 80% of the time. When I am angry, and it threatens to take over my life, I set a time limit. I give it five minutes of all out anger, having declared to my anger that at the end of five minutes its time is up. I do the same for sorrow, and situational depression. It works for me. In fact, the anger/sorrow/fear/whatever seldom lasts the entire time I have given it to have free reign. I honor myself by honoring my feelings. I also honor myself by setting boundaries around the feelings that tend to derail my day or my life and my joy.

There is a time to cry; there is also a time to stop crying, to give yourself a rest. Peterson goes a step further: In times of great grief (i.e. the Babylonian captivity type of grief and loss), when the grief will be with us a long time, he advises making a regular date with yourself to grieve - i.e. today I will honor my sorrow for a time and I promise next week at the same time I will give my sorrow the honor of another visit.

When my father died, leaving us kids adult orphans and me the head of the family, my grief was so great that when I returned to seminary after the week of the funeral, I found my ability to function in classes and studies getting harder and harder. By day five, I shared with my friends that it felt like my brain was getting slower and slower. I just couldn't get it to function. They told me to take time off classes, write my instructors, delay papers, and just take a full seven days off. I did. I made a seven day appointment with my grief, and even when it felt like I could function again before the seven days were up, I still continued the full seven days. I spent a lot of time crying in the shower. I also spent time public. I laid a blanket out on the lawn of the garth at Seabury-Western in Evanston, Illinois (it was spring, but still chilly!) and a friend checked out about twenty murder mystery novels for me from the library, and before God and everyone I vacated for seven full days.

My grief at the death of my father continued, but having truly honored it for a season, it no longer derailed my life. Whenever it came back, I stopped and gave it my time.

I am not a therapist. I'm a priest, a theologian, an artist/poet, a scholar. I have only the scriptures and my own experience from which to draw. When a person asks me, I share my experience of setting limits. I'm also not shy about referring people to a therapist. You should have a choice.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

All Shall be Well?

Here's a post you might find interesting, helpful, challenging, angering...
It's from Tom Brackett at Church Planting Central.
I find it to be a relief and a "stirring up".

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Anniversary thoughts

On Thursday, the 21st of January, I celebrated the 11th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood in The Episcopal Church, centered in the U.S.A.

As I look back I see a trend: curate for children's ministries at a cathedral and chaplain to the children of poor neighborhood in which that cathedral is located. The cathedral grew through ministry with the poor, which resulted in financial near-ruin.

Rector focusing on ministry with children. The congregation could not afford a full time rector. I helped them make a decision to go with a part time priest, and I got out of the way.

Interim assistant to an interim rector, supporting children's ministries and pastoral care. This church also is in financial difficulty.

Priest in charge for a church for one year, focusing on children and their families. At the end of the year the church closed.

Priest in charge for a church deciding whether or not to close. Most of the few children that were there have left during my time.

Scripture passage that called me into ministry:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

No one even knew about my anniversary this week. Even I forgot. But Life Partner remembered. We went out to dinner. Lovely.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Last week a horrendous earthquake hit Haiti. The outpouring of attempted aid and support has been wonderful.

This morning, an "aftershock", almost as strong as the original quake, struck. At least we're not at risk of having the story become boring to the news media, but is there no end to the terror?

On Sunday we took up a collection for Haiti. I was very proud of the people for their outpouring. This Sunday, at the request of the family whose baby will be baptized, another collection will be taken up so the family and friends of the child can participate.

Last Thursday evening I opened the church for prayers for Haiti.

This Saturday there will be another service - the monthly Healing Service will be dedicated to the people of Haiti. Information on donating through Episcopal Relief and Development will be available for those who wish it.

More important, however, is the Episcopalian belief that a person can receive the sacrament of Laying on of Hands for Healing on behalf of another. Please, if you are reading this, and you live near Norwalk, Connecticut (U.S.A.) come to this service. Pray for Haiti. Ask for healing for her people through the sacrament of healing.

The service will be held at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, January 23 at Grace Episcopal Church, 1 Union Park (the corner of Mott Avenue and Union Park), Norwalk, Connecticut. 203-866-5454 for any questions.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Prayer Request

Grace Episcopal Church in Norwalk, Connecticut is home to a Haitian Baptist Church who have been worshipping and meeting and making church at Grace for at least fourteen years.

There is also an Episcopalian congregation, Eglise Epiphanie in Stamford, whose retired pastor worships with Grace, and for one of whose services I was privileged to read the Gospel in French.

These are people we know, with families and friends in Haiti. For us this is not a news story; it is reality.

Please pray for the people of Haiti, and pray for our brothers and sisters of the Haitian Baptist Church at Grace and Eglise Epiphanie in Stamford as they and other Haitian congregations in our area try to figure out how best to respond. May God bless and keep them and theirs, make his face to shine upon them and be gracious to them at this horrific time and lift up the light of his countenance upon them who have suffered more than enough darkness for many lifetimes.