Sunday, May 31, 2009

“Grace dances. I would pipe. Dance ye all.”

Sermon for Pentecost 2008.  As written, but not as delivered.

“Grace dances.  I would pipe.  Dance ye all.”

That’s written at the beginning of a poem written by W H Auden called Whitsunday in Kirchstetten.  Whitsunday (or White Sunday) is one of the great feasts of the church.  The white is from the white baptismal clothes the newly baptized would wear. I’m sure the poem came to mind because of my upcoming trip to Vienna.  I never went to the town of Kirchstetten, I’ve only seen the town sign while going past it on the train.  I do like its invitation to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Grace Dances

We don’t do much dancing in our Episcopal Church services. There is one Episcopal church that I know in San Francisco where everyone dances and that is St Gregory of Nyssa.  Not only do they dance around the altar, but they have ninety larger than life saints dancing in a circle over their heads.  Ninety people from various ages and religious traditions, dancing around the rotunda  with a twelve-foot high dancing Christ. 

I would pipe.  (Play Hymn 554 on the recorder)

This good Shaker tune we sometimes sing as Lord of the Dance is a tune called “Simple Gifts” invites us to dance.  In fact, when Bishop Lane came last year, Pam Ellis led our young women in a liturgical dance while we sang it.

Dance ye all.

How do we dance.  Well, however we do it movement is involved.  In Medieval times in Italy they’d throw rose petals down on parishioners to represent the tongues of fire and in France they’d blow trumpets to represent the great wind, and for what ever reason in England they’d have horse races. A pretty far cry from the  tame way we do church today. 

In the opening stanza, of the poem, Auden is in the Kirchstetten Roman Catholic Church and hears the noise of cars exiting Vienna, or to use his own words: “outside, car worshippers enact their ritual exodus.  We know of the ritual exodus, especially in this town which is a resort destination.  People frequently come for the weekend.  Sometimes they join us at our service, and if you are one of those, you are most welcome, but most often we see the line of cars coming up the mountain on Friday, then on the main street, and finally going down the mountain on Sundays.  People dance with their feet, literally or figuratively and it isn’t always into the doors of our churches.

Auden speaks of being “well gruss-gotted  That’s a custom we Americans don’t seem to have.  If you go into any small town in Austria, or if you are walking in the Vienna Woods, everyone you encounter will say “gruss gott.”  It means something like God’s greetings.  Something like the Spanish, Vaya con dios, except that’s usually used for good byes.  Our passing the peace is a gruss gott moment.  I would hope that everyone here, friend and stranger alike will feel well grus gotted by the time they leave.

It is nice to see familiar faces returning for the summer.  It seemed to me that this past winter saw a real decline in our numbers.  We are loosing people because of illness and death, and it seems like few new people are joining. And it’s not just Good Shepherd  that is struggling, a lot of churches seem to be struggling with how we need to be church in our own time. Horse racing and falling rose petals and blowing trumpets aside, people who are concerned about the declining relevance of church in our society are looking what the upcoming generations are looking for and what they’re seeing isn’t what either we mainline churches or the traditional evangelical churches are about.  They call this the Emerging Church and the people in it “emergents”  Anglicans call it Anglimergent. 

So let me tell you some of what they’ve found out. This is from an article on Alternet by The Rev. Howard Bess.  I have modified some of his words a bit.

First of all, emergents can’t accept the idea of Bible inerrancy (meaning it contains no errors). That concept does not stand modern critical examination in the study of languages. To say that ancient documents written in the Hebrew and Greek used thousands of years ago contain no errors is not credible.

Then, emergents ask: "If we are followers of Jesus, why don’t we live and preach Jesus’ message?" They want a more radical Christianity than they find in  either the Evangelical or mainline churches.  More and more they are putting their primary attention to what Jesus said and did.

Third, exposure to science in public education, universities and personal studies has led emergents to disagree with the idea that when the Bible and science appear to collide, science must take a back seat to the Bible. The emergents are not abandoning the Bible, but are raising critical questions about the Bible's nature and content. This new breed of Christian remains quite committed to the Bible but they are very open to new ideas and understandings.

Fourth, emergents have become disillusioned by the clay feet of church leadership. It is not just the Jim Bakkers and the Jimmy Swaggarts, but the rank and file of church leadership. Emergents compare what Jesus had in mind and what is going on in churches, and they see a need to start over. They want a fresh start with serious intent to follow Jesus.

Fifth, our public schools and our nation in general are insisting that we be truly multicultural. The churches' teaching, that people not like us, are doomed, is not acceptable to emergents. They want a much broader definition of what it means to be accepted in the family of God.

Sixth, emergents are insisting that God be understood as totally gracious and loving. The angry, vengeful God that is sometime presented in both Old and New Testaments is not acceptable. 

Seventh, acceptance of homosexuals in the family of God is common. Being pro-gay or anti-gay is not the issue. Emergents recognize that sexuality is far more complex than is generally recognized. To live in harmony with gay and lesbian friends and family members is a part of the emergent's perspective.

Eighth, echoing the first named characteristic, emergents recognize the role that language plays in their understanding and practice of the Christian Faith. Theology is both language bound and culturally shaped. To be rigidly exclusive does not make sense to emergent Christians.

This is a dance that is leading the church into new and scary paths.  It’s as though the Holy Spirit is again blowing wind and dropping fire on new heads.  I don’t know how or if Good Shepherd will become part of the Anglimergent movement.  I do know that soon you will be starting a new phase of your own.  The gift of the Holy Spirit takes many forms, but whatever form it does take it is grace.: pure unmerited grace.. We certainly don’t deserve ti, but we get it anyway.  Look at what happened to the disciples.  They were  gathered all together when the great rushing wind of the Spirit came and filled those men of Galilee with the ability to speak God’s word so that it could be heard in the hearer’s native language. 

And to end with the last line of Auden’s poem: “what do I know, except what everyone knows- if there when Grace dances, I should dance.”


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thoughts on Pentecost and Austria

I like this poem.  I've always wanted to incorporate it into a sermon and am trying to figure out if maybe this is the year.  Of course there are phrases and images that few (maybe only the one woman who was born in Austria) of the members of the congregation will be able to understand, so I probably will just end up using the superscription "Grace dances.  I would pipe.  Dance ye all."  This is appropriate since I do sometimes "pipe" on my recorder.

According to some of the "old timers" when I was in Wien in the 80s, Auden would occasionally come in to Vienna to attend the Anglican Church there.  He mentions in the poem that he was "obedient to Canterbury." The poem has memories of the cold war.  I was in Vienna when the border to Hungary opened up.  The traffic jams in Vienna when the Hungarians came in hoards to shop were quite amazing.  One day I had to turn my car around half-way home from work.  Traffic wasn't moving at all.  I parked my car in the UN garage and took the U-Bahn home. 

So, some other images this poem evokes for me:  the onion-top steeples of the churches in nearly every town, the stories of the last Emperor, Franz-Josef still beloved in spite of his eccentricities and  the gruss-gott greetings you get, especially when hiking or in small towns.

Of course, it's also an indictment of war and colonialism, but that part is not for tomorrow's sermon.

Whitsunday in Kirchstetten by W.H. Auden (1962)
(for H.A. Reinhold)

Grace dances. I would pipe. Dance ye all. 

Komm Schöpfer Geist I bellow as Herr Beer
picks up our slim offerings and Pfarrer Lustkandl
quietly gets on with the Sacrifice
as Rome does it: outside car-worshippers enact 
the ritual exodus from Vienna 
their successful cult demands (though reckoning time
by the Jewish week and the Christian year
like their pedestrian fathers). 

When Mass is over, 
although obedient to Canterbury,
I shall be well gruss-gotted, asked to contribute 
to Caritas though a metic come home
to lunch on my own land: no doubt, if the Allies had not
conquered the Ost-Mark, if the dollar fell,
the Gemutlichkeit would be less, but when was peace
or its concomitant smile the worse
for being undeserved?

In the onion-tower overhead
bells clash at the Elevation, calling
on Austria to change: whether the world has improved
is doubtful, but we believe it could
and the divine Tiberius didn’t.  Rejoice, the bells
cry to me.  Blake’s Old Nobodaddy
in his astronomic telescopic heaven, 
Army, Navy, Law, Church, nor a Prince
say who is papabile. (The Ape of the Living God
knows how to stage a funeral though,
as penitents like it: Babel, like Sodom, still
has plenty to offer, though of course it draws
a better sort of crowd.)  Rejoice we who were born
congenitally deaf are able
to listen now to rank outsiders.  
The Holy Ghost
does not abhor a golfer's jargon,
a Lower-Austrian accent, the cadences even
of my own little Anglo-American
musico-literary set (though difficult,
saints at least may think in algebra
without sin): but no sacred nonsense can stand Him.
Our magic syllables melt away,
our tribal formulae are laid bare: since this morning,
it is with a vocabulary
made wholesomely profane, open in lexicons
to our foes to translate, that we endeavor
each in his idiom to express the true magnalia
which need no hallowing from us, loaning terms,
exchanging graves and legends. (Maybe, when just now
Kirchstetten prayed for the dead, only I
remembered Franz Joseph the Unfortunate, who danced
once in eighty-six years and never
used the telephone.)

An altar bell makes a noise
as the Body of the Second Adam
is shown to some of his torturers, forcing them
to visualize absent enemies,
with the same right to grow hybrid corn and be wicked
as an Abendlander. As crows fly,
ninety kilometers from here our habits end,
where minefield and watchtower say
NO EXIT from peace-loving Crimtartary, except for crows
and agents of peace: from Loipersback
to the Bering Sea not a living stockbroker,
and church attendance is frowned upon
like visiting brothels (but the chess and physics
are still the same).  We shall bury you
and dance at the wake, say her chiefs: that says Reason
is unlikely. But to most people 
I'm the wrong color: it could be the looter's turn
for latrine duty and the flogging block,
my kin who trousered Africa, carried our smell
to germless poles.

Down a Gothic nave
comes our Pfarrer now, blessing the West with water:
we may go.  There is no Queen's English 
in any context for Geist or Esprit: about
catastrophe or how to behave in one
what do I know, except what everyone knows- 
if there when Grace dances, I should dance.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Seventy in Wien

Grandmère Mimi set me reminiscing this morning with her post Lessons Life Taught Me.  It's all about wisdom of growing older and I'm getting ready to celebrate my 70th at the end of June.  Since I celebrated my 50th and 60th in Vienna, I decided a few years back that I would celebrate my 70th there as well.  Many of the people I know are no longer there, but I do have a few friends I want to see and there are new people to meet at the Anglican Church there where I attended when I worked for the UN and where I spent eight months while in seminary as an intern.
My daughter and son-in-law are coming so that will be fun.  We will see The Magic Flute at the Opera House and share some meals with friends and show daughter's husband some of the sights. My daughter lived with me there for about a year.  She worked (mainly for free) at the English Theatre.  At the time she was a theatre major and had finished two years of college.  It was a wonderful time of bonding for the two of us.  She also met many people and has kept in touch with some them over the years and some live in the US near enough for her to still get together with then.  

One Mother's Day there she told me to stay in my bedroom.  My daughter was cooking in the kitchen and I assumed a nice breakfast was being prepared.  It turned out that  three  young musician friends of hers from Australia had come over to our apartment to play me a private concert (and eat breakfast.)  The Dvorak string trio they played brought tears to my eyes.  We had other magical moments around music and travel together and I am so grateful for that time together that allowed our mother-daughter relationship to flourish.

After Vienna I'm going to England for my first meeting of the Society of Ordained Scientists and with a Britrail pass go see some cathedral cities before heading home.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special. (From Mimi's post above)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Beware of the Dogs

I don't recall ever paying much attention to this psalm in Edward Hays' Psalms for Zero Gravity before. In his reflection on the psalm he speaks not of people who are unbelievers, but those who are supposed to be followers of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Beware of the Dogs Psalm

Beware of the watchdogs of religion,
how viciously they bark and bite.
Dobermans of dogma, thirsty for blood,
Bible defender, guard dogs of the literal.
Beware of the growling, heresy-hunting dogs
prowling orthodoxy's rigid chain-link fences.

Beware of the dogged bird dogs,
whose prey is the Spirit Dove in free flight.
Chained by fears, they are repelled
by the freedom and liberty of love.
Beware, for they relentless sniff out the new,
the Spirit's scent of novelty.

Beware of the snarling dogs of war,
with the blood of God's wrath
dripping from the corners of their fanged mouths,
from countless crusades,
bloodbaths and heretics aflame.
Beware of those who ravaged and shredded
with their sharp teeth
the apostles and prophets of old.
As Jesus said, rejoice, but also beware.
Comment:  Reading MadPriest's Homophobe of the Day posts and all the stuff that is going on in our Anglican Communion and my sadness of the news of yesterday from California on Prop 8, this psalm seems most appropriate.  The Dobermans of Dogma and Guard Dogs of the Literal are out there, beware. 

I apologize to all the sweet dobermans out there.  I know you are not all mean and if you are it is probably a human who is responsible.  Isabelle, my sweet little dog, who loves anybody who brings treats and doesn't care a fig about church politics, pardon me, but I think I still need to say with Hays "Beware of the Dogs."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Justice for All

Prayers for all my gay and lesbian friends in California who have either gotten married or want to.  May the California Supreme Court do the just thing today.  Our country was founded on the principle of justice for all. Pray that today justice will prevail.

Wikipedia image.

Update:  Half a loaf is not enough.  I am grateful for the couples that I know who are married, but what about those who can not now do so.  It is not justice.  Prop 8 should have been overturned.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Afternoon

Back side of church as seen from the lake. 
I haven't felt much like either writing a post or doing much in the way of reading and responding to other posts the last few days.  What I have been doing is thinking a lot about our service this morning.  The church is in a beautiful location, right on the edge of a large lake.  There is a dock for tying up a boat (a few people actually come to church via the water in the summer) and a flagpole at dockside.

Since it is Memorial Day weekend, we thought it would be a good time to put the flags up for the season, as well as have a service that would be meaningful to our congregation, who are mostly older.  So, we scheduled only one service instead of two.  Before the service, we all went outside and the flags were raised (the American and the Episcopal) and our entrance hymn was the Star Spangled Banner.  The service was held in the parish hall and everyone sat around the tables set up for the brunch to follow.  The music was old favorites:  from Shall we gather at the river and Let there be peace on earth, to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  

For a sermon I spoke about how our reading from the Book of Acts was very much like the search process going on here.  The search committee has developed its criteria (for the disciples it was deciding that the person to replace Judas had to have been a follower from the beginning of Jesus' ministry), they've screened the candidates and come up with two.  I told them that since they know they like both of them a lot, they needed to do like the disciples and pray about which person God is calling to this place at this time.  I didn't suggest they draw lots, although after the final interviews they may decide that this is an OK course of action, especially if they still think both candidates are equal.

I opened up the second part of the sermon to the people present this morning.  I said that Jesus had left his teachings to his disciples and on this day when we remember those men and women who have given themselves to the service of our country, it would be nice to recall those whom we know and love and speak briefly on what teachings they left us.  People spoke about fathers and sons and husbands and cousins and what lessons they had learned from them.  Things like a feeling of security, ways of dealing with the world, love, sense of humor, treating other people fairly and without discrimination, songs from WWI passed on, love of living, love of country, follow through, sense of responsibility, and others I can't remember.  I ended by saying so much of what we have learned are the kinds of things Jesus  taught. I also said that sermons can be done in community just like we did and we can learn from each other.

The brunch was of course fun. Lots of good food and time for people to speak to each other. Most people thought it great that they had time to really talk to those who normally go to the other service.  Some faces we haven't seen for awhile are back and that was nice too.  I counted 7 faces we haven't seen since late last Fall.  We also celebrated a 90th birthday.  This wonderfully spry woman continues to do a lot for this parish.  To help throw her off the scent, we gave her a card and a little felt "church mouse" as a present, because later that afternoon her family was planning a big surprise party, and boy was she surprised.  So it was a full and joy-filled day.

The day started a bit cool and overcast, with some drops of rain, but it has ended up nice and sunny with fluffy clouds in the sky.  There was enough wind to make the flags stand straight out.  Isabelle is stretched out on the floor, snoring up a storm.  She was present at all today's events, begged for cheese and of course got some and is now a tired puppy.  I'm pretty tired too, but also content.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Colleague Returns

Just a brief mention that our deacon is back for her six months here.  She spends half the year in the south and half the year here.  It will be nice to have someone to talk to on a regular basis and to play golf with. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Old White Maine"

The Bangor Daily News has this editorial today.  I just have to look at my parishioners to know the truth to this.  Old, White Maine
Imagine a new store at the mall that angles to get those oh-so-desirable teen and preteen shopping dollars by hanging out a sign that reads, “Whitest and Oldest.” That marketing strategy would scare away customers as quickly as a sign that reads, “Mom wants you to buy the clothes sold here.” In a way, the census data released recently that shows Maine is the “whitest and oldest” state in the nation is like hanging a sign at our border that reads, “Don’t expect much economic vitality here.”

Maine is attractive to retirees because its real estate is a relative value, compared to southern New England and the New York-New Jersey area, and because it has low crime rates. Its recreational opportunities and small-town vibe also are attractive to older folks.

Maine is “whiter” than nearby Massachusetts in large part because of its rural nature; it is difficult for emerging minority groups, such as Hispanics, to land in a small town and find work and affordable housing. Maine’s job market is not as diverse and fluid as that of Greater Boston, and more seasonal, which also makes it difficult for working class folks to make the leap.

But regardless of the reasons, Maine’s old and white status is bad news for its economy.

The age problem affects the state on several fronts. Maine’s median age is 42, compared to 38.6 nationwide. In 2000, the median age was 38.6, so the problem is worsening. People over 40 generally are not starting families, which means they are not consuming as many goods and services as those who are raising children. Maine has 1.3 million people, but because they are scattered across a geographic area nearly equal to the rest of New England, economies of scale are difficult to achieve.

 While older residents who move here require fewer services, and often spend money fixing up old houses or building new ones, they are not inclined to start new businesses or work in professional capacities. “Whitest” is a problem for Maine because ethnic diversity makes for cultural richness, which contributes to quality of life. But it also has economic ramifications. Minorities are not static elements in a region’s economy. When they move into an area they aspire to earn more and climb the class ladder. They also work to provide a better life for their children, and insist that their offspring attain more education. Like the Irish in Boston and New York 100 years ago, new groups initially provide labor for lower skill jobs. Then the Irish, for example, became police officers and firefighters, shopkeepers and trades people before entering the professional realm. 

Although it may sound like a far-fetched idea, Maine could recruit immigrants. Iceland, for example, devastated by the recent financial crisis, might be a place to start looking. Icelanders are acclimated to cold climates, and might find coastal Washington County similar to their homeland. Maine has welcomed such groups before, as evidenced by towns named New Sweden, Poland Spring and Denmark. New Iceland, anyone? 
Comment: The proposed solution is more "white" if not old.  Maine also has towns named Mexico and Peru as well as China.

Non-Stop Reading

Every time I start to read something that fascinates me, I can't stop.  Once years ago I spent all weekend reading War and Peace—non stop.  I wasn't much use at work on Monday. Another time I sat up all night in the bathroom to read one of the Lord of the Rings books by Tolkien one Christmas time.  We were visiting my parents and I didn't want to disturb my husband or son, who was a baby and even the living room had someone sleeping in it.  So I find myself today fascinated by Terry Eagleton's Reason, Faith, and Revolution:  Reflections on the God Debate and not wanting to put it down.  I also am reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman for a book discussion group on Thursday.  Eagleton is winning out.  

Saturday, May 16, 2009

This is my commandment that you love one another

The seed for this sermon came from The Atlantic article referred to in my post On Happiness and Aging 

A parishioner who was normally angry and had little good to say about the sermons or any body, for that matter, is said to have approached her rector after church one Sunday. "Thank you for preaching a  sermon that focused on the history of the church," she said. The rector, unused to praise from this particular person smiled. The parishioner continued, "I really don’t think I could stand another sermon about love."

The current issue of The Atlantic, on-line, has an article about what is called the Grant Study; a study that has been going on for 72 years, looking at a group Harvard men and following them through those years to analyze what makes for a happy life. The current head researcher for the study concludes “that positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones. One reason is that they’re future-oriented. Fear and sadness have immediate payoffs—protecting us from attack or attracting resources at times of distress. Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections—but in the short term actually put us at risk. That’s because, while negative emotions tend to be insulating, positive emotions expose us to the common elements of rejection and heartbreak.

To illustrate his point, he told a story about one of his “prize” Grant Study men, a doctor and well-loved husband. “On his 70th birthday,” [The researcher] said, “when he retired from the faculty of medicine, his wife got hold of his patient list and secretly wrote to many of his longest-running patients, ‘Would you write a letter of appreciation?’ And back came 100 single-spaced, desperately loving letters—often with pictures attached. And she put them in a lovely presentation box covered with Thai silk, and gave it to him.” Eight years later, the researcher interviewed the man, who proudly pulled the box down from his shelf. “…, I don’t know what you’re going to make of this,” the man said, as he began to cry, “but I’ve never read it.” “It’s very hard,” the researcher said, “for most of us to tolerate being loved.”

It must be very hard to be a Christian, if you have an issue with the "love thing."  I would think that today would have been a good Sunday to stay at home if that’s a problem for you.  Just as the doctor had a hard time accepting his farewell gift, we can find that farewell gifts are not always easy to get. And after a death accepting gifts can be even more difficult. Aunt Claire left us her Toby Jugs and she knew how much we dislike knick knacks. Our Uncle John left us his Harley to the dismay of his son and to our chagrin.

Soon we will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension.  The time when Jesus was no longer a visible, physical presence among his disciples.  So Jesus left us gifts. Gifts we tend to take for granted.

The first gift is that of baptism. It’s not a personal gift; it’s a gift that puts us into a community.  A gift that puts us into God's adopted family.

Another gift Jesus gave us is the Eucharist. Like Baptism, it’s neither personal nor complicated. We eat bread and drink wine in a community meal where we share as one body in the one bread. 

And then there’s the gift of Scripture. God speaks to us as the community of faith through the words of the writers and as a community we apply the words of scripture to our time and place.

Jesus gave us the Church, the community of all the faithful, dead, living, and to come. He didn't give us a building where you go to get something. The Church is "the blessed company of all faithful people." The Church is community.  The Church is the people living in this time and place who are the descendents of that early band of men and women who followed Jesus.  That community we now call the Church is best known among us, as The Church of the Good Shepherd. Maybe even we know a little about it as The Diocese of Maine, or as The Episcopal Church in the United States, or even as part of the Anglican Communion.

All of these gifts we probably acknowledge and accept, but like the doctor who couldn’t accept the love of his patients, the gift of God’s love is so often rejected.

Love is the greatest gift Jesus gave us.. He gave us this gift and he gave us a new commandment that we should love one another. Without love, none of the other gifts is of any use. Love makes our churches welcoming places for all people.  Love makes our lives fulfilling.  Love makes our crazy world bearable. Love is the basis of happiness.  Not a sentimental or “warm fuzzy feelings” kind of love, but the kind of love that lays down its life for a friend.

Jesus called his disciples friends and that’s what we are, friends of Jesus. When we reach out to others, particularly when it is inconvenient, or we’d rather not, or it costs us something in time or energy or money, we are acting as friends of Jesus. And when we risk loving and receiving love back, we are repaid by the peace and joy of being his friend.

It is this shared, giving, dying and rising love, which creates and sustains this community of Jesus’ friends we call the Church.  It is this shared giving, dying and rising love that creates and sustains us, friends made in the God’s image, so that the world may see through “the knowledge and love of God in Christ Jesus,” our friend.

Addendum:  When I gave the sermon, I realized that I had forgotten to mention the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Since we used Eucharistic Prayer D, it became even clearer to me that forgetting to mention that gift was a major loss in the sermon.  Oh well.

Eagle Gang Preying on the Defenseless

The Sun Journal also has an article about how the bald eagle is threatening to wipe out the great cormorant population on the Maine coast (Hungry eagles target Maine's coastal seabirds). This is one of the unintended consequences of the recovery of the bald eagle population and that of killer wales.
"They're [the eagles] like thugs. They're like gang members. They go to these offshore islands where all these seabirds are and the birds are easy picking," said Brad Allen, a wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "These young eagles are harassing the bejesus out of all the birds, and the great cormorants have been taking it on the chin."
According to the article there are only 80 nests of great cormorants in Maine.  The article also points out:
A growing number of killer whales caused a chain of ecological events that reduced the number of otters and amount of kelp providing habitat for fish, Robert Anthony reported in the journal Ecology. With fewer fish and baby otters to eat, eagles began raiding nests of other birds.

In Maine, eagles have been spotted eating loon chicks and have occasionally been known to carry off adult loons, said Sally Stockwell, director of conservation at Maine Audubon.
Comment: So our national bird is a thug.  Maybe Ben Franklin was correct and we should have adopted the turkey.

Portland Musical Sawtet

I found this in the Sun Journal.  The Portland Musical Sawtet opened a session of the Maine legislature with this version of the National Anthem. If you are a fan of musical saws you will love it. You will have to go to the web page to hear it and see the hilarious pictures of the musicians. Not for the faint of heart.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I'm beginning to pack up some of my things.  I would like to be more organized than I am, but every time I know it's getting toward time to make another move, I start well, and it seems as though the last few weeks are still terribly chaotic.  I never have gotten enough things packed early enough to make the last few days less hectic.  I am sure this will be no exception.  No matter how much I try I always accumulate new stuff and although I'm good at clearing things out as well, the new seems to win out.

Here's a psalm from Edward Hays' Psalms for Zero Gravity.  I love it and come back to it often.  It reminds me that my three core values are adventure, wisdom and integrity.   This psalm speaks particularly to my love of adventure which is hopefully grounded in integrity and in seeking the wisdom of Beloved Companion.I once formed a small owl out of clay with wings spread as though it were about to take off and placed it on a rock to symbolize these values. Unfortunately it broke in one of my moves. 

A Pilgrim-Emigrant's Suitcase Psalm
O God of departures, Holy One of the Exodus,
Spirit Guardian of all roads and routes,
I am about to depart on a new adventure in life,
and my bags are packed with both dread and delight.
The old is known, comfortable, safe and secure;
the unknown is threatening and danger-filled.
O God of travelers and holy emigrants, help me:
besides anticipation and appreciation,
what else should I pack?

Comfortable clothes of Change—nothing starched—
yes, I understand, and a change of shoes.
Comfortable hiking shoes for exploring with ease
the strange, unknown, wild lands ahead.
Yes, and also my dancing shoes so that with delight,
I can celebrate the wedding feasts I come upon.
Yes, a sturdy oak staff of love upon which to lean—
the older the oak, the stronger the staff.

One dream-vision as my map, and the compass of prayer
when fog hides the stars or eclipses the sun.
One medicine kit with patience tablets for delays,
dried memories for snacks also on the way
and bandages for a sprained spirit after a fall.

God of departures and homecomings, may I go forth with
the adventure-hungry heart of an explorer,
the faith of one homeward bound to you
and with you, Beloved Companion
as my navigator and my guide.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blue Bird of Happiness

One of the things I do in order to keep myself sane in this isolated (but beautiful) part of Maine, is hand crafts.  I knit, crochet and felt. The latest thing is making felt animals.  The picture of the blue bird in a nest was my first attempt—to go along with my theme of the week "happiness." I'm finishing up a little chickadee and the whole animal kingdom awaits.  Esther de Waal says in Every Earthly Blessing that "The integration of humankind with the birds and the animals as part of a common creation was something the Celtic world not only grasped intellectually and affectively but also lived out as well."
Melodious music the birds perform
to the King of the heaven of the clouds,
Praising the radiant King
Hark from afar the choir of the birds.
There are so many birds here.  A couple of green finches passed through the other day, taking some seeds from the feeder.  I wake every morning to a chorus of cheeps and peeps from the trees.  Most of the geese seem to have come and left for parts further North, but other geese will summer here. The loons are back and so are the mergansers.  The starlings spread across the front lawn to search for food every morning and the black birds are around too.  The first humming birds have been seen.  Peepers (little frogs) make such a racket at night that I need to listen to music to get to sleep, even when the windows are shut.   

I'm hoping to get to my icons soon. I have had no energy for that for over a year and I have a lovely one started that needs to be finished.  I have an idea for Lady Wisdom that I would like to try.  This one is definitely not a traditional Byzantine icon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Rogue Diva of Doom"

Maureen Dowd's op-ed piece in the NY Times about Darth Cheney says it all.
He has no coherent foreign policy viewpoint. He still doesn’t fathom that his brutish invasion of Iraq unbalanced that part of the world, empowered Iran and was a force multiplier for Muslims who hate America. He left our ports unsecured, our food supply unsafe, the Taliban rising and Osama on the loose. No matter if or when terrorists attack here — and they’re on their own timetable, not a partisan red/blue state timetable — Cheney will be deemed the primary one who made America more vulnerable.
Right on girl.  He and Rush deserve each other.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

On Happiness and Aging

David Brooks in today's NY Times op-ed piece: They Had it Made  is about and  links to The Atlantic  piece by Joshua Wolf Schenk on the 72-year-long longitudinal study of 268 Harvard men who started college in 1937 when they were all sophomores. All were considered happy and well adjusted at the time.  Some of the men predicted to end up the most happy did not. The preface to The Atlantic article says:
Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life? For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Here, for the first time, a journalist gains access to the archive of one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history. Its contents, as much literature as science, offer profound insight into the human condition—and into the brilliant, complex mind of the study’s longtime director, George Vaillant.
The study is named after the original funding source (Grant), which lasting for the first ten years.  I have only quoted a few paragraphs that I found the most intriguing.
(Arlie) Bock [the first researcher] assembled a team that spanned medicine, physiology, anthropology, psychiatry, psychology, and social work, and was advised by such luminaries as the psychiatrist Adolf Meyer and the psychologist Henry Murray. Combing through health data, academic records, and recommendations from the Harvard dean, they chose 268 students—mostly from the classes of 1942, ’43, and ’44—and measured them from every conceivable angle and with every available scientific tool.
But it turned out that the lives were too big, too weird, too full of subtleties and contradictions to fit any easy conception of “successful living.” Arlie Bock had gone looking for binary conclusions—yeses and nos, dos and don’ts. But the enduring lessons would be paradoxical, not only on the substance of the men’s lives (the most inspiring triumphs were often studies in hardship) but also with respect to method: if it was to come to life, this cleaver-sharp science project would need the rounding influence of storytelling.
So one of the stories we get is really about Vaillant and his perspective:
Yet, even as he takes pleasure in poking holes in an innocent idealism, Vaillant says his hopeful temperament is best summed up by the story of a father who on Christmas Eve puts into one son’s stocking a fine gold watch, and into another son’s, a pile of horse manure. The next morning, the first boy comes to his father and says glumly, “Dad, I just don’t know what I’ll do with this watch. It’s so fragile. It could break.” The other boy runs to him and says, “Daddy! Daddy! Santa left me a pony, if only I can just find it!”
Vaillant’s other main interest is the power of relationships. “It is social aptitude,” he writes, “not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that leads to successful aging.” Warm connections are necessary—and if not found in a mother or father, they can come from siblings, uncles, friends, mentors. The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger. In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”
The next three paragraph are the ones I'm particularly interested in with my Appreciative Inquiry hat on.  Positive emotions are so key to successful transitions and I'm interested in any new information on the subject.
Vaillant became a kind of godfather to the field, and a champion of its message that psychology can improve ordinary lives, not just treat disease. But in many ways, his role in the movement is as provocateur. Last October, I watched him give a lecture to Seligman’s graduate students on the power of positive emotions—awe, love, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, joy, hope, and trust (or faith). “The happiness books say, ‘Try happiness. You’ll like it a lot more than misery’—which is perfectly true,” he told them. But why, he asked, do people tell psychologists they’d cross the street to avoid someone who had given them a compliment the previous day?

In fact, Vaillant went on, positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones. One reason is that they’re future-oriented. Fear and sadness have immediate payoffs—protecting us from attack or attracting resources at times of distress. Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections—but in the short term actually put us at risk. That’s because, while negative emotions tend to be insulating, positive emotions expose us to the common elements of rejection and heartbreak.

To illustrate his point, he told a story about one of his “prize” Grant Study men, a doctor and well-loved husband. “On his 70th birthday,” Vaillant said, “when he retired from the faculty of medicine, his wife got hold of his patient list and secretly wrote to many of his longest-running patients, ‘Would you write a letter of appreciation?’ And back came 100 single-spaced, desperately loving letters—often with pictures attached. And she put them in a lovely presentation box covered with Thai silk, and gave it to him.” Eight years later, Vaillant interviewed the man, who proudly pulled the box down from his shelf. “George, I don’t know what you’re going to make of this,” the man said, as he began to cry, “but I’ve never read it.” “It’s very hard,” Vaillant said, “for most of us to tolerate being loved.”
Brooks ends his op-ed piece with an appreciation of the skill that Schenk uses in weaving bits about Vaillant's life into his work. I would guess that the quotation from Vaillant in the last paragraph I quoted above says as much about Vaillant as it does about the man he interviewed. Brooks ends his piece with: "There is a complexity to human affairs before which science and analysis simply stands mute."

Comment:  As I mentioned in the middle of the piece, I am particularly interested in how positive emotions assist in people's abilities to move into the future in a positive way.  The importance of love is a message that Jesus brought us and it is a keystone message in both the Gospel of John and the Epistles of John and this message of love was spoken loud and clearly by Tobias Heller's message to Provice II (see my sermon for last Sunday)  But if it's true that "It's very hard for most of us to tolerate being loved, " (I wonder if that's a man-thing, or a thing of men of  "a certain age" or culture (African Bishops take note), then other positive emotions need to come into play, although I don't see how one can be happy without love.  If you meet someone Like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and experience his amazing  ability to show God's love to those around him and to laugh and have fun, you can see the power of positive emotions to effect change for good.  Love and humor and compassion and gratitude and forgiveness and joy and hope and trust and faith:  all positive emotions and IMHO all necessary for happiness.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Relationships: A Sermon for Mother's Day

Friday, those of us who were at Helen's funeral were graced to hear words of love from two of her daughters.  Words about a mother and wife whose loving embrace was all encompassing.   Now many of us have been blessed with good mothers, whether natural or adoptive, but some have not.  Some of us are mothers, but not all.  Some of us will be spending the day with our children and some of us will not have this joy.  I know that there are many times when it is easy to appreciate our mothers.  Those times when their virtues - their hard work - their care - and their love are clear .  In these times it’s easy to see that they are living examples of God's love .

For some people though, it is difficult to appreciate and to honour their mothers, and even more difficult to love them.  Not all parents act in a loving and sacrificial way   At such times it is hard to celebrate a day like today - - hard because anger and pain and hurt get in our way  - hard because we do not understand how it is that someone who is supposed to love us has left us behind.  If they’ve been fortunate, they’ve found someone else, some other woman, or even a man, who has given them the love and support that mothers are supposed to give to help them grow into a healthy adult.

Another important event happened this week.  The Governor signed a bill passed by the Maine Legislature allowing same sex marriage here in Maine.  Governor Baldacci said he had changed his mind because he felt it was a matter of justice. I want to read to you some of the testimony Bishop Lane wrote for a hearing on the bill:

The Episcopal Church, long ago, concluded and publicly proclaimed through its own legislative body that gay and lesbian persons are children of God and, by baptism, full members of the church. We have also concluded that sexual orientation, in and of itself, is no bar to holding any office or ministry in the church, as long as the particular requirements of that office or ministry are met. And we have repeatedly affirmed our support for the human and civil rights of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered persons. In many of our congregations, both here in Maine and around the country, faithful same sex couples and their families are participating in the life of the church and sharing in the work of ministry and service to their communities.
If we, as Mainers, believe that faithful, lifelong monogamous relationships are among the building blocks of a healthy and stable society, then it is in our interest to extend the rights and obligations of civil marriage to all Maine citizens. To deny those rights to certain persons on the basis of sexual orientation is to create two classes of citizens and to deny one group what we believe is best for them and for society.
The Episcopal Church continues its conversations about doctrine in relation to same sex marriage and the blessing of same sex relationships, and there is yet no consensus. We continue to search for ways to honor the varied viewpoints of all our members and to provide a place of dignity and respect for each of them.

The bishop went on to say that no clergy would be required to act against his or her conscience and be required to perform marriages for gays and lesbians.  I’ve been questioning for years why clergy act as agents of the state in marrying people.  I’ve thought that that function should be the responsibility of civil authorities and the church’s responsibility is about blessing relationships.  I have decided that I will not perform the function of the state.

I hear people say. “I support Civil Unions, but not gay marriage.” I hear others say “I support equal rights for gays and lesbians, but not gay marriage.” And I hear others ask “why do gays and lesbians want marriage so much when they can have civil unions? “ When most people marry, they do it because they love one another and are committed to each other. But marriage is also a legal contract, with rights and responsibilities. Even though each state has its own laws around marriage, if someone is married in one state and moves to another, their marriage is legally recognized. This is not so with Civil Unions. Civil Unions are only recognized in the state in which they are done and the way people in our society move about, this can be problematic.

There is a whole long list of benefits and protections for heterosexual couples  (more than 1000) that ranges from federal benefits, such as Social Security survivor benefits, sick leave to care for ailing partner, tax breaks, veterans benefits and insurance breaks. The list includes things like family discounts, getting family insurance through employers, visiting spouses in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to. Some of these benefits can be had through Civil Unions, but not all of them and to get many of them  the assistance of a lawyer is needed. Yet for a married couple a marriage license is all that is necessary. I agree with the governor and our bishop that marriage should be available to any couple.  That doesn't mean that any couple should get married.  The divorce rate is high enough.

Same sex marriage is about relationship. Mother’s Day is about relationship.  God is about relationship. Being a Christian is about relationship. Thursday, Tobias Haller a Brother of St. Gregory gave an address to the Province II Synod in which this wonderful paragraph stands out about our relationships with God and one another:
In the long run, there is no such thing as a solitary Christian. There is no Christian without the church, no church without Christ, no Christ without God. For as we believe that God is love, there can be no love without relationship. This love divine, all loves excelling, is the ultimate compassion feeling-with — the love that embraces the other, that gives itself for the life of the other, that becomes itself in losing itself, saving its life in losing it. This is the embodied love of the Incarnation, the love that died on the Cross, the love that rose again from the dead, and in whom we will one day be raised: love that becomes so united with the beloved that the old categories that ruled the world — Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female — are overshadowed by the love which passes all understanding, yet shelters our hearts and minds under the shadow of everlasting wings.[Tobias Haller BSG, Address to Provincial Synod II, May 7, 2009]
To love someone else as God loves us doesn’t require that we understand them. It doesn’t require that we approve of their actions or their lifestyle or their decisions. And it most certainly does not require that they love us, though it is always very nice when they do. To become a branch of the vine that bears fruit means we need pruning. And vine branches need pruning every year.  So those ideas and attitudes that used to bear fruit in the past will only bear abundant fruit with pruning. In that way the love that overshadows all helps us to grow into the fullness of our potential.  The love that gives life to all of love's children will help remove outworn categories.   The love that we feel as a mother's love is a love with arms wide open to embrace and shelter all of love’s children.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gross National Happiness

The Government of Bhutan is advocating Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of GNP according to the NY Times.  This tiny country held democratic elections a year ago after its popular king stepped down and they now have a constitutional monarch with no executive powers.  They have been working on ways to quantify happiness.  Read the whole article it's quite wonderful.  A few quotations:
The goal is not happiness itself, the prime minister explained, a concept that each person must define for himself. Rather, the government aims to create the conditions for what he called, in an updated version of the American Declaration of Independence, “the pursuit of gross national happiness.” 
Specifically, the government has determined that the four pillars of a happy society involve the economy, culture, the environment and good governance. It breaks these into nine domains: psychological well-being, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality and good governance, each with its own weighted and unweighted G.N.H. index.
All of this is to be analyzed using the 72 indicators. Under the domain of psychological well-being, for example, indicators include the frequencies of prayer and meditation and of feelings of selfishness, jealousy, calm, compassion, generosity and frustration as well as suicidal thoughts.
Bhutan’s story today is, in one word, survival,” Mr. Dorji said. “Gross national happiness is survival; how to counter a threat to survival.”
Comment:  The idea of being able to measure happiness is intriguing.  They even have mathematical formulae to calculate it.  Happiness, a positive emotion, is creativity enhancing and certainly allows for thinking outside the box, which Bhutan has done very well.  They're going to re-assess their data every two years.  I'm looking forward to the results and a Tip of the Hat to that delightful country.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Maine Passes Gay Marriage Bill

Baldacci signs same-sex marriage into law
Maine's law may get overturned by a "people's veto," or referendum,  but it is good news.  The governor signed the bill which if theoretically will go into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns (late June) unless there are a sufficient number of people who sign on to the referendum in which case it will be delayed or repealed.  Maine is the fifth state to do so.  There is usually a hook and Maine's is:
Gay-marriage opponents have promised to organize a people’s veto campaign that would put the issue to a statewide vote in November. To do this, opponents would have to gather 55,087 signatures within 90 days after the adjournment of the Legislature, expected to occur in mid-June. The law would then be put on hold until after the vote on Election Day.
YEA!  It really is a matter of fairness.  I think the people of Maine will view it that way.  At least that's my hope.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Izzie's Birthday

Today is Izzie's Birthday.  She's eleven. Greetings accepted on her blog: Ruminations of a Church Dog.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sea Gulls as the Seven Deadly Sins

Jamie Wyeth has an exhibit in Rockland, Maine and the Portland Press Herald has a three-page interview.  The article and the photos of his paintings are fascinating (the photo to the left is "Pride").  The son of Andrew Wyeth and the grandson of NC Wyeth, Jamie lives on an island a mile off the coast when he's in Maine.
On May 16, he opens an exhibition at the Farnsworth's Wyeth Center called "Jamie Wyeth – Seven Deadly Sins," in which he uses the common gull as a metaphor to explore the sins of envy, anger, gluttony, sloth, lust, greed and pride. 

It's a subject that artists have toiled with for centuries, and something Wyeth himself has contemplated for at least four decades since fixating on a series of paintings by Paul Cadmus in the hallway of the Manhattan home of Wyeth mentor Lincoln Kirstein.

Cadmus' paintings impressed Wyeth in a horrifying way, and he's been thinking of them off and on ever since.

The gulls presented themselves as a metaphor for the work, because Wyeth lives with them on a daily basis. For many years, he has obsessed over the birds. He detests that so many painters depict gulls as beautiful white doves, "when in fact they are vicious scavengers, and they're edgy."

He gives an assessment of his father's paintings, calling them "very disturbing and very strange. It's a curious, air-less world that he created. It's going to be a while for people to assess, really, because he was almost primitive in a way."  I was not aware that the father and son were so close.  The article gives us the feeling that they had a close personal and professional relationship.

Comment:  The seven deadly sins are not often spoken of in our culture.  We wail against the greed that got us into this economic mess, but no one calls it sin.  Our pride lets us  think we're better than "those people" and leads us to treating "them" as less than human instead of another one of "us."  These things that separate us from one another and from God are real failings and we become like those "vicious scavengers"--the gulls, that Wyeth paints.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Black Fly Season

There's an article about the Maine Blackfly Breeders Association: 'We breed 'em, You feed 'em' in the Sun Journal called Their wit? Biting.  It's blackfly time again here in Maine.  Soon the black flies will drive the Moose out of the woods onto the highways.  The nasty thing about these creatures is you don't know you've been bitten until it's over, then you have a big welt that hurts. An Arizona lab asked this group to send them some flies for research and they had to figure out how to catch some to do it. In reality the group is a bunch of Mainers trying to cope with winter and have a bit of fun.
The 11th annual convention at the end of February, a morning of food, limericks and costumed competition, drew 116 people. Someone is bestowed the "Breeder of the Year" title and, in the past, the group has also offered up a presidential candidate. ("The Blackfly party is the only political party with both a right and left wing," says Garner-Jackson.)

"You figure they have a lot of cabin fever. They'll go to anything," Dowling said.
There was, however, a cloud over this winter's convention: Organizers announced, to great outcry, that it was intended to be the last. Right now, it's at something like "we'll see" status. What's certain: another float in the Machias Fourth of July parade.

"We try to get as many people to come and be black flies," Garner-Jackson said. "They wear black. We give them a set of wings and some red stickers and a kazoo. So they run through the crowd playing their kazoo and then they put red stickers on people (pretending to bite them)."

A first-place parade win in 2000 and its $1,000 prize kicked off the association's charitable bent. Members split the money among an animal shelter, hospice, food pantry and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Since then, mostly from merchandise proceeds, it's given away thousands, Garner-Jackson said.
I didn't know there was anything good about the nasty little biters (the flies, not the group) , but here's the scoop:
  • They're indicative of clean water. They're bird and fish food.
  • They help pollinate blueberries.
  • And, not to be overlooked: "They help keep the people population down," she said. "We don't want it to get too crowded."
That's it.  Keep Maine underpopulated.  Don't want the world knowing about a good thing.

Naughton is Cheeky

Jim Naughton posted this tongue-in-cheek remark on Episcopal Cafe on the announcement of the new British Poet Laureate:  
The headline in The New York Times reads:"After 341 Years, Britain Picks a Female Poet Laureate"

In other news, the Archbishop of Canterbury has authorized a network of "flying laureates" to minister to those who don't believe that God intended women to write poetry, but who want to continue to read it.

Environmental Illnesses

The Bangor Daily News has an article about health problems in a small town here in Maine where paper mill sludge was disposed of more than 10 years ago in an unlined pit over a sand and gravel aquifer near a stream. Many people in Maine get their drinking water from wells that come from these kinds of aquifers since they live in rural areas.  The people in that small town who are affected are asking the state to test their wells and the groundwater near the disposal site.
Not until March, when neighbors began talking to one another about their illnesses, did it strike them as odd that they had similar symptoms, including memory and cognitive problems and muscle disorders. Also odd was the fact that most came down with the symptoms about three years ago, the same year groundwater monitoring at the operation ceased.
Comment:  I have heard stories like this from people in other places in Maine where paper mills have disposed of the waste sludge from paper production.  In many of these towns the people are so afraid of loosing their jobs that people won't speak up and if they do they are shunned and defamed.  The mills have, in effect, run many of these towns, their employees holding key positions in town management and the legacy they leave behind is not a pretty one.  One by one the mills are closing down, or cutting down on production and the stories are beginning to come out.  One of these towns is reported to have a very high incidence of cancer.  A doctor in this town who investigated this some years ago had his privileges at the local hospital revoked after he made an issue of his findings. Also in that town drinking water wells near a sludge disposal site had to be shut down because of contamination.  The mill did pay to have those homes connected to the town water supply.

I know that my background in occupational and environmental health makes me look at these things from a particular perspective.  I tend to want to get all the data together and find out what the sources and causes are, but that is not a luxury for people who are sick and do not have the resources or education to ferret things out for themselves.  One of the obligations of the state is to protect the health and well-being of its people.  A clean and safe living environment is a right for every human being.  We are all precious in God's eyes and we need to be seen as precious to each other.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Beginning the Good Byes

I've been here for 20 months now, a long time for an interim (the new term is transition ministry specialist).  The Search Committee is starting to interview candidates.  Most of the work I could do as their interim has been done and now the winding down is beginning.  It's good that they're doing their interviewing at this time of year, since winter is bleak and long here in the mountains of Maine.  The summer folk are starting to return with the major influx beginning in June.  The lake is clear of ice (ice out happened some time during Monday night (April 27) so that was pretty early.  Of course having two days when the temperature reached 80°F helped.  The daffodils are just beginning to open and the trees are budding.  The lilac in front of the Rectory is almost ready to leaf.

This part of the work of transition ministry is about commitment to a new future.  That is the work of the congregation.  I will start preaching about all that has been accomplished in these 20 plus months together and pointing them towards the future.  I hope we do a lot of celebrating.  The first "celebration" is a pork roast dinner to raise a bit of money to spruce up the Rectory.  It's quite new so it really doesn't need much, but a new coat of paint, some repairs to the decks and porch roof, work on the drainage in the garage (melting snow gets under the door and since the drain is frozen it just sits there only to ice up) and a new carpet in the living room.   The meals that the church has are lots of fun.  A lot of people from town come, not just parishioners.  Our kitchen and hall are much in demand by local groups.  Then we'll celebrate Memorial Day with a brunch after church and in July there's the BBQ on the third, which I won't be there for since I'll be in Europe.  After the new priest accepts and sets a starting date we'll have a party to celebrate my time with them.  So there's lot of celebration around here.

I'm really glad that Izzie doesn't care where she lives, as long as I'm there.  It can be a bit unsettling to not know where you're going next.  Izzie does take a proprietary interest in the church buildings though.  They're hers.  She seems to feel the same way about any place we go, after we've been there a bit.  It takes her a few weeks to get her bearings and then she figures out who will bring her treats and where she's allowed to go and then it's hers.