Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Feel the Bern

To my mind, whether Bernie or Hillary is better at debate is irrelevant, as is which of their stated policies have the best chance of getting through Congress.

It’s the vision that matters.  When we elect a president we elect an entire administration including presidential advisers, the White House staff, and the Cabinet.

Immanuel Wallerstein, in his October 2015 article The Resurgence of the World Left? says that
the real battle [facing the world is] the one concerning the direction of the transformation of the capitalist world-system into a new world-system (or systems). That battle is between those who want a new system that may be even worse than the present one and one that will be substantially better.
Wallerstein asserts that the apparent leftward swing appears to obscure this real battle.  Perhaps so, but I think it depends on who the observer is.   As the US version of the Internationale puts it, "'Tis the final conflict," and it is a real conflict of and over real interests -- perhaps even a genuinely final conflict considering the climate peril.  Each step in the struggle is important.

Bernie keeps reminding us of the obscene economic inequality in the US (not to mention the world.)  The people at the top, the 1%, the oligarchy -- call them what you will -- are working overtime to make sure any new system preserves their privilege and dominance.

Bernie's vision is in the direction of a system that is substantially better for the majority of people.   I think he can help us move in that direction.  Hillary, a neo-liberal, is bound up with the oligarchy.  Her answer on fracking in the Flint debate showed how beholden to the oligarchy she is.  She can’t say no to fracking.  Or to Wall Street.

Both Bernie and Hillary are principled people.  I prefer his principles. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Question

What, if anything, is there about sexual activity that puts it in a different sphere of discourse for the church from other kinds of interpersonal activity?

Individual or Family?

As the Episcopal Church approaches the 2015 General Convention, there has been discussion, yet again, of same-sex marriage.  On a Listserv that I can’t quote without permission, someone wrote “An important question to be addressed is whether the individual or the nuclear and/or extended family is the fundamental moral unit in Anglican (and/or our) moral theology, that is, the possessor of rights and privileges, and duties and responsibilities, within the Christian community. (This of course is the or a classic distinction between so-called liberals and conservatives.)”

I must confess that I am astounded by this remark.  First off, on its face it begs a question.  It seems to me to be debatable whether “the fundamental unit of moral theology” is equivalent to “the possessor of rights and privileges, and duties and responsibilities, within the Christian community.”  Any relevant rights and privileges we have as Christians come to us through God’s grace.    And all of us have duties and responsibilities – to each other, to God’s creation, and to God.

Second, is not “moral theology” the catholic term for Christian ethics?  It seems to me that ethical responsibility ultimately rests with the individual.  The summary of the law says “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,  and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love hy neighbor as thyself.”  Note the singular pronouns. [I am quoting the Rite I version from page 319 of the 1979 prayer book because contemporary English does not make a distinction between singular and plural in second person pronouns.]

In the baptismal covenant of TEC, we are asked “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” The answer to each is “I will, with God’s help.”  Again, note the singular pronoun.

We are called by God and by the church to act ethically and morally as individuals.  To act ethically and morally is to be in right relationship with God.  As human beings, we can only be in right relationship with God if we are in right relationship with our fellow human beings, and indeed with all creatures great and small and with all creation.  And the responsibility to do so in on each one of us as an individual.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring 2015


It’s been almost six months since my last post on this blog.  I’m thinking of using it again on a more regular basis. We’ll see what happens.

I’ll start with the first day of spring.  My friend Marie Runyon  was 100 years old that day, last Friday.   I remember that Marie once told me that she first came to St. Mary’s in the 1940s and Wikipedia states that she moved to New York in 1947.   Over the years she has been at St. Mary’s on and off.  [Note: the two links for St. Mary's take you to different pages.] Currently she is more closely connected to Christ and St. Stephen’s Church.             

On Friday afternoon, March 20, there was a potluck party in Marie’s apartment to celebrate her birthday.  St. Mary’s people there, besides Liz and me, included  Dorothy Ross, Janet Dorman, and Bonnie Phelps.  Patty Ackerman, who was at St. Mary’s in the 1990's was also there.  There were also a  number of people from Christ and St. Stephen’s.

There were several “notables” who appeared.  I was most impressed that Lynne Stewart was there, in good spirits.  (Former) Governor David Paterson spoke as did our Assembly person Daniel O’Donnell (whose district currently does not include Marie’s building) and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

The final notable to show up was our irrepressible State Senator Bill Perkins
All in all, it was a fun time.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Dancing Down the Mountain

On Monday, September 29, 2014, Liz and I and our five year old granddaughter Juliana climbed Mt. Elmore, in Elmore State Park, about a half hour away from our daughter Jane’s home in North Middlesex, VT.  We walked up the Fire Tower Trail, which on the trail map is marked at 1.25 miles.  When we got to the park, a little before noon, a whole school, the Wolcott Elementary School, was coming down from the top.  When we got to the top, the views were spectacular. 

In order to make a loop, we had decided to return on the Ridge Trail, labeled as 2.2 miles.  The trail up had some challenging steep climbs over rocky territory, and we heard from someone on the top that the ridge trail also had some challenges, but that there were also numerous stretches that were fairly level. 

It was somewhere between 1:30 and 2:00 when we started down the ridge trail.  We expected to get back to the trailhead in a couple of hours.  There was a sign that told us that the Balancing Rock was a half mile along. 

Well, for me it was mighty slow going.  There were lots of ups and downs, and my legs were getting tired which made me very slow.  Because of my neuropathy I take very cautious small steps on terrain like that. 

I think we had been going about two hours when we got to the Balancing Rock – I was dismayed, that it was taking so long and here we were less than a quarter of the way.  As it got close to 5 o’clock, Liz decided that she should go ahead to call and let Jane and Scott know that we would be later than we expected.   It's lucky she did.  Juliana stayed with me, and we kept plodding onward.  I began to get concerned as the sun sank lower and lower and visibility got more and more difficult.  I realized we had a long way to go and thought that it was possible that darkness would overtake us.  Juliana was getting tired and anxious to be home and see mommy and daddy and Amanda.  I told her that we just had to keep going and we would see them when we got to the end.

Meanwhile, as Liz discovered that it was farther to the bottom than she expected she realized it wasn't a matter of saying we would be late, it was a matter of calling for help.  As it happens, we had left our cell phone back at the house (normally it would have been in the car -- we're just not cell phone people.)  So she had to find someone who could call.

As twilight was coming on, a young couple caught up with us and I asked them whether they had a flashlight.  They did, and I anticipated joining up with them and continuing onward.   And then, a woman came up the trail towards us with a dog.  She was Nikki (I’m don’t know how she spells it) and Liz had encountered her as she got to the bottom.  It had taken Nikki about 20 to 25 minutes to reach us from the bottom.  She thought there was about a half hour before sunset.  Nikki told me that she had called Jane  and that emergency had also been called, so I knew help was on the way.   The other couple proceeded on down.

I told Nikki that I wanted to keep going and not wait for help to arrive.  With Nikki’s aid I negotiated some fairly rough terrain, some of it sitting down and sliding along.  Nikki was on her cell phone to both the state police and later to the Elmore Fire Department, which functions as a rescue squad.  As we went along, Juliana was doing pretty well -- she's a game girl.  Nikki was watching out her for as well as guiding me.

Finally, the Fire Department arrived, and things changed.  I don't know what time that was, but it was sometime after 7, perhaps as late as 7:30, because it was pretty dark.  I didn't realize it, but along with the fire department was a state policeman. 

The firemen asked me if I wanted to proceed with my walking sticks, or whether I preferred to have two guys sort of walk me along.  I told them I wanted to use the sticks, and I wouldn’t mind having people beside me at the same time. 

From that point on, I was surrounded by the firemen.  When I described the setup to her, Liz said it reminded her of the 14 guardian angels in the Evening Prayer from Hunperdinck's opera, Hansel and Gretel.  She's right, it was like that.  I’m sorry that I remember only two of my guardian angels' names – Zach, who was on my right and Joe who was on my left.  For most of the next two hours, Zach walked backwards or sideways, holding on to me as I inched along.  It was as if we were dancing, slowly, down the trail.   Joe was also gripping me on the left, but he was mostly walking forwards.  It had taken them about twenty minutes to get to me, but I took 6 times that long to  walk out.  At the outset, the state policeman and Nikki were behind me with Juliana, but after a while they went on down ahead so that Juliana was reunited with her parents and Amanda.  I’m told that Nikki was carrying Juliana piggyback, but I didn’t see it.

This neuropathy is a real drag  – I can keep up a pretty good pace when I get moving on level ground – slowed only by the old knee injury and my limp.  But on uneven ground I’m slow and on severely uneven ground I’m agonizingly slow. 

I’m very grateful to Zach and Joe and the others for tolerating my slow pace.  Coming down that trail in the dark was a real ordeal – what I was most aware of at the time was my slowness.  At one point someone on the radio asked from the base if there was anything we needed that would help.  I didn’t hear what answer the guy on our end gave, but I said “How about wings,” Zach and Joe said they liked my sense of humor.  In fact I kept my spirits up the whole way.

When we finally got to the end, I was relieved to see and hug Liz and Jane.  They had been waiting a long time and the waiting was in some ways more of an ordeal than I had experienced.  For me. it was just a very slow walk out.  I was doing something -- walking -- the whole time.

Liz and I rode down from the trailhead to our car in the assistant fire chief’s truck – I don’t remember his name either.  Jane and Amanda walked down (it’s not a long walk and it’s on a fire road so it’s easy) and Scott and Juliana, who was by now sound asleep, rode in the emergency vehicle.  The girls got teddy bears that the Vermont Teddy Bear Company donates to the fire company to give out.  I think I deserved a teddy bear too, but no one thought to give me one.

Jane drove Liz and me back to the house and after we went in the first thing Jane gave me was a big glass of wine.  By now it was 10:15 and too late to make supper so I went to bed on crackers and cheese and grapes.

I’ll never forget slowly dancing down the mountain with Zach holding me the whole way.

Monday, September 22, 2014

St. Mary's at the People's Cliamte March

Our good friend Winnie Varghese took this picture of some of the St. Mary's contingent at the march.
Holding the banner at the left is one of this year's interns, Spencer, next to him is former intern Sydney Korngay, then Liz, then looking to the left Andre Zucker, next is Janet Dorman, then someone I don't know the name of, then partially obscured Lisa Slocum, then peeking over the banner is Lysander Puccio, then another person I don't know, and finally yours truly.

Here's another picture of the banner, also by Winnie:

Holding the banner is another intern, Lillian, and in the lower right corner is our junior warden, Celia Braxton.

St. Mary's people who marched but aren't in these pictures include Dane, Armando Howard, Bonnie Phelps, Evie Fortna, Dorothy Ross, Lynda Burton, Shirrell Patterson, Sheila Patterson, Marilyn Seven, and maybe others we didn't see.  Among the alums that I know of besides Winnie were Chloe Breyer and Ansel Scholl, and Anne Ditzler.  Thanks to Janet for helping remember who was there.

All in all, a pretty good turnout.

I apologize that I don't know everyone's surname.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


i spent the better part of the afternoon yesterday finding out how to add our new rector Mary to the Diocesan Payroll service and get her signed up for health insurance. 

Zoraida, the payroll manager, sent me six forms, and on one of them was a statement that for clergy we  need a seventh form.  I managed to download that from the diocesan website -- it was page 11 of a 12 page compilation of forms, most of which duplicated the forms I had been sent and had already printed.

Sara, the benefits administrator, sent me the form for the health insurance.  Since Mary is coming from another parish in the diocese, Sara told me what plan she was in now, but Mary still has to fill out the form anew.

In all there were eight forms. Four the clergy person has to fill out, and four just the parish fills out.  It came to me to send Mary the four for the clergy person so that she could fill them out and send them back to us.  Two of them we need to add to.

The other four are written in such a way that the presumption is that the treasurer will sign them.  I'm prepared to do that.  There is, however, a timing complication - I won't be in New York very much for a few weeks.  In additon to sending Mary the forms she needs to complete, I sent copies of all the forms to the wardens, Radford and Celia, for their information.   The one that came as part of a 12 page packet, I printed and scanned, so as not to confuse anyone with the duplicates in the other part of the packet.

Liz and I are getting as much time here at Heart Lake as we can, and we also are going to Vermont in a week and a half for our granddaughter Juliana's fifth birthday.  So we will be in New York on only a few days before Mary starts at the beginning of October.  We will be there this week Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (Sunday is the Climate March.)  Next week we will be there Thursday only.  (If you count evenings we will be there Thursday evening this week and Wednesday evening next week.)

The week following the birthday party on the 28th, we will wend our way back to New York.  Depending on whether we come by way of Heart Lake, we will get there either on Wednesday or on Friday or Saturday. 

Then comes Mary's first Sunday at St. Mary's as rector.  We'll be there for that.  Probably we'll come back here sometime that week, at least for Columbus Day.  I don't yet know when we'll turn off the water here and drain the pipes. 

I have another task related to Mary while I am in New York.  Mary and her family are moving into the rectory on the last days of September, when Liz and I will be in Vermont.  Since the parish has to pay for the move, I have to arrange for a bank check to the moving company and cash for the tip before we leave.  I also have to reimburse Mary for the deposit to the moving company.

All of this is in addition to the fact that I have to prepare a financial report for the vestry meeting on September 28 -- a day I'll be away so I have to get the report done four or five days in advance. 

All will be well. Deo gratias.