Monday, March 31, 2008

Not so Low Sunday

Yesterday morning at St. Mary’s, Manhattanville, we were joined by friends old and new. I’ll just mention three with national reputations.

First, the Gospeller was the Rev. Patricia (Patty) Ackerman, who was at St. Mary’s as a seminarian in 1991 when our Rector was arrested for sitting in at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Patty has been active in Integrity, Code Pink, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. She can be seen with Cindy Sheehan here.

Then the sermon was given by our former rector, the Rev. Robert (Cousin Bobby) Castle. Bobby’s cousin Jonathan Demme, the film director, was in the congregation. Bob Castle has appeared in several movies directed by his cousin, including an uncredited appearance at the end of The Silence of the Lambs.

Bob’s sermon was in large part about the evils of the wars the US is involved in. He lives now in northern Vermont and serves four small churches in the Diocese of Quebec where they pray for the Queen. The withdrawal of Prince Harry from Afghanistan led him to note that every soldier is a prince or princess in their own family and every prince and every princess deserves to come home to be taken out of harm’s way.

Bob spoke about his love for the Episcopal Church and its support both of women and of gay and lesbian people. He also had kind words for the United Church of Christ, home to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

At the end of his sermon Bob reminded us that Jesus is alive (Christ is arisen!) And that we Episcopalians can learn from our evangelical and pentecostal brothers and sisters how to live with an awareness of the closeness of God.

After church I was talking with a friend who works at 815. Speaking about recent and future events in the Episcopal Church I said that one of the problems of people on our side is that many of us are too nice to the opposition. My friend knew exactly what I meant and said Bishop Katharine does not have that fault. Let the church say "Amen1"

Friday, March 28, 2008

Here Come Da Judge

This past Tuesday, the adoption of our granddaughter Amanda was completed. As you can see, Amanda was in charge.

Here is the happy family, Scott, Jane, and Amanda:

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Five Years of Praying for Peace

Every Lent for the past five years, some of us at St. Mary's, Manhattanville, along with some of our friends, have been singing the Great Litany in procession at the Isaiah Wall in Ralph Bunche Park opposite the United Nations. We are praying for an end to the war in Iraq. This year we did it on the two Fridays preceding Holy Week, and also on Wednesday in Holy Week, the fifth anniversary of the invasion.

The Episcopal Church: Praying for Peace Since 1789
The picture shows most of us who processed on March 14, with a banner which we hung on the fence while we processed. The banner was made by Nathanael Kooperkamp, the son of our rector Earl Kooperkamp, and says "The Episcopal Church: Praying for Peace Since 1789." I don't know the names of three of the people in the picture, so I won't identify anyone except me -- I'm the guy in the brown jacket standing next to the banner.

I was not able to get to the procession on either March 7 or March 19. Today is Holy Saturday and I hope to observe it by joining at noon in River to River -- people joining hands across 14th Street to protest the Iraq war.

Forty years ago the United States was engaged in another war -- in Vietnam. I was not politically conscious then. At St. Mary's we talked about the civil rights movement, but we didn't talk about the war.

I was very interested in what was going on at the Metroplitan Opera. For example, on April 1, 1967, the Met broadcast the new opera "Mourning Becomes Electra;" on April 4, Martin Luther King delivered his speech "A Time to Break Silence" at Riverside Church. I was excited by the opera and completely unconscious of the speech.

Even the events of the spring of 1968 didn't wake me up. I was shocked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968 and of Robert F. Kennedy on June 6 the same year. But while I remained strongly stirred by the civil rights movements, I still held to the unexamined belief that we live in a good country. We don't do bad things. We don't engage in unjust wars. So the war could not be a wrong thing. I don't think like that any more.


St. Mary's is a small church and we haven't done a full fledged Easter Vigil in a few years. But we will do a vigil at 6 AM on Easter, complete with new fire, Exsultet, and Paschal candle. I'm going to try to be there.

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

When I first started going to St. Mary’s, Manhattanville, we did not have a three hour service on Good Friday. Rex and I used to go to one of the larger churches in Manhattan to hear some outstanding preaching of the passion.

Then, around 1970, we started doing the three hours at St. Mary’s, usually with meditations by several persons. On three or four Good Friday’s in the past four decades I have given one of the meditations. This afternoon, Liz will be giving a meditation. I’m looking forward to it.

For many years, both Liz and I sang in the choir at St. Mary’s. This year we have been recruited to assist in singing Randall Thompson’s Alleluia on Easter. On both Wednesday and Thursday we were there for rehearsals preceding the Tenebrae and Maundy Thursday services, and we added our voices to the choir for those services (in which the choir didn’t vest but sat in the congregation.)

I read at both services. At Tenebrae on Wednesday I read from “The Treatise of Saint Augustine the Bishop on the Psalms” and at the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday I read the lesson from Exodus. I am not a great fan of foot washing. Since we have begun doing the foot washing ceremony at St. Mary’s, I have had various responses. Some years I enter into it – other years I sit it out. This happened to be a year that I sat it out. I think part of my problem with it is that in a culture and at a time of year when everyone wears shoes – it being too cold for sandals or flip flops – the artificiality of foot washing overrides the symbolism, so it just seems strange.

As I mentioned on Palm Sunday, I have been doing a lot of reading in the works of John Dominic Crossan. Following Crossan (and many other Christian scholars and theologians), I fully believe that it is a mistake to read the passion narratives as history. They are stories that contain truth – not historical truth but truth nonetheless. I pity people whose faith is so weak that they have to believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

Was there a man called Jesus? Yes. Was he executed under Pontius Pilate? Yes. Do we know the particulars of his arrest? No. Was there a trial? It’s not likely. Was he crucified? Almost certainly. How was he buried? Most likely not in a new tomb; perhaps not at all.

What about the resurrection? Historically, we have no idea . We do have the testimony of Paul that Jesus appeared, first to others and then to him. As a Christian, I believe in the resurrection, not as a metaphor but as something that was actually experienced by the first Christians. But that is a topic for Easter. Today is the day we re-experience the tremendous loss when Jesus was taken from us, humiliated, tortured, and brutally killed.

Ah! Holy Jesus. How hast thou offended?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

Wow! It's been almost two months since I posted anything!

This morning I read the role of the Evangelist in Matthew's passion narrative at St. Mary's (Manhattanville) and then cut out to head down to Cooper Union for the final afternoon of the Left Forum. In the nearly 20 years I have been attending Left Forum and its predecessor the Socialist Scholars Conference, this is the second time, I think, that it has coincided with Palm Sunday. (Once it began on Good Friday and concluded on Easter!) But this is also the first time there were three panels dealing with religion in a serious manner. I attended all three and I hope to write about them in the coming days.

There are a number of reasons I haven't written. First, I have been amazingly busy. A few days before my last post (which was January 26, 2008) I both agreed to run once adain for the Board of Directors of Morningside gardens (my housing coop) and to serve as chair of the Open Market Design Committee. I want to say more about both of these matters later.

Second, while there have been significant developments in Anglicanland during the past seven weeks, I have been to busy to make timely intelligent comments on them.

Third, Liz and I went to Binghamton and Heart Lake for an overnight trip which took more time and energy than the actual trip would suggest was likely. (That trip, by the way, meant that we were not able to meet with Mimi (who we have recently joined in the grandparent business) during her recent trip to New York -- I'm so jealous of those who got to spend time with her -- Tobias, QFC, Rev Boy, and all. Goddammit, I'm gay too!!!

Fourth, Liz and I spent a week in Vermont with our daughter Jane, son-in-law Scott, and granddaughter the adorable Amanda.

And then I was reading. I read the blogs and even some of the comment threads pretty faithfully. (I mean on our side.) And I am embarked on a serious reading of John Dominic Crossan. I'm almost finished with Who Killed Jesus?, the last book of his Jesus trilogy. I'm in the middle of The Birth of Christianity. Without Crossan, I would just go through the motions of affirming the tenets of the Christian faith. Crossan, who seems more orthodox than, say, Matt Kennedy or any other in that camp, provides a way that I can square the parabolic truths of faith with the fruits of a 1950's liberal education. I had to wait until I was almost 72 years old before I could resolve some of the issues. But that could become another digression. I do want to acknowledge, however, that I am just a little obsessed with Matt Kennedy. By chance, about three weeks ago I drove past the church he has wrested from the Diocese of Central New York. Good Shepherd was once a truly Anglo Catholic parish, an oddity in those parts, but in a genuine part of Anglicanism. When my father was warden of Christ Church, I heard a bit about Good Shepherd. There are plenty of solidly evangelical churches around Binghamton -- some more conservative than others. My brother Curtis attended the Community Baptist Church in Port Dickinson -- my sister-in-law and my nephew still go there -- my maternal grandparents were married there -- I went there as a child. The cottage next ours at Heart Lake was bought about six years ago by James Baker, the music director at WPEL, a Christian radio station in Montrose, PA. (After the confirmation by General Convention of the election of Gene Robinson, Liz and I gave Jim a wonderful book for evangelicals by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Letha Scanzoni, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? I don't know what he made of it.) But let that topic lie for the moment.

Anyway, I'm back and I hope I can keep in touch.

NOTE: I'll upload this tonight, while it's still Palm Sunday, but I'll add some links tomorrow.
FURTHER NOTE: Here it is Tuesday, and I haven't added links. I'll let it go and not add them.