Sunday, November 28, 2010


What an end to a week!
Friday evening I fainted and ended up at St. Luke's Hospital for about 18 hours. First I have to reassure you and say there is absolutely nothing wrong with me.
Here's the story:
Friday evening we provided a sort of second Thanksgiving dinner for Jane and her family, Jane's stepmother Caroline, and Jane's cousin Jay. (We did the same thing last year and included Scott's parents then.)
As usual, I was the primary cook. I went into the day quite tired, and indeed I wondered early on how I would be able to hold up. In retrospect, I realize that I also didn't dirnk enough liquids all day and so in addition to being tired I got dehydrated. Finally, just as I was putting the finishing touches on dinner, I had to go lie down -- and I dozed for about three hours. Then I got up for a whie, ate a little bit of the dinner, and enjoyed the company of our grandchildren, Jay, and Jane while Scott took Caroline home. At the end of that, what I wanted most was to soak in a hot bath -- something I rarely do, but my legs were very tired. It turned out my bathtub was unusable, because dirty water from another apartment had backed up into it. So I took a bath in Liz's bathtub. I luxuriated in the very hot water. However, when I stood up, I felt light headed. I should have sat down immediately, but all I could think of was drying off and getting to the bed.
The next thing I knew, I was on the floor, feeling sick. In fact, I had fainted and thrown up all over myself and the floor. I had also bumped my head on the edge of a shelf of a bookcase, and there was an amazing amount of blood from was in fact was a minor scrape.
When she saw me lying there, Liz immediately called our Security Department and told them there was a medical emergency. I said, "No, it's not an emergency," but they had already called 911 and an ambulance was on the way.
The EMS technicians are very good at their job -- they managed to persuade me that I should go to the emergency room because of the bump on my head. Once I was at the hospital they did a lot of tests -- a chest xray revealed that my heart is normal, a cat scan revealed that there was no hidden head injury, the EKG and blood tests also showed that I am in good shape. Still, they decided to admit me to the hospital -- the doctor told me they wanted to give me a stress test. Liz stayed with me for a couple of hours -- she went home after it became clear that I would be admitted. By then it was about 2 AM. I finally got to a room sometime between 3 and 4 AM. They took more blood, put me on a heart monitor, and an intravenous saline solution. (I'd had that in the emergency room too, but this one went through a a machine which monitored the drip and made noise.) Before 7 AM I had spoken to three doctors, and all were agreed that I was ok and could go home. The last one was an intern and he told me that when Dr. Bhat, the attending doctor, came in I would probably be discharged. That's not what happened. Dr. Bhat never showed and sometime after 10 AM a new young intern came. She told me the name, which I promptly forgot, of another attending doctor who would make the decision about discharge. Shortly after 11, Liz got there with my clothes. During the hour and half she was there, she went out and asked what was taking so long. Finally, we decided that she should not wait -- I would go home alone. Just before Liz left, the intern came back and said the attending doctor would be there in maybe 45 minutes. When he came, which must have been about 1 PM, he said he had spoken to my doctor, Dr. Romanoff, who wants to see me this week, and that he would tell them at the desk to discharge me. So I got dressed.
The next thing that happened was that I was told that I needed to have more blood tests and an EKG. It took a little while before that happened, but it was still only about 2 PM. Shortly before three I went out to the desk and asked what was happening. The intern was there and she told me she wanted to give me the lab results to take with me. She gave me print outs of the earlier tests and said she would have the EKG in a little while. Soon she brought the EKG results and apologized that the blood test results were taking so long.
Part of the time while I was waiting, I was dozing because I was still sleepy from the day and night before. If I hadn't been tired, I might have been a little more assertive. Finally at 5 PM, four hours after I was finally told I could leave, I went to the nurse and said this is ridiculous, I'm leaving. She said, give me a minute , I'll get the paper ready for you to sign out. She came to the room with the papers and while I signed she told me that if it had been up to her, I would have been gone hours before.
As I walked home, I thought how ironic it was. The reason I was taken to the emergency room was the bump on my head and in the emergency room I got a cat scan and a tetanus shot for that, but no further treatment for the minor scrape on my head -- not even an antiseptic. And I never got the stress test.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"You blog, don't you?"

Last week at a party, in the course of a conversation about the urge to write creatively, someone asked me if I had felt that urge, and then said, "Oh. but you blog, don't you?" I had to reply that I was blogging very sporadically these days. According to that great fount of knowledge, Wikipedia, blogging began ove ten years ago as a kiond of online journaling, and my blog(s) and those I link to keep up that tradition at least to some extent. So, what's up, then?

Yesterday, I went to Diocesan Convention as a voting delegate. I wasn't looking forward to it, for reasons I'll go into a little later, but in fact I enjoyed it, even though I know very few of the people there. I did have a very brief conversation with Tobias Haller, but I didn't even say "hi" to anyone else except those from St. Mary's -- Earl Kooperkamp, Chlore Breyer, and Sarah Kooperkamp. I spotted Jamie Callaway and Diane Pollard ideep n conversation, but didn't break in on them.

The convention ended at 4 PM and I walked home (about a twenty minute walk.) Then Liz and I walked back up the hill to Broadway Presbyterian Church for a concert at 5PM by our friends The Orfeo Duo. That concert ended just before 7 PM and we went home and had a quick supper. Then we went to another concert, this one at 8 PM in Christ Chapel of Riverside Church, that concluded the Tree of Life conference on peace between Israel and Palestine. All in all, it was a full and rich day.

As we were driving home after closing up the cottage just over two weeks ago, Liz and I agreed that writing up family history for my cousins would be my major project in the coming weeks and months. In order to write up even a small portion of the family history that I have collected over the past 28 years I need first to make sure that my database is in order. When I began collecting genealogical data, I kept it in a word processing format. I laboriously converted the word processing data into a gedcom file by hand and imported it into Brother's Keeper. I then moved to Family Origins and finally to The Master Genealogist (TMG). Along the way, a good deal of the data was put in without sources, because the earlier programs did not allow sources. So now I am going back over all of my original notes and entering sources and in some case additional data. It's a long process, but I sm committed to it. The last time I began to update my data in serious way, I was interrupted by a crisis at Morningside Gardens and I ran for the Board of Directors. That was six and a half years ago. This time I not going to allow myself to be interrupted.

As soon as I can, I am giving up as much Morningside Gardens work as I can. I will remain treasurer at St. Mary's at least until our finances are in order and a qualified replacement is found.

More later.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Morningside Troubles

Last week, cooperators at Morningside Gardens received in the mail a Flash Report setting forth some motions passed at a special closed session board meeting held on September 14th. I won't go into the substance of the motions here, but for clarity I should say that they amounted to censure of certain board members for actions during the last board year. (That is admittedly a minimal description, but I don't want to broadcast the details all over the internet.)

Since I voted for the motions I feel compelled to make a few points. First, the principal issue was secrecy -- the actions for which the board members were censured were actions that should not have been undertaken without specific authorization from the board, and without the knowledge of the entire board, including those who might not have voted to authorize the actions. Second, the motions were passed in the second of two long closed sessions -- the first at the beginning of the regular July meeting, the second held separately -- at both of which counsel for the corporation was present throughout.

There is great division and, dare I say it, a great deal of self-righteousness on the board. The passage of these motions has only reinforced the division. In retrospect, I can think of a number of ways I might have tried to influence an outcome different from these particular motions. But the operative word is "tried" -- and I might not have succeeded. In any case, I didn't present any viable alternatives. For me, ultimately it came down a choice between condoning -- or ignoring -- the improper actions or objecting to them. Once I knew of them, I could not, in conscience, condone them.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September 18

Yesterday afternoon I returned to Heart Lake after several days in New York. My time in New York was intense -- I had to catch up on my duties as treasurer at St. Mary's; I had to attend a rather intense special board meeting at Morningside Gardens -- I'm in the process of writing a blog post about that; I had to catch up on our personal finances; and I had an appointment at the dental school.

Becasue Liz had to back here on Wednesday, I was left to take the bus to Binghamton on Friday. My second cousins Anne and her brother Stanley picked me up at the bus terminal and brought me here where we had a little gathering of Liz and I, Anne, Stanley, and another second cousin David and his girlfriend Debbie. We cousins talked some about family, including the fact that our great grandparents' family started coming here a hundred years ago in 1910.

This morning I am facing the fact that I have to produce a financial report for St. Mary's by Thursday, and I have to produce minutes and what we call a Flash Report for Morningside Gardens by Monday morning. We're leaving Tuesday adfternoon to go back to New York, so my days will be busy.

Also, seeing my cousins makes me realize that I have to write down some family history so that it won't be lost. That sets off another process of discernment about how I want to spend my time.

Enough for now -- I have things to do.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

End of Summer Thoughts

Here at Heart Lake as I sit at my computer and look out at the lake, while I listen to "Discovering Music" on BBC Radio 3 (a program about Brahms' Violin Concerto,) my mind is full of a number of apparently disparate topics. Sunday morning Liz and I went, as we usually do when we are here in the summer, to the Heart Lake United Methodist Church. This small church is currently in financial trouble and its future is uncertain. We are hanging in there with the active congregation -- a little over a dozen people. The situation at that church is very much on my mind, although in fact it is peripheral to my major concerns.

Thinking about the church here at Heart Lake, by an obvious connection of ideas, puts me in mind of the situation at St. Mary's. I took a break from the active treasurership for the month of August -- and indeed I won't piuck it up again in earnest until after Labor Day. Even then, I'll be pretty much an absentee treasurer until sometime in October.

Another obvious connection of ideas brings me to the wider Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. I am somewhat, that is, slightly, less addicted tyo reading all of the blog commentary on Anglican doings than I was, say a year or more ago -- but I still follow with bemusement the oddball antics of certain Anglican prelates with regard to the wedge issue of saem sex relationships.

On Sunday afternoon we attended a concert at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Montrose. During this past year, St. Paul's called as its rector the Rev. Paul Walker, whose life partner, the Rev. Randy Lee Webster is serving St. Mark's Church in New Milford and Christ Church is Susquehanna. I mentioned a few weks ago that we had met Randy Webster at a Saturday afternnon concert in Susquehanna. I'm impressed, anda little surprised , that the Episcopal Churches in upper Susquehanna County are welcoming and affirming. St. Paul's has a formal statement to that effect -- I don't know about the other two churches, but they are certainly welcoming and affirming in practice. (As, I may add, is St. Mary's, which does not yet have a formal public statement to that effect, despite our history of having gay and lesbian clergy, wardens, vestry members, and ordinary congregants.)

Two of the newer congregants at St. Mary's are Tom Cahill and Joel Kovel. I don't know Tom except to exchange the peace with, and he doesn't attend as often as Liz and I do when we are at home, so it will take a while to get to know him. Currently, I am reading the second of his Hinges of History books, The Gifts of the Jews. I know that sometime this past year I began Desire of the Everlasting Hills, but I don't think I finished it. Part of my problem is that I try to keep too many books going at the same time.

I do know Joel Kovel a little better. He has been going to our Celtic Morning Prayer held in the Lampman Chapel at Union Theological Seminary every weekday morning. (Liz and I started going only last November, but we find it a good way to start the day.) We are slowly reading ,out lous, Joel's book, The Enemy of Nature. It's a little tough going. Although I call myself a socialist, and having been going to the Socialist Scholars Conference and its successor the Left Forum for about twenty years, I am not well grounded in Marxist or other socialist thought, and I don't know enough to be able to fuuly understand the technical critique of capitalism that Joel makes, nor the concommitant argument that eco-socialism is the only viable choice. Both in The Enemy of Nature, and in statements made very recently, Joel has acknowledged the difficulty of overcoming capitalism and replacing it with a system with an ecocentric ethic. A major part of the difficulty, I would say, is persuading people that capitalism is in fact the enemy of nature and needs to be overcome.

Joel Kovel is about four months younger than I and his intellectual achievements leave me awestruck and more than a little regretful that I did not pursue my original desire to become an academic. I am also impressed by his activism -- mine amounts to attending the odd march or rally and making relatively small financial contributions to causes I find worthy.

I am, to be sure, being selectively unfair to myself here. Over the past thirty years, I have devoted quite a bit of energy to the governance of Morningside Gardens, the housing coop where we live and over the past forty years or so I have devoted energy to the lay leadership of St. Mary's Church.

I'll sign off here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Yesterday evening, Liz and I drove back to Heart Lake after spending five nights in Vermont for the second time this month. With the driving time, that really mean six days away. Add to that two days I went to New York in August and I have spent 14 days of August away from here. Since today is August 26th, that's more than half of the month.

I'm looking forward to spending the next 10 or 12 days here without going anywhere else to sleep.

[Actually posted a day later than written for reasons I won't go into.]

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the Thirteenth

On Tuesday, I had to go to New York so that I could (a) attend to a little bit of St. Mary's Treasurer business, (b) chair a Tenant Selection Committee meeting at Morningside Gardens, and (c) have my temporary fixed upper denture repaired. On Wednesday afternoon I spent about three hours in the dentist's chair while the prosthesis was being repaired.

Thrusday morning I got up very early, loaded the car, and was on the road back to Heart Lake at about 5:45 AM. I was anxious to get back here because our granddaughters and their parents are here. There were signs on Route 81 that there was a closure between exit 206 and exit 211 and that there was a detour between. I thought that would not delay me much, but it it turned out to be a serious delay. I lost over an hour and a half and would have lost more time if I hadn't belatedly decided to cut my losses and turn around and take another route.

Anyway, I got here and enjoyed having the family here yesterday. I'm looking forward to the next three days, after which they are going back to Vermont.

I have to go to New York again for a brief meeting this coming Wednesday, then back to Vermont on Friday for five nights. I find that a lot of back and forthing is disruptive of continuity in any task. It seems to take a day after I get back before I am truly back in the groove to work on whatever project I was on before I left. The upshot is that I won't get as much done this summer as I had expected.

That's life.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Home Again to Heart Lake

The pictures are coming -- I promise.

Shortly after I finished the previous post, we go a phone call that a canoe trip we had planned was canceled because tof conditions caused by the heavy rain the night before. At my suggestion we called another canoe company and had basically the same canoe trip -- at half the cost. This morning it just occurred to me that the conditions that caused the other company to cancel were probably not river conditions, but rather flooded ground at the access and landing points. It was my first canoe experience on a river that I can remember - perhaps I had a little river experience when I was a Boy Scout, but I'm not at all certain about that one way or another -- but I found it very similar to being on a lake. Of course, that part of the Lamoille River is very gentle.

After the canoe trip we took a dirve to Craftsbury Common on the edge of Vermont's Northeast kingdom. We got there at about 6 PM and everybody was indoors. Then we went back to Smuggs for supper and we sat up late, talking and exchanging pictures on the computers.

Friday morning, we loaded the car and drove down to Poultney for lunch with Nancy and Ross. At lunch, my denture broke -- it's an acrylic temporary fixed full denture. The center of it broke out, so I have a huge gap with no teeth. I'll get it fixed when I'm in New York this Wednesday, so I have to endure it for a few more days.

On Saturday we went to the family meeting. A major focus was how the family property in Poultney will be passed on to those in the next generation -- the principal question being willingness and ability to assume a share of the financial responsibilty for the upkeep of the property.

After the meeting, we had a lunch in celebration of Liz's brother Dick's birthday. There were twenty family members there, including Jane and Scott and our two granddaughters, Amanda and Juliana. After lunch, we drove home to Heart Lake -- it took about five hours all told, including a stop in a grocery store.

It's great to be back. We have a landscaper coming tomorrow and we also have to get ready for the arrival of Jane and family either in the middle of Wednesday night or on Thursday -- their drive is about two hours longer than ours was yesterday and they haven't decided whether to drive Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Meanwhile, I'll be going to New York for a meeting (and now to get my teeth fixed) so I won't be here until sometime Thursday morning.

The pictures are coming -- I promise,.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

What are we doing in Vermont?

For the past thirty years or so, Liz and I have been going to Heart Lake for much of the summer. In 1981, shortly before he died, my father told me he thought we could buy the cottage we now have at a pretty good price as long as we undertook to dispose of my my great aunt’s belongings – that her son did not want to have to do that. It took a few years for us to make the decision, but in 1987 we finally bought it.

We love it at Heart Lake. We also love Vermont – much of Liz’s family has ended up here – and our daughter Jane is here, along with our granddaughters and our son-in-law. So we come to Vermont a lot in the course of a year.

This year, though, we are here at a resort – Smuggler’s Notch Resort (Smuggs) on the west side of the Green Mountains. My cousin Vicki and her husband Jess are owners of a timeshare here and invited us to come up and spend time with them. It’s an almost new experience for me – Liz and I once won a short stay at a resort in Jamaica – that was in a hotel while this is in a condo apartment. Smuggs is about an hour from where Jane and Scott live near Montpelier, and they and the girls came over yesterday evening for dinner – we were so glad they got to meet Vicki and Jess – one of the reasons we came here was so they could meet.

We leave here tomorrow, Friday, to spend some time in Poultney with Liz’s sister Nancy and her husband Ross. We are co-owners of the property in Poultney which Liz’s parents bought and later retired to. Because of a partial family rift, we haven’t attended any of the annual family meetings since the summer of 2001, but we are going to attend the meeting this time – on Saturday in Rutland. Then we will drive back to Heart Lake on Saturday afternoon.

A week from today, Jane and Scott and the girls will be coming to Heart Lake for their annual brief stay. We’re att looking forward to that. Then, in two weeks, we are coming back to Vermont, to attend a memorial service for Liz’s uncle Perry and his wife Kathleen. Uncle Perry died this past winter – Kathleen died several years earlier, but had not been memorialized. We are going to pick up Liz’s Aunt Adele at the Albany airport and bring her to Poultney and thence to Ripton for the memorial service on Sunday. Liz’s brothers and sister will see to getting Adele back to the airport – meanwhile Liz and I will proceed to Jane’s to babysit the girls on Monday and Tuesday. Then it’s back to Heart Lake as August winds down.

I'm not good at keeping these promises, but I promise to update this with pictures -- soon.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Where were you on July 29, 1974?

Elizabeth Keaton asked the question on the HOBD (Bishops and Deputies) list and also at her blog. I decided to answer it before reading any of the responses on the HOBD list or reading her blogpost -- Telling Secrets: Lord, what a time!

I was the senior warden of St. Mary's Church. My partner, Rex, had died in February, 1973 and I went into a sort of tailspin -- the main symptom was that I was drinking far too much. St. Mary's sponsored two of the women who were ordained that day at the Church of the Advocate -- I should have been there, but I wasn't able to mobilize myself to get there. I did have a long telephone conversation the night before with Bishop DeWitt. I was concerned about the effect the participation of our rector, Neale Secor, would have on him and on St. Mary's. I don't remember that conversation in any detail, but I do remember that Bishop DeWitt told Neale he was impressed that I had made the call.

I still wish I had been there.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Small World -- Heart Lake Division

When I came out to my parents in the spring of 1958 -- I was a senior in college -- they told me that I had been conceived when they made love on a lawn around a hundred feet from where I am sitting now. That would have been almost exactly seventy five years ago. It was a strange response to a difficult disclosure. It was also a complete non sequiter. Which is a great lead in to what Liz and I did today.

First we went for a short hike in the State Game Lands on the south side of the Susquehanna River between Hallstead and Susquehanna. It was too hot and we didn't have enough time anyway, but we'll go back when the weather is cooler but hunting season hasn't started.

Then we drove to Christ Church, Susquehanna for a short jazz concert and an an exhibit of early pictures of Susquehanna County, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the county. There I met Todd Moffett, senior warden, who it turns out attended St. Michael's Church in the early 1980's and knew Dorothy Cobb, one of the stalwarts of St. Mary's, who at the time was working (in her retirement) at St. Michael's. We invited him to attend St. Mary's if he chances to be in New York on a Sunday -- he in turn invited us to come to Christ Church any Sunday we could draw away from the Heart Lake United Methodist Church. We also met the priest, Randy Webster, who is also priest at St. Mark's in New Milford -- a church I have never been in. Randy's partner Paul Walker is the new rector at St. Paul's in Montrose. We happen to be on the mailing list of St. Paul's -- they have a super newsletter, and Liz and I were struck by the casual way they referred to the partner of their new rector. So now we have met Randy and not Paul -- but we will soon, no doubt.

Before coming to Montrose, Paul and Randy were at Christ Church, Belleville, New Jersey. The Mystery Worshipper reports that Paul wore a biretta there. I wonder if he does in Montrose -- perhaps I'll find out soon.

It was nice to meet an out gay priest today, the same day the Father Christian Troll reports on some of the doings of little Matt Kennedy, who tried to steal a church and succeeded in stealing a congregation about twenty fie miles down river from Christ Church.

I always say more later, but I never deliver. Ciao.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another summer at Heart Lake

Liz and I have begun in earnest our annual stay at Heart Lake, even as we are both significantly involved in things in New York. As chair of the property committee at St. Mary's, Liz has several important matters to attend to, and I have a full plate as the new treasurer of St. Mary's. This coming weekend, we have both been invited to join the vestry retreat, and so we will have to be in New York for that.

Meanwhile, the long saga of my dental implant and new prosthesis is approaching an end. I have an appointment at the dental school on Wednesday afternoon (tomorrow) and we have decided to drive down in the morning rather than late this afternoon as we originally planned. I am not yet sure whether to aim to get there in time for the Chinese class. To do that, we would have to be on the road by 7 am, 7:30 at the latest, and that might be difficult to manage.

Morningside Gardens still takes a good deal of my attention too. This year I am secretary and chair of the tenant selection (admissions) committee -- I'm not yet sure what other committees I will on. That means I have to be in New York on average at least twice a month for meetings, except possibly a little less in August. Since we try to stay here until at least early October, there's quite a bit of back and forthing.

A few weeks ago, I made a list of the personal projects I want to move forward on -- there were four, to the best of my recollection they are: the Dunciad project, studying Chinese, following and possibly writing about Anglican and Episcopal Church matters, and continuing with the organization of my study at home. After having been here at Heart Lake for a few stints of several days at a time, with a couple of equally long stays in New York, I have added at least one more project to the list -- I want to bring some more order into my genealogy papers.

That list of personal projects does not include reading projects -- Liz and I are reading Joel Kovel's The Enemy of Nature, and I am reading Amos Oz's A Tale of Love and Darkness, and Thomas Cahill's The Gifts of the Jews. I'm also starting again to read Richard Hooker -- right now I'm reading the sermon On the Certainty and Perpetuity of Faith in the Elect, which is printed before the Laws in the Everyman's Library version of Keble' edition. I've set aside Tristram Shandy for the moment.

And then there are the physical tasks associated with this cottage at Heart Lake. There are a number of things Liz and I want to do to improve the place, as well as organize some of the things that fill the cottage (especially the attic), the garage, and the shed.

I could go on, but it's getting towards 9 am and I have to turn to St. Mary's treasurer business.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Judicious Mr. Hooker

Over on HOBD, Michael Russell has announced the publication of the first of four volumes of a "new edition" of The Works of Richard Hooker. Michael is the author of Hooker's Blueprint, "which is essentially a Cliff Notes of the Laws [of Ecclesiastical Polity.] " The new edition includes the text of the Keble's 1836 edition of Hooker, as well as the Blueprint. Volume I can be ordered at CreateSpace.

Just the other day, I said to my slef that I ought to check and see if I could find a cheap copy of volume II of the Everyman's Library edition of the Laws at one the internet booksellers. It just seemed to me that I might be successful, and in fact I was. As it turned out, it was cheaper to order both volumes than just volume II (I got it for under $15, including shipping.) The Everyman's Library edition also uses the Keble text and notes. Here at Heart Lake, I have three volume copy of the third editon of Keble's Hooker, dated 1855, and inscribed to "Frederick Whiting, with W. Wayte's best wishes, on his leaving Eton. December, 1853. " The leather-looking bindings are in bad shape, but the text itself looks pristine. I doubt Frederick gave it much use.

At home I have a two volume edition of Keble's Hooker, in a similar condition, but I'll have to wait until I get home to identify it more clearly. I also have volume one of the Everyman's Library edition. I have wanted volume two for a long time, because it is a very easy way to read Book V of the Laws, which is the most fun. Now I'll have it.

I also have a copy of Michael's Blueprint, which I ordered because it was recommended to me by Grandmere Mimi, to whom it was recommended in turn by Tobias Haller.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gay Pride Day and Gas Drilling

I'm posting this from our cottage at Heart Lake. I had to make a choice (as I do most years) between being here and being in New York for the LGBT Pride march the last weekend in June. On the last Saturday of June every year, there is an opening brunch followed by an informational meeting of the Heart Lake Association. It's an important time both to greet our neighbors and to get some news.

The big thing that's happening around here is gas drilling -- to extract lots of natural gas from the Marcellus shale that underlies this area. In orderto extract the gas, it is necessary to use a process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking for short. Fracking involves the injection of a large amount of water and chemicals into the ground. The chemicals used are toxic and if there is a spill they can ruin streams. Even if there isn't a spill they can contaminate groundwater and ruin wells.

In Dimock township, less than 15 miles from here (shorter as the crow flies), there have been a number of accidents -- both wells and streams have been ruined. This afternoon, Liz is going on a tour of some sites organized by a progressive neighbor (they're rare here) and conducted by an environmental research organization.

I'm sorry not to be in New York for the Pride March, but I'm not sorry to be here. This morning we went to the Heart Lake United Methodist Church, our summer church. They are in the process of deciding what to do about their future -- I may write a little about that at another time. As part of the sermon, the pastor asked members of the congregation to say something about the meaning of "church." There were several thoughtful comments, mostly focusing on church as a place for worship, fellowship and taking a holy time away from daily concerns. Then Judy mentioned seeing a story on the news about a church that removed the cross on its steeple in order to be open to "people of other religions, gay people, and what not." The pastor commented that to his mind then its not a church. I would agree that it's not a Christian church any longer, but that's not what caught my attention. It was Judy's mention of gay people. Maybe she picked it up from the news program, but there's no mention of gay people in either of the stories turned up by Google News -- and one is on an avowedly conservative website. In case you're interested, the church was Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, Michigan and is now the C# Exchange. The pastor, Ian Lawton, is a former Anglican priest from the diocese of Sidney in Australia. If you google him you'll find out more.

That's all for now. Happy Gay Day.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

More about Monringside

NOTE: Posted witout links temporarily

I met the other night with a few friends here in Mornngsdie Gardens who were dismayed by my support of Glenn for president. The outcome of the organizational meeting was a clean sweep of officers. My friends were especially distressed that I had voted for Marlo as first vice president. They felt that as an ethical person, I should not have voted for Marlo because of what they perceived as his unprincipled attack on Chi (see LINK Board Affairs) in the weeks leading up to the election of board members. I did not have a good answer when I met with them, but I have thought about it since and I conclude that it is exactly because I am an ethical person that I could not automatically consider Marlo ineligible for office. I’ll explian, but first ...

Having decided that I was going to support Glenn for president, I also decided that it was appropriate to support Glenn’s preferences for the other officers. I would have preferred having Jerry as one of the vice presidents, but for reasons I cannot go into on this blog, in the eyes of the Big-endians on the board, there was a serious cloud over Jerry’s head. If I had voted for Jerry, it would have driven a wedge between me and the Big-endians on the obard at the outset of the year.

As for Marlo, the only thing against him is a tendency to go to the cooperators with matters that should have been dealt with on the board, as in his going to the cooperators with information about Chi. In the Chi matter, the board condemned his action, as I wrote at LINK. For me, that ends it – he has been rebuked, whether or not he acknowledges that his action was improper, and now we move ahead. The improper part of that action, by the way, was not the “going to the cooperators” but the revealing of information that he would not have had if he had not been a board member and that was therefore privileged.

As for “going to the cooperators,” on at least two instances this past year board members sent memos to the cooperators on matters that should have have been taken up by the board. In each case, they claimed that they had tried to bring up the matter and had failed – that in fact they were “stonewalled.”. While there are different perceptions as to whether a serious enough attempt was made to bring the matters to the board, the fact remains that in each case the matters were indeed brought to the board members’ attention before a board meetig and were not taken up at that board meeting – so the claim of being “stonewalled” arises out of genuine experience.

It is still true that the level of mistrust on the board is high, as is the level of mistrust among those cooperators who are partisan. I know that Glenn hopes to lower the level of mistrust and I intend to help as much as I can. But it’s a tough row to hoe and I am not certain we will succeed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Authors and Bishops and Activists, Oh My!

Last Sunday, which we now call Pentecost but which I still think of as Whitsunday, I was struck by the fact that sitting near the front of St. Mary's at the 10 am service were four "old men." My claim to fame is that I am the senior (in terms of time I have been there) male member of St. Mary's. The other three have come to St. Mary's much more recently, but they are each scholars and published authors. Thomas Cahill is an occasional visitor but not a member. Joel Kovel and Arthur Cash are regular attendees and are at least informally members. But even though we had four men visibly sitting toward the front on Sunday, St. Mary's these days is energized by a group of women, mostly somewhat younger, who are providing strong and dynamic lay leadership.

Tuesday morning Liz and I attended a service in a different venue and with a different cast of characters. It was a Service of Rededication on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Interchurch Center. We were there for two reasons -- we heard about it because Liz currently sings in the Intechurch Center Chorus, and after we heard about it Liz recalled that she had been at the dedication fifty years ago when she had a clerical job at the Interchurch Center and had joined the choir there. This time there was no choir, but an organ, a brass quartet, and a bagpiper. A guest of honor was Steven Rockefeller, whose family, especially his grandfather, provided the land on which the Interchurch Center is built. The address was given by Michael Kinnamon, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ. Fr. Raymond Rafferty, the current pastor of Corpus Christi Church, which we can see from the windows of our apartment, was among several readers; he read a passage from Matthew 5. Just before the service began I noticed in the program the name "The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori." Bishop Katharine came in at the end of the procession, behind Father Rafferty and Michael Kinnamon, whether the placemen was liturgically conscious or not, I don't know, but it was appropriate because she was the ranking cleric there. Bishop Katharine read the Litany of Remembrance and Dedication. Liz and I made a point of speaking to Bishop Katharine after the service, before she ducked out the back door on to Riverside Drive. I have now had an opportunity to speak to Bishop Katharine at three functions here on Morningside Heights and also once when she and her husband showed up unannounced at St. Mary's.

Three days after the Rededication of the Interchurch Center, and having nothing at all to do with it, the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a "Pentecost letter to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion." Others have written at length of the more significant portions of this letter -- in which Archbishop Rowan reveals more than ever his retrograde authoritarian ecclesiology and his inability to see that his statements amount to saying the lesbian and gay persons, "I have no need of you." My initial reaction to his letter, and especially the press release accompanying it, was "Ho, hum." There was nothing new.

Last Sunday afternoon, Liz and I hosted a gathering of people, mostly from St. Mary's, who are concerned about peace in Israel and Palestine. We heard from one of the witnesses to the killing of Rachel Corrie in Rafah, Gaza, on March 16, 2003. We also heard a report on current conditions in Rafah. The question of Israel and Palestine is a difficult one. It is difficult for many people to understand that a person can be simultaneously for the Israeli people and for the Palestinian people; or that being against the policies of the government of Israel is not a form of anti-Semitism.

My 10th great grandmother, Anne Marbury Hutchinson, is said to have been opposed to the wars against native Americans in the 1630's that resulted in the near extermination of the Pequots and the enslavement of the survivors. It is ironic that some of her descendants grew rich in the triangular slave trade and that she herself was killed by native Americans in 1643.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Some people in Anglican land, and, I presume, elsewhere, are writing, and maybe talking, and certainly blogging, about something on TV called Lost, which I gather just came to an end.

As for me, I just started reading Tristram Shandy again for the first time in over fifty years.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Busy and Wow

A lot has been happening. I'm writing this as an update without links just to get it down.

We had the organizational meeting of the board of directors here at Morningside Gardens on Tuesday. My support for Glenn and other Big-endians caused a lot of consternation. I myself was elected secretary, an office I have held before. I'll be writing more about Morningside Gardens and about conflict in the coming days and weeks.

Liz just finished attending her 55th high school reunion, and from Thursday afternoon to Saturday afternoon we had one of her classmates, another Liz, as a house guest.

I don't think I mentioned that on Palm Sunday as we processed around the block I talked with Arthur Cash, a retired English professor, about my project to publish my master's essay on The Dunciad on the web. Arthur encouraged me and I have been itching to get back to that project. In order to do it properly, I need to read a doctoral dissertation on the Dunciad that predates the completion of my essay but that I somehow missed in 1982 when I did a literature search. On Friday, while Liz and Liz were at their reunion I went down to the 42nd street library -- the one with the lions -- and obtained permission to use the Berg Collection, where a copy of the dissertation is deposited. I had about a half hour to look at the dissertation and I now know both that I do indeed have to read it and that it complements my own work -- or the other way around. I'll be writing more about that in the coming weeks and months.

On Thursday we had the first meeting of the St. Mary's finance committee since I was elected treasurer. I still haven't had time to process what we discussed at that meeting. I got home from that meeting and had about 20 minutes to eat supper before I went to another meeting here at Morningside Gardens at which we discussed the financing of capital projects. Amazingly, a committee composed of Big-endians and Little-endians came up with a unanimous recommendation to the board.

There's more, but that's enough for now.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I am not a Big-endian

Last night i voted to elect Glenn president of my coop, Morningside Gardens. It's safe -- and not at all boastful -- to say that last night I was the decider, so Glenn was elected. I was elected secretary, an office I have held before. The rest of the officers are Big-endians.

I am not a Big-endian. If anyone was watching, I demonstrated that in the very first vote of the evening. I also may have demonstrated it in the last vote of the evening -- I'm not saying.

As I have said before, the chief hallmark of the Little-endians may well be mistrust of the Big-endians and the chief hallmark o the Big-endians may well be mistrust of the Little-endians. There are also people who are not otherwise Little-endians who mistrust the Big-endians and people who are not otherwise Big-endians who mistrust the Little-endians. The mistrust that some of the Little-endians have for the Big-endians leads some of them to predict dire consequences as a result of the new set of officers. Even if control of the board were vested in the officers, I don't believe there would be dire consequences, but since control of the board is not vested in the officers, we'll never know. When it comes to decision making, all board members are equal and none are more equal than others.

To state it more explicitly, even if the five Big-endians all vote the same way on any question, I will vote independently. And if the Little-endians held all the offices, I would vote independently then too. So the outcome of any vote depends on the maekup of the board as a whole, not on who the officers are.

I voted for Glenn because I think he has a good chance of bringing us some way back down the spiral of conflict. It will be hard work, and I intend to support him in it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Board Affairs

SECOND UPDATE Sunday afternoon. I have corrected the numbers reported for this year's election results. I had mistranscribed the actual vote for John. Hat-tip to Glenn.

UPDATE Sunday morning. In this post I use the terms Big-endians and Little-endians to describe two groups of board members. The names come from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and I discussed my choice of these names in What's New?, which I wrote two weeks ago. The names refer to eggs, specifically to the correct way to open a soft-boiled egg.

This past Tuesday we had our annual stockholders' meeting here at Morningside Gardens. We elected three board members to join eight continuing members for what is now an eleven person board.

This coming Tuesday the board will hold its organizational meeting. We will elect the officers for the coming year. Last year I wrote a series of posts about the election here at Morningside starting with What's Up?, written before last year's annual meeting. In that post I discuss what turned into my candidacy for president. Most of what I wrote in that post I stand by today -- but there have been some changes.

Last year we changed the bylaws so that now there are only eleven board members which is why we elected only three board members this year. In each of the next two years we will elect four members, and then again three years hence we will again elect three (unless, of course, we change the bylaws again.)

As I noted in Whew, last year I ran for president, lost, and was relieved. I was also a little bit hurt. I haven't written about that hurt and I have talked about it very little. And it wasn't the first time. In order to talk about it, I need to give background and I need to use names -- I'll use only the first names of the characters, perhaps with initials to distinguish people with the same name. Some of this background I have discussed before on this blog.

Shortly after I was elected to the board and to the presidency in 2004, I appointed an ad hoc committee to study our resale price (we are a voluntarily limited equity cooperative -- that story is too long to include here.) To be chair of the committee, I appointed Tova, who I knew was in favor of open market, but who I believed to be fair. As it turned out, her idea of fairness and mine don't quite coincide -- and together we mismanaged a contentious situation and left scars on the community that persist.

The ad hoc committee came up with a plan to increase our maximum resale price and our flip taxes. While a large number of cooperators supported the plan, a significant group favored either a smaller increase in the resale price or no increase at all. As president, I was disappointed that the ad hoc committee did not engage in meaningful dialogue with those who favored a lower price. Instead many on each side vilified those on the other side. I too was vilified when I publicly stated that I saw flaws in both plans. When it came to the vote, the ad hoc committee's plan was overwhelmingly passed by the stockholders in March 2006. At the annual meeting which followed, Tova, Barbara, Steve and Jerry were elected. Tova, Barbara, and Steve were all vocal advocates of the increased prices, what I call the Big-endians. Members of that party showed open contempt for the advocates of lower prices, what I call the Little-endians. They also showed contempt for me and I was unceremoniously unseated by Tova. They didn't quite have a clean sweep -- I was elected Secretary, so I remained an officer although I was effectively frozen out of real participation in important discussions.

Two important things happened in that first year of Tova's presidency -- we hired a new general manager and there was a stockholder petition to study going to open market which passed at the 2007 annual meeting. I did not run for reelection that year for two reasons -- I didn't like being on the outside after having been on the inside, and I was having to spend a lot of time looking after my motther's affairs as she was declining.

In 2007, Dan and Patrick were elected to the board, Chi returned to the board after a year off, and Theresa was elected to a second term. During that year, I served on the bylaws committee, and later I chaired another resale price committee as we tried to hammer out a viable proposal for going to open market. I understand that the board meetings were quite contentious, although I was present as an observer at only a few of them. It was after a bylaws committee meeting that Barbara urged me to run for the board again, which I did. This time, in early 2008, the move to go to open market did not receive the vote of the requisite majority of all stockholders. A few weeks later Ann, Glenn, Marlo, and I were elected to the board. When I was running I explicitly said I was not running for president, but I was urged to run by the Little-endians, who were fed up with Tova's leadership. It became clear to me that we didn't have the votes to unseat Tova (see Trinity Eve), and the upshot was that Tova was reelected president, I was first vice president, Jerry was second vice president, Chi was treasurer, and Glenn was secretary. I was still out of the loop on a number of important discussions, and I was frozen out of the bylaws committee, which is one of my special interests, but I did become chair of our tenant selection committee.

There was a big struggle over the budget for 2009, and we voted a much smaller maintenance increase than I was comfortable with. Then in 2009, Tova left the board and Boyd, Chris and Detta were elected and Jerry was reelected to his second term. This time the Big-endians supported me for president and the Little-endians supported Jerry. I think the Bid-endians supported me because they were mistrustful of Jerry's leadership and the Little-endians were against me because they correctly perceived that I was not an orthodox Little-endian. We would have been deadlocked except that Theresa nominated and voted for Chi. Chi herself voted for Jerry. (I am speculating here, but I am sure I am correct.) So Jerry was elected president, Boyd was first vice-president, Theresa was second vice-president, Chi was treasurer and Anne was secretary. Dan and I were both elected to the executive committee, along with Anne and Boyd. It was an insult to me that I was not made an officer. Whether or not it was deliberate, it was an insult and I felt it.

In my opinion, Jerry made a number of mistakes as president in the last year. I was particularly dismayed that he scheduled information sessions during board meetings -- taking up time that might better be spent on important business. There were a number of other missteps -- times when I felt he could have handled things better. In addition, he has made a number of negative statements about Mike, the manager, that to this day are still in the realm of innuendo rather than concrete complaints on which the board could act.

I know that I am to some extent making assumptions about where people stand, but by and large I think I am correct in saying that during the past year the board had three Big-endians -- Detta, Glenn and Marlo; five Little-endians -- Anne, Boyd, Chi, Chris, and Pat; and four Independents -- Allen, Dan, Jerry and Theresa. Both the Big-endians and the Little-endians on the board include folks who are in active touch with people not on the board who share their general outlook.

At the end of this past board year, Pat chose not to run again and Theresa completed her sixth year and was not eligible to run again. Dan and Chi ran for reelection and there were four other candidates -- John and Larry who are generally identified with the Big-endians and Mimi and Tatyana who are generally identified with the Little-endians.

A couple of weeks before the election, Marlo went public with information that he felt cast doubt on Chi's suitablity to serve on the board. For me, Dan, and others, this was a serious breach because we considered that Marlo obtained some of the information only because he is a board member and hence the information is privileged. Dan introduced a motion at the next board meeting condemning Marlo's action. The motion passed, eight to three with one abstention. As I look back on it ten days later, I realize that the "whereas" clauses in the motion obscured what I think is the real issue -- that is, a breach of confidentiality and the use of confidential information for an apparently political purpose. That issue was conflated with at least two others -- whether the information released and Marlo's interpretation of it was accurate and whether Marlo had made a serious effort to present the information to the board for discussion before going public. The latter two issues played larger roles in community discussion than did the breach of confidentiality.

The outcome of the election was that John was the front runner, Larry trailed him by 43 votes, and Chi came in third, more than 150 votes behind John and more than 100 voted behind Larry. So now we have a board with five Big-endians, Detta, Glenn, John, Larry, and Marlo; four Little-endians, Anne, Boyd, Chi and Chris; and two independents, Allen and Jerry. (Again I want to emphasize that this is an over-simplification of people's positions, but it is pretty accurate as we go into the organizational meeting at which we will elect officers for the coming year.) The Little-endians are again putting Jerry forward for president and the Big-endians are putting Glenn forward. There are five on each side and at the moment I hold the deciding vote.

This is a good point to set forth my perceptions of the key characteristics of the Big-endians and the Little-endians when considered as parties. Since neither is a formal party, my perceptions are based on observation and are necessarily distorted by my own point of view.

One of the hallmarks of each group is a lack of trust of the other group -- indeed, lack of trust may be the chief hallmark of each group. There are elements in the outlook of each group that go back thirty years or more, but much of the current lack of trust can be traced to the lead up to the vote on prices in 2006. On substantive issues, I think it is fair to say that the Big-endians are concerned about our long term capital and operational needs and their costs, and the Little-endians focus on the short term costs to the cooperators of meeting those needs. That means that the Big-endians are likely to vote for a relatively higher maintenance increase in any given year than are the Little-endians. This is not to say that Big-endians are oblivious to the financial burdens that increased maintenance places on cooperators.

From my point of view, I think Chi, as treasurer, has for the past three years presided over a budget process and voted for budgets that have consistently under budgeted our needs and have produced operating deficits in each of those years. I think this is because, when it comes to budgeting, Chi, and some other Little-endians, are too myopic and unrealistic about actual costs which cannot be wished away or met through budget cutting and "cost control."

For the reasons I have stated, and for some additional reasons that I will not put in a blog post, I have decided that I will not support Jerry for president or Chi for treasurer. If not Jerry, then who? There are two obvious candidates: Glenn and me. I am very reluctant to try for president, although it is possible that I could be elected, especially if I bargained hard with ech side. But I really don't want the job. I'm willing to put in a lot of time, but not as much time as it takes to be an effective president.

That leaves Glenn, who, as I said before, is the candidate of the Big-endians. I am not a Big-endian. I do not share the deep suspicion many of them, especially those not on the board, have for people who disagree with them. I wince at the thought of the glee with which certain people will greet the election of Glenn as president and of anyone other than Chi as treasurer. But if I do not run myself, I have to make a choice between Jerry and Glenn, and since I have decided not to choose Jerry, I have to choose Glenn. I have talked to Glenn and I trust him to run a more open board than either Tova or Jerry did.

It's been a hard decision. I am somewhat surprised that I came out where I did. God willing, I won't regret my choice.

Monday, May 10, 2010


In my most recent post, I referred to the upcoming election of directors at Morningside gardens, the housing coop where I live, and to the existence of two parties, or factions, which I have somewhat facetiously dubbed the Big-endians and the Little-endians. Joking aside, there is genuine conflict here at Morningside, and it has reached an alarming point.

In January I did a post in which I mentioned reading an article by Canon C. K. Robertson in the December 2009 issue of Anglican and Episcopal History. I wrote:
Canon Robertson refers to the concept of "a spiral of unmanaged conflict" discussed by Susan Carpenter and William Kennedy in their 1988 book Managing Public Disputes. "Their premise," he writes, "is that any given divisive issue left unresolved will reappear again and again in slightly different guises, so that the passage of time, far from bringing healing, instead creates an ever-increasing intensity of opposition." I had never heard of the spiral of unmanaged conflict and was particularly struck by the idea, not for its applicability to the conflict in the Anglican Communion over sexuality but for its applicability to conflicts in the housing cooperative where I live and am a board member.
That was an incomplete post and I had intended to return to it earlier but here we are. In a footnote to that article, Canon Robertson refers to another of his articles -- this one appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of The Anglican Theological Review and is entitled "Courtroom Drama; A Pauline Alternative for Conflict Management." In that article, Canon Robertson lays out more fully his presentation of Carpenter and Kennedy's "model of the spiral of unmanaged conflict":
[T]heir underlying premise is that people in relationship with one another --- whether they are couples, groups, organizations, communities, or nations --- experience a relatively small number of issues that cause conflict, albeit in thousands of subtly distinct guises. Common themes manifest themselves at different points in the relationship in different ways and behind different masks. Thus, conflicting issue X, if left unresolved, will appear at a later point in the relationship but in a slightly different form, what we can call X2. If the parties involved again leave the issue unresolved and unmanaged, then later it will reappear in in still another appearance as X3, and so on. What is intriguing --- and disquieting --- is that with each new manifestation of the unresolved issue X over time, the intensity of anxiety, frustration, anger, and hostility that the parties bring to it increases dramatically. Carpenter and Kennedy elucidate this process in several steps:
X1 -- Presenting issue / problem arises
X2 -- Sides form along the lines of the issue (I am for issue X; you are against issue X)
X3 -- Positions harden (I see myself as pro-X; I see you as anti-X)
X4 -- Communication between parties breaks down; any meaningful dialogue between us ceases
X5 -- Resources are committed to the cause (I invest time, energy, even money in X)
X6 -- Conflict spills outside the parties (I talk to others about you, instead of to you)
X7 -- Perceptions of reality become distorted (I see you only as the Enemy, not as a person with whom I happen to disagree on issue X)
X8 -- A sense of crisis emerges, and the result can be litigation, dissolution, or war
It is not at all difficult to see how each stage in the spiral leads to the next. To reach the point of crisis where litigation appears inevitable, it is necessary for one or both parties to move relationally from fellowship to enmity. Disagreement alone cannot do this. Rather, it is the shifting of importance from a common bond between parties to agreement between parties that breaks down any sense of connectedness. Indeed, the relationship of those involved is viewed and subsequently re-determined in light of the presenting problem instead of the problem being viewed in the context of of the pre-existing relationship. Thus, any potential solutions that might work at a lower level of the spiral are useless at a higher lever. Indeed, any solutions grounded in the common relationship instead of common agreement will prove ineffectual altogether, as long as one party focuses on the existence and importance of disagreement.
I have quoted extensively from this article - I hope not too extensively - because I have not been able to locate a website that sets forth this model in any detail -- in fact the only links I have found are to pdfs of PowerPoint presentations (here and here) by Canon Robertson but without his accompanying explanations or comments.

To be continued,

Sunday, May 02, 2010

What's New?

This morning at St. Mary's, Bob Castle returned and (sort of) preached. It wasn't really a sermon, and it certainly wasn't based to the lections. Bob is engaging, entertaining, and maddening. Unlike the last time, when he spoke passionately about how right Jeremiah Wright is, this time was more of a reminiscence, with a little bit of fire thrown in for spice.

Enough of that.

This past week, our daughter Jane and son-in-law Scott took the first steps in adopting a baby sister for our granddaughter Amanda. Juliana is seven months old and Liz and I are trying to figure out how soon we can arrange to see her.

Last Tuesday, the Vestry elected me Treasurer and Bill Smith Assistant Treasurer. We're switching roles. I'm going to ease into the role of Treasurer, but I don't have much time -- I want to have a proper financial report for the vestry on day of the commemoration of the First Book of Common Prayer.

Here at Morningside Gardens, another election for the board is fast approaching. While we don't have named political parties here in the coop, we do have two groups who are at odds over a number of financial and other issues. I have struggled over what to call these two groups. One group is in power and one is not, so I could call them the Ins and the Outs. Many in one group support two men for the board and some in the other group support three women for the board, so I could call the Two Men Party and the Three Women Party. One group worked hard to keep a cap on our resale prices and the other campaigned hard to remove the cap, I could call them the Cap and the No Cap parties. But I have decided to call them the Big-endians and the Little-endians, after the two parties that Lemuel Gulliver discovered in Lilliput.

To be continued

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Thoughts after the Third Sunday in Lent

There are certain advantages to keeping a blog that no one (except the occasional spammer) comments on. One advantage is that I don't know whether or not anyone reads what I write.

This past Sunday at St. Mary's the preacher was Chris Ferguson. I alwats enjoy Chris's sermons -- he preaches from the text and has his eye on the truly radical meaning of the gospel. This week the gospel was Luke 13:1-9. Chris focused on the first half, verses 1-5. Twice Jesus says: "Unless you repent, you will perish just as they did."

Chris quoted The Future by Leonard Cohen: "When they said Repent, Repent I wonder what they meant." I'm not sure what Leonard Cohen has to do with it, or what his conclusion about repentance is, but is is clear that to Chris Ferguson, and to most of those in the congregation at St. Mary's on Sunday, repentance has nothing to do with being sorry for and turning away from personal sins.

Pilate had caused some Galileans to be slain while they sacrificed in the Temple, so that their blood mingled with that of the animals being sacrificed. Jesus clearly says that this didn't happen to them as a punishment for their sins. They were no more sinful than any other Galileans. The tower of Siloam in Jerusalem had collapsed, killing eighteen people. Jesus clearly says they were not worse sinners (he actually said "debtors") than any one else in Jerusalem. The clear message is that the bad things that happen to people are not a punishment from God.

Before I go further, a word about the "debtors" in verse 4. In the Greek and in the Vulgate the word is clearly "debtors." In the 14th century John Wycliffe translated it directly from the Latin as "debtors." By the 1th century, William Tyndale translated the word as "sinners." Chris Ferguson told us that being in debt was considered in New Testament times as a punishment for sins, so that a debtor was necessarily a sinner. I'm not enough of a scholar to comment on that. Also, I do not know whether the Tyndale bible or the Great Bible or the Geneva Bible which were based on it included any marginal alternative translations. The 1611 King James bible, however, does include in the margin the word "debtors" as an alternative to the word "sinners" in the main text. (It is a pity that few are aware that the original King James bible even had marginal variants.) It is beyond my purpose in this post to pursue further the matter except to say (following a lead of Chris Ferguson's) that it seems to me to be part of a consistent tendency to spiritualize economic references in scripture.

According to Chris, in this passage we are called on to repent the way of the world -- which is to accept as normal social structures which are built on injustice, inequality and exploitation. If we do not repent, we will perish. Of course, (and Chris did not say this,) if we do repent we may well perish anyway, because just as bad things are not God's punishment for sin, God does not reward us for doing the right thing by protecting us from bad things.


In article at The Lead at Episcopal Cafe, Ann Fontaine asks "Did you know Justice Breyer's daughter is an Episcopal priest?" Well, yes, I did and do know that. In fact, I know the Rev. Chloe Breyer -- she is an associate at St. Mary's and celebrated the Eucharist this past Sunday.

Enough for now.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I follow a great many blogs in Anglican land and spend a fair amount of time looking at them. I am also on the ENS and ACNS mailing list as well as a lurker on HOBD. As a result, I am generally pretty much up to date on what’s going on in the Episcopal and Anglican worlds. However I mostly lurk and I haven’t posted on any of the hot topics for a while.

Mark Harris recently pointed to a review in The Living Church by Ephraim Radner of Tobias Haller’s book, Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-Sexuality. (I have to confess that I do not follow The Living Church, Stand Firm, or other right wing publications or blogs and depend on others to point me to them. Rev. Ivan Ackeroff is particularly good at that.)

In reading Ephraim Radner’s review I was struck by two things. Consider this sentence from Radner: “Because the arguments are not actually founded on comparative research, however, they will never convince those who are not already persuaded.” This provides an insight into where Radner is coming from – as Richard Helmer points out in the comments at Mark Harris’s blog, Radner and his ilk base their approach on “top-down” theology. Radner’s statement is also, to my mind, disingenuous. His own arguments, at least in this polemical review, “will never convince those who are not already persuaded.”

As Bill Morehead points out also in the comments at Mark’s blog, there is an excellent (and favorable) review by Charles Hefling of Reasonable and Holy in the current (Winter 2010) issue of the Anglican Theological Review. As Hefling says, Tobias’s method is very much that of Hooker. His project is similar to Hooker’s, too -- “that of answering and controverting a stated position, strongly held, on matters of practical import for the church as a whole.” Tobias’ approach is largely biblical, explicitly taking the bible as we have received it. Radner complains that he does not also take the “coherent meaning and authority of the text,” persumably as defined by Radner and his party.

Which brings me to the second thing I was struck by. I recently read a piece by Elizabeth Kaeton in which she said that often in discussions in the church of same sexuality the discussants shift the ground to say it is really about biblical authority and that this is a form of avoidance of the real issue. (I know I’m not doing justice to her point, and I don’t feel up to tracking down what she actually said.) I would assert that next to the ick factor the question of authority (the authority of the hierarchy, the authority of scripture, the authority of tradition, the authority of reason, and the authority of experience) is precisely at the heart of the dispute over same sexuality.

To state it baldly, for some of us who call ourselves Christians, experience and reason trump tradition, hierarchy, and scripture. That is to say, we interpret scripture and the tradition using the lens of experience and reason.

I wrote the above a few days ago. Since then, Tobias has posted on the topic and one comment especially, by Fr. Gregory, pointed out the necessary (but unacknowledged) hypocrisy implicit in Radner's review. Fr. Gregory refers to "the question of whether any scholar, committed de facto to a set of pre-existing truths which he cannot question and does not declare, can serious[ly] and objectively review a work which basically questions those pre-existing truths." His implied answer is of course "No." But this raises for me the question of those of us who know from our own experience that we must reject any interpretation of scripture that condemns all same sex behavior out of hand. Can we listen to the other side with any more openness than they can listen to us?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reading "Reading Jesus"

I have just finished reading Mary Gordon's new book Reading Jesus. As Mary Gordon describes it, her book is the result of a realization that while she had been hearing passages from the gospels in church all her life, she had not actually read the four gospels straight through.

The first section of her book takes up ten readings which she quotes from one or more gospels. The tenth reading is the the beatitudes from Matthew 5: 3-10. When I read Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, I expected to turn the page and read Luke's version, Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God, but no, Mary Gordon does not give us Luke in this case.

She writes
For many days, I write and rewrite these words [the whole passage, Matt. 5:3-20] by hand and then I am paralyzed. Struck dumb. Afraid to write. Silenced by the depth of my attachment to them, silenced at the example of sheer moral greatness and the sense that after these wrods there is, perhaps should be, nothing to say.

What kind of life, what kind of living is suggested by the Beatitudes? Perhps equally important, what virtues are not mentioned...elided, simply left out?

Most striking: the bourgeois virtues. There is nothing about onesty. keeping your word, paying your debts, placing yourself in the right place in relation to authority or hierarchy. Mercy, peacemaking, poverty of spirit, purity of heart (the body is not metioned here). The sexually well-behaved are not given a place.
And a little later:

When I complained to a wise friend that it was impossible to live up to all the Beatitudes -- how can you be both meek and hungering for justice -- she told me no one was meant to live up to all of them, that was the glory of them.
I myself don't take the Beatitudes as a list of virtues to live up to. Rather they are are a list of priorities. And they are paradoxical, taken in the complete context of the gospel. Blessed are the poor, but we are called to relieve their poverty. Blessed are the hungry, but we are called to feed them.

To return to "Blessed are the poor...," in The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan gives two other versions besides those cited above from Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20: Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. [Gospel of Thomas 54] Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? [James 2:5]

Crossan writes:

The basic problem is not just Matthew's gloss "in spirit," although that certainly diverts attention and interpretation from material to spiritual, from economic to religious poverty. Even when that is left aside as a Matthean addition, there is still a serious problem with the word poor itself.
Crossan then goes on for three more pages to demonstrate that the Greek word ptochoi means "not the poor but the destitute, not poverty but beggary."

In The Essential Jesus, Crossan renders this saying as "Only the destitute are innocent."

Mary Gordon grapples honestly with the text of the gospels -- but she grapples with the texts only as they are translated, even to the point of prefering one translation to another not for the accuracy of the translation but for its resonances. And she grapples with the text without a glance at question of when or how the gospels were written -- especially the synoptics.

Mary Gordon's treatment is not fully satisfying to me. Many parts of her book, however, do resonate with me. For example, she asks the question (page 176) "What is lost if we give up the idea that Jesus is God incarnate?" Part of her answer is "If the experience of birth, friendship, suffering, and death was shared by the divine, a relationship of intimacy, and a refusal of dualism, is necessitated. And this, to me, is a pearl of great price."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Autumn in New York (but posted in Winter)

Here's an incomplete post from October 15th.

Two days ago, Liz and I shut up our cottage and returned to New York, two weeks earlier than last year. In the past few weeks, I have been pondering how I want to spend my time.

A good deal of my time is taken up with Morningside Gardens affairs. Another large chunk is time that Liz and I spend together. It's the rest of the time I am thinking about -- what I might call my intellectual projects.

This fall I returned to the study of Chinese -- there is a free Chinese class here at Morningside Gardens. When I was teaching at Seward Park High School, I took a Chinese class for several years, but since it was 1993 when I left Seward Park, that was over 15 years ago. I have a lot of reviewing to do to bring me back to where I was in the past.

I am also determined to spend some time seriously pursuing genealogy -- with the particular aim of having something concrete to pass on to my cousins and my neices and nephews.

A third topic is the Dunciad. I need to find time to get down to the NYPL and read a dissertation before I proceed.

This blog post puts me in mind of a topic I have been thinking about -- what exactly is a blog for? Today I am using this blog as a kind of online journal -- but without the depth of a real journal.

Highs and Lows

Here's another unfinished post -- this on from December 6th.

One of the reasons I have been posting infrequently is that I actually have other things to do with my time (believe it or not!) There's lots been going on in the wider world recently and today I am goingto take the time to note some things that have particularly struck me.

Most recent was the election of two women, one a lesbian, as suffragan bishops in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Susan Russell has an initial reflection on the election and Elizabeth Kaeton rejoices as herstory is made. Rowan Williams issued a predictable if disappointing statement.

Everything free and easy, do as you damn well pleasy

Here's another unfinished post -- this one from last December 18th.

The lines in the title of this post are from The Lambeth Walk, a song from the 1938 musical Me and My Girl. To my mind they are in an ironic sense doubly appropriate to the situation we in the Episcopal Church find ourselves in.

In case you don't know, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has elected two women as suffragan bishops. One of them happens to be a partnered lesbian. Judging by some of the reactions you would thiink the sky had fallen.

On the one hand, the Diocese of Los Angeles has acted in accordance with the canons of our church and the clear intent of resolutions at our most recent General Convention. The fact that a person is a lesbian (partnered or not) is irrevelant to considering her as a candidate for any of the Holy Orders. On the other hand, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ill-named Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order and the newly jumped up Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion have all issued statements urging the bishops and standing committees of our church to exercise "gracious restraint" and withhold consent to the election of

The draft breaks off in mid sentence. I don't remember, but I was probably searching for a phrase, or maybe a quote. But what they were saying was that The Episcopal Church should not consecrate Mary Glasspool a bishop.

I posted the the song The Lambeth Walk in 2008 at the beginning of the most recent Lambeth Conference. YouTube took that video down, but here it is again:

[I have also fixed the older post.]
To paraphrase the intro to the song, "You can no more walk the US way than we can walk the UK way." We have General Convention, you have General Synod, Parliament, the Archbishiops, and the Government, and the Monarch. We elect bishops, you appoint them. But most important, since the 1979 revision of the Prayer Book, we promise, with God's help, to
strive for justice and peace among all peop;e, and respect the dignity of every human being.
And we repeat that promise regularly.
It isn't really true that everything's free and east in TEC, nor that we can do as we damn well please -- but it is true that we are bound by different constraints than our sisters and brothers in other parts of the Anglican Communion.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A New Year: Conflict and Concord

Here is a fragment that I wrote on January 1st, New Year's Day.

The current issue of Anglican & Episcopal History arrived this week. I have just read a paper by C. K. Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop, entitled "The Challenge of Definition: Concord and Conflict in Anglicanism." Canon Robertson provides a useful look at the development of the concept of Anglicanism, starting from Richard Hooker: "Hooker's example of letting go of one's own supposed infallibility of opinion in order to learn from and be open to others would become his lasting gift to Anglicanism ... and its defining mark."

That's all I wrote that time. Now I add this line from Marilynne Robertson's Gilead:

Doctrine is not belief, it is only one way of talking about belief.

This is the second in my series of posts that I started earlier.

Breaking Silence

I began writing this on Friday, January 15, 2010 -- the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. at 9:30 in the evening here in New York. Just over three days earlier, an earthquake devastated the city of Port-Au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, as well as many other parts of the country.

Earlier that week, I finished reading Gilead, a novel by Marilynne Robinson. The narrator, John Ames, is a minister in Iowa, whose grandfather fought for abolition in Kansas. Towards the end of the book I spotted this: "doctrine is not belief, it is only one way of talking about belief." I almost wrote a post beginning with that quote.

I've been trying to get something posted for a few weeks now. Early this month, the journal Anglican and Episcopal History arrived. I was attracted to and immediately read three articles. The first two, "Anglican history in the 21st Century: Remembering All the Baptized," by Jane Shaw and "Anglican History in the 21st Century: Remembering All the Baptized: How Then Shall We Teach?" by Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatoski were presented at the annual meeting of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church which took place in Anaheim in July, in conjunction with General Convention. My principal takeaway from the first article is a reminder that it was the "British conservative evangelicals" who were opposed to the early Lambeth Conferences producing any binding resolutions and now "it is the conservative and evangelical bishops, not only in England but all around the globe, who are pushing for Lambeth decisions to be binding."

The second article brought to my attention the early Christian community in China, evangelized in the seventh century by the Church of the East. There are Chinese writings called Jesus Sutras which date from the seventh and eighth centuries. I am interested in this partly because of my renewed interest in learning Chinese and partly for its own sake. The Jesus Sutras reportedly use language drawn from Taoism -- this interests me and I want to find out more about it, to see if it offers any insights that might be helpful in meditative spiritual practice.

Around the beginning of November, Liz and I began going to morning prayer at the Lampman Chapel in nearby Union Theological Seminary. This service was started by our rector at St. Mary's, Earl Kooperkamp, and takes place Monday through Friday at 8:30 a.m. I call it morning prayer without the capital letters because we do not use the prayer book rite -- instead we use a form from Iona. There's a lot of silence in it, and I am beginning to get used to that. We read two lessons from the Daily Office lectionary, but no psalm, no canticles and no gospel. My interest in the Jesus Sutras is partly so I can use them to briefly meditate on in this morning prayer time.

The third article that grabbed my attention the current issue of Anglican and Episcopal History is "The Challenge of Definition: Conflict and Concord in Anglicanism," by C. K. Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop. It's an important article, but here I will focus on a what is almost a side issue. Canon Robertson refers to the concept of "a spiral of unmanaged conflict" discussed by Susan Carpenter and William Kennedy in their 1988 book Managing Public Disputes. "Their premise," he writes, "is that any given divisive issue left unresolved will reappear again and again in slightly different guises, so that the passage of time, far from bringing healing, instead creates an ever-increasing intensity of opposition." I had never heard of the spiral of unmanaged conflict and was particularly struck by the idea, not for its applicability to the conflict in the Anglican Communion over sexuality but for its applicability to conflicts in the housing cooperative where I live and am a board member.

Note: This is first of a series of posts that I began in the past. I have rounded off the last paragraph that I wrote earlier and leaving it at that

Saturday, January 23, 2010


This blog gets a small amount of spam in the comments -- as do most Blogger blogs, I suspect.

This morning I got the following email from Blogger:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Finite Time":

Hello everyone! Who knows where to upload the film Avatar?I even bought the film Avatar for a SMS to a Russian URL, the link was, but download fails, the system will boot quite strange cocoa something.Men, advise where to normal as quickly download film avatar?

I have substituted "a Russian URL for the link, which was of course the whole purpose of the spam, but otherwise the comment as shown above is verbatim.

It's a found poem:

Hello everyone!
Who knows where to upload the film Avatar?
I even bought the film Avatar for a SMS to
a Russian URL, the link was,
but download fails,
the system will boot quite strange cocoa something.
Men, advise where to normal as quickly download film avatar?
"The system will boot quite strange cocoa something."

Last Wednesday my computer sytem booted quite strange -- or rather it wouldn't boot at all. And I hadn't even sent an SMS to a Russian URL. (I had to use Goodsearch to learn that SMS is a common term for texting -- in fact it stands for Short Message Service -- a name that describes an essential part of the underlying technology for texting.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pizza and Higher Power

On Wednesday evening, January 20, several members of St. Mary's gathered with the current interns who are living at St. Mary's. There were about a dozen of us from St. Mary's, predominantly from the choir. This post is a continuation of what I wrote about this gathering in my previous post.

Each of us spoke to the questions "What do you do to connect with your Higher Power?" and "What do you do to express your creativity?" My immediate reaction when I saw the words "Higher Power" was a negative one. After all, this is a church, not an AA meeting. As it turned out, however, it was ok. The first two who spoke were Charles and Rhonda -- both members of the St. Mary's choir and both people who live or have lived on the margins, sometimes in the grips of addiction and sometimes homeless. Both spoke of prayer and praise as important to them.

I spoke after several others had spoken. The first thing I said was that my experience was more like the interns than like several of the choir members who had spoken -- I have never experienced real hardship. I didn't say it, but I am the beneficiary of both white privilege and male privilege.

During my sophomore, junior and senior years in college, while I was pondering the implications of being gay, I was also seeking a satisfying relationship to church. We had Sunday evening chapel at Hamilton in those days -- i don't remember anything about the order of service except that we said the General Thanksgiving, which at the time I did not know came from the Book of Common Prayer. When I was at home, I went with my mother to the Community Baptist Church in Port Dickinson (a suburb of Binghamton, New York,) which was the church she grew up in and in which my grandparents were leaders. In the summer, if I was at my grandparents' cottage at Heart Lake, I went to the Heart Lake Methodist Church. Each of these places had a different flavor, but none truly grabbed me. I knew I was a Christian, or at least I thought I did, but I wasn't sure what brand of Christian I was. In the fall of 1955, when I was 19, my grandparents brought me to New York to see a production of Ruddigore by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. Before we went home, we went to Riverside Church and I heard Dr. Robert James McCracken preach. I don't remember what he said, but I remember that it left me with more questions than answers.

I started graduate school at Columbia University in September, 1958. I was 22 years old. At about 3:15 in the morning of November 5, I met Rex Slauson in a gay dancing bar called the "415" at 415 Amsterdam Avenue. Rex and I immediately clicked, and we were together for the next fourteen years and a little over, until Rex died of a heart attack on February 13, 1973. Rex took me first to an Evensong at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and then to St. Mary's. I immediately found that I liked the Prayer Book liturgy and I have been at St. Mary's ever since.
For a few years, probably five or six, Rex and I read Morning and Evening Prayer daily, week in and week out. So my spiritual practce consisted of fixed forms of prayer, either at Sunday worship, the Daily Office at home, or grace before meals. I should also mention hymns. I sang in the choir at St. Mary's for many years. I used to know the names and tune names of many of the hymns in the 1940 Hymnal by number. I can't associate the numbers with hymns in the 1982 Hymnal. The words and music of many of the traditional hymns are an important part of my spiritual life.

Liz and I have from time to time had a practice of reading psalms, scripture, and prayers as well as singing hymns in the morning and sometimes we have done compline in the evening. In recent years we have done this more at Heart Lake where the pace of life is a little more relaxed than it is here at home in New York.

About three months ago, shortly after we came back from Heart Lake for the season, we began going to the Morning Prayer service sponsored by St. Mary's weekday mornings at 8:30 in the Lampman Chapel at Union Theological Seminary. This is not a Prayer Book service, rather it uses an order of service from the Iona Community that uses daily themes from iona and short Celtic prayers. We use the Old and New Testament readings for the day from the 1979 Prayer Book Daily Office Lectionary. The service has a lot of silence, which I am beginning to find useful, especially since from where I sit I can gaze at a large Eastern Cross with a chi-rho in the center; or I can turn my head and look at a Christos Pantokrator ikon. I do miss the psalms, the canticles, the fixed prayers, and the gospel readings.

I answered the question about how I express my creativity by mentioning this blog.

The preceding is a revision and expansion of what I said Wednesday evening. What follows are some relsated additional thoughts.

I am currently reading Mary Gordon's Reading Jesus. I find it a maddening book in many ways, but I keep reading. I keep reading because I am looking for something -- I'm looking for an answer to an important question -- not the answer, but an answer. To put it in Anglican terms, the question is: How can we use reason to reframe our understanding of scripture and tradtion and still remain in continuity with the communion of saints through the ages? I doubt Mary Gordon would come up with those words, but I suspect that is the question she is also exploring.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sigh! and Hi!

For weeks I have been trying to write a post for this blog. I have lots of drafts, but none of them have seen the light of day. But yesterday evening I mentioned the blog and someone said she would like to see it and I gave her the url.

Blog is short for weblog. The web part is the world wide web, that is, the internet. The log part originally was sort of like a journal, or the way some folks use Facebook or Twitter. So I'll use this post as a sort of journal tonight.

Yesterday morning my computer died. It's still under warranty and today I took it to the shop -- that's easy to do since I live in New York. They said they have a five business day turnaround, which is fine (though inconvenient) because I can use Liz's laptop as a replacement.

Yesterday evening at St. Mary's we had a pizza gathering with the interns. Click on the link to learn more -- to understand what I am saying all you need to know is that there are five interns living in an apartment at St. Mary's, it's an AmeriCorps program and the interns work in social service agencies. Most of the St. Mary's people there are in the choir, since the pizza gathering came right after choir rehearsal.

There were somewhere between 16 and 20 of us there and over the course of about an hour and a half each of us spoke to the questions "What do you do to connect with your Higher Power?" and "What do you do to express your creativity?"

I'll give you my (revised and extended) remarks tomorrow.