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.

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