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Ode to Larry

I suppose it was just as it should have been. Palm Sunday. Hosanna…..Crucify…..a phone call that my good friend and seminary classmate, The Rev. Larry Motz, had died after a valiant struggle with cancer.
We waved palms outside the gym. Paraded around to All Glory Laud and Honor, led by our talented organist playing her flute. The gym was pretty full, and a couple of new families joined us. Yet, Larry was on my mind.
I could fill this blog up with stories about my friend. We visited Seabury on the same day, and ended up living one floor apart on our end of the apartment complex on campus. He was class president, I was vice president (after a hotly contested runoff!). We were as different as you can be. Larry, the GQ model, single, impeccably attired at all times. Me with the wife and 3 kids, almost always in a t-shirt and shorts, rarely shaven, loving escaping from the banker attire I had worn for 20 years.
Larry taught me much…..way more than I can express here. I loved him. I learned from him. I worshipped with him. He started a Caritas group on campus to do pastoral care, and my family was their 1st customer (my son was quite ill our 1st year of seminary).
Larry was very funny, saving his expressions and comments for the right time (“you may be seated” – inside joke).
Lord, there is so much more to say.

Yesterday while presiding at Holy Eucharist, I had one of those moments. This will sound weird. It happened to me the very 1st time I celebrated Eucharist after my priest ordination, and on occasions since. While celebrating, sometimes, I am able to observe….well…..myself. It’s like I am watching this amazing and risky act while I am doing it. The “awesome-ness” of being the celebrant, at times, speaks to me. Yesterday it happened again, but in a different way. As I was saying the words, I could see Larry. He was in a purple chasuble and stole, a very pretty set, it was one he bought while we were in seminary. I could hear his voice, see him doing the manual acts, holding the elements, breaking the bread. For a brief moment, I thought I would break down, but instead I was strengthened by his presense, I knew he was giving me “that look”, and that I needed to carry on. In a sense, we con-celebrated, although no one else knew it. It was a blessing and powerful and…yes…weird. But there was such a sweetness and goodness about it, above all else it was just RIGHT.

I told those classmates of mine that I have spoken to since getting the news, that it is just like Larry to influence us once again – to give us a living example of Holy Week in its fullest, to help us one more time, this week. For Larry has made it through his Good Friday. He had told his Bishop that he feared he would not make it to Easter, when in fact that is exactly what he has done – made it to Easter. So for us that knew him, he has made our Holy Week and Easter a time deeper and richer and sadder and ….. RIGHT.

My brother, may you go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in God’s heavenly kingdom. I will miss you. I will see you again. God bless.

Almost here……

HOLY WEEK that is…..no better time to be a Priest! I live for this stuff.
I became an Episcopalian a few years after I was confirmed, the 1st time I did the “full meal deal” for Holy Week. WOW….I had been missing SO much as a Baptist! Then seminary taught me the wonder and glory of the Easter Vigil and I have been hooked ever since.
We have an ongoing debate down here, and at my Frest Start group, about the Vigil. Most are not in to it too much. Waste of time….no one comes….what’s the use? Me, I gotta have it! I have been doing a TON of teaching since I arrived here about the Vigil, and folks are really supporting it.
This year, Holy Week of course takes on a whole new flavor. Doing all the services in a school gym that is the “home” to 125 volunteers makes it…um…interesting. Lots of time management, moving of chairs and tables, decorating, thinking WAY outside the box – it’s a LOT and it’s a blast!
My poor new secretary is feeling a little overwhelmed as I keep producing bulletins for all these services. But…I have Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday done AND I have done sermons already for the first two. I suspect I will finish the other three tomorrow – it all has to flow together in my book, so might as well write them together.
We will gather outside the gym and parade around with palms on Sunday….Eucharist on Mon, Tue, and Wed (with healing on Wed). MT, two GF, THE VIGIL, and Easter Sunday followed by a fun egg hunt (eggs provided by the Resurrection Rabbit).
The Vigil will include story telling and 5 baptisms by candelight around a font set in the middle of the gym floor, with chairs encircling the font. I still got to figure out how to “instantly” light the place, the gym lights take forever to warm up.
When our Bishop visited last week, he commented how Bishops from all over the country have told him consistently how our Sunday morning worship in the gym had really been a blessing to the volunteers from their respective dioceses. It was wonderful to hear and really great for our people to hear!
So….come on down…there’s work to do and HOLY WEEK TOO!

Defend O Lord your servant…..

NYC was a blast! The LW and I had one free day (the day we arrived), her 1st trip to the Big Apple. We went to a play on Broadway (Hairspray – it was great and we had GREAT seats thanks to a wonderful volunteer at our relief center who used to work there). We had a wonderful pre-play dinner, then we wandered around Times Square after the show. The weather was perfect and LW was thrilled.
On Wednesday she began her training and orientation for her new (PAYING!!) job. I had a meeting with some church folks, then took the subway up to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I enjoyed a self directed tour, and am still amazed by the size of that place, world’s largest Cathedral it claims. They are still recovering from a tragic fire that damaged a transept a few years ago. That evening I preached, then gave a Lenten talk at St. James on Madison Ave. This wonderful church was the site of my Plunge experience at seminary, a real highlight of my seminary time. I spent 2 weeks there with two classmates and it was way cool.
They welcomed me with open arms and I was able, I think, to tell the story of St. Patrick’s and the Coast of Miss. in ways they had not heard before. They are committed to partner with us in the rebuilding of our church and our community.
Thursday I traveled via subway to 815, the national church offices. There I met with reps from the Episcopal CHurch Foundation, to talk about the new fund raising campaign, From Darkness to Day, chaired by my Bishop and the Bishop of Louisiana. Again I was able to tell our story to folks who appreciated the fresh perspective. I think it always helps to have personal connections to these events.
I then met one of my best friends from seminary for lunch. He is planting a brand new church in the Diocese of Deleware. It was great to catchup and to share in his excitement about the church plant. Those that know me know that church planting has a special place in my heart (although God has had other plans for me so far), so I live through his ministry and pray for him and his work constantly. He will do well, he has the right skills and work ethic for this difficult work.
That evening I joined the LW and her new work friends for a wonderful dinner.
The next morning I went to Ground Zero and visited Trinity Wall Street and St. Paul’s – a holy place if there ever was one.
Our perfect trip got weird on the way home. Due to a security breach at LaGuardia, we were over 3 hours late leaving (for another time my thoughts on how totally inept Homeland Security and TSA are), and ended up spending the night in Memphis. I made it to the workshop I was helping to host by their lunch break the next day. Fortunately, some good folks were able to step in and everything was fine.
Whew…that’s a lot. I will end with this – we had our annual visitation of our Bishop last night. We are the 1st church on the coast to host this occasion. We met in the Methodist church (they’ve been SO GOOD to us). We had a nice turnout, a great message, a very nice service and an incredible reception. Two baptisms and NINE ADULT confirmations! I am so thrilled over the confirmation class, it really speaks to the hope people have for us.
Lastly, one of the difficult things I have hinted to recently has seen some hope. Reconciliation is taking place, thanks be to God. And thank YOU for your prayers – they are being answered.

Tired

I am really, really tired of being tired.

I think fatigue is another storm symptom. It seems like with each passing day, we are getting nowhere. I know it’s not true, but it just FEELS like that, most of the time.

I know that’s the wisdom of the small victories I talked about earlier. The big picture is just too overwhelming. But when you see all this stuff on the six month anniversary, and you know hurricane season is under 100 days away, and the beach area still looks like Hiroshoma, it gets to you. Click on St. Casserole’s blog (a great one to read, by the way) for some recent pics. RECENT is the key word, six months out.

I have been at my church now for two years. Two years ago, I started here right after Lent had begun. Last year I was in Honduras with our medical mission team for Ash Wed. This year, we did the service with the good folks at the Methodist church. They have been so very gracious to us, allowing us to use their facilities for important events. Yet I sensed in my folks such a yearning to have “our” service in “our” space, whatever that may be. We gotta get out of the gym. I just don’t know how to make it happen quickly.

Next week I travel to NYC. The LW is getting oriented on her new job, and I will speak at St. James on Madison Ave. I spent 2 weeks there in seminary, it’s a great church. They want to help. I hope I can tell our story in ways that allows folks to really hear and see and want to help.

But first – I think I want a nap.

Small Victories

I know, I know. I wait too long in between posts to think anyone is ever going to continue to stop by and read what I have to say. But, I am not giving up (yet) on the blog, so here goes some updating.

It’s been such a busy 5 or 6 weeks. From the parish cleanup day on our church site at the beach, to our Annual Meeting where we listened to our people tell of their pain and sorrow and hope over the rebuilding of our church, in particular to returning to the beach site or not, to our Diocesan Annual Council, which was excellent by the way, to a vestry retreat, to now – it’s been non-stop. In between we’ve waded in the waters again – as we finally had water connected to the office trailer only to have a pipe burst and flood the main office. It remains disconnected, finding folks to work on such minimal problems is impossible.
The events described above have been both affirming and difficult. Under the surface I have been subjected to, let’s say, some painful times. I am unsure as to why, and totally confused as to what about, and can only pray in my despair.
However, the vestry retreat was superb – the best one I have ever been a part of. Our leader did a wonderful job and we all came out of it refocused on the tasks ahead. He helped us see the value of claiming “small victories” along the way, recognizing that the overall tasks ahead of us are so huge that it’s hard to chip away at them.
We have already claimed some SVs and more coming soon. I also sense a rededicated group willing to establish good norms in how we work together.
Out of pain comes hope…..