It’s a Holy, Tough, Good, Weird Time

Yesterday (Sunday) 120 of us gathered under a canopy over the outoor chapel on our former church site. The outdoor chapel was built in St. Patrick’s Park, a green space behind our church that the city maintained as a park and ball field. The outdoor chapel mostly survived the storm (some benches gone but the altar remains). It’s all that is left of our church structures.
Bishop Gray joined us and we had a very good turnout. It was a very emotional day, tears flowed freely. During communion we oriented everyone so they were looking out at the ruins of the church and the Gulf beyond. We did annointing (unction) and prayed.
We also baptized two children! And we declared our faith, our hope, our determination.
You can listen to my sermon (it’s short on the Knight scale) and see some pictures by clicking here
Tomorrow we have several other things on tap for the actual anniversary, some joint services at the school where we worship and the site of our relief center, and another at the Methodist church in Long Beach.
Folks around here are handling this special date in a variety of ways – but many, many are struggling. Suicide attempts are up, mental health issues abound, kids are acting out big time. Every channel you turn to is showing images and videos of the horror we went through (and still go through). I have told my folks to just turn the blasted TV off. Our minds have ENOUGH images for us all. Plus, people are down right ANGRY that once again, New Orleans gets all the attention. But I guess their anger has to go somewhere.
Tomorrow will be tough. Keep us in your prayers.
By the way, Trip, if you are reading, I used your quote in my sermon – thanks dude!

Anniversary

Well, it’s almost here. The one year anniversary of “the storm” (a reminder to readers – we don’t say the name of it down here, it’s almost a Valdermort kind of thing – the storm-that-must-not-be-named).
Lots of press are converging. Most will, of course, go to New Orleans, maybe to chase ridiculous rumors a la Spike Lee. Some will visit Mississippi. We’ll see the images again, look at the enormous LACK of progress, hear from the thousands still living in trailers, wonder if things will ever even look “that way” again as before and after pictures are shown over and over.
When you drive down the beach road now, in some ways it’s worse. So much is overgrown with weeds and bushes, it’s hard to tell where the slabs were. The church site is very hard to pick out now, other than the cross we put up, made from the remaining floor joists in the foundation (all that was left).
I can tell the idea of the anniversary is having an interesting affect on me and many others. To me it’s depressing. I want to get past it. For others, this significant time will help the grieving process. For our church, we’ll see.
Next Sunday (27th) we will gather in the outdoor chapel of the park that we had right behind our church. The actually church site is too dangerous still – too much debris and glass and broken things. We will have church facing the beach and the ruined church. We will share the Eucharist and do healing prayers with annointing with oil. AND – we will have some baptisms!
It struck me that baptism could be the symbol of resurrection hope, of new life, of washing clean, of starting over. I talked to the parents of two children who have been wanting to discuss baptism (they are under 12) and they were very excited to have this take place on that day.
This will make 11 baptisms since Christmas. THAT is a good thing!
Keep praying for us y’all. It’s going to be a rough couple of weeks……but BAPTISMS! I think that’s very cool……

Back in Town

Well, I know all my adoring fans have been deeply upset by the lack of posts. I was floored to have The Mad Priest mention my blog (and say nice things about me too!) while I was away.
I am back from 2 weeks of a very nice vacation, and a week with the LW as she has recovered very nicely from surgery earlier this week. We did the surgery about 1 1/2 hours from home because she knows the doc real well, and we have family there to help out. We are home and she’s doing great – she’s tough!
For vacation I stayed out of town almost the entire two weeks. Living, for a short time, in a “normal” world was often disorienting and at times painful. We are still so far from normal, but it was nice to experience it for a little while.
My son and I spent 3 days at a relative’s beach house. We fished, played tennis, went to the movies (twice!), and body surfed. We had a good time, some real nice father – son bonding. He’s growing up so fast, almost 13, and getting REALLY tall. He’s a good guy too.
Then the 5 of us went to S. Florida and spent 5 days at another relative’s house (are you seeing a pattern for this vacation – CHEAP!). It was wonderful there. They have a beautiful home. I played golf, played a little tennis, slept late, swam, ate some excellent food. It was very nice. Our two daughters stayed an extra day, while the LW and my son and I flew to Chicago. It was my first trip back since leaving seminary 4 years ago. We spent 3 days and nights at the Lake Michigan beach house of some very dear friends. We hung out, played in the lake (had BIG waves one day), and, again, ate well! It’s good to have friends that not only will invite you to stay with them, they cook good too!
We then traveled to Evanston where Seabury Western Seminary is. We stayed with seminary friends on campus. As I made the drive up Lake Shore to Evanston and entered the town, I was really overwhelmed. I didn’t realize just how much I missed that place. My 3 years there were the best of my life. We walked around downtown Evanston, had lunch with my former Rector from Mississippi and his wife (they’ve retired to Evanston), and then visited the old haunts on campus – chapel, classrooms, etc. Sitting in that chapel was a moving experience. I could hear my friends voices, mostly laughing. We had some good times! Sitting in the classroom was even more weird. I was flooded with so many great memories.
We didn’t have time to make it into Chicago, but what a great city that is! I miss it too. Even with the winters I could live in Evanston, but I’d probably have to go alone! Too cold for the LW!
Time to polish tomorrow’s sermon. Good to be home.

Communion Thoughts and more….

Here we are almost a month post GC2006. What an interesting time! Being at GC and being front and center for many of the committee hearings and all of the floor debates, I am constantly shocked by what I hear and read about what we did. So much is inaccurate, so much is subject to wide interpretations. For the most part, I am disheartened by actions taken by various entities and individuals in our church. And I remained amazed at how sexuality completely captures such passion and violent opinions. Would that mission and evanglism, would that love of neighbor, would that the teachings of Christ, like Matthew 5, Matthew 25, Matthew 28, would rule the day.
I have also been struck by how our readings this summer speak so much about reconciliation, about unity, about how our baptism unites us and how we are to be MINISTERS of reconciliation, not ambassadors of division.
I come from the Southern Baptist church. Much of that upbringing still informs me. But one aspect of congregationalist churches is the issue of schism. You get enough people mad at the pastor or upset over the color they painted the walls, and they just leave to start another church. There is no sense of a greater structure, of ecclesial bodies, of Bishops or others in authority. And quite often (I dare say almost without fail), when a church splits in anger, they form an angry church. From that comes, later, another split and another and another. It is a very slippery slope.
As Episcopalians / Anglicans try to figure all this out, I wonder about the long range repurcussions. I wonder about folks wanting to line up under Akinola, until he does something they don’t like. I wonder about people who want to choose their bishop, based on criteria they define today, and what happens in 10 years when the church has new people and there are new bishops, do they just choose again? Is that very Anglican, or catholic, at all? Slippery slope.

I keep hearing from “left” side and “right” side folks of what we did or did not do at GC. The special commission on Windsor, and the legislative committee at GC, worked so very hard. They tried to respond and yet be sensitive to various opinions. They presented to us A161, which addressed (not harshly enough in some opinions) the election of Bishops whose manner of life is a problem for the Communion AND also addressed a moratorium (not those words) on blessing same sex unions. One thing I hear constantly from the “conservatives” is how SSUs were not even addressed. This is wrong. A161 addressed them – taking language from A162 (which was combined with A161) the resolution stated :
” The amended A161 had called for The Episcopal Church to “not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the Blessings of same-sex unions”; to maintain a “breadth of responses” for the pastoral care of gays and lesbians; to offer its regret to the Anglican Communion for the actions of 74th General Convention; to urge dioceses to “refrain from the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church”; and to apologize to those “hurt by these decisions.”

The debate on this resolution was fascinating. Those in full support of Gene Robinson and SSUs were adamantly opposed. Those from the right, very surprisingly, also opposed it (saying it did not go far enough). That was an amazing turn. The “right” folks worked together, called for a vote by orders, and really worked to defeat A161 which, IMHO, did address the Windsor Report, offering regret, promising not to develop rites, and urging refraining from electing gay bishops. This was a well done, difficult-to-achieve resolution and, again in my opinion, brought us as close in line with Windsor as possible for our GC. The conservatives fought it tooth and nail. Some of the liberal members of the special committee spoke for passing the resolution, willing to give up what they considered progress for the greater good of unity and the communion.
So it is disingenuous for conservatives to complain about the lack of resolutions on same sex blessings, when it was the conservatives who fought to defeat the one resolution brought forward dealing with it.
The election of Presiding Bishop was the other amazing thing. I have heard from three Bishops now who report that a group of conservative Bishops, including some retired bishops, once they saw “their” candidate, Charles Jenkins, would not win, voted for Jefforts-Schiori intentionally to cause division and schism in the ECUSA and the Anglican Communion. It is their place to name names, but all three reported this as hearing it first hand.
Folks, this is a sad, sad thing to learn. That Bishops of our church would do something to intentionally cause a split in our church, and do so while hiding behind a secret ballot, is unbelievable. Yet, as in the Joseph story, God can make for good that humans intend for ill. I pray that is the case here, but shame on them for lowering to such levels.
I also decry Bishop Chane and others who, following GC, declared they would just ignore what GC had agreed to. This is just as grievous as the conservative plot to defeat all WR resolutions and elect a woman PB, just to cause trouble. Our church should be ashamed.
The good news is this diverse center, many of whom disagree with each other on sexuality issues, yet believe we can still be the church together, that our unity (see John 17) takes priority, that Jesus told us to be as one SO THAT the world will know who he is. The above actions don’t show us as one. Yet many of us believe we can do so.
I also want to come against the way people talk about each other. The stereotypes and really harsh language about those whom which we disagree must stop – we are baptized Christians and should act like it! I am sick of conservatives saying that someone who believes that SSUs could be something that the church can bless, based on their own scriptural and theological reasoning’s and a sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence, that such beliefs equates to that person being anti-Christian, a non-believer, someone who does not agree with the Creeds or the resurrection, etc. This is patently untrue. Those, like Spong, who deny the resurrection, surely they are not Christian. That does not mean all “left” or “liberal” people fall into that camp. And most of the moderates I know profess the Creedal beliefs without hesitation.
I also point out that some in the “liberal” camp put no credence in the Bible or the teachings of the church. They don’t allow for the deep, passionate feelings of those on the “right”. They are unwilling to listen to their deep held beliefs in Scripture and what the authority of the Bible means to them, and how some of the actions of this church shake that to their core. Their feelings of pain, abandonment, confusion, anger are legitimate responses to this shaking up of their core beliefs. To discount that is unfair and of no use for us in this time of strife.
“From now on consider no one from a human point of view”, Paul to Corinth. Paul to Ephesus in this week’s reading says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

Both groups into one, by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace. The wall has already been broken down. We, the church, need to realize that.

General Convention Thoughts, Part One

I know, I know. My adoring public has waited anxiously for me to post since leaving for the Episcopal General Convention 2006. I did intend to post during GC, but I was always just too tired! Here are some initial thoughts:
The process is, well, to me, VERY FRUSTRATING! To veterans of GC (this was my 1st time), they just smiled and laughed and nodded, knowingly. It is a legislative process, with committees assigned “legislation” (resolution) to work on, hold hearings on, amend or change or recommend discharge, etc. The committees meet every day, early and late. They debate resolutions assigned to them amongst themselves, and they schedule hearings where anyone can sign up to speak to resolutions. These hearings are posted daily so you can track resolutions you are interested in and be at those committee hearings, speak if you desire, etc.
Our deputation had 7 of 8 deputies assigned to committees, three of them as vice-chairs. We rock! Those of us not on committees were free agents and divided up to follow different resoltuons. I focused on the Evangelism committee and also committee 26, who had the very difficult task of dealing with Windsor Report resolutions.
The committee work is ok, sometimes a struggle but a good way to have different voices heard. It’s the House of Deputies floor stuff that drove me insane! When you have over 800 deputies on the floor at once, with a high percentage of large egos, it can get nuts. Obviously there are some people who feel no resolution is worth anything if THEY don’t get up to address it. There are others who gleefully wait for their turn at the mic to “move the question” – and thank God for them! I got so tired of debate where people just said the same things over and over and over – look, if your thought has been addressed – KEEP IT TO YOURSELF! The other frustating part was when people would propose amendments that drastically changed resolutions, instead of doing so at committee hearings.
Again, the process is difficult for me. But maybe that’s just me.

In addition to that, the other enlightenment was for me to see how much time we spend majoring in the minors. Everyone’s pet issue is addressed. Often it’s hard to see a connection between one more resolution on global warming and how the Mission of Christ is to be addressed by our church. I missed hearing a lot about Jesus. Instead I heard a lot about Iraq and reperations and environmental waste from Katrina (more on that later) and on and on and on. For instance, the Liturgy and Worship committee had 50 resolutions to deal with. Some of them on some important stuff. Yet on the HoD floor deputies wanted to spend time debating the appropriate date for the feast day of Thurgood Marshall – GO TO THE COMMITTEE MEETING FOLKS and talk about that. Sigh.

The most exciting part of GC was the announcement and then reception of the new Presiding Bishop, The Right Rev. Katherine Jefforts-Schiori. I will have more to say about her election, and the really disappointing behavior of certain bishops in the voting, but for now I can say the Spirit was really alive in the room as the election results were announced and SHOCKED all of us. I don’t know her well, or know much about her, so I will withold any judgement of her. Bottom line, she won – and although some intended her election for ill, God, I pray, intends it for good. I heard that line in the Bible…..

More later, friends.

Itinerant: noun. a person who alternates between working and wandering.