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Day TWO (Part One) of my silent retreat

Tuesday – First Full Day

Tuesday I have broken into two parts so they won’t be so long

I have friends who tell me the first day or two of a retreat they just sleep – letting their bodies and minds catch up with some solid rest. I find that difficult, even if I want to. I was certainly sleepy after supper and compline Monday night (compline was awkward, another thing that takes getting used to is the rythmn of how they pray here. Most everything is chanted at the prayer hours (7 of those a day).

Sign in the area visitors sit, we see the monks through the glass and can participate in the prayers

The prayer hours
They start at 3:15am with Vigils (Vigils, or watching in the night, is prayer to be celebrated in the middle of the night during which we meditate on salvation history as it unfolded down through the ages. The office of Vigils consists of a hymn, psalms, readings (scriptural and patristic), and canticles suitable to the spirit of the midnight hour when one awaits the arrival of the Bridegroom (Mt 25:6; Mk 13:35). In monastic communities the concentration on vigilance begun with this office continues until lauds. Monastics spend this time enveloped in and supported by darkness and silence in lectio divina,prayer and meditation.)

Vigils is followed by Lauds at 5:45am (traditionally at dawn, but sunrise is later: Lauds is celebrated at daybreak when the sun is dispelling the night and the new day is born. The Church has always considered the sun to be a symbol of Christ rising from the dead. This prayer is called Lauds because it is a laudatory liturgy of praise in the early morning light.)

Eucharist (Mass) comes right after Lauds. We move from the closing prayer out of our “visitor seating” where we pray and observe the monks praying, separated by glass, into the beautiful altar space. We still are separated in our seating, but no longer by a glass wall.

Breakfast is at 7, followed by Terce at 7:30am (Terce, a Latin term for third hour, is prayed at mid-morning. It is a shorter prayer referred to as one of the little Hours. Traditionally it is dedicated to the coming of the Holy Spirit which took place at mid-morning in the account found in the Acts of the Apostles. One prays for light and strength as the day waxes strong and one’s work begins). 

Sext is at 12:15 pm (Sext, another of the little hours, is Latin for the sixth hour. It takes place at midday when the sun is at its apex and one has become a bit weary and mindfulness is all but impossible. It is a time for earnest prayer to resist temptation, to keep from being overcome by the demands and pressures of life. We are reminded of Christ being crucified at the sixth hour and we unite ourselves with Him), Sext is followed by lunch at 12:30.

None is at 2:15 pm (None, refers to the ninth hour, roughly mid-afternoon, and is the third of the little hours. It is a time to pray for perseverance, to pray for the strength to continue bearing fruit as one reaches one’s prime and needs to keep going. It is a time when one becomes aware of the sun’s gradual descent and the strength one needs to cope with the demands and responsibilities of life.).

Vespers are at 5:30pm (Vespers, celebrated at day’s end, takes on the character of evening. The day is almost over, our work is done.).

Supper is at 6:00pm and the monastic day ends with Compline at 7:30pm (Compline comes from the Latin which means to complete. It is the last common prayer before retiring for the night. It marks the completion of our day and heralds life’s end. It leads back into the darkness of the night, but a darkness different from that of vigils. It is not the darkness of waiting where all the possibilities of good and evil were still ahead. This is the darkness of God’s mysterious presence, the abyss of his mercy into which he let us fall. Compline may be understood as a daily exercise in the art of dying. For what is sleep if not a little rehearsal for death? But dying a death which will open the fullness of life and light. That is why the cantor sings the wonderful song of old Simeon on the threshold of death: “Now Lord, you will let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your saving deed which you have set before all: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32).). The monastery’s version of Compline is quite different from what is in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, other than the same Psalms are used.

Thanks to [] for the above descriptions of the divine hours. While they are prayed at all monasteries, the idea, especially post Vatican II, was for all believers to also pray them. The offices of Morning and Evening Prayer in our Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (BCP) are basically combinations of the above prayer hours as a way to make them more practically available to laity. But the BCP adds some simpler, shorter prayer offices as well (for noon day and Daily Devotions for individuals and families. Our BCP is a gem we need to be made more aware of….stay tuned St. Simon’s!)


Day one of my silent retreat

This is my first post written when I was on a silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemane in rural Kentucky, a Trappist Mono monastery and the home of Thomas Merton for all his years as a monk. I wrote the posts while there, but was disconnected from EVERYTHING (which was SO GREAT), and so I am posting them now and over the next few days. I also spent some time reflecting on my 20 year anniversary to the priesthood (December 14).

Retreat 2022 – Abbey of Gethsamane Nov 28 – Dec 2, 2022

I left home around 4pm on Sunday. Had a good first Advent at St. Simon’s, although still wondering where the people, especially families with children, are. Preached one of my favorite sermons and talked about how I am leaving, FINALLY, for this retreat and how much I need it. I think they got it. I had numerous very supportive comments after each service.
Had lunch with Jennifer before I left then hit the road, praying for her for the week as I drove away. It’s close to ten hours to the retreat center so planned to drive as far as I could then find a room for the night. With my lower back problems of the last 9 months or so, I didn’t want to chance a big flareup while away. So I stopped in Huntsville for the night – what a cool city! I was close in a search process here as our Delray Beach time was wrapping up, they ended up calling their interim (a friend of mine)! Who knew such things were possible? Well, every bishop that’s ever said no to me ended up saying “it’s ok now” to someone else. How can I not think it must have something to do with me? Anyway, would have been interesting to have been in this area, seems really nice. But certainly all worked out in wonderful ways for us.
The purpose in stopping was to sleep and to make enough of the distance up so I can get there as soon as possible Monday – best laid plans…
I failed in the sleep department, was up until almost 2am. Monday. Before leaving town for the retreat center in Kentucky, I went to Best Buy to get some cheap bluetooth earbuds as I left mine at home. Scored on that, then hit the road again.
By the way and thanks be to God and Nancy, my miracle worker Physical Therapist, my back is holding up quite well so far.
The trip from Huntsville to the Abbey of Gethsamane should have taken about 4 hours but due to construction on I-65 it took almost 5, and then I lost an hour moving into Eastern time zone. Still rolled into “Monkville” about an hour before supper and got unloaded and settled in. Let the silence begin!
It takes some time to adjust to being here, that’s for sure. We eat meals in silence, so dinner was quiet with some music playing. The monk in charge of retreatants (Guest Master), Father Carlos, has been here 35 years. He is from the Phillipines. On Monday and Tuesday evening at 6:30 he gives a brief talk (retreats are offered for Monday evening to Friday morning and Friday evening to Monday morning). Tonight’s talk was on seeking God. He made some nice points. He recommended always starting with Psalm 139:13 “I will thank you for I am wonderfully made”. Kind of resets us don’t you think? Then he reminded us where to be fed – Jesus says in John 6:35 “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, whoever believes in me shall never thirst”. Such simple reminders of the truth of God should help recenter us as we seek to listen to God and follow God’s will for us. Fr. Carlos then made this profound statement – “when we make the church our comfort zone we (the church) become just another do good organization. Nothing wrong with doing good, but seeking God should move us from a comfort zone fully into Christ, shifting to THAT comfort zone should not be scary but, well, comfortable and also so much more meaningful.”

Following the talk I attended the 7:30 Compline service. I will have much more to say about the various prayer services the monks participate in (along with any retreatants so inclined) in a later post. After supper, back to my room. The rooms are all private, just a twin bed and desk/chair with a small area for your clothes and your own bathroom with shower. All you need. Despite my lack of sleep I was too wired to get to bed early, and it takes some getting used to to the intense quiet here! It’s so nice and so different. So I wrote this post and made some notes from one of the books I brought, and I prayed. A lot. I brought a directory of my parish and began going through it, praying for each of my folks by name. It was holy time. Then I prayed for my family, for the world, and for God to speak to me this week. More to come…

Sermon October 2, 2022 – Hurricane Ian, Psalm 137 and 2 Timothy 1.

I am attaching the YouTube link to our service at 9am on Sunday, October 2. Since many of our folks came to the outdoor service for the Blessing of Pets, which had only a very short homily, I was asked to post this one for those who missed the 9am.

You may find the service HERE.

The sermon starts around the 23 minute mark. But watch it all, our choir was so good today (as always!).

General Convention Post 3

Some members of our deputation showing off their Camp Beckwith shirts. It was Camp Shirt Day at General Convention

The legislative process at GC can sometimes drive me batty. Time is limited for debate and those wishing to speak queue up at microphones using an electronic queuing system for fairness. Most speakers are well prepared, knowing they only have 2 minutes (and asked often to slow down in order to allow the translators appropriate time). Also often we hear basically the same thing said by multiple people and when that occurs where there is no one speaking to the opposite side, I tend to get impatient as the will of the house is pretty obvious. But in reality, deputies speaking from their heart or from their experience regarding a resolution and its possible impact are at the core of why we are here. It’s a process (a lot of process in the process) and the diversity of deputies here is delightful to see. I am also very impressed by the number of younger deputies this convention and their willingness to speak to the issues in front of us. So I will resist yelling ”get off my lawn”, and see what I can learn from all the variety of people and opinions.

In her brief remarks after being elected President of the House of Deputies, Julia Alaya Harris said it was a victory for ”church geeks” everywhere. YES! She was speaking to the House but also to a large number of people watching online. She described herself as a church geek who loves the legislative process, canons, prayer book, and other things that make our church in some ways unique, and she also wanted to lift up her fellow church geeks and honor their passion for all things church. Thanks Julia! We look forward to your leadership.

The most moving moment yesterday was the approval, unanimously, of the merger of the Diocese of North Texas (formally called the Diocese of Ft Worth) with the Diocese of Texas, from whence it had been carved out decades ago. The Episcopalians of this diocese have been through incredible trials and tribulations, finally ending up with the vast majority of clergy and churches leaving the Episcopal church to align with another entity. Deputy Kate Sherrod, who has been so steadfast in her fight for her diocese, her church and her people, spoke to the importance of this day for her and so many others. Recently the Texas Supreme Court, in a decision that goes against almost 100% of all other court cases across the country when churches have voted to leave the Episcopal church but learned they could not keep their buildings or money, decided the break away diocese could not only have ALL the stuff, down to prayer books and vestments, they also could retain the name of the Diocese of Ft. Worth. Katie was in tears as she testified to the heartbreak and hardship, along with the delight in their reunion with the Diocese of Texas. Her haunting words were prophetic to me, saying ”the cost of inclusion is a heavy one”. The resolution passed with a standing ovation as the deputies from North Texas and Texas stood on the platform. To quote Presiding Bishop Curry from his sermon on Friday, this is one way we make ”plenty of good room for all God’s children.”

The evening session included two LONG debates, one on a resolution accepting the recommendation of a study group reorganizing how our archives are managed. It’s way too much to get into on here, but who knew so many people would speak passionately on this topic? I voted to support the 4 years of work of the study group. The other resolution which took a lot of time (and will have to be finished with this morning) had to do with resolution A048, which was offered by the legislative committee I serve on. Based on recommendations of a Task Force formed at the last GC, the resolution proposes much needed changes to how the budget for the church is developed, while keeping the authority for approving the budget with the GC. The budget process is currently very convoluted and recognizing this, the Task Force was formed to come up with a better approach. They have done so and I support their work. Our own deputy, David Quittmeyer was part of that process as a member of the Program, Budget, and Finance standing committee and David also supports what the task force has offered.

On a personal note, I was moved to tears as the PHOD awarded the Presidential Medal to Louisa McKellaston. Louisa is a young adult who works for the Diocese of Chicago and is chair of my committee. In addition, Louisa and her amazing family lived across the hall from the Knights our first year at Seabury Western seminary. She was a young teen then and made fast friends with my two daughters who were adjusting to this move and needed a friend. I am so proud of her! She has suffered through the tragic loss of both her parents since the last GC, her mother was my classmate and an amazing person and priest who died very unexpectedly and far too young. Her brother, Ian, is a star with the Chicago Symphony, their whole family being musically gifted. So proud of you, Louisa!

Time for the morning session soon. More to come. Two days to go! Thanks for reading, if you made it this far!

Me with Louisa after her medal award

General Convention – Post 2

I apologize for missing a post last night, but had internet issues in the hotel.

Speaking of, the opening legislative session for General Convention 80 started with a whimper as the WiFi in the convention center would not work for most deputies. Everything we do, including elections, runs on an iPad issued to each deputy. So we can’t do much without WiFi. We settled in for some opening remarks and mandatory approval of certain offices which do not require elections and broke early for lunch. 

The afternoon session found the deputies dealing with an enormous consent calendar. Usually this calendar is used for resolutions with little controversy or concerns, things like correcting a word in the canons, and the like. Since GC is so much shorter this year, we were encouraged to put many more resolutions on the consent calendar. In fact the Rules of Order for the House of Deputies (HoD) default to the consent calendar for everything coming out of the various legislative committees, the committee has to vote to change that. The House of Bishops (HoB) do not have this requirement. The Rules allow a resolution to be moved off the consent calendar (if you don’t know, all resolutions on the consent calendar are approved or rejected by a single voice vote). It takes 1/3 vote of the HoD to move a resolution to the legislative calendar and debate it. There is great concern on the HoD that if we do much of that, we won’t have time in this shortened GC to address some pretty important resolutions, so although several resolutions were requested to be moved, only a very few got the 1/3 support.

Debate on several resolutions followed. Most of these were submitted from the Presiding Officers’ Working Group on Truth-Telling, Reckoning and Healing. This article on Episcopal News Services highlights the scope of these resolutions, please read it before you return…..I will wait… .

Thanks! There was great support for most of these resolutions. A125 had some questions about where the funding comes from, but no deputy disagreed with the intent and purposes of the resolution. Again, please read the article to learn more.

A127, submitted by the same Working Group, dealt with truth telling and accurate history of boarding schools for Indigenous children. Several deputies who are Native American testified to the horrors suffered in these schools by themselves or family members. It was quite moving, and to hear how they felt about finally shining a light on this terrible tragedy was inspirational. As noted in the article, the resolution would pledge more than $2.5 million over the next biennium to further The Episcopal Church’s commitment to investigating its role in Indigenous boarding schools; create a fact-finding commission to preserve and to provide a public platform to hear the stories of survivors of any such schools within dioceses’ geographic area; establish Indigenous community-based spiritual healing centers to address intergenerational trauma, and, to create educational resources regarding the church’s role in the schools. But it remains to be seen if this large allocation will fit in the budget which we will debate tomorrow.

The committee on liturgy, prayer book, and music is always quite busy. We dealt with resolution A126 which calls for a review of the BCP and Hymnals with regard to “the colonialist, racist, and white supremacist, imperialistic, nationalistic language and content,” as well as discerning any cultural assumptions they may contain. Testimony on this resolution was also profound. It may surprise you to learn how much of the BCP and Hymnal contain such language and how easy it would be to make some minor adjustments to accomplish this goal. One Deputy who opposed this resolution used the ”prayer for a nation” from the 1928 BCP to, in his mind, support making no changes. That prayer thanks God for ”giving us this land” (a quote from Scripture when Israel was about to enter the Promised Land), a prayer that is offensive to many Indigenous people. Our church has long decried the concepts of Manifest Destiny or the Doctrine of Discovery, it’s high time our language reflected just that.

Day 2 began with a much smaller consent calendar being approved, and then we moved to elections. Highlights – Joe McDaniel, Jr. from our diocese (Central Gulf Coast) easily won election to the Executive Committee. This is a big deal y’all, and Joe has now a 12 year term to continue to make a difference at a high level. We also elected a new President of the House of Deputies, Julia Ayala-Harris. She is a 1st generation Mexican American and amazing gift to our church, she’s been involved at all levels of church governance, and I was delighted she won. She is a lay person from Oklahoma, which means we will elect a clergy person as VP tomorrow.

I am headed back for the afternoon and then evening sessions. All the days at GC are very long, but at least there aren’t as many days as usual. Maybe we’ve learned something from this shortened GC? Time will tell…