Recently, I’ve been sharing blog posts about things I’ve been reading online. Mostly, it is a way of saving links I found interesting, with a little added commentary and placed into a broader context. Right now an important broader context for me is my faith journey and how it relates to my campaign for State Representative. Reading some of the stories I link to will give people a better view of what is shaping some of my thinking.
Racism, Kaepernick, etc.
I am particularly concerned with addressing racism. It is something I’ve often spoken about in terms of health disparities, and in terms of the role churches can have in addressing racism. Some of the articles around Colin Kaepernick are particularly interesting.
No, 'Denali' is not a Kenyan word for 'black power'
(Leads to a side thought about learning at least the basics of Native America languages
I’ve also been interested in the idea of counter narrative. What are the stories of our country when not told from a dominant white male perspective? One article that caught my attention, that I’ve only scanned and hope to come back and read more closely is Deep in the Swamps, Archaeologists Are Finding How Fugitive Slaves Kept Their Freedom
Here in Connecticut
A recent big news story was Judge strikes down state education aid choices as ‘irrational’ and up in Boston, there was the article, The Storm Is Coming, a very interesting article on urban planning in the age of climate change.
On a broader topic, there is the Human and nature dynamics (HANDY): Modeling inequality and use of resources in the collapse or sustainability of societies
I’m also interested in the Dakota Access protests, for what they say about our countries relationship to Native Americans and how it relates to climate change.
I found this article about Tim Kaine’s experiences when he was younger particularly interesting
Tim Kaine In Honduras, a Spiritual and Political Awakening for Tim Kaine
CPE type thoughts
One article that jumped out at me was:
How to Tell a Mother Her Child Is Dead
In part, it relates to issues of gun violence in America. It is also useful in thinking about clinical pastoral education.
Faith and Politics
One article on faith and politics I read was The intersection of faith, the Episcopal Church, and politics It is an older article, but still interesting. It hits many issues I am currently struggling with.
In the lectionary, I’ve been reading the lessons appointed for the feast of Albrecht Dürer, 1528, Matthias Grünewald, 1529, and Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1553, and for the feast of Elie Naud, Huguenot Witness to the Faith, 1722
Edward Albee, Pulitzer-winning playwright of modern masterpieces, dies at 88. I was in several of his plays in high school. I shared a link to Zoo Story on Facebook.
It provided an interesting contrast to a video about intergenerational programs. I’ve been thinking about these a little in terms of Arden House and Dinner for a Dollar.
Three articles that come together in an interesting way for me right now are
Spirituality of Letting Go:, The Disease of Being Busy. and Between the World and Me: Empathy Is a Privilege. There is a lot that can be unpacked from these three articles. I would love a chance to come back and think about them and write more about them,
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
- Robert Frost.
One topic I’ve been interested in recently is blockchains. It is another one of those paths I keep meaning to come back to, but never quite make it. Two webpages recently caught my attention. ONC picks 15 blockchain ideas as challenge winners and Caitlin Long’s website where she writes a lot about blockchains.
Back to school
In a recent video, a comedy duo was asked what the two major parties in America are, they responded, “the gun lobby and big tobacco”. It often seems like that is what is driving our politics. Really, they are part of the same party, the money party. The other party, which has been particularly silent is the morality party, perhaps in part, because too much of the discussion about morality has been co-opted by discussions about what other people should or shouldn’t do, of sexuality and who’s not good enough, instead of discussions about what each of us should be doing, about loving our neighbor.
I recently accepted the nomination as a candidate for State Representative in Connecticut. At the same time, I am seeking how to more fully live my life as a follower of Christ. I believe it is compassion for our neighbors, no matter what their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual, orientation, nationality, socio-economic class, and so on, that is what truly makes our nation great, and that too much of the campaigns of all candidates, have been campaigns by different aspects of the money party, the what’s in it for me party.
The gospel lesson for this coming Sunday in the Episcopal Church is Luke 16:1-13. It starts off with Jesus telling his disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property”. It is easy to hear this and think Jesus is talking about some hypothetical person who is different from ourselves. Surely, we are not squandering someone else’s property. Are we?
At the offering, we often say, “All things come of Thee, o Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.” Perhaps we even sing, “All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above”. Yes, I suspect most of us are squandering another person’s property. We are squandering that which has been entrusted to us by God and so much of the political discourse only furthers this.
At church this Sunday, prior to the reading of the Gospel, we will sing the hymn that starts
Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world's golden store;
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, "Christian, love me more."
I will note, that while this is a Christian hymn talking about Jesus, I suspect this applies to many faith traditions and I’d ask my friends in other faith traditions, include various traditions of “no faith”, of agnosticism or atheism, to think about how love of worldly goods relates to love of neighbor and to your own morality.
I’d invite everyone to listen closely to political messages, not only on the national level, but on the state and local levels. Are these messages about loving worldly goods? Putting yourself first? Not loving all your neighbors?
I realize that I am not the perfect candidate in terms of loving my neighbor either. I realize that this is not the sort of message that is tested by political strategists for effectiveness or makes my election less likely, but I am running for something much more than to simply get elected to the state legislature. I am running to truly make America great again, in thought, word, and deed, as a way of life, and not a campaign slogan. I am seeking to serve God and not money.
The Gospel lesson ends off with “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Who will you serve, and how will your service really help make America great again?
This coming week, members of the South Central Region of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut will be meeting to discuss plans for our fall convocation and the diocesan convention that will come several weeks after the convocation. At our previous meeting, we had discussed the theme, “What Do You Bring to The Table?” I have been reflecting on this in a few different ways.
Some people may read this and think, that sounds a lot like church governance, perhaps think about resolutions to be presented at the diocesan convention, and decide that this is an example of the sort of dreadful meetings they got tired of before they stopped coming to church regularly. I pray that the convocation and convention will be something completely different. I pray it will be a celebration of all the great ministries of the church, of all the times we are fed, spiritually as well as physically, and that this will help shape the discussions about resolutions, that our convocation and convention may all help us “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
I live in Woodbridge, attend Grace and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hamden, and work in Middletown. The Church of the Holy Trinity has a lunchtime weekday Eucharist on Thursdays. It is an important time I take out of my busy work schedule and an important ministry to people like me with busy work schedules. If the parish you attend, and the parish nearest to where you work don’t have a lunchtime weekday Eucharist, you might want to consider it.
For the prayers and reading we use some form of the Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The sermon or homily is typically a brief history of the saint whose life is being celebrated followed by a discussion. This last Thursday, we celebrated the life of Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig, whose 233rd birthday it was. We heard about Grundtvig’s “criticism of the rationalist tendencies that were then predominant in Denmark’s Lutheran church” and his beliefs in Christianity as a “a historical revelation, handed down by the unbroken chain of a living sacramental tradition at baptism and communion”. [Quotes from Encyclopedia Britannica] We heard about his interest in poetry and hymn writing. We talked about how Gruntvig reminded us of the wonderful movie, Babette's Feast, the story of a refugee from worn torn France, a master chef and artists, bringing a feast to the sort of Christian community that Grundtvig spoke against.
“What Do You Bring to The Table”
Friday night, Grace and St. Peter’s has a wonderful dinner ministry called “Dinner for a Dollar”. This is the typical soup kitchen. It is a chance for people from all walks of live to sit down to dinner together. For those who won’t accept charity or handouts, it is a meal that you pay for. For those who can’t pay, you don’t have to. Many people give more than a dollar or volunteer to make and help serve a wonderful meal. It is based on a similar meal at St. John’s North Haven. Last night, two people from Trinity on The Green in New Haven showed up to help with Dinner for a Dollar and we talked a little bit about the coming convocation.
Sometimes, like at Dinner for a Dollar, at the program in North Haven, at DESK (Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen) in New Haven, at the monthly dinners at NEON (the Naugatuck Ecumenical Outreach Network), and many other places, we bring the food.
Sometimes, like at Chapel on the Green in New Haven, at Church by the Pond in Hartford, and many other opportunities, we bring the location. Sometimes, through programs like Abraham’s Tent and various efforts with IRIS (Integrated Refugee Immigrant Services) and others, we welcome the strange and provide shelter.
Sometimes, through groups like Episcopal Church Women, the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and the Girls Friendly Society, we bring a rich tradition and strong community.
Sometimes, through liturgy, arts, music, and poetry, we bring beauty
All of this brings us together to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” and celebrate feasts that I believe Babette and Nikolaj would have appreciated, feasts together with the regular celebrations of Eucharist are foretastes of that heavenly banquet.
The priest stepped up to the pulpit, motioned to the congregation to sit down, looked around, paused, and then said something like,
“I’m sorry. I just want to tell you how happy I am to see everyone here today.”
What prompted this comment? Was it a prepared part of the sermon, illustrating the text for the day? Was it a spontaneous remark prompted by seeing several people we have been praying for or by seeing people returning with the school year after a long summer? It could have been any of these things. To me, it felt like the Holy Spirit coming and providing words that fit all of these and more.
"what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
I am a writer and at times a photographer. I try to capture those little revealing moments that too often pass unobserved; the poem about something seen alongside the road, the candid photograph that captures the essence of the whole event. That little phrase at the beginning of the sermon seemed exactly like that.
I remember years ago learning about negative space, the space around an object. I learned about John Cage’s 4’33”, four minutes and thirty three seconds of listening to the sounds that take place around a musical performance.
“I’m sorry. I just want to tell you how happy I am to see everyone here today.” is part of that space around the Eucharist. The smiles shared between two people on the prayer list as they knelt at the altar waiting to receive communion is part of that space.
Like the friends of the woman who lost, and then found a silver coin, we were all invited to gather and celebrate. We call that celebration the Eucharist. To an outsider, the fair seems a bit meager; a small piece of bread and a sip of some wine. Yet to those of us close to the person throwing the party, it is the most precious gift we can receive, the body of Christ, the bread of heaven, the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.
At the end of the celebration, we carry that spirit out into the world around us, reminded to tell those we meet, how happy we are to see them, a happiness given to us by God, a happiness reflecting God’s happiness at each person who stops, even for a moment, to experience even just a small amount of God’s love for us.
At Christmas time for the past couple years, I have been Santa to the children that come to the health center where I work. Some chlidren eagerly rush to see me. Others are shy and I beckon to them. I wave. I smile. When they approach, I tell them how happy I am to see them, how I have been waiting for them to come. Perhaps I am reflecting much more than Santa in these words. Perhaps I am reflecting the life of Saint Nicholas upon whom Santa is based. Perhaps I am sharing a little of the love from my Lord, from the Lord of St. Nicholas, and passing it on to the children that come.
As I sat in the pew, I was happy to be there. It had been a very long week for me and I expect the coming week to also be very long, but hopefully for different reasons. It was great to hear that someone was happy to see me, and I remember how much I need to remind people that I am happy to see them.
“I’m sorry. I just want to tell you how happy I am to see everyone here today.”
Earlier this week, my daughter Miranda wrote a reflection on 9/11. In it, she wrote,
I don’t know how I avoided it, but I’ve realized in the years since that I never saw the news footage from the tragedy, at least not directly. Despite living in Stamford, CT, a mere fifty miles from the city, the event was distant and removed. My parents, my friends, my teachers, they all knew people in New York that day, but no one I was close to had lost anyone.
It is interesting the read the reflections of someone who was eight years old when it happened, especially when you helped shape their experience. I promised her that I would write my own reflections, so here they are.
Her mother Amy and I had been divorced for a year or two when the attack happened. I had remarried and my new wife, Kim, was eight months pregnant. I had lost my full time job at a hedge fund and was doing various consulting on Wall Street. On September 11th, I was at home. I was reading things online and participating in a text based virtual world called LambdaMOO. There was a typical group of people hanging out in one of the chat rooms.
Kim had just finished her obstetrician’s appointment and was in the waiting room, making her next appointment and saw on the television in the waiting room the CNN coverage from when the first plane hit the twin towers. She called me up and told me to turn on the television. At the time, much of the commentary was about the size of the plane and questioning how this could have happened, some sort of accident or equipment malfunction. A similar discussion emerged in the chat room.
We stayed on the phone with one another, watching, as the second plane hit the twin towers. This time, it seemed clear that it was a commercial airliner and this was a deliberate attack. Online, people started talking about the Pentagon and about the military taking to the streets of Washington DC. There was a lot of fear and confusion. Kim came home and we watched the story unfold. We talked about what we should do.
I reached out to friends in New York to make sure they were alright. We all have those stories of friends who were running late for work or had an appointment elsewhere and were not at the twin towers when the attack happened. An old boss of mine was supposed to be there but he was chronically late for everything and so he was standing at the bus stop when the attack happened.
We received an email from the schools our daughters were at. They were continuing through the school day with a normal dismissal. They were not telling the children. They wanted to leave that discussion up to the parents. We spoke with my Amy. She taught at a school that went up through twelfth grade and there, the kids knew. Parents came throughout the day to pick up their kids. She agreed that she would pick up the kids and take them to my house, the hunting lodge. We would all talk about it then.
The email from the school had recommendations about how to minimize the trauma of 9/11 for the children. Remain as calm as possible. Reassure the children they are safe and loved. Limit their time watching the television. Amy would say something as reassuring as possible in explaining why we were all meeting at the hunting lodge, something like, something very important happened this morning and we need to all get together to talk about it.
It was agreed that I would do most of the talking, since I have years of experience of not showing emotions. The kids had questions. Had something happened to one of the pets? To someone in the family? Was this good news or bad news?
I started off talking about how as we get older, things happen that stick with us forever. People will ask, do you remember where you were when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon? I wanted to set a positive tone to some of our memories. Or when JFK was shot? We talked a little bit about this and how today would be a day like that for them. Miranda’s post this week illustrates this. We then described the attack on the twin towers as neutrally as possible. It was a challenge to keep the language of television out of our discussion. We told them everything would be okay, even though we did not know, at the time how or lives would change as a result. We talked about it like this until they got bored and wanted to do other things.
Kim, Amy, and I had agreed not to have the television on, except for the normal sort of stuff they would watch, like PBS kid’s shows, or video tapes. We didn’t get newspapers or magazines, so it was fairly easy to keep the gory details from the kids. Other parents were all agreeing to do the same thing.
It seemed like all of us had friends or co-workers that were killed in the attack. I’m not sure how many co-workers I lost. None of them were close friends and often, I only learned they had died weeks later, so I didn’t go to any memorial services. Some of the people in Miranda’s life lost very close friends. Yet we all kept it from our children.
There are a lot of other things that I can say about Miranda’s post, about the moment, about the weeks that followed, about how the history of the attack is being remember fifteen years later, about what it means to be an adult and parent when tragedy strikes, about privilege, about empathy, about what it means to say “Never Forget” about one event, but telling others to just get over traumatic events in their cultures, but these deserve other blog posts.