Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Disheartening News from the Anglican Church of Canada news service

CIDA cuts to KAIROS programs will devastate human rights work overseas
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

The Canadian government’s decision to cut funding to KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives will have a devastating impact on KAIROS’ overseas partners and the thousands of marginalized people in local communities they support, KAIROS says.

KAIROS, a church based non-governmental organization that represents seven of Canada’s largest denominations, works on a range of social justice issues, including human rights in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

An official from CIDA called KAIROS executive director Mary Corkery this week to inform her that CIDA would no longer fund KAIROS because it no longer fits CIDA priorities. No other explanation or information was provided.

KAIROS’ current contract with CIDA expired in September, but it had received an extension until November 30th, the day it was informed of the cuts.

“We are disheartened that this longstanding relationship and decades of support by the Canadian government has been ended,” says Ms. Corkery. “KAIROS and the millions of Canadians we represent through our member churches and organizations do not understand why these cuts have been made.”

In a message to Bev Oda, Minister for International Cooperation, requesting an explanation, Ms. Corkery writes, “I know of no precedent for the Canadian International Development Agency ending a decades-long funding relationship with a major Canadian organization without notice in writing, with no reason and no transition plan”.

The CIDA-funded overseas program received matching financial support from KAIROS’ member churches, church-related organizations and other donors. Since 1973, KAIROS, and the church coalitions from which it was formed eight years ago, had received funding from CIDA to support partners working in regions experiencing some of the world’s most egregious human rights violations.

KAIROS work is highly regarded in Canada and overseas. As the November 30th deadline approached, KAIROS member churches, its partners and other organizations had been writing Ms. Oda to request that she approve the KAIROS contract which has been sitting on her desk since July awaiting her signature.

One of those letters came from a Colombian group, the Organización Femenina Popular (the Popular Women’s Group), which has been awaiting CIDA funding through KAIROS.

“As you know, we work in regions in Colombia where armed conflict has resulted in the denial of women’s basic rights. The economic support from KAIROS and CIDA permits us to implement programs which include legal and health services, community kitchens, and other humanitarian assistance that have saved many lives and given possibilities and opportunities to hundreds of women, mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and entire families,” Yolanda Becerra Vega, OFP Director General wrote to Ms. Oda.

“In addition to the impact overseas, these cuts are a loss for Canadians,” says Ms. Corkery. “KAIROS educates Canadians across the country about Canada’s work for international development. Our work in Canada and overseas expresses Canadian values in upholding human rights, and is informed by excellent analysis of our partners in the Global South.”

The KAIROS contract that just expired received a positive audit and excellent CIDA evaluation this year. KAIROS submitted its new program proposal for 2009-2013 to CIDA on Feb 15th 2009. It went through a lengthy approval process within CIDA up until the Minister’s level and has been waiting for approval from the Minister since July 2009.

The government’s decision comes a week after 57 people were massacred in politically motivated killings in the Philippines, including two lawyers from a human rights organization supported by KAIROS, and just days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to China.

Media contact:

Adiat Junaid
Communications Program Coordinator
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
(416) 463 5312, ext. 223
1 877 403 8933, ext. 223

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Rev'd Canon Marjorie Kennon

A faithful servant of the Lord and deeply loved. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hate is not a Christian Value

People have been asked to pray today for the conversion of hearts among law makers in Uganda. Silence from the Archbishop of Canterbury but fortunately the Anglican Church in Canada has spoken out against new legislation making it a capital offense to be gay.

Read more here and here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Observations on Giving

A number of years ago the college Student Association did a food drive for the college food bank. All the clubs went out as groups and sang Christmas carols while collecting food. I went out with the Student Association itself and we started in an older neighbourhood. Most of the people were seniors or students and everyone who was home gave us something.

Someone in the group decided we'd get even more food if we went to one of the ritzier, newer, ie. richer neighbourhoods. Sadly, after a few blocks they began to sing, "You're a mean one Mr. Grinch." At house after house people told us that they had given at the office, or had nothing in the house to give, or even refused to come to the door but stared at us rather hostilely through the window. The students began to ask how people who lived in such big homes could claim they had nothing to give. I suggested that they probably spent beyond their means and that they were house poor. I suggested we return to the poorer neighbourhood but they said, no, let's go to the rich neighbourhood (the old money neighbourhood).

If people were home in that neighbourhood they gave generously but mostly they weren't home. These are people with lots of Christmas commitments and no doubt they were out at some Christmas function while we patiently rang their doorbells.

When we returned to the college and compared the haul the club that had collected the most food was the club that had gone to the poorest neighbourhood in the city. The students didn't understand how this could be so but it struck me as consistent with the pattern in Canada where the poorest province, Newfoundland, gives the most per capita to charity.

Just thinking about this lately as I prepare for all my Christmas programming. My congregations may be aging, and membership may be declining, and they may be the subject of doom and gloom articles in media but they give and they give generously. At this time of year I am so grateful to all the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United churches in South Alberta for the ways they open their hearts and their wallets to care for our students. I am so proud of their deep sense of hospitality and their compassion on stressed out young people. I am so blessed to serve as chaplain to our two campuses and as pastor to one of those small loving congregations.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sometimes a reminder is a good thing

Simon And Garfunkel — The 59th Street Bridge Song lyrics

Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.

Ba da, Ba da, Ba da, Ba da...Feelin' Groovy.

Hello lamp-post,
What cha knowin'?
I've come to watch your flowers growin'.
Ain't cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in' doo-doo,
Feelin' groovy.

I've got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all it's petals on me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

In Defense of Youth

Jim Tagg has a wonderful defense of young adults on his blog History Matters More. Read it here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Purpose of Theology

This is an interesting reflection (and I don't mind that it is a bit cranky - and the comments about blogging and evangelicalism made me lol) on the relationship between the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self.

And on a lighter note here is Denny in his Halloween costume - he is either a pumpkin or a proud member of a certain political party with prairie roots.
And minus the annoying headwear.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Popular Religion and Speaking of Death

Tobias Haller has an interesting post on popular religion over at In a Godward Direction with a link to a lecture by Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales. Really worth reading.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Article on Millenials well worth a gander

This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education is long - you couldn't twitter it - but it is a very interesting piece on the industry that has grown up around defining the Millenial Generation. Along the way it raises some interesting questions about university education too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More on aknowledging death

Hmmmmm....Duke's Divinity Call and Response blog has more on problems with modern funerals today. Things seem to be a little different here than in Britain - I spoke not too long ago to a woman who sings regularly at funerals and she said Amazing Grace is still the most requested song. But maybe that is just in Lethbridge.

A.N. Wilson has sharp criticism of the Church of England for getting rid of the old prayer book funeral service. Wilson has been all over the place religiously and here I confess I think he sounds like a bit of a prayer book crank but perhaps there is a kernel truth in some of his criticism of the church:

Yet in the absence of Cranmer’s old funeral service, and with vicars pussy-footing around with its modern replacement, they think they can improve on the traditions of the elders.

So ‘I know that My Redeemer Liveth’ is discarded in favour of My Way and Handel is given the boot by Frank Sinatra. But only because the Church did not offer Handel, or the time-honoured words.

Although My Way and other such examples of liturgical home brew give a Kentish vicar the pip, I am afraid I blame the Church more than I actually blame the people who, with the best of bewildered and often griefstricken intentions, devise these cringe-making events in crematoria and churches.

English-speaking men and women for 400 years had the most beautiful church services in their own language. Our national Church chose, for the stupidest set of non-reasons, to discard the Prayer Book services.

Vicars are not in a very strong position to object if people can think of nothing better to play, as the coffin goes down the chute, than You’ll Never Walk Alone (number nine in popularity).

For most British people, the experience of church-going is limited to weddings and funerals.

If, when they came to church on such an occasion, families were given the dignity of the old words, the old hymns and the old music, might they not derive some of the old strength which consoled our ancestors, and bring back to life some of the old, lost dignity with which human rites of passage were once honoured?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Words on Proclaiming Christian Hope in the Face of Death

Jason Byassee has some tough words about the words of the president of Yale in the face of the murder of a student:

I’m tempted to say Levin’s comments suggest a belief in nothing, but that may not quite be right. We might call this a version of Christian Smith’s “therapeutic moralistic deism”-- the description with which he captures the faith of Millenial evangelicals. Only this is “therapeutic moralistic secularism.” There can be no appeal here to anything specifically religious, though psychological comfort and the language of justice remain on offer. The institution has no word in the face of death beyond “watch out for one another,” “visit the counseling center” and “we’ll catch the guy.” From a Christian vantage point -- one Yale once shared, as most great universities did in this country -- we are empowered by the resurrection to face death with triumphant singing, not with a whimper of acquiescence or tears without comfort.

Read the rest here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Posting Secrets

Faith and Leadership has a very interesting article on young people and the confession of secrets here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pandemic Preparation

Right now I'm at synod and we are hearing a presentation on pandemic preparation and H1N1. Marg Pollon from Bridges of Love is speaking about what we can do. Their website here has many resources for churches looking at this.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Measuring the Value of Education

I love learning. I love reading. I love writing to express ideas. I love the smell of libraries. I love watching students learn. I love seeing a student's writing improve because she keeps working at those weekly assignments, asking questions, and reading my comments. I love it when a student's face lights up because he's just got some connection between his life and the lives of people two thousand years before. I love watching students get enthusiastic about a speaker they've just heard.

I love a liberal arts education and so I read this piece at Front Porch Republic and cheered!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Listening to Children

One of the things I love about Ascension is that they are happy to see children assume leadership for worship in the church. I've never seen a church community so open to children before. This post over at Caught a Glimpse of Jesus... shows why it is a good idea to be open to children.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Give me that old time funeral

On my first day as chaplain, I received a phone call asking for my help organizing a memorial service for a member of the faculty who had died the month before. His close friend asked me to help him organize something 'with grace and dignity that was religiously neutral.' Since then I have organized many services for people whose connection to the church was tenuous at best but who had ties to the university or college. These services took place on campus or at a funeral home. When I was ordained people in the parish began to ask me to do funerals and the funeral homes too began to ask me occasionally to do services for people with no church ties. I still do far fewer funerals in a year than many of my colleagues in full-time parish ministry but I suspect that I've done proportionally more funerals for people who have died young and tragically.

I was intrigued, therefore, by the latest issue of Christian Century. The focus of the October 6th issue is funeral practices and the main article, featured on their website, is Thomas Long's piece "The Good Funeral: Recovering Christian Practices." In it he observes a number of trends in the past 50 years in funeral practices:

With surprising swiftness and dramatic results, a significant segment of American Christians has over the past 50 years abandoned previously established funeral customs in favor of an entirely new pattern of memorializing the dead. This new pattern is not firmly fixed (indeed, variations, improvisations and personal customizations are marks of the new rituals) but it generally includes the following characteristics:

• a memorial service instead of a funeral (i.e., a service focused on remembering the deceased, often held many days after the death, with the body or the cremated remains of the deceased not present)

• a brief, simple, highly personalized and customized service, often involving several speakers (as opposed to the standard church funeral liturgies presided over primarily by clergy)

• a focus on the life of the deceased (often aided by a physical display of photos and other mementos)

• an emphasis on joy rather than sadness, a celebration of life rather than an observance of the somber reality of death

• a private disposition of the body, often done before the memorial service, with an increasing preference for cremation
I would add to the expressed desire that the service 'bring closure.'

He goes on to suggest that while "
[t]hese newer practices are attractive mainly because they seem to offer relief from the cosmeticized, sentimental, impersonal and often costly funerals that developed in the 1950s, which were themselves parodies of authentic Christian rituals," they represent a corruption of a Christian understanding of death. He suggests, "[c]ontemporary Christian funeral practices certainly need to be changed, but change should be more a matter of recovery and reformation than innovation and improvisation."

At the heart of what he sees happening is a significant shift in understanding of what the purpose of a funeral/memorial service is:

For example, the current shift to a memorial service with the body absent means that Christian death practices are no longer metaphorical expressions of the journey of a saint to be with God. The saint is not even present, except as a spiritualized memory, a backdrop for the real action, which happens in the psyches of the mourners. The mourners are the only actors left, and the ritual now is really about them. Funerals are "for the living," as we are prone to say. Instead of the grand cosmic drama of the church marching to the edge of eternity with a fellow saint, singing songs of resurrection victory and sneering in the face of the final enemy, we now have a much smaller, more privatized psychodrama, albeit often couched in Christian language. If we take the plot of the typical memorial service at face value, the dead are not migrating to God; the living are moving from sorrow to stability.

In response to the growing trend of people asking that there be no service at all when they die (just read the obituaries regularly and you'll notice it becoming much more common), I have said many times just as Long suggests that 'funerals are for those left behind.' So I was stung by his argument that these trends have a great deal to do with the loss of faith in the resurrection of the dead:

The fact is that many educated Christians in the late 19th century, the forebears of today's white suburban Protestants, lost their eschatological nerve and their vibrant faith in the afterlife, and we are their theological and liturgical heirs. It was not, of course, as if the whole of 19th-century Christian society woke up one morning and suddenly found that they no longer believed in eternal life. The loss of conviction about the otherworld came slowly and gradually.

These changes in theology coincided with the development of cemeteries set apart from where people lived so that the tradition of carrying the casket from church to grave ended and the two parts of the service were severed. And I would add to this that in most communities now, no longer do members of the family or extended community prepare the grave or fill it once the casket is lowered. Filling the grave by the mourners is an option here but it only happens in the Jewish section of the cemetery.

Long concludes his piece with a call for the church to regain its theological vision:

Surely the task before the church now is to retrace our steps and to recover the grand liturgical theater in which Christians embrace their dead with tender affection, lift up their voices in hymns of resurrection and accompany the saints to the edge of mystery. This will not involve a mere repristinating of funeral practices or a rejection of cremation, but a recovery in our time and in contemporary forms of the governing symbols of the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body, and the journey of Christian dead toward the life everlasting.

This article is excerpted from his new book, Accompany Them With Singing: The Christian Funeral, a book I look forward to reading.

I'm still mulling over Long's argument and I'd love to have a discussion about it with a group of clergy. I have some suspicions about how my colleagues might respond to his argument. Certainly the Roman Catholics have maintained much more of the traditional structure and theology of Christian burial. The personalizing trends he identifies are relegated to the prayer service the evening before. Most of us I suspect hear requests consistent with what he describes regularly - that the service be a celebration of the life of the one who died, that the high point be the powerpoint presentation of pictures, and that the music be from their favourite cd.

The problem with saying things like this is that it sounds like we're putting people down for requesting them. As much as I agreed with much of Long's argument I cringed to think of people I know and love reading it and thinking themselves criticized or dismissed because of the way they buried grandma. In fact, I put together my father's memorial service and it was pretty much as Long described the hypothetical service at the opening of his article.

Very few of the funerals I do are in the church or for people with strong ties to the church and so it isn't surprising that they do not reflect a traditional Christian understanding of death. So perhaps this article raises for me a whole different set of questions about how Christian clergy should/could respond to the requests of people on the edges or outside the church for burial (and one could add weddings and baptisms of their babies).

Having said that there are a couple of contemporary trends that really set my teeth on edge. The first is trend to call services 'a celebration of life' and the second is the word 'closure.' When I'm sitting with a family and they have that "gutted, we've been hit by a truck, sitting on the verge of tears" look about them and they tell me that they don't want the service to be somber because they want it to be a celebration of mom's or grandpa's life I want to ask them, why are you saying this? why are you trying to do this to yourself? I know that they won't be capable of pulling it off, that they are going to enter crying and spend most of the service trying and failing to hold themselves together. And there is nothing wrong with that. Why do we think it is inappropriate for funerals to be sorrowful? Occasionally people will say that they know their loved one is with God so it isn't right that they grieve. I always want to say, and have said in some funeral homilies, that Paul said, 'we do not grieve as those who have no hope, ' not, 'we do not grieve.' Somehow instead of holding together the grief and the hope that we have in the face of death we have lost the ability to acknowledge the grief. At least rhetorically. At the service grief usually has its say.

As to the word 'closure' I wish it could be banned from the English language. I was at a conference on grief once where the speaker said the word wasn't helpful because people didn't want to close off the dead person. She said it can get in the way if you tell someone who is grieving that they need closure because it sounds like what you are saying is that the person who has died shouldn't still really matter to them. Amen sister! Better to say that what we are trying to do is make some sense of the death, that we are trying to find a new way to relate to the person who has died, that the relationship we have with them is being transformed, and that the funeral is helping to do that.

And yes, I'm aware that that reflects the attitude Long identified that the funeral is about the living and their issues but I'm okay with that. Because as much as I think our funeral practices, like our wedding practices and everything else that we do, should be about teaching people how to look at the world in a distinctively Christian manner I also think we are there to care for people in their time of sorrow.

Why Clergy Don't Need Self-Care

I have heard a lot of talk of clergy self-care and like this spin on it a lot.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fashion for Academics

I taught in a place once that cared more about what faculty wore than what they read. I wasn't impressed.

Thanks to Maggie Dawn for this piece on dress codes for academics.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What is this blog's Myers Briggs personality type?

Not even close - but funny

See the Typealyzer here. Thanks to BDBO.

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment and are highly skilled at seeing and fixing what needs to be fixed. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Anton Rublev

Twenty years ago I first saw the Russian film Rublev. It is the story of the monk and icon writer Anton Rublev. The film was shot in black and white as it relates his life in an incredibly violent age but then at the very end as some of Rublev's icons are shown in switches into colour. I still remember how overwhelmed I felt sitting in the theatre seeing the beauty of Rublev's icons. But icons aren't meant to be works of art but rather windows to another reality.

Here are Henri Nouwen's words on Rublev's famous icon of the trinity from today's post on "Speaking to the Soul."

Hardly a day passes in our lives without our experience of inner or outer fears, anxieties, apprehensions and preoccupations. These dark powers have pervaded every part of our world to such a degree that we can never fully escape them. Still it is possible not to belong to these powers, not to build our dwelling place among them, but to choose the house of love as our home. This choice is made not just once and for all but by living a spiritual life, praying at all times and thus breathing God’s breath. Through the spiritual life we gradually move from the house of fear to the house of love.

I have never seen the house of love more beautifully expressed than in the icon of the Holy Trinity, painted by Andrew Rublev in 1425 in memory of the great Russian saint, Sergius (1313-1392). For me the contemplation of this icon has increasingly become a way to enter more deeply into the mystery of divine life while remaining fully engaged in the struggles of our hate-and-fear-filled world.

Andrew Rublev painted this icon not only to share the fruits of his own meditation on the mystery of the Holy Trinity but also to offer his fellow monks a way to keep their hearts centered in God while living in the midst of political unrest. The more we look at this holy image with the eyes of faith, the more we come to realize that it is painted not as a lovely decoration for a convent church, nor as a helpful explanation of a difficult doctrine, but as a holy place to enter and stay within. As we place ourselves in front of the icon in prayer, we come to experience a gentle invitation to participate in the intimate conversation that is taking place among the three divine angels and to join them around the table.

From Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons by Henri J. M. Nouwen (Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 1987).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Academic Life

I grew up in the home of a professor and at a very young age I already grew to resent people who claimed professors didn't work very hard. I knew how many evenings and weekends my father spent marking papers or prepping classes or working on an article or reading books for review. I knew that every summer when we went on holidays he packed his briefcase filled with books that needed to be read while we played cards or read novels. One year he kept track of his hours because he was tired of the same comments. He averaged 75 hours a week of work that year. It was a normal year.

He didn't resent it however. He loved his work. He loved research and writing and he loved teaching. He shared his love with me, taught me to do research, involved me in his projects, taught me how to grade papers by showing me how he did it. I spent afternoons at the university with him, meeting his colleagues, listening to their conversations about their research or something they had just read.

I still get angry at people who dismiss university faculty, who diminish the work that goes on there, that advocate the kinds of funding cuts that jeopardize opportunities for young academics and force class sizes larger and larger.

So I was delighted to read this article by Clifford Orwin in the Globe and Mail! I love his closing paragraph.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not seeking your sympathy. I differ from a tree in that my sap rises twice yearly – once in the spring with the approach of research season, and once in the fall with the return of the cycle to teaching. While I would rather teach fewer students, you shouldn't confuse that with wanting to do less teaching. My colleagues appear equally sappy. Teaching may not be our only business, but we're serious about it.

We should all be so sappy about our work!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Living without Electronics - Edited

This weekend I spent 24 hours without my laptop and only checking the time on my ipod once. Not a big deal you think? It was to me. It felt great. I read, I played a game that used only dice and no electricity, I talked and laughed with a friend, I went for walks and looked at the world around me.

Over on Front Porch Republic today there is a post about the environmental and personal costs of our dependence on electronics. It is pushing me to contemplate a regular sabbath from my electronics for the planet and for my own sanity.

You can read it here. Didn't notice the piece was by Patrick Deneen. Should have realized. I find his blog really challenging. So you can also read the piece here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

President Obama's eulogy for Ted Kennedy

Mrs. Kennedy, Kara, Edward, Patrick, Curran, Caroline, members of the Kennedy family, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens: Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a weighty legacy; a champion for those who had none; the soul of the Democratic Party; and the lion of the U.S. Senate – a man whose name graces nearly one thousand laws, and who penned more than three hundred himself.

But those of us who loved him, and ache with his passing, know Ted Kennedy by the other titles he held: Father. Brother. Husband. Uncle Teddy, or as he was often known to his younger nieces and nephews, “The Grand Fromage,” or “The Big Cheese.” I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, a friend.

Ted Kennedy was the baby of the family who became its patriarch; the restless dreamer who became its rock. He was the sunny, joyful child, who bore the brunt of his brothers' teasing, but learned quickly how to brush it off. When they tossed him off a boat because he didn't know what a jib was, six-year-old Teddy got back in and learned to sail. When a photographer asked the newly elected Bobby to step back at a press conference because he was casting a shadow on his younger brother, Teddy quipped, “It'll be the same in Washington.”

This spirit of resilience and good humor would see Ted Kennedy through more pain and tragedy than most of us will ever know. He lost two siblings by the age of sixteen. He saw two more taken violently from the country that loved them. He said goodbye to his beloved sister, Eunice, in the final days of his own life. He narrowly survived a plane crash, watched two children struggle with cancer, buried three nephews, and experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible.

It is a string of events that would have broken a lesser man. And it would have been easy for Teddy to let himself become bitter and hardened; to surrender to self-pity and regret; to retreat from public life and live out his years in peaceful quiet. No one would have blamed him for that.

But that was not Ted Kennedy. As he told us, “(I)ndividual faults and frailties are no excuse to give in – and no exemption from the common obligation to give of ourselves.” Indeed, Ted was the “Happy Warrior” that the poet William Wordsworth spoke of when he wrote: As tempted more; more able to endure, As more exposed to suffering and distress; Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.

Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and suffering of others – the sick child who could not see a doctor; the young soldier sent to battle without armor; the citizen denied her rights because of what she looks like or who she loves or where she comes from. The landmark laws that he championed – the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children's health care, the Family and Medical Leave Act – all have a running thread. Ted Kennedy's life's work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding. He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.

We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of health care or workers' rights or civil rights. And yet, while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did. While he was seen by his fiercest critics as a partisan lightning rod, that is not the prism through which Ted Kennedy saw the world, nor was it the prism through which his colleagues saw him. He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect – a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots.

And that's how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time. He did it by hewing to principle, but also by seeking compromise and common cause – not through dealmaking and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor. There was the time he courted Orrin Hatch's support for the Children's Health Insurance Program by having his chief of staff serenade the senator with a song Orrin had written himself; the time he delivered shamrock cookies on a china plate to sweeten up a crusty Republican colleague; and the famous story of how he won the support of a Texas committee chairman on an immigration bill. Teddy walked into a meeting with a plain manila envelope, and showed only the chairman that it was filled with the Texan's favorite cigars. When the negotiations were going well, he would inch the envelope closer to the chairman. When they weren't, he would pull it back. Before long, the deal was done.

It was only a few years ago, on St. Patrick's Day, when Teddy buttonholed me on the floor of the Senate for my support on a certain piece of legislation that was coming up for vote. I gave him my pledge, but expressed my skepticism that it would pass. But when the roll call was over, the bill garnered the votes it needed, and then some. I looked at Teddy with astonishment and asked how he had pulled it off. He just patted me on the back, and said “Luck of the Irish!”

Of course, luck had little to do with Ted Kennedy's legislative success, and he knew that. A few years ago, his father-in-law told him that he and Daniel Webster just might be the two greatest senators of all time. Without missing a beat, Teddy replied, “What did Webster do?”

But though it is Ted Kennedy's historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss. It was the friend and colleague who was always the first to pick up the phone and say, “I'm sorry for your loss,” or “I hope you feel better,” or “What can I do to help?” It was the boss who was so adored by his staff that over five hundred spanning five decades showed up for his 75th birthday party. It was the man who sent birthday wishes and thank you notes and even his own paintings to so many who never imagined that a U.S. senator would take the time to think about someone like them. I have one of those paintings in my private study – a Cape Cod seascape that was a gift to a freshman legislator who happened to admire it when Ted Kennedy welcomed him into his office the first week he arrived in Washington; by the way, that's my second favorite gift from Teddy and Vicki after our dog Bo. And it seems like everyone has one of those stories – the ones that often start with “You wouldn't believe who called me today.”

Ted Kennedy was the father who looked after not only his own three children, but John's and Bobby's as well. He took them camping and taught them to sail. He laughed and danced with them at birthdays and weddings; cried and mourned with them through hardship and tragedy; and passed on that same sense of service and selflessness that his parents had instilled in him. Shortly after Ted walked Caroline down the aisle and gave her away at the altar, he received a note from Jackie that read, “On you the carefree youngest brother fell a burden a hero would have begged to be spared. We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love.”

Not only did the Kennedy family make it because of Ted's love – he made it because of theirs; and especially because of the love and the life he found in Vicki. After so much loss and so much sorrow, it could not have been easy for Ted Kennedy to risk his heart again. That he did is a testament to how deeply he loved this remarkable woman from Louisiana. And she didn't just love him back. As Ted would often acknowledge, Vicki saved him. She gave him strength and purpose; joy and friendship; and stood by him always, especially in those last, hardest days.

We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know God's plan for us.

What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of other human beings.

This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy. He once said of his brother Bobby that he need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, and I imagine he would say the same about himself. The greatest expectations were placed upon Ted Kennedy's shoulders because of who he was, but he surpassed them all because of who he became. We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office. We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy – not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country he loved.

In the days after September 11th, Teddy made it a point to personally call each one of the 177 families of this state who lost a loved one in the attack. But he didn't stop there. He kept calling and checking up on them. He fought through red tape to get them assistance and grief counseling. He invited them sailing, played with their children, and would write each family a letter whenever the anniversary of that terrible day came along. To one widow, he wrote the following: “As you know so well, the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of such a great loss, but we carry on, because we have to, because our loved one would want us to, and because there is still light to guide us in the world from the love they gave us.”

We carry on.

Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those he has loved and lost. At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good he did, the dream he kept alive, and a single, enduring image – the image of a man on a boat; white mane tousled; smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for what storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon. May God Bless Ted Kennedy, and may he rest in eternal peace.

Found here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Not sure how this is going to go over

July 30, 2009

Loving your Neighbor as you love Yourself: Responding to H1N1

When the Synod of the Province of Rupert’s Land met in Calgary in June a Motion was passed expressing concern for the communities affected by the current flu pandemic. The H1N1 flu has seriously afflicted many First Nations communities in the northern parts of our country, and is beginning to appear in more southern towns and cities. I am sure that you are aware of this concern and are remembering our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Prayers of the People each time you gather to express your love for the Lord our God.

However I am writing to you at this time to bring to your attention steps which you can take to physically protect yourself and all who come to our church buildings for worship and fellowship. To undertake these simple acts will be an expression of your love for your neighbor even as you love yourself.

1. Hand-washing
There should be signage with clear instructions in church washrooms and kitchens instructing people to wash their hands with soap and hot water. Kitchen users should develop the habit of first washing their hands before they begin handling food and beverage. Altar Guild members should wash their hands before they begin the work of preparing the altar. Is there soap, water, and paper towels available in these areas in the church building?

2. Hand-cleanser
Our churches and halls are open to the Public. Making an antiseptic hand-sanitizer available at the entrances to the building, washrooms, meeting rooms with a Sign asking people to make use of it is a positive preventive act.

3. Distributing Holy Communion
Everyone who will be touching the bread and wine in the preparation of the altar during the service and in the distribution of the consecrated elements should use a hand-sanitizer immediately prior to assisting with the preparation and distribution.

4. Receiving Holy Communion
It is recommended that hand-sanitizer be available for people to use as they come forward to receive Holy Communion.

Intinction (dipping the bread into the chalice) is not to be practiced. In concert with other dioceses intinction is no longer an acceptable practice in the Diocese of Calgary since it is a significant health hazard. Research, though limited, has indicated the use of the common cup generally poses less risk of transferring bacteria than the practice of intinction.

If a person is concerned about receiving the common cup they are to be assured that communion in one kind, receiving the bread only, is an acceptable tradition within the Anglican Church. They could be instructed to simple touch the base of the chalice as the words of administration are said.

The use of a silver chalice, wine with an alcohol content of at least 12% or higher, and a clean purificator provide some protection to the less virulent bacteria that are constantly with us; however, H1N1 is an uncommon strain and therefore extra precautions must be taken.

5. Exchange of the Peace
As one diocese has announced, “social distancing is NOT to be discouraged”. Much as we may desire to greet each other with a hug it is best to refrain from doing so. Although a hand-shake is still an acceptable form of greeting, if H1N1 becomes more active we will have to curtail even a hand-shake and simply greet each other with eye-contact, a smile, a bow, or some such peace greeting sign.

6. Church Attendance
If you are not feeling well, have flu-like symptoms, or think that you might be coming down with something, the loving act is to stay home and take care of yourself. Be sure to let your minister know so that your church family can be supportive.

7. Pastoral Visits
Clergy and laity who make home visits on behalf of the parish should carry a hand-sanitizer with them and use it at the beginning and at the end of a visit. If you are visiting a person who is under the care of a health practitioner, you will of course follow their instructions in order to protect both the patient and yourself.

During the month of August the Diocese will be developing a pandemic response policy and this will be circulated to all parishes.

Much of what I have written is common sense and you are already doing it. Some of the items may be new and I ask that you begin to put them into practice. We are indeed commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves and taking precautions to guard against the spread of H1N1 is one way in which we can honor our Lord’s Summary of the Law.

God be with you,
The Rt. Rev. Derek Hoskin
Bishop of Calgary
180, 1209 59 Avenue SE
Calgary AB T2H 2P6

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Paul Phillips, Nov. 3, 1938-July 16, 2008

Fifty Things You May Not Have Known About My Dad

1. he was born in Hong Kong, the son of missionaries
2. he could still count in Cantonese decades later
3. he lived on a commune as a kid
4. his first degree was in chemistry
5. he loved going down into caves and mines
6. he would rather spend two hours making something than buy it even if it cost a dollar and did carpentry and basic plumbing and electrical work
7. he built furniture, a 26’ sailboat and a house (with the help of family and friends)
8. he learned to play banjo from a record by Pete Seeger called “How to play the banjo”
9. he also played guitar, concertina, fiddle, mandolin, autoharp, bouzouki, piano and pretty much anything he put his hand to
10. he sang in the chorus of the Manitoba Opera for thirty years
11. he was the workshop stage manager for the Winnipeg Folk Festival
12. he skied, sailed, played hockey and tennis when he was younger, and until he moved to Vernon played polo
13. when he was asked how a socialist could play polo he said ‘nothin’s too good for the worker’
14. he sang Oggie Man to me when I couldn’t sleep and would sit up with me when I was sick
15. one of his favourite dishes was lamb stew and for years he got fresh oysters for Christmas breakfast
16. he loved really really bad puns and wrote poems to put on the tags of Christmas presents
17. he always bought special Christmas wrap that he only used for mom
18. he made his own beer and wine
19. he loved to play darts, especially with Peter
20. he could recite Albert and the Lion from memory
21. his handwriting was illegible even to him
22. he ran for the NDP federally and was campaign manager for William Deverell before Deverell began writing legal mysteries
23 he played crib with us in the evenings on summer holidays when he wasn’t reading mysteries
24. he loved Perry Mason and Charlie’s Angels and British mysteries on tv
25. he loved James Bond and Carry On movies
26 he painted with oils and did some wood carving when he was a young man - when he was older he turned his creative gifts to making toys for us and then for his grandchildren
27 he was a pilot in the Air Force
28 he liked the CFL and NHL but as a kid liked the Dodgers too
29 he was a Maple Leaf fan and loved Davy Keon
30 he played rugby when he was in the Air Force
31. he thought everyone should learn to type and to mend clothes
32. he learned Serbo-Croatian because he was teaching in Yugoslavia every spring
33. the older he got the more Welsh he got
34. he loved teaching and cared deeply about his students and colleagues although they may not have known it since he was pretty inward about his feelings
35. although he didn’t say much about how he felt he gave great hugs, held hands and gave smoochie kisses
36. he smoked a pipe and cigars for years and was really annoyed when he quit and mom didn’t notice for weeks
37. he loved Bruce Springsteen and Dr. Hook
38. he didn’t like sweets much but would get Goodies at the movies
39. he ate cheddar cheese on his apple pie
40. he ate a tomato every day - a cherry tomato from his garden was one of the last things he ate
41. he gave up wearing ties in the ‘70s because he said they served no purpose and were really uncomfortable
42. he didn’t like his middle name and wouldn’t use it
43. he loved to cook but wouldn’t follow recipes meaning he had a hard time replicating successes
44. he started baking cookies when he got older (presumably he followed recipes when he baked)
45. he always wanted to open a restaurant that specialized in soups
46. when he retired he began to write a column on economic issues for a seniors’ newspaper, started a Welsh men’s chorus, sang at Carnegie Hall and began to act
47. he could be phenomenally opinionated about everything especially things he didn’t know much about
48. but he also was interested in a phenomenally wide range of things and knew stuff about surprising things
49. although his mother drove him crazy he became more and more like her the older he got
and 50. this you probably did know, I really miss him

Things I've Inherited from My Father

a prominent chin
thick hair and a thick neck
square calves and knobby knees
a love of all sorts of music
the habit of resting my chin between my thumb and forefinger while sitting at my desk
a love of bubbly water
a love of tomatoes
a passion for social justice
a tendency to strong opinions
a tendency to get up on my soap box
a tendency to confuse matters of taste with moral judgments
a capacity for friendship with all sorts of people
a tendency to see the good in situations and people
an appreciation of the theatrical
a love of cooking without following a recipe

thanks Pops

Monday, June 1, 2009

More thoughts on Rome #4

And still more from Doerr:

The vast percentage of any mushroom, it turns out, lives underground, in a network of extremely fine fibers, or hyphae, that prowl the soil gathering nutrients. A single cubic centimeter of dirt might contain as much as two thousand meters of hyphae.

Rome is like that, I think. The bulk of it lies underground, its history ramified so densely under there, ten centuries in every thimbleful, that no one will ever unravel it all.

Since returning from Rome I’ve been reading more of its history and more about the art I saw. I’m overwhelmed by how much there is to learn about it all. I’ve fallen in love and I can’t get enough of my beloved’s story but I’m beginning to realize that I couldn’t learn it all if I dedicated the rest of my life to it.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

More thoughts on Rome #3 (modified)

More from Doerr

In the Tom Andrews Studio I open my journal and stare out at the trunk of the umbrella pine and do my best to fight off the atrophy that comes from seeing things too frequently. I try to shape a few sentences around this tiny corner of Rome; I try to force my eye to slow down. A good journal entry—like a good song, or sketch, or photograph—ought to break up the habitual and lift away the film that forms over the eye, the finger, the tongue, the heart. A good journal entry ought be a love letter to the world.

Leave home, leave the country, leave the familiar. Only then can routine experience—buying bread, eating vegetables, even saying hello—become new all over again.

The same can be said of the routine of worship. In my first sermon after returning from Rome I spoke of how the difference between visiting Rome as a tourist and visiting as a pilgrim were the moments when, beyond the awe of the beauty of churches, beyond the incredible feeling of being in churches where Christians had prayed for almost 2000 years, I felt connected to the Christians praying beside me. We didn’t share language, culture, or rite but in that moment we shared a common faith, a common love and we abided together in that love. As I spoke these words and looked out at these people I gather with once a month, people I’m coming to know, I was struck by how what I found in Rome is something I experience regularly here. The familiarity of worship in Southern Alberta had obscured for me the joy and miracle of coming together in a common faith with a community of people which whom I might not otherwise have come together with.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

T.S.Eliot from The Four Quartets

Saturday, May 30, 2009

More thoughts on Rome #2

More treasures from Doerr:

He spends much of his year in Rome reading Pliny the Elder’s, Natural History:

Read in a certain way, the Natural History is preposterous, full of erroneous assumptions and cast-off mythology. Read another way, it is a window into Roman understanding two millennia ago. Read another way, it is a tribute to wonder itself.

Later he will write of his boys:

Diaper rashes creep up the boys’ chests and backs. Still, their enthusiasm for the world astounds. Everything—a role of tape, a telephone jack, each other’s hair—warrants investigation. Whoever says adults are better at paying attention than children is wrong: we’re too busy filtering out the world, focusing on some task or another, paying no attention. Our kids are the ones discovering new continents all day long. Sometimes, looking at them, I feel as if Henry and Owen live permanently in that resplendent, taut state of awareness that we adults only reach when our cars are sliding on ice through a red light, or our airplane is thudding through turbulence.

“Paying attention” – it comes up in the work of Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch, and in the advice of spiritual directors and counselors. Danny Gregory wrote a lovely little book about how paying attention to the world around him and drawing it helped him to make sense of the new reality of his life when his wife was left in a wheelchair after falling in the New York subway.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thoughts on Rome

Before I went to Rome I read Anthony Doerr’s Four Seasons in Rome. It is a memoir of the year Doerr, his wife and 6 month old twins spent in Rome on a fellowship from the American Academy of the Arts. I had come across it at Chapters when it first came out and gave it to a friend of mine because reading a bit of it in the store I thought she’d like it. She did and when I started to prepare for my trip I decided I would read it. I loved it, referred to it often in conversations with Betta until she was sick of it, and decided I would read it again when I returned. So while on retreat this week as I’ve been reflecting on my time in Rome I picked it up again only to discover that it was like reading it for the first time.

The first time I read it I loved Doerr’s descriptions of their apartment, the streets where they walked, their struggles to communicate in Italian, their adventures buying groceries and communicating with doctors. Much of what he described resonated with the year I lived in Germany studying at the Universität Tübingen. There is nothing more humbling than struggling to buy bread when you are used to taking your ability to communicate for granted. My supervisor told me that he had a button he would wear when he lived in Germany as a student. It read, “I’m really very intelligent in my own language.”

This week when I read it again, however, it wasn’t just the experience of being a foreigner that I was remembering. I was remembering the places he was describing, I could smell the smells, and hear the sounds. It was such a delight to be back in the Pantheon remembering the power of looking up into the dome and seeing the Oculus. But mostly I gave thanks that his beautiful descriptions of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza prompted me to seek it out.

He and his wife had stumbled across it and you’d have to. It isn’t one of the churches on the ‘must see’ tourist lists and it is off the street inside a courtyard. It isn’t a big church either – essentially it is the chapel for the oldest university in Rome. It was designed by Borromini and finished in 1660. His description captures part of how stunning it is – I experienced vertigo looking up into the ceiling and we sat down quickly so that we could gaze up safely.

You notice first how white it is. A few railings are touched with gold, but all the rest is white: white six-pointed stars, white windows, white balconies. And you notice how unlocked it feels, free of pillars and registries and choir stalls and auxiliary chapels. Strands of sunlight lean through two of six high windows. It seems less a church than a tabernacle, less a temple to God than a temple to light.


We sit in the corner and try counting the six points of the star as the architecture climbs toward the lantern, but we quickly get dizzy and lose count; we are honeycombed, we are trapped inside the molecules at the center of a snow crystal. The pews, the crucifix, the dwarfed altar--they all seem completely irrelevant. It is all space, all geometry, all ceiling. In the restless walls I glimpse patterns: mountains and streams, snow blowing across the freeway, a train of climbers winding along the edge of a glacier. Everything forms and re-forms. We sit on our little bench and feel the church coil and twist above us, a wintry heart, a tornado of plaster.

I will always be thankful to Doerr for the gift of this church.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What I did in Rome

Here is an article by my friend, Betta, who was a wonderful guide and companion on the Pauline pilgrimage. It was a great pilgrimage - the only thing I didn't enjoy was trying to find someone at St. Peter's who knew anything about it so that I could get my sticker for my credential. My favourite spot on the pilgrimage was the Abbey of the Three Fountains.
My pilgrimage credential. It was unbelievably difficult to collect the sticker from St. Peter's.

The cell thought to be where Paul was held before his execution.
The Abbey church. These pilgrims were singing, reading and praying and it was very moving.

One of the three springs were according to tradition water sprung up when Paul's head bounced after he was beheaded.
The column that is considered to be the one upon which Paul was beheaded.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Break from Italy - corrected

Well, not entirely. While I was in Italy my friend Betta introduced me to TED talks. Maggie Dawn has a neat post about the guidelines they give their speakers here.

And here is a really neat talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cosmatesque style tile floors

St. John Lateran - corrected

The baptistery was stunning

Statues of the twelve apostles were added to the church in the 18th cent.
Scala Santa - these steps were brought from Jerusalem and are said to be the steps from Pilate's palace that Jesus climbed. The faithful climb them on their knees.

Scenes from the Streets of Rome

You wouldn't know Pepsi even exists in Rome - there is no sign of it anywhere except in McDonald's

All the cars are little which makes parking easier....but that doesn't stop them from being shmucked...almost every car I saw had something scraped or crumpled....

Spectacular Mosaics and Frescoes