Monthly Archives: May 2007

On the Road in Ireland – Day 1

Greetings from the Republic of Ireland!

The flight Philly – Dublin – Shannon was uneventful except that we were surrounded by the forty-voice choir from Lockhaven University (PA) who are ona nine-day concert tour of Ireland. Nice kids, but a bit rowdy.

Bunratty Castle Hotel

We got speedily through passport control and customs, rented our car (an Opel Corsa), and drove to Bunratty, where we checked in. We decided our best bet was to get on with lunch and sight-seeing, so we strolled down the hill from the hotel to the “The Creamery Bar” — Evie had seafood chowder and a diet Coke.

The Creamery BarI had an Irish Cheddar sandwich with coleslaw, an apple chutney, and a fresh vegetable salad, and a pint of Beamish stout. Then we both had a cup of coffee and chatted with the bar’s owner and our
waitress. Lovely people.

The Creamery Bar

Next we walked to the Bunratty Castle and Irish Folk Park — this is a great exhibit of historical Irish homes. (And wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t take my camera with me! So we bought a picture book.) After the Folk Park, we walked back to the hotel, got the camera, and then went to the Bunratty Winery & Distillery, where we bought a bottle of mead (the only kind of wine they make, which Evie likes) and a bottle of potcheen (Irish moonshine, basically).

Our Opel and an Irish Buckeye Tree!

Then we went for a drive around the countryside and found a B&B we wish we’d stayed at — “The Minister’s Rest” — LOL! We also found what looked like a Buckeye Tree with pink blossoms and, on talking with a gardner, turned out to be exactly that. Here, of course, it was called “a horse chestnut” but in Ohio, it would be called a “Buckeye”. So we parked our Opel next to it and I took a picture.

Now we are back at the hotel taking a load off our feet for a while — in an hour or two we will go to Gallagher’s Restaurant (recommended by thelady at the winery) for supper, and then it will really be bad time!!!!

More later!

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Happy Mother’s Day

In the next few minutes and packing this machine away in its carrying case, then putting it and the other luggage into the car …. and in about 40 minutes we will make our way to our friends’ home and then they will convey us to the airport.

But before I go, I want to wish all the mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, foster mothers, adoptive mothers, “other mothers” … in other words, all the important women in anyone’s life, a very Happy Mothers Day.

Mom RelaxingI’m one of those folks who had one of those contradictory, contrary, never-quite-to-be-figured-out mothers, who was nonetheless very, very loving and supportive, and who I miss very deeply still eight years after her passing (Lord, it doesn’t seem that long ago!).

She was not happy when I decided to leave the practice of law and give up being managing partner of a major firm in Nevada to be ordained. True to her depression-era up-bringing, her concerns were purely economic (and well-founded, to be admitted — I did go from a pretty good six-figure annual income to less than $26,000 a year on my first clergy job).

But once I was ordained, she was as supportive of my ministry as she had been of every other venture in my life. Having been reared in the Disciples of Christ, she understood the weekly communion, but all the “calisthenics” and the ritual she didn’t quite get.

About a year after I was made a priest, my wife and I visited my folks and while attending to something or other in her bedroom, I saw on her nightstand a folder of “Inquirer’s Class” information from the local Episcopal parish. So I said to her, “Are you and Stan [my step-dad] taking confirmation classes?”

Her response, “Well, I guess you’re serious about this, so I thought we better check it out.” They did check it out: she was confirmed and my step-dad, a non-practicing Roman, was received. And both became very active in their parish and both expressed their desire to be buried from, and into the soil of, their congregation — their ashes are now interred together in the memory garden of St. Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church in Huntington Beach, California.

And there have been other important women who have filled that “other mother” role throughout my life, so I salute all women of influence on this Mother’s Day.

Hopefully, I’ll be making my next post from somewhere in the Republic of Ireland!

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Mother’s Day Video — must see!

Susan Russell has put a very very funny bit of Mother’s Day drivel on her blog — “the most hysterical Mother’s Day video ever” she says.

She may be right! It’s funny ….

It’s after her publication of the church ad from the New Times Op-Ed section, so scroll down.

And Happy Mother’s Day!

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The Social Gospel … a Distraction?

Joseph Loconte, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote a piece on Friday acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the publication of Walter Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis. In keeping with the tone of discourse from the EPPC, his comments come from a conservative Christian (shall we say, “Religious Right”) viewpoint — not one that I particularly share.

His first two paragraphs are:

Within a few years of its publication in 1907, “Christianity and the Social Crisis” swept through America’s Protestant churches like a nor’easter, selling more than 50,000 copies to ministers and laypeople alike. In an age of social upheaval, Walter Rauschenbusch’s jeremiad was meant to rouse the church from its pietistic slumber. “If society continues to disintegrate and decay, the Church will be carried down with it,” he warned. “If the Church can rally such moral forces that injustice will be overcome . . . it will itself rise to higher liberty and life.”

The summons found many converts. Reflecting on the mood a few decades later, preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick gushed with nostalgia: It “struck home so poignantly,” he said, that it “ushered in a new era in Christian thought and action.” The era of Rauschenbusch is far from over: His “Social Gospel” message continues to inspire activists and theologians of all stripes. The question now, though, is whether its influence is a desirable thing–or a distraction of the Christian church from its deepest objectives.

I don’t recall when I first read Rauschenbusch, but I do remember that I read A Theology for the Social Gospel before reading Christianity and the Social Crisis. It must have been about 20 years ago that I read them both (and, I admit, I haven’t opened them again since); it was when I was still toying with the idea of entering ordained ministry. I do know that his writing had a profound influence on me and played a role in my decision to leave the practice of law and enter the priesthood. If I had been of a mind to make this a more academic pursuit and get a Ph.D. (also something I toyed with), I might have done something on relationship between Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel movement and the later “liberation theology” movement of the late 20th Century. But working on a Ph.D. was less attractive than parish ministry, so that bit of social theological research will have to be left to someone else.

Loconte concludes his essay with a less than ringing endorsement (in fact, I’m sure it’s intended to be a denunciation) of Rauschenbusch:

It is hard to see, though, how Rauschenbusch’s theology could be called Christian in any meaningful sense of the term. It required no repentance or atonement and carried no fear of judgment or bracing hope of eternal life. He famously denied the doctrine of Christ’s Second Coming–with its promise of perfect justice and enduring mercy. The result was a flattened view of the human condition. “It is not possible honestly to confess that Jesus is the Christ of culture,” Niehbur wrote in “Christ and Culture” (1951), “unless one can confess much more than this.”

The Christian confession of faith, by itself, offers no guarantee that either individuals or societies will be transformed. But, for believers, not even the smallest steps forward can be taken without it.

I disagree with Loconte that Rauschenbusch’s and the other Social Gospelers’ theology cannot be called Christian “in any meaningful sense” … but I’ve decided not to contest that assertion vigorously here. I leave that consideration to our readers.

Why?

Because in about six hours I will be headed for the airport to board a plane on the first leg of a journey to Ireland for 18 days of what I hope will not be a “distraction” from the “deepest objectives” of the Christian church, but will be a distraction from its day to day operation. In other words, I am going on holiday!  (By the way, what exactly are the “deepest objectives” of the Christian church?  In my humble opinion those would be justice, freedom, human dignity — the sorts of things Jesus talked about when he mentioned, and not in an offhand way, the poor, the outcast, the naked, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned, and all those other distracting people.  Apparently Mr. Loconte doesn’t see it that way … but as I said, I’ll leave that consideration to our readers.)

I will, as time and technological availability allow, make entries to Bread and Wine, and perhaps post a photo or two of the Irish countryside. But other than that, and save for my own personal devotions and attending Sunday worship in a couple parishes of the Church of Ireland, no church activities for “yours truly” until June!

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Finally, Some Good Advertising!

The Episcopal Church placed the following ad in the Op-Ed section of today’s New York Times.

Great Advertisement

This is good stuff! Generally, I’d say it was too wordy, but not where it was placed. We need more positive marketing like this. (I’m grateful to my friend Scott who scanned the newspaper page and produced this graphic.)

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Do a Crossword Puzzle Today

I belong to an email listserve community which today is remembering one of its former members who died on this date four years ago. She was a sort of “Mama Theologian” to many of us and we miss her. Her daughter (also a member of the community) shared with us that she would do the New York Times Crossword in ink, taking only about 20 minutes to complete it.

I’m a crossword puzzler, but I’ve never been able to tackle the NY Times puzzle that handily.

Did you know the crossword puzzle was invented in 1913 by a Liverpuddlian named Arthur Wynne, and the first one published appeared in the December 21, 1913, edition of The New York World? Here is that first puzzle:

Give it a try … the clues and the solution can be found here.  Do it in celebration of the lady who styled herself “Lupa” in emails and was known as “Wolfmama” to those who loved her.

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Pursuit

Another reading from the Book of Wisdom this morning. These have been very strange readings: today’s ends with comments about “the elements chang[ing] places with one another,” fire and water acting in strange ways, and land and water creatures changing places. But it begins with a verse which once again calls our current Anglican conflicts to mind:

[W]hile they were still busy at mourning, and were lamenting at the graves of their dead, they reached another foolish decision, and pursued as fugitives those whom they had begged and compelled to depart. (Wisdom 19:3)

Of course, the historical reference is to the Egyptians chasing after the departing Hebrews at the time of the Exodus. But what came to my mind is this: what will happen when (or if) the “reasserters” are successful in the Communion and have compelled the Episcopal Church to depart? Might they not, shortly thereafter, find themselves “pursu[ing] as fugitives those whom they had begged and compelled to depart”?

A Drybones CartoonI’m not pollyanna-ish by any means, but I do believe that the Holy Spirit is a spirit of unity, not of division, and that no matter what the outcome of the current conflict, that unitive spirit will encourage reunion. It may take time, but eventually we will find that communion will overcome disunion. As the cartoon says, in another context, “Damn, he’s good” (sic). The Spirit of God is good and just as God could split the sea, God can break hearts of stone and encourage the softening and reconciling of entrenched contradictory positions. Elements can change positions!

As former PB Frank Griswold reminded the clergy group I was with earlier this week, the Anglican Communion is not the Primates. No province of this Communion is monolithic. It is very clear that PB Katharine Jefferts-Schori does not speak for all Episcopalians (witness those requests for “alternative primatial oversight”). It ought to be equally clear that the Archbishop of Abuja (+Peter Akinola) does not speak for all Anglicans in Nigeria.

Communion exists, and will continue to exist, in the relationships that have formed “on the ground” between parishes and individuals, in cooperative ministries, and when Anglicans of various stripes encounter one another in worship while traveling. No matter what may happen in the lofty altitudes of archiepiscopal debate, that communion will continue. And as it continues, it will carry the leadership with it — reluctantly perhaps, but I am convinced that no matter what the polity of a province may be, what the people in the pews do is much, much more important, and much more powerful, than what archbishops and Primates do.

If the people in the pews and the working clergy in the pulpits continue to work together the Holy Spirit will see to it that the archbishops are brought along and eventually those inhabiting the archiepiscopal heights will pursue those they had compelled to depart.

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