Monthly Archives: September 2007

Lost Friends

While we were away in Nevada, one of the pillars of our parish passed away unexpectedly as a result of what should have been a minor injury. A man in his 80s, he took a bit of a fall and hit his head. He felt fine immediately after and thought nothing of it. However, because he was taking a fairly significant dosage of Coumadin, what would have been a minor bump on the head for most people, for him resulted in a fatal cerebral hemorrhage and a massive subdural hematoma. A couple of hours after the fall, he was unconscious and two days later his family was deciding to remove life support….

A colleague who had been associate pastor in my parish under a former rector filled in for me and handled the Requiem. After we returned, I officiated at the committal of his ashes in a military-honors ceremony.

Since our return, another older member of the parish has passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and we have scheduled her funeral for next week.

Meanwhile, other old friends are retiring and moving away ….

Whether by relocation or death, the loss of friends causes some feeling of diminishment. The world is a smaller, paler, poorer place without their presence. I know full well and good that they are not gone … those who have moved elsewhere are only a phone call or an email message away. Those who have passed on are not dead (“life is changed, not ended” as the eucharistic preface for funerals says), but living in God’s nearer Presence. Yet … the sense of loss and loneliness is no less real.

At the committal of my friend’s ashes, I read this meditation by Canon Henry Scott Holland, a part of his sermon entitled “The King of Terrors” preached on the death of King Edward VII:

I have only slipped away into the next room

I am I and you are you

Whatever we were to each other

That we are still

Call me by my old familiar name

Speak to me in the easy way you always used

Put no difference into your tone

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed

At the little jokes we always enjoyed together

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me

Let my name be ever the household word that it always was

Let it be spoken without effort

Without the ghost of a shadow in it

Life means all that it ever meant

It is the same as it ever was

There is absolute unbroken continuity

What is death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind

Because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you for an interval

Somewhere very near

Just around the corner

All is well.

 

I know full well that this piece is sentimental and sappy, and lifted out of the context of Holland’s sermon it fails to give a full portrait of his theology. Nonetheless, it is comforting and it is a reminder of the truth that for God’s faithful people “life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.”

 

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Returned from Walkabout

We have returned home from our trip through the Nevada desert with the nominees for Bishop of the Diocese of Nevada and several members of that diocese’s search, transition, and standing committees.

It was a wonderful, exhilarating, exhausting, eye-opening experience.  Both my wife and I were born and grew up in Nevada, and it is both a significant honor and a very humbling experience to be invited to stand as a candidate in the election of the next bishop.

We were amazed at the changes in our home state and diocese since we left 14 years ago. The growth in the urban areas of Las Vegas and environs, and the Reno/Sparks/Carson City area is phenomenal.  On the other hand, the decline of the rural communities, many of which are significantly smaller, was heart-rending.  As important as the cities are, the real strength of Nevada and the greater part of its heritage is found in the old mining camps and ranching centers of the state.  These communities (especially the churches in them) need the support and assistance of the urban centers. I’m sure, though, Nevada’s story is no different from other states — growth of urban areas and decline of rural communities is happening throughout the country.

The episcopal election in the Diocese of Nevada is scheduled for October 12, 2007.  God has already chosen the next bishop … it is up to the people of the church in Nevada to listen prayerfully and carefully, and let us all know who that choice is.

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Episcopal Election Walkabout in Nevada

The author of this blog is one of six nominees for Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada. If you would like to follow the route of the Walkabout (the visits of the nominees with clergy and electors in various places around the diocese), you may do so at a blog maintained by a priest of the Nevada Diocese who is accompanying the nominees as they tour the state.

The blog is entitled The Desert Shall Rejoice and can be found here.

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The Desert

We’ve been driving through the desert for a couple of days, visiting desert towns … I’m originally from the desert and this geography truly resonates with and for me. There is a stark beauty to the rocky land. Leon Morris in a commentary on the Book of Revelation, discussing St. John’s image of “the Great City” as a place of sinfulness, says that the wilderness is the true home of the People of God. I think he’s right. This apparently barren landscape is so full of the Presence of God! No wonder the early fathers and mothers of the church went into the desert to find God.

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Bush Administration Bans Barth, Dulles, Niebuhr…. An Idea.

If you also think the policy reported by the New York Times is idiotic, why don’t you join me in writing to the Bureau of Prisons to protest it?

Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First St., NW
Washington, DC 20534

Let them know what you think!

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Bush Administration Bans Barth, Dulles, Niebuhr…. Idiotic!

The New York Times is reporting that the Bush administration has decided to limit the religious reading material available to inmates of federal prisons. Apparently afraid that some religious texts might foment terrorism, they have created “approved lists” of religious books. Says the Times:

The Bureau of Prisons said it relied on experts to produce lists of up to 150 book titles and 150 multimedia resources for each of 20 religions or religious categories — everything from Bahaism to Yoruba. The lists will be expanded in October, and there will be occasional updates, Ms. Billingsley said. Prayer books and other worship materials are not affected by this process.

The lists are broad, but reveal eccentricities and omissions. There are nine titles by C. S. Lewis, for example, and none from the theologians Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth and Cardinal Avery Dulles, and the influential pastor Robert H. Schuller. (Read the whole article here.)

A colleague wonders about this action: “Why they didn’t just ban the problems and leave the rest, I don’t know. Idiotic.” She’s right. Like much, if not all, of the actions of this administration, this move is idiotic!

It’s also unconstitutional, but when did that ever bother the current US administration?

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Good Bye, Meg!

From the New York Times:

Madeleine L’Engle, who in writing more than 60 books, including childhood fables, religious meditations and science fiction, weaved emotional tapestries transcending genre and generation, died Thursday in Connecticut. She was 88.  (Read the NY Times article here.)

Madeleine L’Engle was one of the truly great women of the last century, in my opinion.  I was introduced to her by my sixth grade teacher at Brockton Park Elementary School in West Los Angeles, California, when she required our class to read A Wrinkle in Time.  I loved the book!  Since that first reading, I’ve re-read it (and the books which followed it and completed the story) four times.  It may be called a piece of “juvenile” fiction, but this adult finds something new and profound in it each time I read it.

Ms. L’Engle wrote many other books and I’ve read many of them, too.  I never failed to learn something reading what she wrote.  She was one of the best of Anglicanisms good writers.  I recommend her works.  I’m saddened that there will be no more.

She said once that she was Meg, the principal character in Wrinkle and its sequels.   So it seems most fitting to say, “Good bye, Meg!”

May she rest in peace and rise in glory!

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