Saturday, December 23, 2006

Why Not Here.....

As I waste time this morning on here, instead of finishing sermons for Advent 4 (tonight) and Christmas Eve (tomorrow) and Christmas Day (Monday - but it will definitely be a wing-it-as-you-go sermon), I am struck, once again, by the faith of Mary and of how she was "already blessed" by her belief, before Jesus even made the grand entrance in a stable.
Which brings me to prayer request, part two!
Thanks for all of you who have been praying for St. Patrick's and our continued recovery. Those prayers have been answered in an amazing way! I cannot really yet give out too many details, but this week our vestry accepted the recommendation of our site committee to pursue one particular piece of property that we all feel is a FANTASTIC location for the new St. Pats. It is in the heart of town, near schools, residential neighborhoods, highly visible, high traffice, pretty land, land that is above Katrina flood levels, the list goes on. The process of arriving at this decision was hard yet wonderful, prayerful, and faith filled. I cannot applaud loudly enough the work of our site committee, our planning committee, our consultant, and our vestry. I am PUMPED UP about this decision.
Which brings me to your prayers.....please don't stop.
The only hurdle yet to cross to obtain this property is the price. We have begun negotiations, and the starting point of the land owner is too high. Our task is to convince him how we will care for this land, how we will offer so much to the community from there, how we had previously given over to the city a large part of our property for a city park, how we are committted to that same kind of presence at our new location. It is our hope and prayer that appealing to his sense of civic duty and our intentions will help us in the negotiations.
Can we claim this in God's name? Can we dare to rejoice in God's providence, even before it happens? Sounds kinda like Mary to me. Will you join me and our people in praying for this kind of miracle for our church?
Why not here? Why not claim God's blessing on the process we have followed and the prayers we have said? Why not look for the unexpected and use it to give God glory?
Will you join me?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Prayer Request

Hello, my legions of blogger fans!
I know it's been a while since I have posted. Things are really hopping here and I have been up to my neck. A lot of it is good, though, and we are making great progress.
Our rebuilding committees have been working fast and furious. We have hired an architect (YEA), and our mission and ministry committee has completed surveying over half of our congregation and they have developed a draft mission statement. This will be presented to the Parish at a dinner on Sunday night, Dec. 3rd. I think it is EXCELLENT and really reflects what we learned from the surveys about who we are and who we want to serve. The process of formulating the statement was really cool. I am excited about it. Once approved, I will share it on here, I know you all are anxious to read it!
Our site selection committee is reaching the finish line. Some of you know we thought we had a property location last March, and after having to wait a couple of months, the owner then decided not to sell (no fault there, the owner's circumstances changed dramatically). This put us back at square one, but it is really ok as all the above work needed to happen before we even thought about designing a building. This committee has narrowed lcoations down to 3 or 4, and the architects have walked each of these properties and gave us some feedback about them.
This brings me to the prayer request. I believe the location decision for the new St. Patrick's to be the most important and most difficult thing we have to do. Where we will be will impact this church for generations. Where we will be is more important, in my view, than what the building looks like. So this decision is HUGE. Next Tuesday this committee and our overall planning committee will meet with our consultant. Each property will be evaluated against criteria we have established. The criteria will be weighted as to importance and then tallied up for each location. From this meeting I hope the site committee will be able to present their recommendation to the vestry within one week.
The vestry is tasked with the final decision (with Diocesan approval of course). So these meetings from now until Dec 7 or so will be so very important. I would appreciate your prayers for all the committee members, for our consultant, for me as the Rector trying to lead this process in a Godly way, and to our Vestry as they struggle with such a monumental decision. I think we are going about things the right way, I am impatient but I understand it's not my time frame we are working under. I am very excited that we are reaching this point.
Putting up a sign on property in the next few weeks promoting "Future Site of St. Patrick's" will be an incredible morale boost to our folks.
I appreciate your prayers. I will keep you posted. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sad news keeps coming.....

It's been that kind of year. It's hard enough trying to live day-to-day in the aftermath of Katrina, church gone, half our membership gone, etc. But personal tragedies seem to be following us these last few months.
First, losing my seminary classmate and friend, Larry, on Palm Sunday. Then in May my dear Aunt Sharlie died with my wife and I at her side. And the last 5 weeks I have been part of 4 funerals, two for parishioners. 10 days ago I buried a member I had come to know through my wife serving as her hospice nurse. She ended up joining my church and we all became close as she battled her terminal illness. She lost what little she owned in Katrina and spent her last year in a nursing home far away from her beloved Gulf Coast.
Then, yesterday we said goodbye to Tommy, our head usher and all around good guy. Challenged somewhat physically and mentally, Tommy was an inspiration to us all (if you get a chance click on that link and read the article).
Then today, more terrible news. Our beloved friend, Ann Jones-Tutor, of Southaven passed away. Ann was a native of England and a long, long time participant on our annual Honduras Medical Mission. She was my prayer partner on two of those trips and accompanied my wife on all of her trips there (close to 10). She was a nurse and a joy to be with. She died from complications following knee surgery, of all things!
It's been a tough run of late, folks. Keep us in your prayers.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Saturday Night LIVE!!

We have made the switch to Saturday night services! The gym where we've been meeting for most of the past year has become, let's say, very difficult for us to remain there. It is HOT HOT HOT for one thing. And the dust and airborne stuff in there has gotten very bad. I have several parishioners who have gotten ill from being in church, and they along with a handful of others just cannot be present there anymore.
I began discussing with some of the churches in town about using their facilities. No one had a time slot that would work for us on Sunday mornings. We decided to try Saturday nights - and the local Lutheran church has very graciously offered their building to us. For now, we won't have a Sunday morning service at all - and that's very weird to me. It doesn't feel right, but we will try this on for a while and see how it goes.
Two Saturdays ago we launched this service, and it was a BIG HIT! We had 90 folks there. Our average Sunday attendance (ASA) pre-Katrina was 140 (up from 125 when I arrived here). So for 90 to be there on a Saturday night, considering how many of our folks have moved away, was really a great turn out.
It remains to be seen if this will hold up. Will people really stop what they are doing on Saturdays and get ready for church? Will moving off of Sunday mornings mean some people may switch to other churches? Time will tell. I am hoping to add a Sunday morning service as soon as a facility becomes available, or perhaps a VERY early one at the Lutheran church (but keeping the Sat evening one). We could meet there around 7:15 and be out of their way for their own services.
But for now, I like the idea of us being one body together. It's been that way since the storm and I think it's been good for us. Once we are comfortable in the space and have the kinks out, and once I am convinced our numbers will support this move, we will then decide on the Sunday morning options.
It does kill me to miss college football games for CHURCH! Oh, the sacrifices we must make.....

Thursday, September 07, 2006

These are good words....

The following was written by Bruce Colville. Bruce sold his home in NYC to come and live at our disaster relief center and aid in the recovery efforts. He is a good friend, and as you can see from this, a great writer. He describes far better than I could the gathering in our outdoor chapel on Aug 27th to remember the anniversary of "the storm". The original had pictures from the service and from around the destroyed area. If you wish to hear the sermon he references, click here.

Only the oaks remain.

Upright and dark their vertical survival is all that prevented a complete washing clean:

Banda Aceh or Phuket.

I am not kidding.

The first things you see are the oaks. From wide immovable trunks, thick encompassing arms reach broadly over the swept lots, slabs and pieces of foundation that is Beach Boulevard in Long Beach. Since last fall you see that leaves (non-deciduous) have filled the smaller branches, even faint traces of the once ubiquitous Spanish Moss have begun to appear.

You are about a dozen feet above sea level on the former site of this small Episcopal Church. It is Sunday morning, August 27th, the first mass to be celebrated here since the last one was benediction-ed, with some haste in the face of evacuation, one year ago.

You sit under a small tent where once the outdoor chapel stood. You look about. Actually, you notice green everywhere, tangled and waist-high, covering completely the footprint of a sanctuary, farther over an office and the Sunday school. Overgrowth might be the technical term. Weeds, scrub, high grasses and delinquent shrubs are what they are, really. You are saddened, as if ruination were not enough, but this: vanquished by weeds seems the final insult.

You should’ve known, seen the irony. This is grim evidence of new life. The Celtic Christians would tell you (you later are told) that all growth is evidence of life renewed and this is, after all, St. Patrick’s Church.

Another beloved disciple lived his final years on the island Patmos surrounded by an unruly and maddening sea. From that ravaged beach he was caught up in the revelation of a new heaven and earth. And the one who was seated on the throne said to him, to us, for all time: “See!”

See?” See what? How do you see when all around nothing is left? You ask that question this very morning. You have asked it in your own life as well. Again the words come from his aged half-crazed lips. “…the one who is seated on the throne said: ‘See, I am making all things new.’ ”

* * * * * * * * *

The first thing you hear is the quiet. You hear that a lot in our communities. You hear the hollow stillness of what is no more and the aimless rustling of that which will never be the same again. Then there is some hammering too, the din of repair and restoration, even on a Sunday morning: perhaps especially so.

You hear the high whistle of Slane, the Irish ballad and the opening phrase Be Thou My Vision. It is the music of what is surely to come.

* * * * * * * * *

Words are read, another ancient prophet, again with the oaks (the planting of the Lord) and something about the rebuilding of ruins. When you read together the psalm appointed your mind starts to wander. You look around. Behind you, the annoying child, up there the big oak is blocking the sun nicely; with the soft breeze it is enough to keep the heat away. You wish it were the same for the gnats.

Stand for the gospel. Then sit. He still stands… the one up front at the altar wearing the cassock and stole. Have you ever heard a pin drop on sand?

“What can I say?”

It’s not much of a sermon starter. You hear this year-worn priest’s voice aching all around the thin edges like dark filmy ice stretched across a pool of freezing water you dare not plunge into.

Then he says it again entirely unsure of where to place the italics:

“What can I say?”

In one of those unique moments in the long storied tradition of Christian homiletics, he doesn’t. He doesn’t go on and try to say something. He just lets it be.

This was proclaimed a service of remembrance and hope. Nevertheless it is grief and loss, anguish, dust and ashes. Most came. Some simply would not. It is a mass. It is formal ceremony. It is like a funeral and a part of the process is just getting through the steps you have to take. This is the way the human heart works.

There’s not a lot of eye contact, you notice…you can notice; you remain an outsider after all. It is more the sitting very still variety, more looking straight ahead. It is an hour at the end of a year of hours of just trying to hold it together…. Well, what is there to look at anyway?

Then something changes. Reality, the helplessness of past and present, is incontrovertibly altered. God intervenes. The Greco-Romans called it deus ex machina — the appearance of a god to redeem and restore the tragedy of our woeful drama. The Christian church calls it a sacrament. No matter how many they choose to number, sacraments are symbols and enactments of the greatest intervention of all: the one that began against the bare wood of a manger and is called the incarnation.

A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.


This morning you will celebrate two sacraments: baptism and communion. The first is so logical, so perfect and obvious that it almost strikes you as a complete surprise. Of course there will be a baptism! In baptism we are buried in water but rather than drowning we are raised up and out of the water. That raising up initiates and is a visible sign of new life. The past goes under those waters. So do loss, pain and brokenness. So does death and Death itself.

But we rise up out of the waters of baptism to a life that we didn’t think we would get. It is a gift. Redeemed as can only be affected by a god and restored wholly to life: it is an image of eternity.

The second sacrament follows. Communion or the Eucharist, as the Anglicans say, is something we do at almost every church service. Because we have and because we do it makes perfect sense this morning.

No matter the variety of Christian theologies on the Eucharist, they all seem to agree that the sacrament is a way that the Church is invited to experience Jesus’ presence in a tangible and uncommon way.

Interestingly for a moment like this, in baptism and communion you enact something that Jesus did and something that he told his followers to do. If you look at the Last Supper and the few other New Testament references to communion, you see moments in time that are marked by uncertainty for the future, gripped by suffering, death and a loss of all hope. When you add in the admonition to do this often and in remembrance of Me, this morning is blessed with a clarity and the sense of God incarnate who desires to fully join us in all of life.

If we can experience Jesus in these moments, then the Jesus we experience is the same resurrected Jesus that his early followers encountered. The body is physical and is touched. Yes, it is preternatural but it is also real. This body still bears its scars, the wound in the side and the imprint of nails. The Jesus encountered has suffered and the body we meet at this table is meant to be handled.

This is very good news on the slabs of Long Beach.

* * * * * * * * *

The wood that began the incarnation has mostly disappeared, save the occasional crèche in December. The wood that was its climax still stands, in your lives and mine, amidst every act of drama and loss that is shaking this world. It is present on this day. It is there in the endless quagmires, that broad swath of death and war that arcs across continents a half a globe away: the disasters of our own making. Add to that, the muck that was once New Orleans.

Here in the sands and bayous of coastal Mississippi it still stands, towering o’er the wrecks of time.

The mass concludes with an a cappella singing of the Irish Blessing, a long-standing tradition for special services.

May the road rise with you.

May the wind be always at your back.

It is too familiar. It catches you by surprise undermining the final ramparts of feeling that defend the heart.

May the sun shine warm upon your face.

It is the fourth line that is the problem and suddenly everyone knows it:

May the rain fall soft upon your fields.

I think I managed a word or two. Around me, I only heard air coming out in metered time and that wet whistling sound when suddenly puffed cheeks exhale.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up and things which had grown old are being made new.

- Anglican Collect (BCP)

Monday, August 28, 2006

It's a Holy, Tough, Good, Weird Time

Yesterday (Sunday) 120 of us gathered under a canopy over the outoor chapel on our former church site. The outdoor chapel was built in St. Patrick's Park, a green space behind our church that the city maintained as a park and ball field. The outdoor chapel mostly survived the storm (some benches gone but the altar remains). It's all that is left of our church structures.
Bishop Gray joined us and we had a very good turnout. It was a very emotional day, tears flowed freely. During communion we oriented everyone so they were looking out at the ruins of the church and the Gulf beyond. We did annointing (unction) and prayed.
We also baptized two children! And we declared our faith, our hope, our determination.
You can listen to my sermon (it's short on the Knight scale) and see some pictures by clicking here
Tomorrow we have several other things on tap for the actual anniversary, some joint services at the school where we worship and the site of our relief center, and another at the Methodist church in Long Beach.
Folks around here are handling this special date in a variety of ways - but many, many are struggling. Suicide attempts are up, mental health issues abound, kids are acting out big time. Every channel you turn to is showing images and videos of the horror we went through (and still go through). I have told my folks to just turn the blasted TV off. Our minds have ENOUGH images for us all. Plus, people are down right ANGRY that once again, New Orleans gets all the attention. But I guess their anger has to go somewhere.
Tomorrow will be tough. Keep us in your prayers.
By the way, Trip, if you are reading, I used your quote in my sermon - thanks dude!

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Well, it's almost here. The one year anniversary of "the storm" (a reminder to readers - we don't say the name of it down here, it's almost a Valdermort kind of thing - the storm-that-must-not-be-named).
Lots of press are converging. Most will, of course, go to New Orleans, maybe to chase ridiculous rumors a la Spike Lee. Some will visit Mississippi. We'll see the images again, look at the enormous LACK of progress, hear from the thousands still living in trailers, wonder if things will ever even look "that way" again as before and after pictures are shown over and over.
When you drive down the beach road now, in some ways it's worse. So much is overgrown with weeds and bushes, it's hard to tell where the slabs were. The church site is very hard to pick out now, other than the cross we put up, made from the remaining floor joists in the foundation (all that was left).
I can tell the idea of the anniversary is having an interesting affect on me and many others. To me it's depressing. I want to get past it. For others, this significant time will help the grieving process. For our church, we'll see.
Next Sunday (27th) we will gather in the outdoor chapel of the park that we had right behind our church. The actually church site is too dangerous still - too much debris and glass and broken things. We will have church facing the beach and the ruined church. We will share the Eucharist and do healing prayers with annointing with oil. AND - we will have some baptisms!
It struck me that baptism could be the symbol of resurrection hope, of new life, of washing clean, of starting over. I talked to the parents of two children who have been wanting to discuss baptism (they are under 12) and they were very excited to have this take place on that day.
This will make 11 baptisms since Christmas. THAT is a good thing!
Keep praying for us y'all. It's going to be a rough couple of weeks......but BAPTISMS! I think that's very cool......

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Back in Town

Well, I know all my adoring fans have been deeply upset by the lack of posts. I was floored to have The Mad Priest mention my blog (and say nice things about me too!) while I was away.
I am back from 2 weeks of a very nice vacation, and a week with the LW as she has recovered very nicely from surgery earlier this week. We did the surgery about 1 1/2 hours from home because she knows the doc real well, and we have family there to help out. We are home and she's doing great - she's tough!
For vacation I stayed out of town almost the entire two weeks. Living, for a short time, in a "normal" world was often disorienting and at times painful. We are still so far from normal, but it was nice to experience it for a little while.
My son and I spent 3 days at a relative's beach house. We fished, played tennis, went to the movies (twice!), and body surfed. We had a good time, some real nice father - son bonding. He's growing up so fast, almost 13, and getting REALLY tall. He's a good guy too.
Then the 5 of us went to S. Florida and spent 5 days at another relative's house (are you seeing a pattern for this vacation - CHEAP!). It was wonderful there. They have a beautiful home. I played golf, played a little tennis, slept late, swam, ate some excellent food. It was very nice. Our two daughters stayed an extra day, while the LW and my son and I flew to Chicago. It was my first trip back since leaving seminary 4 years ago. We spent 3 days and nights at the Lake Michigan beach house of some very dear friends. We hung out, played in the lake (had BIG waves one day), and, again, ate well! It's good to have friends that not only will invite you to stay with them, they cook good too!
We then traveled to Evanston where Seabury Western Seminary is. We stayed with seminary friends on campus. As I made the drive up Lake Shore to Evanston and entered the town, I was really overwhelmed. I didn't realize just how much I missed that place. My 3 years there were the best of my life. We walked around downtown Evanston, had lunch with my former Rector from Mississippi and his wife (they've retired to Evanston), and then visited the old haunts on campus - chapel, classrooms, etc. Sitting in that chapel was a moving experience. I could hear my friends voices, mostly laughing. We had some good times! Sitting in the classroom was even more weird. I was flooded with so many great memories.
We didn't have time to make it into Chicago, but what a great city that is! I miss it too. Even with the winters I could live in Evanston, but I'd probably have to go alone! Too cold for the LW!
Time to polish tomorrow's sermon. Good to be home.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Communion Thoughts and more....

Here we are almost a month post GC2006. What an interesting time! Being at GC and being front and center for many of the committee hearings and all of the floor debates, I am constantly shocked by what I hear and read about what we did. So much is inaccurate, so much is subject to wide interpretations. For the most part, I am disheartened by actions taken by various entities and individuals in our church. And I remained amazed at how sexuality completely captures such passion and violent opinions. Would that mission and evanglism, would that love of neighbor, would that the teachings of Christ, like Matthew 5, Matthew 25, Matthew 28, would rule the day.
I have also been struck by how our readings this summer speak so much about reconciliation, about unity, about how our baptism unites us and how we are to be MINISTERS of reconciliation, not ambassadors of division.
I come from the Southern Baptist church. Much of that upbringing still informs me. But one aspect of congregationalist churches is the issue of schism. You get enough people mad at the pastor or upset over the color they painted the walls, and they just leave to start another church. There is no sense of a greater structure, of ecclesial bodies, of Bishops or others in authority. And quite often (I dare say almost without fail), when a church splits in anger, they form an angry church. From that comes, later, another split and another and another. It is a very slippery slope.
As Episcopalians / Anglicans try to figure all this out, I wonder about the long range repurcussions. I wonder about folks wanting to line up under Akinola, until he does something they don't like. I wonder about people who want to choose their bishop, based on criteria they define today, and what happens in 10 years when the church has new people and there are new bishops, do they just choose again? Is that very Anglican, or catholic, at all? Slippery slope.

I keep hearing from "left" side and "right" side folks of what we did or did not do at GC. The special commission on Windsor, and the legislative committee at GC, worked so very hard. They tried to respond and yet be sensitive to various opinions. They presented to us A161, which addressed (not harshly enough in some opinions) the election of Bishops whose manner of life is a problem for the Communion AND also addressed a moratorium (not those words) on blessing same sex unions. One thing I hear constantly from the "conservatives" is how SSUs were not even addressed. This is wrong. A161 addressed them - taking language from A162 (which was combined with A161) the resolution stated :
" The amended A161 had called for The Episcopal Church to “not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the Blessings of same-sex unions”; to maintain a “breadth of responses” for the pastoral care of gays and lesbians; to offer its regret to the Anglican Communion for the actions of 74th General Convention; to urge dioceses to “refrain from the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church”; and to apologize to those “hurt by these decisions.”

The debate on this resolution was fascinating. Those in full support of Gene Robinson and SSUs were adamantly opposed. Those from the right, very surprisingly, also opposed it (saying it did not go far enough). That was an amazing turn. The "right" folks worked together, called for a vote by orders, and really worked to defeat A161 which, IMHO, did address the Windsor Report, offering regret, promising not to develop rites, and urging refraining from electing gay bishops. This was a well done, difficult-to-achieve resolution and, again in my opinion, brought us as close in line with Windsor as possible for our GC. The conservatives fought it tooth and nail. Some of the liberal members of the special committee spoke for passing the resolution, willing to give up what they considered progress for the greater good of unity and the communion.
So it is disingenuous for conservatives to complain about the lack of resolutions on same sex blessings, when it was the conservatives who fought to defeat the one resolution brought forward dealing with it.
The election of Presiding Bishop was the other amazing thing. I have heard from three Bishops now who report that a group of conservative Bishops, including some retired bishops, once they saw "their" candidate, Charles Jenkins, would not win, voted for Jefforts-Schiori intentionally to cause division and schism in the ECUSA and the Anglican Communion. It is their place to name names, but all three reported this as hearing it first hand.
Folks, this is a sad, sad thing to learn. That Bishops of our church would do something to intentionally cause a split in our church, and do so while hiding behind a secret ballot, is unbelievable. Yet, as in the Joseph story, God can make for good that humans intend for ill. I pray that is the case here, but shame on them for lowering to such levels.
I also decry Bishop Chane and others who, following GC, declared they would just ignore what GC had agreed to. This is just as grievous as the conservative plot to defeat all WR resolutions and elect a woman PB, just to cause trouble. Our church should be ashamed.
The good news is this diverse center, many of whom disagree with each other on sexuality issues, yet believe we can still be the church together, that our unity (see John 17) takes priority, that Jesus told us to be as one SO THAT the world will know who he is. The above actions don't show us as one. Yet many of us believe we can do so.
I also want to come against the way people talk about each other. The stereotypes and really harsh language about those whom which we disagree must stop - we are baptized Christians and should act like it! I am sick of conservatives saying that someone who believes that SSUs could be something that the church can bless, based on their own scriptural and theological reasoning’s and a sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence, that such beliefs equates to that person being anti-Christian, a non-believer, someone who does not agree with the Creeds or the resurrection, etc. This is patently untrue. Those, like Spong, who deny the resurrection, surely they are not Christian. That does not mean all "left" or "liberal" people fall into that camp. And most of the moderates I know profess the Creedal beliefs without hesitation.
I also point out that some in the "liberal" camp put no credence in the Bible or the teachings of the church. They don't allow for the deep, passionate feelings of those on the "right". They are unwilling to listen to their deep held beliefs in Scripture and what the authority of the Bible means to them, and how some of the actions of this church shake that to their core. Their feelings of pain, abandonment, confusion, anger are legitimate responses to this shaking up of their core beliefs. To discount that is unfair and of no use for us in this time of strife.
"From now on consider no one from a human point of view", Paul to Corinth. Paul to Ephesus in this week's reading says, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

Both groups into one, by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace. The wall has already been broken down. We, the church, need to realize that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

General Convention Thoughts, Part One

I know, I know. My adoring public has waited anxiously for me to post since leaving for the Episcopal General Convention 2006. I did intend to post during GC, but I was always just too tired! Here are some initial thoughts:
The process is, well, to me, VERY FRUSTRATING! To veterans of GC (this was my 1st time), they just smiled and laughed and nodded, knowingly. It is a legislative process, with committees assigned "legislation" (resolution) to work on, hold hearings on, amend or change or recommend discharge, etc. The committees meet every day, early and late. They debate resolutions assigned to them amongst themselves, and they schedule hearings where anyone can sign up to speak to resolutions. These hearings are posted daily so you can track resolutions you are interested in and be at those committee hearings, speak if you desire, etc.
Our deputation had 7 of 8 deputies assigned to committees, three of them as vice-chairs. We rock! Those of us not on committees were free agents and divided up to follow different resoltuons. I focused on the Evangelism committee and also committee 26, who had the very difficult task of dealing with Windsor Report resolutions.
The committee work is ok, sometimes a struggle but a good way to have different voices heard. It's the House of Deputies floor stuff that drove me insane! When you have over 800 deputies on the floor at once, with a high percentage of large egos, it can get nuts. Obviously there are some people who feel no resolution is worth anything if THEY don't get up to address it. There are others who gleefully wait for their turn at the mic to "move the question" - and thank God for them! I got so tired of debate where people just said the same things over and over and over - look, if your thought has been addressed - KEEP IT TO YOURSELF! The other frustating part was when people would propose amendments that drastically changed resolutions, instead of doing so at committee hearings.
Again, the process is difficult for me. But maybe that's just me.

In addition to that, the other enlightenment was for me to see how much time we spend majoring in the minors. Everyone's pet issue is addressed. Often it's hard to see a connection between one more resolution on global warming and how the Mission of Christ is to be addressed by our church. I missed hearing a lot about Jesus. Instead I heard a lot about Iraq and reperations and environmental waste from Katrina (more on that later) and on and on and on. For instance, the Liturgy and Worship committee had 50 resolutions to deal with. Some of them on some important stuff. Yet on the HoD floor deputies wanted to spend time debating the appropriate date for the feast day of Thurgood Marshall - GO TO THE COMMITTEE MEETING FOLKS and talk about that. Sigh.

The most exciting part of GC was the announcement and then reception of the new Presiding Bishop, The Right Rev. Katherine Jefforts-Schiori. I will have more to say about her election, and the really disappointing behavior of certain bishops in the voting, but for now I can say the Spirit was really alive in the room as the election results were announced and SHOCKED all of us. I don't know her well, or know much about her, so I will withold any judgement of her. Bottom line, she won - and although some intended her election for ill, God, I pray, intends it for good. I heard that line in the Bible.....

More later, friends.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My Hero

It's not that often in life when the "rest of the world" actually gets to see and understand what you already know. But that happened in the life of my family this week.
My LW was honored as the Hero of the Week by our local TV station. They have been selecting folks each week for acts above and beyond the call of duty during and after Hurricane Katrina (or as we call it "the storm". We almost never say the name of it down here).
My LW is an RN and lost her job from the storm. She had been on enough Honduras medical missions to know how to setup and run a medical clinic, so with our Bishop's permission, she did so. Beginning in a school gym (where we now hold church) without walls and missing some roof, she took some donated meds and with the help of some medical folks who showed up out of nowhere (initially from Virginia and from Meridian, MS), they got busy. They saw 350 patients the 1st day!
A web of docs and other medical personnel from all over the country was soon established - I cannot even describe to you how MUCH she was on her cell phone every day and night coordinating the army of volunteers. They came from everywhere and each of them was deeply touched by the work. When the free clinic was finally merged into a local clinic that she helped setup nearby, they had seen over 22,000 patients for free medical and mental health care. It was an amazing operation, truly amazing.
I am proud of my hero - I hope you are too. To see the video just go to here.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Back Briefly

Returned from D.C. Wednesday night. 6 adults and 31 teens! We stayed at the National Cathedral and did a "pilgrimage" there Sat. nite. Had the place to ourselves, it was pretty cool. It's an awesome cathedral (duh). Attended church there on Sunday, then we went to the National Zoo for a few hours. It was WAY TOO HOT and WAY TOO CROWDED. From there to Union Station where we took a trolley tour called Monuments by Moonlight. It was awesome. Our guide, Sooner Steve, was the best. We saw so much but as the evening wore on the kids kinda faded. It was a great tour though.
Monday morning (Memorial Day) we split into 3 groups for some service work. My daughter and I took the senior high kids to serve breakfast at So Others May Eat. We left at 620 am. Worked hard and served over 350 folks. Had a good time, I was proud of all of them.
Monday afternoon we did shopping / bowling / movie. Got home late and played some games (gargoyles is a fav of this bunch).
Tuesday was our final day. We went to the National Mall and split into groups based on interest. My group did the Holocaust Museum - it is an amazing and sobering place. I highly recommend it. We also did Air and Space (I loved it). Others did Natural History and Art Museum.
THat night we drove to Baltimore and took in Camden Yards, watching a great game b/t Orioles and Tampa. The kids loved it and we had perfect seats.
Wed. we flew back home and SLEPT a while!
Our Pentecost service was wonderful, with a baptism of the sweetest baby! We had our "traditional" Pentecost picnic and shared it with the wonderful volunteers of Camp Coast Care.
In between returning from DC and Sunday, I drove to Jackson for a GC2006 meeting (I am an alternate deputy), then after church drove an hour to do some family stuff with the LW's family. On the road tooooo much, for sure. I leave Sunday after church for General Convention and will post thoughts from there as often as I can.......

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

One of those weeks...

And it's only Wednesday....
Church on Sunday. This time, did NOT give a 100 word sermon!
Much to the disappointment of some of my folks! Monday in the office trying to complete a funeral bulletin for my aunt's service on Tuesday, and a complete program for an ordination on Wednesday. Finished both late.
Tuesday to Meridian where I celebrated and preached the funeral of my wonderful Aunt Sharlie. Got lots of great help from family members, her other nephews, some grand nieces and nephews. Church was packed, which was very sweet since she had not lived in that town for 30 years. We had a private ceremony at the cemetary for family afterwards. It's quite difficult to do these services for loved ones, but an honor as well. And some sweet older lady on the way out said "I've been going to funerals in the Episcopal church for 63 years and that was the best funeral homily I've ever heard"! I am sure my aunt got a kick out of that.
Wednesday we transformed the gym once again, adding seating and decorating with a red backdrop and actually used a red frontal that an adopting church sent us. The place looked GOOD! We had a packed house as we welcomed The Reverend Patrick Sanders, former youth minister of my church and the Episcopal church's newest transitional deacon. The service went VERY well, it's a LOT of work to put an ordination together - he was very appreciative and it was a great night. Wonderful reception afterwards in a tent in front of the school. I was so very proud of my folks - altar guild, hospitality, choir, verger, many hard workers to make this a special night for Patrick and his family.
Lots to do in the office tomorrow, around awards day at my son's school. Then get ready to leave, again! Accompanying our youth group to D.C., leaving 5 am Saturday morning and returning Wednesday. Wish me luck!! Think I should go to bed.....

Friday, May 19, 2006


My travels have continued the last couple of weeks. Much of it was spent in Birmingham at the hospital bedside of my mom's only sibling, who was dying from breast cancer.
My aunt died this past Tuesday morning at 4:30 am. The LW and I, along with her best friend of over 50 years (my aunt was only 60) and her Priest, who was also a dear friend of hers, were all with her.
Bham is abut 5 1/2 hours from here and this was our second trip to be with her in less than a week. Let me tell you, folks, if you don't all have your act together on Living wills, advance directives, power of attorney for health care, and your actual will, SHAME ON YOU. Although, as this story taught me, even having all that stuff does not make this easy.
My aunt had specific instructions not to be on life support, etc. As it became more evident this was the end for her, we (her family) found ourselves at odds with the team of doctors trying to "save" her. They eventually put her on a ventilator, for comfort, which we understood, but we also feared it would be most difficult to remove it. It WAS.
Sunday morning one doc called to say her lab results from a biopsy were back (finally) and the cancer had indeed spread throughout her body. We had suspected as much, as she was so very ill. Surgery was not an option and he said it was time to extubate and make her comfortable. He said he would wait until we got there.
We drove up after church, but when we arrived he and her oncologist had changed their mind! The oncologist especially was being completely unreasonable. I complained as high up the chain as you can on a Sunday night in a hospital, to no avail. We checked into a hotel.
Monday morning we began to meet with the various docs. The oncologist told us that my aunt had clearly told him to "do all you can" and that overrode any living will stuff. He held out hope the cancer was not breast cancer, but rather colon cancer and could be cut out. He obviously had not read the lab report. This was so frustrating. We waited all day until her surgeon, also her friend, showed up and after one look at her and the reports (her heart was really struggling too), stated he would not operate now or ever on her - it was time to help her die as peacefully as possible. All this time my aunt was heavily sedated. In my view, she was already gone, with a machine breathing for her.
The surgeon's report convinced her primary doc, ALSO her friend (she had this affect on everyone), to agree to extubate. He wanted to call the oncologist as a courtesy. Then we were told (by a nurse, this was all by phone with her doctor) since he could not reach the oncologist we would have to wait another day! Well, that was it for me. I got very angry and emotional that my poor aunt was being put through the VERY THING she had said all her life she did not want. I walked out of her room in tears, only to see the primary doc come running over. He was worried that my wife and I were having to drive home, and he did not think that fair to us. He decided to go ahead and remove the vent, and to tell the oncologist whenever he talked to him. Thank you Lord.
My aunt was extubated at 530 pm. She died at 430 am. We were with her the entire time. She died peacefully without a struggle. It was an honor and privilege to be with her. I truly believe part of the fight with these doctors was because they all really loved and cared for her - if you met her, you had no choice! Her life was too short, but the impact was broad and deep, a more caring and compassionate person I have never known.
I will be doing her funeral next Tuesday in her home town. It will be difficult, to say the least, but another privilege for me.
My LW, who has worked in hospice, was amazing during all this. Her care for my aunt and her dealings with the staff were such a gift. The fantastic nurses on the CCU who cared for her were also heros, and supported us the whole time. My aunt's priest is a super guy and he grieves deeply for her. God was with us all.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Travelin' and a dream

I used to love to travel, especially by air. Now days I don't think anyone likes it. And with gas prices what they are, it becomes more difficult to justify driving vs. flying. When it takes all day to fly somewhere (because we only have direct flights to Atlanta, Memphis, or Houston), plus all the hassel, I had gotten where I would drive every chance I could. But economics now make that decision harder.
I went to Alabama two weeks ago, drove to Kanuga, NC last week for a Province IV meeting, and looks like I will drive about 12 hours this Fri and Sat for a fund raising opportunity for my Parish rebuilding efforts. Lots of time in the car, but sometimes that's ok.
Two weeks ago the LW and I drove to Orange Beach, AL for a FREE respite vacation sponsored by the Foundation for the Mid South and other ministry organizations. We joined 15 other clergy and spouses from the Katrina-affected area. It was good to meet and hear stories from these folks, although I must say our theology regarding the storm was very different in most cases. I was the only Episcopal clergy person, all the rest were Baptist, Methodist, or Church of Christ or non-denom. Yet their passion for the work was inspiring and it was good to be with others who are in the midst of this tragedy. I spent most of my time doing what I needed most - resting. Slept late, laid on the beach, played in the surf with my son, read, slept some more. It was a nice, post-Holy Week retreat.
One night while there I had a dream. I was back at seminary with a lot of classmates (see post below on our classmate, Larry, who died Palm Sunday). I am sure Larry's memorial service was on my brain. I was conducting some sort of seminar, and the audience included teachers, students, and family members and folks who live here. When I had finished my presentation, a disturbing thing happened - I walked over to a classmate and began to sob on his shoulder - begging him not to make me "go back there". I wailed and cried and was so disturbed, I made myself wake up (I do that a lot when dreaming).
I wonder what it could mean...............

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Very Holy Week

I know it's a little late, but I've been intentionally away from the computer, recovering from what was for me a very powerful and draining Holy Week.
We made the decision to "do" all of HW in the gym where we have our Sunday services - and which also serves as living quarters for the volunteers who come to help our community. We convert their dining area into church every Sunday. We could have used some other local churches, as we did at Christmas and for our Bishop's visit, but there was no where we could go consistently all week, and I thought it too confusing to mix things up. So, with the great help of the Camp Coast Care folks, and with lots of hard work, we declared the gym as holy and sacred in time and space for HW. I think it worked wonderfully well.
We had Eucharist Mon and Tue, then on Wed we did Holy Eucharist with Healing. Formerlly this service was a huge part of who we were at St Patricks, very well attended on Wed evenings, gospel music, healing, Eucharist, then a shared meal. We have missed it terribly (me, especially, for I could truly relax and worship during that service). So we brought it back. Unfortunately, all the HW services were lightly attended by our folks, it was spring break for all the public schools so many were traveling, but also folks here are just plain worn out - and perhaps not really ready to walk to the cross this year. The service, though, was great and we will figure out ways to continue it.
Maundy Thursday was powerful and draining and spiritual. Most of the volunteers joined us (as they would the rest of HW) and washing their feet had special significance to me. We managed to dim lights and strip the altar and hold a watch at the altar of repose in the school building next door.
Two Good Friday services (I used the GF liturgy at noon and at 6) were very powerful to me, although again very lightly attended. I think I do my best preaching on Good Friday. But again, that service was probably too much for our folks to handle right now.
The Easter Vigil was glorious. We rearranged the chairs on the gym floor to focus on the center, where we placed the font. We lit the new fire and processed in with candles. We did 4 lessons, all presented by story tellers, instead of just reading them - they acted them out and put them in their own words. This was a major hit! I preached without a text, not knowing what I would say until I got up. Then we baptized 4 - one infant and 3 others from 15 to 7 years old. That was fantastic! Then it was time for the Alleluia's, we had stage spot lights that once the 3rd Alleluia rang out, came on and illuminated the altar, which was beautifully decorated. We even have a new "reredos", a cloth to match the seasonal color hanging on piping behind the altar. Folks - it looked like CHURCH in there! Bells rang and the lights came on and we welcomed the Easter season.
Easter Sunday was great, lots of faces I haven't seen in a while, wonderful music, an Easter egg hunt afterwards.
Then it was time to collapse! This was HARD to pull off. I have a brand new secretary, so creating bulletins for all these services was a chore. Working with the camp folks and trying to get my own setup folks a vision for each service was challenging. I moved lots of chairs, etc. Yet it proved to be a HW to remember......
If you care to hear the sermons, they are all posted here - just click the Sermons link.

Soon I will post on a most interesting travel week - and remind me to tell you about a couple of dreams. My friend Larry, see post below, was prominent in both of them.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ode to Larry

I suppose it was just as it should have been. Palm Sunday. Hosanna.....Crucify.....a phone call that my good friend and seminary classmate, The Rev. Larry Motz, had died after a valiant struggle with cancer.
We waved palms outside the gym. Paraded around to All Glory Laud and Honor, led by our talented organist playing her flute. The gym was pretty full, and a couple of new families joined us. Yet, Larry was on my mind.
I could fill this blog up with stories about my friend. We visited Seabury on the same day, and ended up living one floor apart on our end of the apartment complex on campus. He was class president, I was vice president (after a hotly contested runoff!). We were as different as you can be. Larry, the GQ model, single, impeccably attired at all times. Me with the wife and 3 kids, almost always in a t-shirt and shorts, rarely shaven, loving escaping from the banker attire I had worn for 20 years.
Larry taught me much.....way more than I can express here. I loved him. I learned from him. I worshipped with him. He started a Caritas group on campus to do pastoral care, and my family was their 1st customer (my son was quite ill our 1st year of seminary).
Larry was very funny, saving his expressions and comments for the right time ("you may be seated" - inside joke).
Lord, there is so much more to say.

Yesterday while presiding at Holy Eucharist, I had one of those moments. This will sound weird. It happened to me the very 1st time I celebrated Eucharist after my priest ordination, and on occasions since. While celebrating, sometimes, I am able to observe....well.....myself. It's like I am watching this amazing and risky act while I am doing it. The "awesome-ness" of being the celebrant, at times, speaks to me. Yesterday it happened again, but in a different way. As I was saying the words, I could see Larry. He was in a purple chasuble and stole, a very pretty set, it was one he bought while we were in seminary. I could hear his voice, see him doing the manual acts, holding the elements, breaking the bread. For a brief moment, I thought I would break down, but instead I was strengthened by his presense, I knew he was giving me "that look", and that I needed to carry on. In a sense, we con-celebrated, although no one else knew it. It was a blessing and powerful and...yes...weird. But there was such a sweetness and goodness about it, above all else it was just RIGHT.

I told those classmates of mine that I have spoken to since getting the news, that it is just like Larry to influence us once again - to give us a living example of Holy Week in its fullest, to help us one more time, this week. For Larry has made it through his Good Friday. He had told his Bishop that he feared he would not make it to Easter, when in fact that is exactly what he has done - made it to Easter. So for us that knew him, he has made our Holy Week and Easter a time deeper and richer and sadder and ..... RIGHT.

My brother, may you go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in God's heavenly kingdom. I will miss you. I will see you again. God bless.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Almost here......

HOLY WEEK that better time to be a Priest! I live for this stuff.
I became an Episcopalian a few years after I was confirmed, the 1st time I did the "full meal deal" for Holy Week. WOW....I had been missing SO much as a Baptist! Then seminary taught me the wonder and glory of the Easter Vigil and I have been hooked ever since.
We have an ongoing debate down here, and at my Frest Start group, about the Vigil. Most are not in to it too much. Waste of one comes....what's the use? Me, I gotta have it! I have been doing a TON of teaching since I arrived here about the Vigil, and folks are really supporting it.
This year, Holy Week of course takes on a whole new flavor. Doing all the services in a school gym that is the "home" to 125 volunteers makes Lots of time management, moving of chairs and tables, decorating, thinking WAY outside the box - it's a LOT and it's a blast!
My poor new secretary is feeling a little overwhelmed as I keep producing bulletins for all these services. But...I have Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday done AND I have done sermons already for the first two. I suspect I will finish the other three tomorrow - it all has to flow together in my book, so might as well write them together.
We will gather outside the gym and parade around with palms on Sunday....Eucharist on Mon, Tue, and Wed (with healing on Wed). MT, two GF, THE VIGIL, and Easter Sunday followed by a fun egg hunt (eggs provided by the Resurrection Rabbit).
The Vigil will include story telling and 5 baptisms by candelight around a font set in the middle of the gym floor, with chairs encircling the font. I still got to figure out how to "instantly" light the place, the gym lights take forever to warm up.
When our Bishop visited last week, he commented how Bishops from all over the country have told him consistently how our Sunday morning worship in the gym had really been a blessing to the volunteers from their respective dioceses. It was wonderful to hear and really great for our people to hear!
So....come on down...there's work to do and HOLY WEEK TOO!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Defend O Lord your servant.....

NYC was a blast! The LW and I had one free day (the day we arrived), her 1st trip to the Big Apple. We went to a play on Broadway (Hairspray - it was great and we had GREAT seats thanks to a wonderful volunteer at our relief center who used to work there). We had a wonderful pre-play dinner, then we wandered around Times Square after the show. The weather was perfect and LW was thrilled.
On Wednesday she began her training and orientation for her new (PAYING!!) job. I had a meeting with some church folks, then took the subway up to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I enjoyed a self directed tour, and am still amazed by the size of that place, world's largest Cathedral it claims. They are still recovering from a tragic fire that damaged a transept a few years ago. That evening I preached, then gave a Lenten talk at St. James on Madison Ave. This wonderful church was the site of my Plunge experience at seminary, a real highlight of my seminary time. I spent 2 weeks there with two classmates and it was way cool.
They welcomed me with open arms and I was able, I think, to tell the story of St. Patrick's and the Coast of Miss. in ways they had not heard before. They are committed to partner with us in the rebuilding of our church and our community.
Thursday I traveled via subway to 815, the national church offices. There I met with reps from the Episcopal CHurch Foundation, to talk about the new fund raising campaign, From Darkness to Day, chaired by my Bishop and the Bishop of Louisiana. Again I was able to tell our story to folks who appreciated the fresh perspective. I think it always helps to have personal connections to these events.
I then met one of my best friends from seminary for lunch. He is planting a brand new church in the Diocese of Deleware. It was great to catchup and to share in his excitement about the church plant. Those that know me know that church planting has a special place in my heart (although God has had other plans for me so far), so I live through his ministry and pray for him and his work constantly. He will do well, he has the right skills and work ethic for this difficult work.
That evening I joined the LW and her new work friends for a wonderful dinner.
The next morning I went to Ground Zero and visited Trinity Wall Street and St. Paul's - a holy place if there ever was one.
Our perfect trip got weird on the way home. Due to a security breach at LaGuardia, we were over 3 hours late leaving (for another time my thoughts on how totally inept Homeland Security and TSA are), and ended up spending the night in Memphis. I made it to the workshop I was helping to host by their lunch break the next day. Fortunately, some good folks were able to step in and everything was fine.
Whew...that's a lot. I will end with this - we had our annual visitation of our Bishop last night. We are the 1st church on the coast to host this occasion. We met in the Methodist church (they've been SO GOOD to us). We had a nice turnout, a great message, a very nice service and an incredible reception. Two baptisms and NINE ADULT confirmations! I am so thrilled over the confirmation class, it really speaks to the hope people have for us.
Lastly, one of the difficult things I have hinted to recently has seen some hope. Reconciliation is taking place, thanks be to God. And thank YOU for your prayers - they are being answered.

Friday, March 03, 2006


I am really, really tired of being tired.

I think fatigue is another storm symptom. It seems like with each passing day, we are getting nowhere. I know it’s not true, but it just FEELS like that, most of the time.

I know that’s the wisdom of the small victories I talked about earlier. The big picture is just too overwhelming. But when you see all this stuff on the six month anniversary, and you know hurricane season is under 100 days away, and the beach area still looks like Hiroshoma, it gets to you. Click on St. Casserole’s blog (a great one to read, by the way) for some recent pics. RECENT is the key word, six months out.

I have been at my church now for two years. Two years ago, I started here right after Lent had begun. Last year I was in Honduras with our medical mission team for Ash Wed. This year, we did the service with the good folks at the Methodist church. They have been so very gracious to us, allowing us to use their facilities for important events. Yet I sensed in my folks such a yearning to have “our” service in “our” space, whatever that may be. We gotta get out of the gym. I just don’t know how to make it happen quickly.

Next week I travel to NYC. The LW is getting oriented on her new job, and I will speak at St. James on Madison Ave. I spent 2 weeks there in seminary, it’s a great church. They want to help. I hope I can tell our story in ways that allows folks to really hear and see and want to help.

But first – I think I want a nap.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Small Victories

I know, I know. I wait too long in between posts to think anyone is ever going to continue to stop by and read what I have to say. But, I am not giving up (yet) on the blog, so here goes some updating.

It's been such a busy 5 or 6 weeks. From the parish cleanup day on our church site at the beach, to our Annual Meeting where we listened to our people tell of their pain and sorrow and hope over the rebuilding of our church, in particular to returning to the beach site or not, to our Diocesan Annual Council, which was excellent by the way, to a vestry retreat, to now - it's been non-stop. In between we've waded in the waters again - as we finally had water connected to the office trailer only to have a pipe burst and flood the main office. It remains disconnected, finding folks to work on such minimal problems is impossible.
The events described above have been both affirming and difficult. Under the surface I have been subjected to, let's say, some painful times. I am unsure as to why, and totally confused as to what about, and can only pray in my despair.
However, the vestry retreat was superb - the best one I have ever been a part of. Our leader did a wonderful job and we all came out of it refocused on the tasks ahead. He helped us see the value of claiming "small victories" along the way, recognizing that the overall tasks ahead of us are so huge that it's hard to chip away at them.
We have already claimed some SVs and more coming soon. I also sense a rededicated group willing to establish good norms in how we work together.
Out of pain comes hope.....

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Still processing....

I can't really say much yet regarding the Annual Meeting. We allowed folks time to speak about their desires, about the pain of losing their church, about the holy ground that we may or may not return to. It was important and moving and good.
But a couple of things happened in that time that I need to reflect on internally. They were quite painful to me, personally. I cannot go into details in this forum. It was a sleepless night....

Monday, January 23, 2006


Are we making progress? How do we progress? Two good and different questions...
Lately the signs have been mixed. Some folk do seem to be getting there. Little signs of hope, of change. Some of the debris piles are beginning to disappear (although not along the beach). New construction is still a long way off as local officials struggle with elevation requirements and building codes. One of my folks was told that it may be as long as 24 months before sewer service is available to his can you think about rebuilding without water and sewer? So two steps forward and 1 or 2 or 5 back....
Two Saturdays ago the people of St. Patrick's gathered corporately on our beach property for the 1st time since the storm (we don't say Katrina any more - it's just "THE STORM"). We worked hard cleaning the lot, then had a box lunch. We then made our way to our outdoor chapel, most of it was ok, in the park behind our church that we had donated to the city 4 years ago. We had Eucharist and my deacon and I laid hands and annointed the people with healing prayer and oil. Our seminarian, former youth minister, played and sang for us (he is quite the musician / singer). It was a very cathartic time, lots of tears were shed.
This coming Saturday we will have our Annual Meeting. We will elect 4 to vestry, then we will move into a "town hall" type meeting. During that time parishioners are invited to share their thinking, their hopes and dreams, their comments, on where to rebuild our church - return to the beach or not. We are also receiving written comments.
In letters sent out by me this week, I have stressed to everyone that the container for our deliberations must be the mission of our church - why are we here, who are we called to be. That must determine where we go, along with the practical and emotional pieces.
I appreciate your prayers as we go through this important and difficult process.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Weathering the Storms

Jan. 4 - 7 the National Episcopal church hosted a conference in Orlando called Weathering the Storms (WTS). Sponsored by the Church Pension Fund and put on by CREDO, they gathered clergy from the impact areas of Katrina, Rita and other storms. Families were TOTALLY included, as well as diocesan support staffs (and 3 bishops).
This is perhaps the best event / conference I have ever attended. The 5 Knight's went down a day early (being the BAD BAD parents we are, having NEVER taken our children to Evil mean Disney) to have some fun. And BOY did we.
The first day we made it to the hotel and our room was ready EARLY! We were staying at the Marriot World Center, and amazing place. We headed to the pool (they have 7) and ended up at a pool and hot tub that was unoccupied by any non-Knights! For several hours we played, laughed, swam, soaked, played water volleyball together, just me, the LW, the 20 yr old LD, the 18 yr old LD and the 12 yr old LS. I cannot remember a time when the 5 of us have laughed and relaxed so well together. It was SUCH A BLESSING!! And our older children did not have to worry about being embarrassed hanging with the parents, cuz no one else was around. SWEET!
The next day we went to Disney MGM. It was OK. Long lines, expensive, only couple of rides worth doing - I truly do not get the whole Disney thing!
The conference started that evening. We were reunited with some dear friends from seminary who are now in Baton Rouge doing great work, and our former seminary Dean and his LW, he is now Director of Mission for the Ep. Church and did a great presentation. They are also good friends of ours and we really loved being with them again.
One of the best gifts of the conference was the freedom to do whatever we wanted - attend sessions, or blow them off! I did some of both. Played a round of golf. Got a goooooood massage. LW got a facial. They had planned activities for all the different age groups of kids (there were almsot 60 there under 18). The sessions I attended were SUPERB. The off time was awesome. The food tremendous.
We learned a lot about rest, about respite, about compassion fatigue, about taking care of ourselves. We networked and shared stories and made connections. We laughed and drank and laughed, gathering in the hot tub for "adult swim" time each evening. So fun.
I snuck out on Friday and took my 12 yr old LS to Epcot (man, I will NEVER go there again, but he liked it ok). Then on Sat after lunch, when the conference had ended, 16 of us went to Universal Studios and had a BLAST. It was quite cold, so the crowds were not too bad. I much prefer it to Disney. We would have done the Islands of Adventure but most of it is water rides and it was far to cold for that.
It was a great, great trip. I will have more to say about "re-entry" soon, but for now, thank you Lord for WTS!