Friday, August 14, 2009

A Time to Bless

Monday (17th) is the 40th anniversary of Hurricane Camille, the most powerful storm (in wind speed) to ever make landfall in the US (at least in our recorded history). Sustained winds of 200 mph+, incredible destruction and loss of life.
I was eleven when Camille hit, living in Hattiesburg. It was my oldest brother's birthday. It was also the first night I ever stayed up the ENTIRE night, as we sheltered in the hallway of our new home, hearing the wind howl (it was about 140mph winds in Hattiesburg, 70 miles north of the Coast). Our house was ok, trees down everywhere but none hit our home. We were without power for a good bit of time, but otherwise ok. I won't ever forget my Dad taking us outside during the eye of the storm - it was the middle of the night, but you could see the cloud wall as we stood in the calmness as the eye passed over. Then the wind started picking up again, this time from the opposite direction, and we hunkered down again.
Two weeks from tomorrow (the 29th) is the 4th anniversary of Katrina, the most devastating storm in US history. While Camille destroyed 6000 homes on the coast of Mississippi, Katrina destroyed 65,000. It still boggles the mind, and helps us understand why so much is still not done.
Elsewhere here I have chronicled riding Katrina out and dealing with the aftermath, losing our church, etc. And while it is very true that much is left to be done - one thing IS done - our new church home! While we celebrated on Pentecost Sunday our first service in the building, tomorrow (Saturday the 15th) we will officially Dedicate and Consecrate our new home.
Bishop Gray will be joined by Bishop Howard of the Diocese of Florida (who spearheaded an enormous donation from that diocese to our rebuilding), and we will truly celebrate a grand accomplishment, made possible by the help of so many churches and people. We are truly blessed.
The service will be joyous and fun, and a BIG party is planned afterwards. If you are around, please join us. It's a time to bless and to celebrate!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sink or Swim

For those following the never-a-dull-moment adventures of the Knight clan, today was my turn for a near-death experience!
It wasn't fun AT ALL!
I was traveling today to Gray Center, a 3 1/2 hour drive from home, for Clergy Day at the Miss. Conference on Music and Liturgy, which started at 10 am. Weather in Jackson was pretty bad, and it was slow going from there to Canton. Unknown to me, the Canton area (Gray Center is just north of Canton, out in the "country" had suffered some flash flooding during the night, and all area ditches, streams, etc. were quite full. Even some of the lower rooms at Gray Center got water in them last night, which had NEVER happened before.
Remember I said "unknown to me"!
The bottom dropped out about 5 miles from GC, but I carried on, going slow, taking my time. I made the turn off the hightway onto lil ole Way Road, a mile drive to GC. There was water on the road, on the sides, but the center looked fine, I could see the yellow lines and it all seemed ok.
Suddenly, as I was driving slowly down the center of the road, water started rushing at the car from direcly in front of me. I was immediately surrounded by pretty deep water. Looking behind me, the road was swamped there also. I tried to continue, thinking I was closer to high ground in front of me (turns out that was true, not that it helped), when a "surge" came at me, it was like a dam had broken or something, water came over the HOOD and my engine died, of course. I couldn't get it started, and there I sat, water rising all around me, thinking I am the world's dumbest person.
For about 10 seconds I thought - this is not really happening. Then I went to "what the *&*^%(* do I do now? Do I leave the car? Do I wait and see if the water goes down? I was not floating (yet). I rolled the window down (it was POURING remember), in case i needed to go out it (power windows). I decided first that if any sign of the car floating occurred, I was out the window. You can't swim IN a car! The overflowing ditches on both sides resembled rapids, with very swift current, but I wasn't quite submerged where the car was floating yet. Looking ahead, the water was piling higher - this was not good news. I tried the phone (cell service is VERY sketchy in this area). Couldn't reach anyone. Finally got my daughter who was on camp staff all summer (although not on site at this time) and was able to convey to her that I was trapped and water was rising in my car and please call GC and see if anyone can come help - a truck with a rope perhaps?
Water is now filling up the floor boards. In my mirror, as I continue to think "what the 8(**^&*^& do I do now?", I saw a truck from Entergy, the local power company. BIG truck! They are stopped at the highway and I frantically wave at them. They drive forward, but when they hit the deep part it sends a WAVE (wake?) forward which lifts the rear of my car several feet up. WOOHOO! OK, it really wasn't fun. Then these two wonderful lineman from Entergy get out and wade to my car. The water is above their waists! By now it is over the seat in the car! I ask if I should get out and they say not yet, trying to figure out a plan. They can't come around me with the wench because it's too deep and can't tell where the ditches are. About then, Joe Green from GC staff arrives on the other side of the road, and he wades in also. These are really great people! We decide the 3 of them can push / float the car back while I try to steer it away from the ditches.
And we did! They did! Made it all the way back to high ground near the highway. I was saved!

It really was touch and go for a time, especially when the phone would not work and no help was in site, and I was contemplating making a dash (swim) for it. The water was flowing so fast and was really high at that point. As someone who has always wondered how people can be so DUMB as to drive into a flash flood, I can honestly say - I get it now. This water came from nowhere, on a road I have driven a million times. I was shocked / stunned by how fast and furious it came. I am grateful to God, and Dwight and Andy of Entergy and Joe of CBG / GC.
The car was towed to the Toyota dealer. It's probably a total loss. My middle child who is in Jackson this summer arrived as I waited for the tow and we went to lunch and then to rent a car. I am home, cleaned up and thankful.
As I read Facebook posts on my wife's FB page of all the people who were so glad to hear I was ok, I shed some tears. Thank you all for your love and support!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Some more GC thots...

I know I promised some more brilliant comments! Or at least
After GC ended, the LW and I were in Santa Barbara for a few days - what a beautiful place! I preached at Trinity, Santa Barbara, a wonderful parish that is helping St. Patrick's rebuild. They are tremendous folks there, had a great time. AND they put us up in a hotel ON THE PACIFIC OCEAN. We had a blast.
Back home now a few days, and really enjoyed being back at St. Pat's. Held a post-GC session with any interested folks after church - had a good turnout and really good conversation.
Some of what I shared with them plays off of what I've been saying here - that I think GC is too big, too clumsy. It's too much of a political bureaucracy. I know it's our polity, I get that. But the system is too flawed.
Take the position of the President of the House of Deputies (PHOD). Our current PHOD, Bonnie "We don't need no stinkin bishops" Anderson, by canon, appoints all legislative committee members (at least the HoD members, the Presiding Bishop appoints bishops to those committees). This year she decided, arbitrarily, to not appoint any 1st time deputies to committees. On the surface, this seems a good idea, GC is quite overwhelming your first trip and new deputies, by not serving on committees, will have a chance to observe any committee meetings and take in the scope of GC. BUT this also limits voices, especially young adult voices, on the committees, we have so few of those it's a shame to keep them off committees of interest. I know committee assignments must be a very tough job, but it is a very powerful factor. The same goes for dispatch of business and secretary of the house, they too, with the PHOD, can greatly influence what comes before the house and when it does.
I have stated before my disappointment in a "Committee of the Whole" to spend 2 hours of legislative time, in addition to lengthy committee hearings, on the D025 resolution (the non-repeal repeal of B033 of 2006 discussed previously). Again we spend time, energy, focus, attention on matters of sexuality, when we NEED to be looking at growth, mission, evangelism, and the decline of our numbers. To top it off, the budget presented on the next to last day eliminated lots of program from the national office. This is not a bad thing, in my opinion, except we removed the new office of evangelism! Really? We did agree to cut the next GC back by 2 days, to cut budgets for the CCABs (thank goodness - they are a post for another day), and thankfully limited some requested funding for PHOD travel allowance. Do we really need (or want) the PHOD traveling around the country / world speaking for the church, or even for the HoD? I don't see that in the job description (I could be wrong, wouldn't be the first time). Unlike the PHOD and quite a few others in the HoD, I am really ok letting our bishops be bishops, and particularly letting our Presiding Bishop speak for us when that is necessary (not that I always agree with the PB, whomever it may be, but that is an expected role of our Primate).
Unfortunately, we also greatly sliced the new program for Hispanic / Latino ministry and removed most of the funding for our mission initiative designed to raise significant funds over the next few years. I fear those decisions will come back to haunt us.
If I was king, there are a few standing committees and legislative committees I would just eliminate completely, but to mention that to the "regulars" of GC is to aim directly at the sacred cows they must protect - and trust me when I say they really can't hear you when you propose that they have served their purpose, and in this new age are not really where our time and energy and money should be spent. We must become a mean and lean church at the national level, and these budget realities will force that. That's ok - the diocese and local parishes are where the rubber meets the road, anyway. I anxiously look forward to how we in this diocese will address evangelism and growth issues, near and long term.
Lastly, please don't take my comments as a total disavowing of GC. I think I can be a voice from the "outside" that perhaps can help us see a better way forward. But meanwhile, there is much goodness about GC. Worship is amazing, and connecting with so many folks across this church is really terrific - especially the legions who have helped us in our rebuilding. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve, and hope to get the chance to do so again in 2012.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Winding down

GC 2009 is almost done. This morning the debate will center on Same Sex Blessings. The Bishops passed a greatly modified resolution from what the committee sent them, that does not authorize official blessing liturgies, but asks for study and collection of those for future consideration. The resolution also recognizes that in some states civil same-sex marriages are legal, and that a pastoral response to those is needed by the church.
The full text can be found HERE.
By the way, the evangelism resolution that was defeated, C069, is HERE. I have spoken to some committee members to pass on my great disappointment. They felt the reason for recommending rejection had to do with the resolution using a report done by the Church of England, but no one had access to the report. I told them I thought that was pretty lame excuse, because all the resolution does is ask our House of Bishops theology committee to study the how we can evangelize and recognize the uniqueness of Christ in a multi-faith society, and mentions the C of E report as a way the C of E addressed this issue.
I am happy to report, though, that a signficant document and resolution on inter-religious work was passed by both houses. In that document, found HERE, we very clearly state our belief in Jesus as Lord, reaffirm the Creeds and quadrilateral. The document and resolution are addressing how to live in this world of multi-faith, multi-religions and I think is an excellent resource. Now mind you, I haven't read the entire thing (it's big) but skimming the surface this is something I can support.
We trimmed the budget by 23 million dollars yesterday, and even reduced the asking of dioceses, recognizing the tough economic times (and shrinking of our church). I thought the budget committee did phenomonal work. A lot of "sacred cows" had huge reductions in funding, and it calls us to really look hard at what should take place at a "national church" (I know, I am not supposed to use that term, but whatever) level vs. at diocesan and parish levels. Makes sense to me. We need a mean and lean 815 (HA - that rhymed) and this is a good start.
Off to the debate. I will probably have another post or two. I owe you one on my observation and belief about how things are manipulated here by the President of the HoD and others, who are supposed to be "agenda free". Just one man's opinion!
I do thank the Diocese of Mississippi for the privilege to serve you all as a member of our deputation. And I must say that Eucharist every day has been amazing - incredible music and wonderful preaching.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Long Day....

I know you are probably looking for comments on D025. I was not surprised it passed the House of Deputies, but I was profoundly shocked that it passed in the House of Bishops, especially by a huge margin.
The resolution, which really is very well written (please read the whole thing HERE before making judgments), is being interpreted by some as repealing the moratorium on consecration of gay Bishops, but by many others as not doing so. It basically affirms our commitment to the Anglican Communion and recognizes we have canonical processes in place that we must follow in approving candidates for holy orders, including bishops.
In our own deputation, some who voted in favor were adamant that they didn't see it as overturning B033, one of the committee members who worked on it told me explicitly that was not the intent.
However, the early "play" on this outside of GC is that it did just that. But several bishops I talked to said the moratorium was in place, and would be until a gay bishop is consecrated - whatever that means. Here I quote deputy Stephen Horst of Connecticut -

"Ultimately, it does not matter what anyone thinks apart from Canon Theologians.
The opinions of the authors don't matter.
The opinions of those who want the legislation to mean this or that don't matter.
Of course, in another sense, there are opinions that matter....
On the one hand, the LBGT community, who now feels affirmed by this Church, matters enormously. Indeed, they matter infinitely, both as individuals and collectively. (This is one part of why I voted FOR this resolution!!)
But by the same token, the opinion of the wider Anglican Communion matters. And I would strongly urge them to take the view that this legislation CHANGES NOTHING in our Canons or Discipline, as was urged by both the authors and the Presiding Bishop, in addition to speakers in both Houses
I certainly admit that there are parties in both Houses who wish to claim that this legislation renounces B033. Yet I submit that this is not so, as D025 makes no normative claims, but merely cliaims FACT.
Legislatively, we are left with the implications of existing canons, and of course with the deeper responsibilities to Scripture, Reason and Tradition. (And additionally to Experience for those of us within the Wesleyan tradition, to which I would solemnly commend the reader, with the admonition that s/he be careful to distinguish that Rev. Wesley meant by "experience" from what the reader might mean by the same expression)".

Needless to say, it was a long day at GC. It started with something that really irritated me, a recommendation by the Evangelism committee to reject a resolution asking the Bishops Theology Committee to report back on ways we can talk about the uniqueness of Christ in our multi-faith world. This committee amazes me at times, as a similar resolution in 2006 was rejected by the committee. It's like we are afraid to say we believe in Jesus, that it would be rude to say what we believe, and to whom we belong. Folks, we have a lot to learn about evangelism, but meanwhile, I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. Some deputy "called the question" on this before more than one speaker could even protest the recommendation to reject, and debate ended then, before I could get to a microphone myself.
However, evangelism rallied with several other resolutions that passed, including some focus on church planting. I was pleased with those resolutions.
I am off the floor today, and I may wander up to the Bishops meeting to see what they are up to this morning. More later - I do hope you are praying for us all.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fiddling while the Titanic Burns

HA! I know I mixed "sayings" in the title - what do you expect, I'm not a Rocket Surgeon!

The title does speak to my continued frustration. Our Blue Book (which has the reports from all the Commissions, Committees, Agencies, and Boards (CCABs) as well as pre-filed resolutions) sent to all deputies before GC has an eye opening report from the "State of the Church" standing committee. In it they honestly report on decline in membership and attendance of the Episcopal church (which echoes that of other mainline denominations). It is a very sobering look at the "facts", the real data, and calls us to WAKE UP and deal with this reality. Yet there is no question here that all the time and energy is spent, still, on issues dealing with sexuality.
Which I am not going to talk about, today, on here. For a very balanced and well thought out post on this, see David Johnson's blog here.
We did pass, in the House of Deputies, a brilliant strategic plan put forth by the office for Latino/Hispanic ministry, asking for 3.5 million dollars to fund a plan to reach out to Hispanics in our country, with materials to help, best practices, church plant funding, education and training - it is very well done. You can read it online here.
This is the kind of thinking we need and the kind of project I can support. Yes, it was passed in the HoD, but with very little fanfare or discussion, other than several deputies who testified how badly we need it. I would love to see this same kind of plan for mission, evangelism, and growth for the whole church, not just "targeting" the Latino/Hispanic community (which I support), but a large coordinated well planned effort to grow all of our church as well.
I say that not only, or even mostly, because we are shrinking along with the other mainlines. But because Jesus gave us the Great Commission, to go and baptize and teach and make disciples, and when we are distracted from that work, when we spend way more time on insular fighting, we lose our witness to a hurting world. We have something profoundly wonderful to offer, let's talk about how to do that across the church.
Next post I will have some comments about how things run (or don't) around here. I am a little disturbed by how committee assignments are made, the way certain visitors are allowed to address the HoD (with certain opinions on the hot issues, without the balance of other opinions being offered), etc. Meanwhile, please, please keep praying for all of us - lots of difficult stuff yet to come.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday in Anaheim

This morning I attended the main Eucharist of GC - I was told over 9000 people were there! It was a wonderful service with fantastic music and singing. The ECW reps presented their UTO offerings, and the PB preached an excellent sermon about traveling light, but remembering to bring with us the sacrament of the reign of God. She was joined at the altar by the two previous Presiding Bishops - Frank Griswold and Ed Browning, a nice touch.
On Sunday there are no legislative committee meetings, but we do go back into legislative session in the House of Deputies later this afternoon. I am the floor again (as the only clergy alternate I am getting plenty of floor time). I am thrilled over some of the Evangelism resolutions coming up and hope they will be passed. They call us to develop real plans for new church plants, and for assistance for all our people in being evangelists to a multi-cultural, multi-faith world. We can NOT afford to be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, and with the decline we have been experiencing it's high time we really focused on how to tell our story - which is a good story with amazing things to share in how we pray, how we worship, the sacraments, etc.
Tonight is a special ECW event with Elisabeth Von Trapp playing and singing, it benefits the Jericho Road housing intiative in New Orleans established by the Diocese of Louisiana after Katrina - a wonderful program.
More later.......

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dragging and Listening

The legislative "stuff" continues to move at a snail's pace. We are a little behind where we should be right now, but it will catch up.
On the 2nd try our deputies (826 of them) finally were able to use electronic "doo-hickeys" to vote in an election process. I am so proud of them! If you want to be a little afraid for the future of our church, watch the House of Deputies struggle to press a button and hit send - it's very, very scary. I was on the floor this afternoon, so I saw it with my own eyes! Way to go HoD!
Yesterday and today the "Committee of the Whole" spent time listening, first one-on-one with people near our tables, and later via a lottery that selected who could speak for 2 minutes each, to opinions regarding B033 from 2006 - the last minute resolution passed to uphold a moratorium on approving any more gay bishops (the wording is different - but that's what it was about). Soon the committee responsible for that issue (World Mission) will craft a resolution for us to deal with legislatively on the floor. Should be fun!
Like many here, I am truly torn over what to do with this. I worry if we remove the moratorium we will be asked out of the Anglican Communion - a real fear. Or at least put on some sort of 2nd level group. Also, should we remove the moratorium, are we missing a chance to continue to witness and listen and debate and learn from each other on both sides of the issue? Jesus talked a lot about unity - how far are we willing to go? But at what price to go there?
The Archbishop of Canterbury, before his Bible study mediation (which ROCKED by the way, see David Johnson's comments here), basically asked us to be patient. He said the communion really needed us and valued us, but warned us against going too far, so that our voice would be left outside the circle.
That's the balance - between asking a certain group of our church to continue to be treated as if they were NOT also baptized, and asking the communion to keep us in the fold if we do lift the moratorium. It's really hard work, and I am in constant prayer about how to respond. It will be an interesting convention.
Meanwhile - WHAT ABOUT GROWING THE CHURCH? I am sad to report that the only committee that has completed its work is the Evangelism committee. What does that say about what we value, what we want to put time and money into? They have some pretty interesting resolutions coming to the floor soon, and hopefully they will capture the attention of the house and the resources they need, but please people - we HAVE to turn this ship around! Instead we spend an hour arguing the syntax of a resolution designed to keep some committees afloat that, in my opinion, have little to do with what a church should be focusing on.
The truth is, GC is a huge bureaucracy. The President of the HoD bragged we were the 2nd largest bicameral legislative body in the world. We should be embarrassed about that, not proud of it! And it feeds itself. All the resolutions passed must be responded to by Executive Council or by various CCABs (Commissions, Committees, Agencies, and Boards). When you suggest to a CCAB member that they need to cut their expenses and maybe use electronic means of communicating on a regular basis, they are (some are) appalled. "How can we do our work that way"? they ask. I think the better question is - what is your work? Why are you doing it? Is it really necessary to upholding the gospel and growing the church and serving the local parishes? If not, let's quit doing it!
And how do you get on a CCAB? Most are appointed by the President of the HoD or by Executive Council. Appointment implies you are someone who can take off work and travel a few times a year, some more than others. Doesn't that limit the voices we need on these things?
Why don't we change GC so that this self preservation can cease and desist and we can get mean and lean at a national level, supporting the dioceses and parishes in their mission work? Well, I guess you would have to be on the Commission on Structure or something like that to have a shot at changing any thing. Something tells me an appointment is not forth coming!
OK, enough soap box for one night. More soon. Be sure to go to and check out other links, news items, etc. We have a long way to go, and we need all your prayers.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Looking for Jesus at GC

Today was a bit slow, but the beginning of all the legislative processes takes time - excruciatingly long time. There were two legislative sessions, that didn't do much, and 3 sessions of committee hearings and meetings, where the real work gets done of preparing resolutions, hearing testimony, etc. before the resolutions get to the floor.
The Mississippi deputation is in the 2nd to the last row from the back - LONG way from the dais and all the "power" players. On the same row we can lean over and throw things at the Rev. Cal Calhoun, who is from Mississippi but now serves in East Tennessee. HEY CAL!
General Convention is huge. There were 812 deputies on the floor for the first session (1/2 clergy, 1/2 laity), and I think over 200 bishops in their house. The enormity is one of the problems with getting folks focused on MISSION and the gospel and Jesus...which brings me to the Presiding Bishop.
She preached a wonderful sermon at Eucharist today. Eucharist is amazing at GC, fun music, great singing, and pretty fast communion distributed to well over 1000 people. Bishop Jefferts Schori preached about the heart beat of God, the heart beat Ezekiel heard. "A new heart results in renewed creation – that reconciling mission we're so fond of talking about....Hearts renewed stay that way, living flesh not hardening into stone, when they continue to share that new life – the exercise of pumping keeps a heart healthy."
She ended equating that heartbeat to a simple word, whispered, hopefully burned into our hearts as well - "mission....mission....mission...." she whispered, and then left the pulpit.
Good stuff.
Legislative committees worked until 9:00 or so tonight, and we start back at 7:00 am. Unfortunately we have set aside an hour tomorrow and another Friday to discuss 2006 resolution B033 as a "Committee of the Whole" - the entire House of Deputies taking part (with the select few allowed to speak chosen by lots). B033, if you don't know, was the compromise resolution passed at the end of GC 2006 where we promised not to consecrate any more bishops whose "manner of life" was a problem for the Anglican Communion. There are numerous resolutions filed to "repeal" B033, so the President of the House of Deputies (PHoD) Bonnie Anderson proposed we set aside legislative session time to discuss it. However, the Presiding Bishop has said she prefers we not go back and repeal legislation from previous GCs, rather we should focus forward on mission.
I wish Ms. Anderson agreed.....but she was pretty clear today in her opening remarks that she doesn't care too much for bishops, or find them very necessary. It's an interesting dynamic, and a little confusing to watch it play out.
I would MUCH prefer we take some time - probably MORE than two hours - looking at how to turn around our dismal numbers. The State of the Church report is gruesome - we are losing members in distressing numbers. We need a focus and a real plan on growth, on reaching youth and young adults, on being relevant, on learning how to share this gift we offer as the Anglican church that can and is a unique and special way to bring people to Christ, to have their heartbeats changed, to learn to serve in Christ's name - WHY CAN'T WE SPEND SOME EXTRA TIME ON THAT?
Thank goodness there are some pretty cool resolutions talking about some real money for church starts and growth, and a strategic plan initiative to help us chart a better way forward. I just hope and pray it doesn't all get lost in the debates over sexuality issues.
More tomorrow.....

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

GC Begins - Rough start for me

Well I finally made it! I think I am the last of our deputation to arrive, most came Sunday and Monday to Anaheim. I arrived at the Gulfport airport at 5:15 Tuesday morning (3:15 California time) for a 6:15 flight. Boarded and pulled from the gate, headed to the runway........and then we stopped. Bad weather in Houston, had to sit awhile....and sit and sit and sit and sit. 2 hours later we rolled back to the gate and were allowed to de-plane. Another hour goes by, then we reboard....roll to the end of the runway....and sit and sit and sit and sit. We finally take off, landing in Houston at 12:30 (vs. original time of 7:30!). 5 hours late, I of course missed my connection.
The airport in Houston was slammed with people, all trying to do what I was doing - find another way to our destination. Fortunately Continental had several L.A. bound flights, and on the 3rd attempt I was able to fly standby.
Things began to look up when I actually 1) got an aisle seat and 2) my luggage was actually there waiting on me at LAX. Took the rush-hour shuttle to the hotel in Anaheim, and here I am.
I was too late to go to the convention center and register (it's an impressive building from the outside, but was locked up when I tried to check it out last night). So I went walking around the area. The Hilton is across the street from a back gate to Disneyland, but you can't see much of it. Some of the roller coasters are within "screaming" distance. The quaint motels around the park are interesting - with names like "Candy Cane Inn", "Jolly Roger", and "Castle Court", I imagine they are some of the first "motor hotels". I found a place to eat, then wandered back, buying some breakfast food on the way (hotel breakfast is way to expensive).
This morning I actually went and worked out - the fitness center at the hotel is WAY NICE. Saw lots of Episcopal friends in there.
Time to start the first full day - more later. You can leave comments, if you behave, and I will try to respond to questions.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


This is what happens when you have your birthday at camp! Especially when your entire family is there with you.
We had an amazing camp session, my 1st as a Camp Director. About 100 5th and 6th graders and 30 staff went on a medieval journey, with an underlying message of "Surprising God" - with every connotation of that looked at through skits, games, songs, and messages.
I confess to being a tad nervous before it all began, hoping I had a handle on everything. But the one most important lesson I learned from Tom Slawson, who had directed this session for 18 years, was - GET A GOOD STAFF TOGETHER. And I did. I am so grateful for all their hard work, great attitudes, perseverance (it was SO HOT), and joy. The Permanent Staff was amazing, from the opening night when they had to ad lib some skits/songs, to the end - they worked hard, worked together, and made camp great for those campers - which is what it is all about.
And I turned 51 while there - and of course was treated VERY POORLY during lunch on that day. Sigh. It was a messy, but very happy, birthday.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

And now for a non-church related post!


I am still stunned, shocked, speechless and beyond thrilled that the Southern Miss Golden Eagles are headed to the College World Series in Omaha! The only regional #3 seed to make it to a super regional, the Eagles swept the #8 national seed Florida Gators on the Gator's home field to advance to the CWS for the first time ever!
Congrats to the team, and especially their coach, my friend Corky Palmer, who announced his retirement a few weeks ago, after which the team caught fire and made their historic run through the post season. Way to go Corky!
I've been a Southern Miss sports fan since I was 10 years old (ok - do the math - but it's a LONG time). This has to be one of the finest hours we've ever had. We will be huge underdogs in Omaha (we open vs. Texas, number 1 in the nation), but regardless this team will fight hard and they never give up. Trust me - they never give up.
I am proud to be a fan of this courageous bunch - go Eagles!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Hail Thee FESTIVAL Day!

"When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then we were like those who dream. Our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy."
WOW! What an amazing day. Sunday, May 31, Pentecost Sunday, our first service in our new home. After 45 months in exile, working and hoping and praying, with God's help and the help of thousands of people across this country, the amazing people of St. Patrick's arrived in their new home.
Sunday was tremendous, an overflow crowd, incredible music (our choir has never been better, our congregation sang with gusto), special prayers for the occasion, and many tears of joy, all marked a day we will never forget. Truly it was a mountaintop experience for our church family.
I opened the service reading from Ephesians 2:19-22. As the words began to form, somehow they got stuck in my throat! All the emotions, all the smiling faces, the beauty and wonder of how great everything and everyone looked, it was all too much for me. I wondered in the back of my mind if I would make it through the service, or end up on the floor, blubbering like a baby.
I believe it was my most favorite Sunday as a Priest.
And what a week! With the help of Camp Coast Care volunteers from Indiana and Florida, and a huge group of our folks, on Memorial Day we moved every thing we own from CCC - altar stuff, altar furnishings, all the office furniture, books, files, Christian Ed supplies, nursery - everything we have used to "do church" all this time, we relocated (in the pouring rain) to our new building. Then all week was spent unpacking, cleaning, setting up all of the above. And on Sunday, it looked absolutely incredible - special and holy and ...... home!
There is so much more I could say and share with you, but perhaps the images from the day and the audio of my sermon can say it better. Click here for more pictures of the day (photos by Joe Gurneck). You can also go to our website, here, to listen to my sermons from our last Sunday at Camp Coast Care, and our first in our new home.
A special shout out to my wife's family - almost 20 strong showed up to support us on this special day, and to celebrate her mom's 80th birthday. It meant a lot to me that they took time out of their own celebration to be part of our big day.
God bless you all for your help and support - and please, come see us!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One More Week

It's almost here.....this Sunday is our last Sunday in exile! While we can never properly express our gratitude to Coast Episcopal School and Camp Coast Care for hosting us all this time (and for Grace Lutheran of Long Beach where we wandered for a few months, and 1st Methodist of Long Beach where we held several "big" services), we are really, really ready to move HOME. Last Sunday, as I stood in the procession, having just prayed with the altar party, and the prelude had ended, a young man who was staying at CCC wandered over, fixed himself a bowl of cereal, opened the fridge RIGHT NEXT TO THE CHOIR, poured some milk (as the opening hymn was announced and we began singing), and proceeded to begin eating his breakfast. Folks, this is not an uncommon occurrence. The staff at CCC has been so very gracious to us and constantly remind the volunteers to respect our space and time during worship, but the truth is some folks just don't really get that - they have no frame of reference for sacred and holy space and time. So cereal gets poured, bagels get toasted (all the food serving for the volunteers is in the same room we worship in, which is really their dining hall), and people wander in and out and around during our church service. I love them all, I really do, and we will miss them at our services, even those who are just passing by to eat a little breakfast. They are here for an amazing purpose - to help rebuild our community, and I really am ok with them doing whatever they need to do while we are borrowing what is really their space on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. But I confess - I am ready for a little more control of the environment - sound, lights, noise, movement.
We are ready - did I mention that?
We start physically moving our stuff on Memorial Day, so we are busy packing now. Holler if you can help! Pentecost is the big day! Pray for us....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Triumph and Tragedy

My first born graduated from college on Saturday. Those parents out there who have been through such milestones can relate to all the feelings this brings up - pride, fear, joy - many emotions surface. She has been through much in her 24 years, and she has some amazing gifts to offer the world.
Chelsea has been involved with kids her whole life, and worked as a nanny while at Delta State. She loves children and they love her. She also served as a youth minister while in college. She will serve her 2nd term as a member of permanent staff at our diocesan camp, Camp Bratton-Green, working the ropes course. She found her calling to work with people with special needs by serving on numerous "Special Session" camps - hence her Special Education emphasis along with her Elementary Ed degree.
This Saturday was to be a grand celebration - well deserved, well earned. She has arrived there not without some bumps along the road, all of which contributed to making her the wonderful young lady she is.
But the celebration was subdued, at best. This past Wednesday she learned her boyfriend of a couple of months had died very unexpectedly. He lived a few hours away from her. I am not at liberty to discuss what happened, much of which is still a matter of speculation and even investigation. All who knew this young man are in shock, my daughter is dazed and hurt and completely devastated.
We were to meet Brad over the graduation weekend festivities. Instead, his mother will bury her only child this coming Wednesday.
So as I beamed with pride as Chelsea walked the stage on Saturday, knowing what her own struggles have been, relishing how she has persevered and become someone with amazing talents and God-given gifts to offer the world, understanding how hard she has worked to get to this point, teared up over all that - an overwhelming sadness and some anger also joined in for my Daddy-is-so-proud moment. I hurt so much for her, and feel so frustrated that on this occasion, there was not a thing I could do to take away her pain or to allow her to truly celebrate. All we can do is pray and hold her. So that is just what we did.
Time heals and gives perspective. Because of what she has been through in life, she is tougher than she should be, at 24. She will make it. But the road she travels, for now, is not what she or anyone could have expected. Life is hard, and often so unfair. May God be her crag and stronghold, and bring her peace.
And.....way to go, Chelsea, my first born child. I am so very proud of you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quite the Summer Shaping Up

Just got home from a physical therapy visit where my PT guy basically chewed me out! Seems I am way overdoing it on the injured leg. There's lots of swelling, and pain. So I gotta take it easy. I wonder if walking up and down all those piers during the Blessing of the Fleet (see pic on left) had anything to do with it? We blessed over 300 boats! The sea was too rough to take the boats out, so we walked the piers. It was a beautiful, although very windy day. Lot of fun, but paying a price now. I don't want to go back to doing church like THIS - again.

This summer will be busy and wild! First Sunday in new building is still on for Pentecost - May 31! The next week I go to Kanuga for Province IV Synod (pre-General Convention meeting). I do my camp session (5th and 6th graders) late June. Then GC in Anaheim from July 7 to 18! And sometime a little vacation with the family, leading up to our official dedication service August 15th! It won't be boring around here, that's for sure.....

Monday, April 20, 2009

Video Journey

If you have a few minutes, would you mind watching this video? You can click HERE, or copy the link below into your browser.
It tells the story of St. Patrick's and asks for help in our rebuilding efforts. Please watch and pray about how you can help - and PLEASE pass the link on to others.
Thanks, God bless.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Maybe Pentecost!!!

Well, Holy Week is in the books. It was really wonderful, special this year because we know it's our last Holy Week in exile! Thinking back over four Holy Weeks done in borrowed space - two in a school gym and two at Camp Coast Care - I am very proud of how our folks have come together to make these spaces holy and sacred, and to be able to provide these special liturgies under difficult circumstances.
Our attendance was only fair for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but excellent for the Easter Vigil Saturday night and for Easter Sunday. The Vigil was really special. I was worried we wouldn't have a big crowd since, for the first time, we were not doing baptisms. But they came! It shows this Parish has really adopted this service and looks forward to it each year. The storytellers did a good job, and I was able to tie my homily into my own story telling (Ezekiel - dry bones). We renewed baptismal vows and I sprinkled the congregation with Holy water. Then the lights came on and the bells rang at the 1st Alleluia of Easter!
Easter Sunday was very nice, wonderful music and a lot of dressed up kids! We have an abundance of families with small children now, many of whom have joined us since Katrina and only know us in this borrowed space. Have we got a treat for them!
Speaking of - we believe we will take occupancy of the building mid-May! Keep praying! If so, we will move in just before and after Memorial weekend, and have our first Sunday service on Pentecost! Isn't that appropriate! There is much left to do, so pray we can make it on time. This is wonderful news! Stay tuned - and join us if you can.
Oh - the pic at the top is about a month old - but all the current work is going on inside.....

Monday, April 06, 2009

Holy Week!

"The most wonderful time of the year....". I know it's from a Christmas song, but for me it screams HOLY WEEK.
I really do love it.
I don't mind the extra work pumping out bulletins, or the demand of writing 8 sermons (ok, 7, my Deacon preached tonight (Monday of Holy Week). I don't because it is just wonderful. Holy Week. A living and breathing thing, that allows us a glimpse into that last week of our Lord's life on earth. If only we could get all the Christians, much less those who don't believe, to set this week aside, this one week, and attend services, if not every night AT LEAST the Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter.
If only.
Meanwhile, some will come to all, some will come to a few, most will only come on Sunday, having missed the story that gets us to Easter. All we can do is pray and prepare and rejoice when someone dares to step out of the culture of the world and say - this week is for God and I will commit to walk this path with Jesus.
I am doing a few different things this year. Their is a debate amongst preachers in the Episcopal church on whether to preach on Palm Sunday or not - the liturgy is so rich, the Passion Gospel so profound, some think it better to just let that speak for itself. I am reluctant to do so. Last year I preached a very short homily outside before the blessing of the palms and the procession (right after the 1st Gospel lesson of Jesus entering the city on the donkey). This year I preached a short homily just after the 2nd lesson - that fantastic reading from Phillipians. I will do this again on Good Friday, I will preach on the Isaiah passage BEFORE we read John's version of the Passion Gospel. It gives me, and the church, a chance to deal with some really amazing Scripture passages that can get lost with everything else that is going on.
At the Vigil we will use story tellers again to tell the Old Testament salvation history lessons. And we will renew baptismal vows (this is my first Vigil to not have a baptism, darn it). Then the magic happens - lights, bells, music, joy.
I can't wait....I hope you find a place to join in this most wonderful time of the year.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lenten preaching - being prepared

This Lent I decided to do a sermon series, using our new mission statement (which we developed during our Planning process for our new building. Before choosing WHERE to rebuild, or WHAT to build (focus on a nave, or more on Ch Ed, or a multipurpose hall for worship / parish hall space, etc.), we needed to take a good long look at who we are and whom we are called to serve.
Now as the time draws near for us to occupy our new building in our new location, I have felt God calling us to a time of intentional preparation. We need to be prayerfully, spiritually, theologically READY for our new life in our new home, in the heart of our community.
To that end I decided to take our mission statement and preach and teach on the components of it. I use it as the sermon theme for the day, then continue in a more detailed way, involving the parishioners of course, at adult Christian Ed time.
I think it's working pretty well. I can say it's been a challenge to me as preacher to try and use the lectionary texts of the day to make the mission statement-driven points. But I have really enjoyed that challenge.
Our mission statement is "A sacramental community, inviting and welcoming all to grow in Christ's love through fellowship and service". Lent 1 I did "Preparation", explaining why we needed to take on this work of becoming prepared. Lent 2 was "A Sacramental Community", looking at the importance of the sacraments to the people and history of St Pats, while also observing that it is only in community when the sacraments become the powerful things they are, and how that sacramental life extends outside of worship time.
Last week, Lent 3, was a tad more difficult - looking at "inviting and welcoming all to grow", with the gospel account of Jesus cleansing the temple intruding into my theme! Yet the "all to grow" piece fit with the lessons on the law and Jesus' insistence on the holiness of worship space and remembering the God we serve is not mammon. When we invite "all" to grow, we cannot forget who and what we are - this is not just a social club or civic group. To grow in Christ's love requires discipleship, parameters of our common life, and understanding our story. It's ok to ask those we invite and welcome to enter into our community with some expectations.
Lent 4 I will look at "growing in Christ's love", then Lent 5 is on fellowship and service.
It's been fun and difficult. As always, you can listen to (most) sermons on our website,

Saturday, March 07, 2009

View from a Chair

The surgery went fine. Not only was the achillies tendon ruptured completely, a few inches above the heel, but it also "fileted" off of the calf muscle. Surgeon had to repair both of course.
2-3 days post op pain was pretty severe, but now it hardly hurts at all. I am completely non-weight bearing, so on crutches, keeping it elevated, having to figure out creative ways to get in and out of the shower, etc. I may be allowed to start rehab in a week, but will still be non-weight bearing, maybe through Easter! Ugh.
My wife is an absolutely amazing help, so patient and also very creative in solving problems in my world. She is the best.
I do church in a wheel chair. Since I am NWB, I can't stand to preach or celebrate Eucharist. I roll myself in procession and roll around to the altar, etc. The perspective is so different. I have a new appreciation for physically challenged folks serving in church, even though my circumstances are quite trivial compared to most of them.
Preaching is especially strange. Sitting to preach - lends itself, I think, to much more of a teaching mode. I don't like not being able to see or be seen by everyone. I don't use a text, seems silly to shuffle papers in the chair. But so far it seems to be going ok.
I am very glad we were careful in our planning of the new building to make it very accessible - not for me, as this is quite temporary, but for all those who are challenged physically, our absence of steps, ample handicap parking, and wide doorways will be very helpful.
It's not the Lenten journey I expected, but it certainly is one that forces me into times of reflection and prayer. I cannot drive and spend most days in a chair doing emails, phone calls, and reading, writing sermons, etc. Yes, i will be thrilled when I can walk again, until then I am grateful for an outpouring of support and prayer, and for my wonderful family that cares so well for me.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Well, the mini-sabbatical was just what the doctor ordered. Seriously. A perfect time of respite and refreshment, tropical retreat to St Lucia with my LW to celebrate our 25th, an extended stay in South Florida, full of good weather, great tennis, and good times, it could not have gone better. I feel SO amazingly refreshed and recharged.
Came home to our Diocesan Council weekend, a good time as well, and great to see a focus on mission led by our Bishop.
Back to work last week catching up on the mountain of mail, email, calls, pastoral issues, etc., as well as preparing for the St Patrick's annual meeting. Also - the church building! It's rocking on! Sheet rock is up, most of the roof is done, it looks amazing.
Then ...... it happened. Playing tennis Thursday night, as I pushed off with my right foot to cut off a shot and hit a volley, it popped. Loud and HUGELY painful, I had torn completely my achillies tendon. I have never felt such pain.
Long night in the ER with an MRI that confirmed it. I managed to go to church Sunday for the annual meeting, and surgery is scheduled this morning (Monday the 16).
I am blessed to have an LW who is a fantastic nurse and has really taken great care of me. I am non weight bearing on the right foot and will be for 8 weeks post op! This is a long rehab, you have to totally rebuild the calf muscle after the tendon heals. Pray for us!
I am not sure yet how will do church, but the timing could not be worse. Lent is upon us, and the move into the building may take place around Easter! Lord help us.
Fortunately the sabbatical time assured everyone that they can function at a high level without me doing everything (but St Pats folks have known that anyway), and I know folks will rally around what is in front of us.
Meanwhile - can I ask your prayers for the surgery and recovery, and for my wife and family? Oh, and I wouldn't mind if you included a request to limit the pain!
Thanks....will keep you all posted....