Showing posts from April, 2009


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Episcopal Cafe Essay

An essay I wrote for Episcopal Cafe has been posted on their Daily Episcopalian Blog And, people wonder why I left...

How long O Lord, how long? I worked as a SOLO chaplain in a 244 bed children's hospital, across 7+ units. I could not take time away to attend any programming for the newly ordained and could rarely attend diocesan programs. My pager was on Monday morning through Friday night for over a year and a half. I still have nightmares--105 deaths in a little over 2 years.

A Plethora of Projects

Easter is still with us and as the weather warms, flowers bloom and trees leaf out (ironic in that today's weather includes snow)...a veritable feast of church programs are emerging:

Episcopal Walk Run Club; 4.5.6 Book Club; Creating Camp: a fine arts based vacation Bible school (July 20th-25th); strawberries and steel drums (June 7th following services); oh, and of course, monthly home Eucharists.

As I prepare for these programs, I wonder about community formation in the early church. We gain a sense of belonging through these various "programs", programs meant to allow a gentle entry point into community, programs meant to attend to the interests and needs of our community. But, when I compare our own community formation to that of the early church (which we read about throughout this Easter season) I am struck that the early church was bound together by persecution, suffering and the Eucharistic feast--oppression was their glue and belief their guide. They were not p…

Jesus=1; Death=0

"A Morning Song (For the First Day of Spring)" by Eleanor Farjeon

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

Holy Saturday With Mary Oliver in Mourning

After Her Death
a poem by Mary Oliver

I am trying to find the lesson
For tomorrow. Matthew something.
Which lectionary? I have not
forgotten the Way, but, a little,
the way to the Way. The trees keep whispering
peace, peace, and the birds
in the shallows are full of the
bodies of small fish and are
content. They open their wings
so easily, and fly. So. It is still

I open the book
which the strange, difficult, beautiful church
has given me. To Matthew. Anywhere.

Holy Saturday always seems like the longest day of Holy Week--Jesus has died, but has not risen, and we are left in the aftermath of death while anticipating a celebratory tomorrow. It seems wrong to treat the day like any other Saturday, filling it with errands until it is time to go to the vigil. Decorating and shopping for Easter dinner will, by necessity, compose part of my day. But, setting up for celebration doesn't really seem appropriate. Continuing on as if not…

The Child

I remember her now. Her body was stiff in my arms and I held her while I prayed with her family, her father and mother distraught and terrified at what they saw. Her father explained to me again and again: I found her dead, I tried to do CPR, she was blue. Meanwhile, I held her and prayed. Her hair, if I recall correctly, was in little pony tails. Her mouth was crusted with dried sputum around the tube that they had inserted to try and force air into her small, dead body. The women cried, falling to the floor. My eyes were dry and I prayed. My hands were heavy with her weight and I comforted her heartbroken parents just as I had comforted parents before and since.

Until today I had forgotten her. There were two deaths simultaneously that day and dozens since. But today, I opened the paper and saw her name. The autopsy and coroner had completed their work and deemed her death murder. She had not died during the night, she had died the day before, after ingesting nicotine a…

Maundy Thursday Etymology

"The word Maundy is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34)"

"Mandate (N.)1501, from L. mandatum "commission, order," noun use of neut. pp. of mandare "to order, commit to one's charge," lit. "to give into one's hand," probably from manus "hand" (see manual) + dare "to give" (see date (1)). Political sense of "approval of policy supposedly conferred by voters to winners of an election" is from 1796. Mandatory is attested 1576, "of the nature of a mandate;" sense of "obligatory because commanded" is from 1818."…

The Upper Room

image from

Today feels very much like "hump day" for Holy Week. And, so today, I am headed to the kitchen of friends. I will drink their tea, read their newspaper, pet their dogs and be given the blessing of their quiet companionship. I am not one to let my guard down and these friends provide one of the few places where I feel comfortable just being. And, their kitchen is my own version of the upper room.

It is the last quiet place, the last place where the company could naively pretend the events to come could be avoided. I picture the kitchen of my friends--a place where glasses of wine, advice, love and tea are poured out in liberal measure. The place where Jesus could serve his friends not because he had to but because he wanted to, not because he should have but because he loved to.

So today, I encourage you to find or imagine your own upper room. A place of calm in the midst of the storm, a place o…

Saying Goodbye

“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. “ Jn 12:24

I have never been in any call/job for more than three years. This is largely due to my age and the interspersion of large chunks of schooling in the midst of my professional life--4 years of college, during which I worked at a daycare center; 3 years as an inner city youth outreach worker for a group of churches; 3 years in seminary with field education in a program sized parish where I worked with the young people; 2 ½ years as a pediatric chaplain.

Each of these calls/places/jobs was VERY relational in nature—the lines between the professional and personal often blurred, and I retain close friends from each of these places on my journey. Yet, as much as I loved the people I met in these places, I left. Some of my leave taking came from the natural progression of my education, no one expected me to stay at the student staf…

Monday of Holy Week

Even though it is only Monday of Holy Week, I’ve jumped ahead to Good Friday. Perhaps it is still my theological inclination to spend too much time at the cross and not enough in “ordinary” time or any other time for that matter. I lived a bit over two years of Good Fridays in my call as a pediatric chaplain and I am still searching for the joy of Easter that was stolen in those years.

But, Lent and Holy Week make me think of those who are trapped in Good Friday--those for whom the resurrection of Easter seems to never come. The children I’ve seen die, the desperately desired infants who never made it beyond the womb, the parents whose prayers seemed to go unheard, the gravesides adorned with pinwheels and teddy bears. These losses, these sacrifices without any seeming greater good--these have stolen little bits of the Easter joy for me through these last years. What good is Easter when such pain is all too common? It is an unending Lenten sacrifice without the remediation of t…

Palm/Passion Sunday--a Sermon in Brief

(two minutes of silence).

How does one speak after the crucifixion?

Awkward silence, uncomfortable silence, painful silence--
Slipping into companionable silence.
The passion is sometimes important not for what is said,
but for who is silent.

The woman with the jar of nard did not speak.
Anointing her beloved in life
with a ritual customary after death.
There would be no time before the Sabbath set in.

Simon of Cyrene silently accepted his conscription.
It was customary to flog the prisoner
after they had arrived at the sight of crucifixion.
Christ's torture was early and left him weak.

Mary, mother of Joses, James and Salome;
Mary Magdalene, whose story we all presume to know,
Were silent as they witnessed his death,
Their eyes escorted his body to the tomb.

The silence of the grave,
Of those who mourn,
Of those who care,
Of a world rent asunder.