the kingdom is here, now

My Unitarian minister (Facebook) friend Peacebang always has something thought-provoking to say. I think she has this one right.

Great collegial conversation today about the humanist version of
“the kingdom is here, now” (because humans are capable of saving the world)
vs the Black church version of “the kingdom is here, now”
(because God is real, God is good,
and God is blessing us all the time:
getting up in the morning and being able to walk to church is a blessing.
Having food on the table and clothes on your back is a blessing, etc.).
I find the first iteration not very compelling, ultimately classist and irrational.
The second iteration is the one I share. “God is good… all the time.”

simplest can be best

We drink a lot of ice tea at our house, especially in the warmer months. For many years we always used one of those ubiquitous jars with a spigot. But we finally got tired of every one eventually leaking.

I looked around on Amazon and found one that looked good. Unfortunately it didn’t last, nor did its replacement. So we picked up a pitcher at Bed, Bath and Beyond. It also gave up on us after not very long.

Scratching our heads, Terry checked out practical, down-to-earth, plain-Jane Smart and Final. She bought two plastic but commercial grade pitchers.  It’s been a couple of years now and they’re still doing the job and doing it well.

Sometimes simplest is best.

remind me: why am I at church?

Since the Choral Eucharist at St. John the Divine was moved from 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. last November, it has required commitment on my part to get to church. Before, I could sleep in and still go to church. Now I have to force myself to keep my rear from getting back in bed when I get up at 7:00 to feed Tasha. But I’m glad to be there once I get there, and I miss it when I’m not there.

But when I learn about the history of the church, I question why I am a part of an institution that has such a history of being disingenuous and sometimes flat-out corrupt.

My current reading includes Gathering Those Driven Away by Wendy Farley. She has filled me in on the truth about Athanasius, the mastermind behind the Nicene Creed. Turns out he was not a nice guy at all.

The intense focus on technical precision [of the language of the creed] arose because the positions were so close that they required sword-like language to parse theology ever finer, lest a common ground was accidentally discovered. Conflict requires an opponent. Where one does not exist, it must be invented. The very idea of an Arian “party” reflects the success of Athanasius in transforming an intellectual debate with a respected fellow Christian teacher into a struggle against a heretical school. Through skillful polemics, those who opposed him at Nicaea became a single heretical party.

Of course in this context the Protestants really weren’t that much better.

The construction of the Christian narrative of redemption through the doctrine of original sin and substitutionary atonement narrowly aligns divine presence and ecclesial power. Everything outside the institutional church is stripped of significance. This is no less true after the Reformation, which continued to affirm that the primary benefit of Christian belief was that it enabled us to avoid eternal torment. Protestant churches continued to be committed to these doctrines and to the singular power of orthodox belief, mediated by churches, to save us from perdition. Nature, other religions, and even other forms of religious practice within the church are either irrelevant or demonized. The attack on Arius, like those on Valentinus, Origen, and Porete, reflect a perennial hostility to forms of faithfulness less dependent on clergy to mediate salvation.

In a video course I am watching on Medieval England I learned that Thomas Becket, though later made a saint, was not that nice of a guy either. He was a social climber who became best friends with King Henry II until Henry made him Archbishop of Canterbury. At that point he decided he could do his own thing, which eventually caused him to have to flee into exile. Brought back from exile because the Kind needed him for a royal wedding, Becket chose to side with the Pope over the issue of Henry wanting to have his oldest son named king while he was still alive, and having the consecration done by the archbishop of York. Becket’s actions seemed to be motivated by politics and ego, and not by conviction. But, when he was murdered by some of Henry’s knights, as course instructor Jennifer Paxton says, “Overnight Becket went from first-class troublemaker to saint.”

Henry VIII, of course, never intended to start a new denomination, he just took control of The Church in England so he could do what he wished to do with his own divorces and marriages.

Our modern era and my own denomination are not much better. It took the irregular ordination of eleven women in 1974 to break that issue open in the Episcopal church in the United States, and official ordination of women was finally approved in 1976. (The year after I graduated from college!)

Across the Atlantic, the Church of England will vote on allowing woman bishops in July (yes, they’re just now getting around to that), but a last-minute amendment to the resolution by the House of Bishops would allow parishes which object to a woman bishop the power to choose one who shared their theological convictions. Supporters of the resolution say the amendment undermines the intent of the resolution.

So why am I here? Because there is something important to me about being present with others, hearing the Word and partaking of “the gifts of God for the people of God.” Despite the humanness, the politics, the need of those in power to hold on to power, Sunday morning worship helps reconnect me with who I am and my relationship to God. My week ahead needs that moment of kneeling with my brother and sister parishioners and receiving the Bread and Wine.

And getting back to Athanasius and Arius and the debate over the incarnation and the Trinity, Wendy has a new perspective.

Marcella Althaus-Reed claims the holiness of this underside: though authorities claim that God has “declared us, made us, irredeemably lost in the eyes of the church and Christian ethics, yet it is not we who are lost.” We are not only not lost, we are called to interpret the incarnation as a witness to the nonviolent and unlimited efficacy of divine love. This love is the self-manifesting beauty of nondual Divine Eros: from the infinite and mysterious depths of Divinity, beauty emerges. Nonduality expresses something of this mystery; love expresses its healing efficacy. The incarnation reveals and heals because it expresses the nonduality of love in the world. Lovers of the Divine in the past and the present, many of whom are despised by the institutional church, bear witness to this nonviolent love.

I like where she is going with this.

Communion and Baptism

Two of my Episcopal online resources, the Episcopal Café and the Episcopal News Service were writing about Communion and baptism in the Episcopal Church this week. Episcopal Café had multiple separate stories, including one by Jim Naughton and one by Theresa Johnson. Both focused on remarks made by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at a town hall meeting in North Carolina early this year. ENS had a more detailed discussion of the subject, including mention of resolutions before the General Convention this year regarding whether baptism is required to receive Communion.

I knew that canon law says that one must be baptized to receive Communion, and I know that all of the Episcopal churches of which I have been a part, either as a member or visiting on a one-time basis, have ignored that statute. Canon 1.17.7, as it is worded, is indeed stark: “no unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”

In answer to a question, Jefferts Schori said that “the Communion table is not a place for discipline. The communion table is a place of welcome, and it’s not a place to turn people away from.” At the same time, she said, “If we’re aware that there are people coming to the table who have not been baptized, it’s time to do something.” She suggested some kind of “on-call baptism.”

I appreciate greatly that the Presiding Bishop has said directly that “the communion table is a place of welcome, and it’s not a place to turn people away from.” I’m not sure that I agree with the need for on-call baptism. I really like the proposed resolution by the Diocese of Eastern Oregon which allow congregations to “invite all, regardless of age, denomination, or baptism to the altar for Holy Communion.”

That is the direction would like to see the Episcopal Church take.

Sacred Music Friday: For the Beauty of the Earth

Saint Paul Cathedral Choir singing John Rutter’s arrangement of For the Beauty of the Earth, courtesy of Unapologetically Episcopalian


When we were looking at houses 15 years ago we drove down to Gilroy to see a new development called San Vicente. It was Easter Sunday and the sales office was closed. We came back the next Saturday and walked through the models. We decided that we liked the middle of the three sizes, and it was at a price we could manage. Just past the models there was an unfinished house of that size. We went in and spent some time wandering through the house. It felt right. We went back to the sales office and put down a deposit.

One of the very first decisions we made was that Terry got the walk-in closet and I got the loft for my office and study. To this day my loft is a comfortable, safe space where I enjoy spending time. It is where I am as I type these words.

I still take the time to be thankful and grateful for the gift.

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15 Years

It’s hard to believe that it was fifteen years ago this week that we moved into our house.

We had been renting in Mountain View, it was the height of the dot-com boom, and our landlord wanted to raise our rent by (note: “by” not “to”) $650 a month. He did us a big favor and made us get serious. Gilroy offered us a new house that was both nice and affordable.

The neighborhood has changed since 1997. Across the street from us two houses are still occupied by the families that bought them originally, though one has been split by divorce. A lot of the other homes have seen turnover. What was once in large part a Silicon Valley bedroom community is no longer that. There are more working class residents, and more multi-family or multi-generation homes, as has become common due to the economy and the housing market. Two doors down, the original buyer had moved back a while ago after being away for some time, running what amounts to a boarding house with a variety of unsavory characters, having sadly been forced into that predicament by her husband’s chronic alcoholism.

In general, though, it is still a good neighborhood and we like being here. While in an ideal world we would prefer to be up on the Peninsula around Mountain View or Palo Alto, the chances of that are not great. And we really do love our house. We have our landscaped back yard, we re-did our bathroom counters some time back, and of course there is our kitchen remodel of five years ago, which we still look at with appreciation and considerable enjoyment.

But 15 years, it really is hard to believe.

Come, yet again, come, come

I first saw this a very long time ago when reading Rumi. I hadn’t thought about it in ages, but was brought back to it when I found it in a booklet of Easter season meditations from the church where my spiritual director serves as rector. Thank you for that.

Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come, come.

—Jalal al-Din Rumi

Angela Davis 2012 Pitzer College Commencement Address

I graduated from Pitzer College in 1975 and hung around Claremont for the next two years (a Claremont Cockroach, as I’ve said). Angela Davis was a visiting faculty member of the Claremont Colleges Black Studies program in 1975, which I did not know until seeing this video. I was rather surprised, since I thought I was somewhat in touch with what was going on there that year. But apparently the who thing was kept very secret. In any case, this is a great address and very much in alignment with the values of Pitzer.

Sacred Music Friday: I was Glad

St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir, on the occasion of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee