You can stand or you can conduct
From the photo it looks like the guy in black, is standing listening to a female singer in a rather grand church. Looks however can be deceiving. The guy in black is actually the extraordinary talented Dr Patrick Walders conducting one of the soloists during Sunday nights performance, by the San Diego State University Chamber Choir, of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego.
Lets be honest, the photo is flat. All movement and energy has been removed. You can’t see the energy that the people at the event saw. You miss the fact that the conductor used his arms, his stance, his facial expressions and much more to help lead the soloist in her performance. The reality of being in the moment, being in the world was and is much different to what a snapshot could ever portray.
The picture made me think. In my Christian life and ministry am I an observer or a conductor? Do I stand by, steadfast in my faith, and watch the world and other people go about their lives all around me? Or am I a conductor that uses my faith and translates it into action, helping, guiding, teaching, witnessing and most importantly serving?
I hope the later.
What about you?
The best part of my Easter day
We were invited to our friends house for dinner,which itself was a blessing as our friend is recovering from brain surgery and we have much to give thanks for. However, on the way there I stopped at a 7-eleven to buy dessert. On the way out as I headed towards my car I heard
Can you spare any change?
I remembered something that I had in my car. I went to my boot (US=trunk) and fished out a ‘blessing-in-a-bag‘ kit. I went back and gave the guy sitting on the floor the bag and just said
God bless you
Indeed it was I who was truly blessed to share in this Holy moment. As I pulled out of the parking lot he was already drinking the bottle of water and had a smile on his face.
The best part of Easter Day was seeing the face of the resurrected Lord sitting outside a 7-eleven.
Christ is Risen. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! He is Risen indeed.
Are you ready to rumble? Maybe not………
So we have made it through another season of Lent and Holy Week will soon fade into distant memory. Tonight we waited in darkness and then cried out Alleluia and celebrated the first Eucharist of Easter. The stone is rolled away, Christ is risen, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Well that is all well and good for those of us who are at a point on our journey of faith to accept an empty tomb and a risen Lord. But lets remember that it took the disciples time to accept and to believe.
So as we ring bells, fill our churches with fragrant flowers and celebrate, let us not forget those who still doubt. Those who peep into the empty tomb and have questions.
Today should not belong to the exclusive believers club, it should be the day when the members of the exclusive believers club continue the hard work of living the Gospel of Love, meeting people on the road, and reaching out to those who have questions.
Happy WORKING Easter Day, may you share the blessings that you receive with those who need to receive.
Dr. Lee your TB skin test is positive
Sorry for the dramatic headline and picture, but I bet that I got your attention! Fear not, I was not surprised to be told that my Tuberculosis skin test was positive because (1) I knew it would be (2) you did not have to be blind to miss the rather large red reaction to the test (3) I was vaccinated with the BCG vaccine when I was a teenager back in the UK (good job UK NHS for a particularly long lasting vaccine) and so I always test positive on the skin test and come back negative on the chest x-ray.
I had to have the TB test as part of my preparations for working with Episcopal Community Services (ECS) over the summer. When I got to the testing clinic I asked if I could bypass the skin test and go straight to the chest x-ray. I was told “Sorry sir, not possible, you have to take the skin test first”,”but it will come back positive – do you want to see my BCG scar on my arm?”,”no sir, I know you know it will come back positive but we still need to do the test”. This conversation could have gone on for some time but I gave in and accepted the inevitable. One injection and two day’s later I got my chest x-ray and all was good. Talk about slow progress.
I’m learning that ministry can also be a slow process at times as well. In a world where we constantly strive to achieve the next goal, to meet the tough deadline, to prove that we have achieved positive results the work of ministry, lay or ordained, can feel totally opposite to what we are used to. This leads me to think, how do we measure success in our Christian life? Surely it is more than ASA (Average Sunday Attendance), program statistics or even results of a parish survey (although all three of the former can provide very good pointer to how the church as an institution is doing).
I love the passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans (chaper 12, verse 2, NRSV):
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
I also like the same verse but translated in the New Century Version bible:
Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.
Do not be shaped by this world, be changed from within.
As I travel down my formation path I am reminded that I must be open to a new way of thinking.
As all Christian’s prepare to enter Jerusalem on Sunday and walk with Jesus in the steps of Holy Week I pray that we are open to a new way of thinking, a new way of discovering what God is calling us to do today.
Sometimes that path with be straight and the journey fast. Sometimes the path will be bendy and the journey slow. Sometimes we may need to do the obvious to spread the Good News. Sometimes we need reminding of what we are sure we already know.
Often, it will be hard to judge how well the journey is going but in the end, if we end up where God wants us to be then a little pain and redness is nothing to get too excited about.
Call to friendship: Memories of Mrs. Cliff
A lady came into my life over twenty years ago, three acts of kindness this past week reminded me of her.I wish I had a scanned photo of Mrs. Cliff but I don’t, if anyone from Bangor does please can you send it to me. Instead here is a picture of St. Jame’s Church in Bangor, the place where I met Mrs. Cliff and where I made the conscious decision to return to the Anglican Communion and ultimately the community that lit the fire under my vocational calling.
Mrs. cliff. It is many years since you passed away but your influence on me has never been forgotten. Mrs. Cliff was generous in spirit, overflowing in her hospitality, unbelievable in her support and steadfast in her faith. A ninety year old lady who welcomed a young student into her life, showing interest, telling stories, feeding me (I was a student!), showing me love, and accepting me as I walked on the path of self discovery as a Christian, a gay man, a young man and an unsure pilgrim. I remember her wise words, her stories, her support of me spending time with the Mar Thoma Church in India, her advice and most of all her friendship.
She often would say to me “I do not buy my friendship, I offer it freely”.
I may not show this but at times I get very worried. My life is so busy, I am worried because I am a terrible friend. In the past year there are people who I should have called, letters I should have written, beers I should have drank. But life gets in the way. That is no excuse. Maybe a lent discipline for me should have been to contact 40 friends who I have neglected.
This past week, I was honored to experience at least three acts of friendship.
On Sunday we had dinner with two good friends from church. We had not been to their house before even though they had been there for about a year. After a tasty dinner and catching up we took a walk around the neighborhood. The four of us chatting, looking at houses, enjoying the place and the moment. Thank you Matthew and Michelle.
On Monday I was invited out to lunch with a dear old friend who I have known ever since moving to San Diego. We have been friends, he has been my co-worker, my boss. At times I have wanted to hug him and shout at him! We can go for quite a long period and not speak but when we get together it is always a joy. Randy, thank you for a lovely lunch but even more importantly thank you for your enduring friendship and for making me laugh. As I drove back to work, my thoughts centered on how you had made me smile
On Wednesday, I left work early (for me) and drove to San Diego State University to spend time with Patrick Walders, who had taken the School for Ministry Postulants and Auditors for a singing lesson last Saturday. During our lesson I had said that I was due to lead Stations of the Cross on Friday night at the Cathedral and that I was scared about leading the singing part of the service. Patrick insisted that I come and spend extra time with him to help me get over my nerves. Patrick is a wonderful teacher and has a personality that makes you want to better yourself. He could have taught the lesson the previous Saturday and sailed off into the sunset. Instead he took the time to help me in the midst of his own busy schedule.
All of this makes me think. How lucky I am to have friends who really care and who freely give their friendship. Friendship does not need to be fancy or complicated. Friendship is eternal.
Mrs. Cliff, I felt your hand grab me this morning as we were praying in church just like you always did many years ago. Matthew, Michelle, Randy and Patrick – thank you for touching my life with your friendship this week. To everyone in-between, in the past and in the future I pray that I will be a good friend to each and every one of you.
John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
Duck, Death and the Tulip
I am doing one of my field placements at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Rancho Penasquitos. Today after the service was the monthly Philosophy for Kids & by Kids. Each month Dr. Maria chooses a story and tells it to the kids (and their parents who always seem to enjoy the story as much as the kids). After the story Maria leads a discussion with the kids about what the story meant, how its meaning can be applied to their lives etc… Often a comment from one of the kids triggers many more comments from the parents.
This morning, we read Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch. There was some concern before the session about how suitable a discussion on death would be for the kids. As it turned out the kids were fine, but the adults were deep in thought and discussion.
Sometimes we shy away from hard questions and hard subjects and by doing so we do ourselves a major disservice.
When was the last time we talked to our loved ones about death? what are we afraid off? where do we stand with God and our thoughts on death?
Sometimes the thoughts of those much younger than us can teach us so much.
A Throne and a Cross
In his book “Four Gospels, One Jesus? A Symbolic Reading” Richard A. Burridge says whilst discussing The Roar of the Lion – Mark’s Jesus :
James and John think the whole point discipleship is to get the best seats in heaven – not realizing that Jesus’ throne is to be a cross (Mk. 10.35-45).
A throne is to be a cross – this can be a discomforting image to some people.
What is more shocking is when we do not manifest our faith to represent a throne as a cross.
Discomforting faith – hopefully found, when we challenge the world that we live in.
The dictionary says what I did, and plan to do, is bad but I feel liberated
For 41 years I have resisted writing in books, even text books. I have used post-it-notes, sheets of paper and a few other things but before now I have never defaced a book.
Times are changing. That’s what the Diocesan School for Ministry does for you.
The middle of nowhere
So here we go
The old blog has been archived and so here is the chance to start with a clean slate.
After an almost twenty year journey the Bishop of San Diego, last week, made me a Postulant for Holy Orders in the episcopal diocese of San Diego. For the next three plus years I will enter a period of structured formation centered around the new diocesan School for Ministry. I strongly feel that I have a call to the Bivocational Priesthood. What is the bivocational priesthood? That is a question that I have discerned greatly over the past year and will continue to discern in the future. But for the purpose of this introduction it means that I feel called to continue to be employed in my secular job both whilst training and ultimately exercising a ministry as a priest.
What do I aim to achieve with this blog? I want to record my thoughts and reflections as I move through this season of formation. Write about some of the books that I am reading, both secular and as part of my training. I’m sure other things will come to mind as time goes by.
About 15 years about I really was into the Star Trek franchise Voyager. It comes to mind now. Voyager had a history before the TV series started, but as viewers, we joined it as it was flung to the other side of the galaxy and we followed it as it journeyed home. On its way it encountered strange new worlds, new life-forms, battled with enemies old and new, and it was a trailblazer with its first female captain.
My journey to ordination to the priesthood feels a little like that. A journey home.