Archive for June, 2017

IMG_0526“So. What does a Rector do all week anyway?”

This is the nicest form of the question that I get on a fairly regular basis. Most of the time it’s asked with genuine curiosity. Other times, there’s a little bit of snark. Particularly around vacation time. “Why do you need a vacation? You only work on the weekends!” … followed by a little laugh to show me that it is just a joke.

But I get it – I really do. Because so much of this work is invisible, and prosaic, and even tedious. There’s lots of paperwork, and lots of meetings. There are funerals and other services to conduct, services to plan, phone calls, and appointments to make and to keep. Times of teaching and times of learning. Tears to dry and laughter to share. Newsletters to write, sermons to prepare, studying to do. And the knowledge that at any moment of any day or any night, the phone will ring and I will need to drop everything and care for someone in a crisis.

Maybe that’s why I keep jelly beans in my office – the kind where each color is a different flavor. I can’t just throw a few in my mouth unless I’ve sorted them first; otherwise, the combo could be quite unpleasant. Or if I don’t sort them, I can eat them one at a time and enjoy each unique sensation. There’s a lot of variety, and I’m never bored with them. Pink can be bubble gum, or cotton candy. Brown and black look a lot alike, so it might be licorice, or chocolate pudding, or Dr. Pepper. Red? Maybe cherry. Maybe red hot cinnamon.

So what does a Rector do all week? Well, for me it can be summed up by post-it notes and jelly beans. One to keep me focused on tasks that need to be done, and one that can remind me of life’s sweet surprised – and occasional shocks. And all wrapped up in a mantle of prayer that makes all of it possible. So if you have a lot of to-do lists, make sure to add a jelly bean or two just to make it that much sweeter. Can’t hurt, might help.

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Today I would like to give a shout-out to the folks on Emmanuel’s Vestry. This hard working group of people gather each month to go over the finances and other programmatic issues involved in running a parish. They are insightful, experienced, wise, funny, generous, and faithful people. On top of everything else that they do, they take turns serving as the Vestry Person of the Week – or VPOW. In that role, they attend services and at the end, stand back in the back as folks leave the service. When someone has a request, they are on hand to write it down, and then make sure that request gets to the appropriate person.

So often, the appropriate person is … me. At the end of a service, my brain is circling like a gerbil in an exercise wheel. Especially on Sunday morning, there are so many moving parts that have to be coordinated. And in the midst of it all, I am particularly forgetful about things – even things that are really important to me. To be honest, forgetfulness is one of my pervading flaws, which is why I thank God every day for Google calendars and post-it notes to help me keep it all straight. And why, on this day, I give thanks for my VPOWs who are my incarnate post-it notes; helping me to remember important things, taking care of last-minute issues, and in general, helping me to be the best priest that I can be in the midst of the work I love so much.IMG_0433

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Garden Glory


One of the best things about living in Rhode Island is that we have some glorious summer days. This is one of them. Blue sky, lower temps and humidity, slight breeze. On these kinds of days, I’m grateful that I can open my office window and door, and listen to bird song as I work. And I’m even more grateful that part of my work involves praying and study, and that work can be done in the midst of our meditation garden.

The picture above is taken in the Welcome Garden portion, and it’s what one sees when driving up the property to the parking lot. The vibrant colors draw you in, and once you step into the space, the sights and scents can transport you to a peaceful place. I love pausing in my reading to look around, to notice the different textures, to enjoy the antics of one of the 973,000 chipmunks that live on (or under) the grounds. It is a way for me to feed both my mind and my soul.

I hope that you have a beautiful space that you can use in this same way. If not, feel free to come up and enjoy ours. There are plenty of quiet spaces to share!

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Abbey – and Skipper – taking a stroller break on a hot and humid day.

Yesterday was my Sabbath, and though it was quite humid, we took Skipper and Abbey for a walk. Skipper and Abbey are both 4 year-old Norfolk Terriers. Abbey has some kind of physical challenge, she hops rather than runs, and cannot walk for long periods without needing to be carried. So we have invested in a “doggie stroller” for her.

It is interesting to watch the reactions to folks as we stroll by. While many just nodded, smiled, or stopped to pet the dogs, there were others who saw the stroller and rolled their eyes at each other. ¬†And it got me wondering why we human beings feel so comfortable judging one another? We judge people on their clothing choices, their political views, their gender, their sexuality, their color, their size, their culture, their breakfast choices … I could go on. So even if Abbey was in a stroller purely because we thought she was cute (she is) or if we thought she was a human baby (we do not), why would that be a reason to treat us dismissively?

I wonder what this world would be like if we allowed ourselves to be intrigued by people rather than dismissing them. I wonder what we would be like if we enjoyed and celebrated our differences rather than being threatened by them.

Anyway, if you see us out walking, feel free to stop and talk to Abbey. She’ll be the one in the stroller.

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Lost Art

IMG_0483I think I must really be getting old, because I am starting to wax nostalgic about practices that are no longer an integral part of society. Just this morning, I was remembering that it used to be that one did not make phone calls before 9:00 am or after 8:00 pm unless it was an emergency, or between family members or good friends. Another relic of the past? Manners. What some now derogatorily call “political correctness” we used to call “being polite.” I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more politeness these days – in our interactions, on our screens. When did it become commonplace for folks to shout over each other and call it news commentary? See … I am getting old.

This is in my head because it is Thursday – a day that is usually devoted to writing. Each week we send out an e-mailed newsletter. It takes awhile to get it all written and sent, but it’s a great way to keep in touch with members and visitors alike. Once that “E-pistle” is finished, I try to write at least 5 handwritten notes to folks. These can be for various reasons – a thank you, a check-in, a congratulations … there is not enough time to do as many of these as I would like, but I have pledged to at least do a few each week. The sound of a pen scratching along a piece of good stationary, thinking about what I write (since there’s no easy way to delete) … all of these become a way to enact with my body the hopes and prayers for them that I hold in my heart.

Today, may you find a way to bring some civility back into this crazy world of ours, and may someone do the same for you.

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At the Feeder

There are two bird feeders just outside of my office window. I work hard to keep them both filled so that I can enjoy the beauty of the feathered ones who come to feast. Even though I use no-mess seed, there is still enough dropped on the ground to feed the chipmunks who come to scavenge below it. Sometimes, the feeders are filled with birds; 4 or 6 eating together, and others waiting for their turn on top of the pole. Some share space more willingly than others – blue jays and cardinals in particular seem to prefer solitary dining. There are also long stretches of the day when the feeders remain empty. The food is still there, just as nourishing, but no one comes to feast.

Today, I was reminded that prayer is rather like my feeder. Some folks take the nourishment that prayer brings only when gathered with others – at prescribed times and in prescribed places. Others only want to pray alone so that they don’t have to deal with the noise and mess that company might bring. And I have to wonder, how often does the nourishment of prayer lie empty; just waiting for someone to fly in and be fed?

So maybe today, choose the nourishment that prayer is always offering at an odd time, in an odd place. The feeders are full. Come and be fed.feeders

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The video above is run-off from snow melt on a Maine mountain. Anyone who knows me knows that cool temperatures are my friend. When I’m hot, I’m cranky. So these unexpected 90+ days in Rhode Island have me cowering in my air-conditioned office, drinking ice water, and waiting eagerly for the promised cool down.

It striking to remember the privilege that I have of working indoors, in a climate-controlled space, and that I can choose to go out in the heat — or not. Particularly today as I got into my car after a lunch meeting, noticed that the outside thermostat registered 109 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and flipped on the a/c. Driving home, I passed police and firefighters in full uniform working on a wreck, construction folks digging, a couple of people on a roof, and groups of people out on their porches trying to catch a stray breeze. So I pray for all those who have no escape from the relentless heat until Mother Nature intervenes. I pray with gratitude for fans and a/c, for cold fresh water, and for the means to buy ice cream. And most of all, I am supremely grateful to live in Rhode Island where, at least at this point, this kind of heat is rare. So all you sun-worshipers out there, enjoy today. Because tomorrow we’ll be back in the 70’s where we belong.

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