The Rector's Blog
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July 16, 2015, 2:00 PM

Environmental Justice

Disaster and Cleaning Up After

Several families lost everything this week in the flooding that hit Crooked Creek and some of the other rivers and streams in our area.  Among those hit were parishioners’ homes in Kentucky and on North Walnut, and the garage belonging to another member’s parents.

WKM asked people to help the Salvation Army with clean up in the northeast part of town on Wednesday afternoon, so several intrepid souls showed up to do that on Wednesday afternoon. I went also for an hour or so between lunch and the Ulster Evensong.

Aside from convincing me that I should probably invest in flood insurance – street runoff can do a number just as much as a stream overflowing – I also am reminded of how very fortunate I am to have the resources to live in a part of town less subject to natural disasters.  One of the lessons of poverty is that people with fewer resources often live in places of higher risk.

 This is true not only for natural disasters of whatever scale, but also for exposure to pollution – a particular problem in industrial zones. Those with means are able to find housing far from the sources of trouble and as a result, live safer and more healthy lives.  The poor cannot be so choosy; they have to live where they can afford. 

This is what the principles of “environmental justice” are intended to address.  Just as in many communities across America in which new section 8 housing is often limited to impoverished areas, thus defeating laudable social goals of safe communities, access to jobs, transportation and schools.

If we’re going to be justice-oriented, peace-oriented, creation-loving people – which I believe God wants us to be – we will have to reexamine the assumption that it’s okay to subject people to unsafe environments just because they are poorer than the rest of us. 

It’s like we’re keeping all the candy to ourselves and our peers, but doing nothing to expand opportunity and hope to those with less.

July 2, 2015, 2:07 PM

Change Is Afoot ... again!

Sometimes change comes fast

Are we ever really ready for change?

It seems to me that we all complain about how fast things have changed, but I wonder if it’s not so much that “things” change (although they certainly do) but that we don’t.

The last couple weeks have seen some pretty serious changes in our culture.  Somehow the murders in Charleston finally motivated governments to remove the Confederate Battle Flag, Even the National Cathedral is affected, as two of its wonderful stain glass windows show the CBF – and no one thought much about it until last week.  It has suddenly become a great moral issue.  I would argue that it has always been a great moral issue, as many have for decades, but suddenly, one more murder seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Change was coming, but it surprised us on arrival.  We never thought we’d see this “in our lifetime.”

Another huge change is the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples, every-where, all at once, after years and years of effort in the states.  Change was coming, but it surprised us on arrival.  We never thought we’d see this “in our lifetime.”

One columnist I read recently spoke of “tectonic” change.  He described how pressure builds and builds along a fault, and suddenly one day, even though we knew it would come some-day, there is a huge earthquake, and we are surprised. Every time.

God is like that, I think.  We go along with our lives pretty much in the same way for years, and suddenly one day, a particular bit of Scripture or a sense that a prayer has been answered (not always to our liking, but definitely answered), and we see what we never noticed before and everything is changed. 

When we reflect back, we see the signs of change, but only once the change has taken place.  It’s a mystery!

Think about someone like Paul, who was happily persecuting the followers of Christ, and then one day, pow!  Suddenly he is Christ’s advocate.

And he never saw it coming.

That’s true for every single person in the Bible that God calls into service.  That’s true for us, as well.  It’s okay, really! 

We are called by God to change, we are made by God for change, and we are made and called by God to bring God’s change to the world.


June 26, 2015, 12:00 AM

The Supreme Court rules...

And suddenly, marriage equality is the law of the land – everywhere in the United States, in every state or territory, in every county, in every city and town, it is now the law that two adults who love one another can take a vow and change from being solo to being a new thing, a married couple.  Any secular, governmental, civil rules or practices affecting life insurance, parentage, health directives, wills, mortgages … will all have to honor those vows.  That is true fact.

But it is also true that churches and clergy will not be required to perform weddings if they choose not to.  That’s always been the case, even in states where marriage equality is already the law, or has been the law for a long time.

So the first thing I will say as your rector is: I will.  I do choose to do this, and our Bishop is supportive as well, as is our Vestry.

I say this because I have taken a vow to respect the dignity of every human being.  If you’re an Episcopalian, you have, too: at your or someone else’s baptism, or when renewing those baptismal vows at Easter or Pentecost or on All Saints Sunday.  And if marriage equality is about nothing else, it is certainly about human dignity.

I thought long and hard about all the questions and issues that might arise – what the Church will do in General Convention, what the Bible says or does not say – and I may say more about those things (I would surely do so in the context of the class on Theology of Marriage, so go ahead and sign up for that!) – but in the end, I find that our Baptismal Vows are as good a description of what it means to love God and love neighbor as any I have seen. 

We vow:

  • To continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers;
  • To presevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord;
  • To proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ;
  • To seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves; and
  • To strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

God’s infinite blessings be with you always.


June 18, 2015, 12:42 PM

Killed in Church

Our hearts and prayers go out this morning to and for the members and friends of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston SC, after a white assailant entered the church Wednesday evening during services and shot and killed nine worshipers (one person died in the hospital; eight died at the time of the shooting itself), including pastor and state senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

God of light and life and truth, be with all those affected by this vicious and hateful act. Receive into the arms of your mercy its victims. Comfort and succor those who mourn. Strengthen and guide those who seek justice. Shed your healing grace on the city of Charleston and especially the people of Emmanuel AME. Bring this nation to the table of reconciliation for the evils of racism and bigotry. Do not turn your back, O Lord, do not leave us alone in this time of struggle and pain. In the name of the One who gave his life for all, through the power of the One who gives us hope, and by the mercy and grace of the One who holds us in love despite all we do or fail to do, we pray. Amen.

June 18, 2015, 12:08 PM

Business as Usual?


I very much enjoyed my time in class over the last two weeks – I am sure I learned something…

But, alas, that old constant, routine, is doing its best to make sure I don’t reflect and remember and renew based on what I learned. 

Routines are great things when you have a limited amount of time and need to use it efficiently.  They are also a good way to strengthen our spiritual muscles.  Establishing a place and time for regular prayer, silence, meditation, Scripture, or other practices helps us actually engage in them. 

But routines also can blind us to the changes we might be called to make in our lives.  If we have a “settled routine,” we are less likely to respond to new needs or new ideas.  This is the undeniable power behind the famous phrase, “We’ve never done that before!”

We also tend to complain about routines that we don’t control: such as having to attend a staff meeting at 8:00 a.m. on a Monday each week.

Like most things, routines have their good points and their bad points.

If we stick with “business as usual” in the church, the church will fade away into obscurity and never be missed…unless “business as usual” is anything but what that phrase usually implies.

Business as usual is not solving racial tensions in America.  Business as usual is not solving homelessness or drug addiction or poor education or poverty.   But if we change to a new routine, one that takes notice of the things that work and the things that don’t and adjusts accordingly, then we stand a chance of making things better. 

The first unusual thing to make routine is listening to those whose lives are different from our own.  We can only do that if we walk out our door and meet others where they are, in their usual places, and spend time listening, really listening to their stories, their hopes and dreams, their fears and aspirations.

We need not feel threatened by any change, because we know that we – and those we meet – are loved by God, loved more than we can ever ask or imagine, loved with the power of stars, with the depth of black holes, with the strength of mustard seeds, and with the wholeness of God’s very being.


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