Saturday, December 29, 2007

Palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss

Your Famous Movie Kiss is from Romeo + Juliet

"Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night"

On the Verge of a Breakdown?

Our Favorite Verger breaks radio silence at last. And it seems the Long Vigil in the desert has not withered his wit, nor custom staled his infinite variety.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last/Slouches towards Atwater???

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How the Grinch Stole San Joaquin, part 3

St. Nicholas Church, Atwater received a letter on Christmas Day. Father Risard's "deployment at St. Nicholas is now over." Please note, this is not the same as being fired, because the Bishop said he would not do that, and the Bishop is an honorable man.

The locks at the church have been changed. Please note, this does not mean that St. Nicholas is closed down, because the Bishop said he would not do this, and the Bishop is an honorable man.

The Bishop said that nothing would change after the Diocesan Convention except who we pray for as presiding Bishop. Please note, this does not mean that the faithful at St. Nicholas in Exile will now have to meet at at the Castle Vista Rec Center because the Bishop.... oh, wait, never mind.

Here are the directions to the Rec Center.

Father Jake has all the details.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Eve!

As I spend this Christmas Eve with family and friends in Philly, my warmest wishes to all of you out there.

The light of the Christmas star to you,
The warmth of home and hearth to you,
The cheer and goodwill of friends to you,
The hope of a thousand angels to you,
The love of the Son and God's peace to you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

How the Grinch Stole San Joaquin, part 2

From Andee, an eyewitness at Atwater and all-around "Gooperson" (as Grendel would say) as reported on Father Jake's Blog:

"Bp. Schofield did come to Atwater today, preached and celebrated (with Fr. Fred concelebrating and distributing the eucharist). At the end of the service, Schofield stood up and said that there had been much speculation about the reason for his visit, and he wanted to reassure everyone that (1) Fr. Fred had not been fired and (2) St. Nicholas was not being closed. Then, just as everyone was starting to take a tentative breath of relief, he said the other reason he wanted to come was to tell them that Atwater was no longer bringing in enough money to pay a full time priest, and that instead the diocese would be sending them supply priests occasionally. In other words--Fr. Fred wasn't being fired, he just wasn't going to be paid any longer, and the diocese wasn't even going to keep a steady part time priest, just send supply priests periodically.

Then, in his concluding remarks, Fr. Fred told the full and emotional story of the ways the diocesan leadership--most specifically, he named Bp. Schofield and Canon Gandenberger--had deliberately and maliciously undermined the health of the mission, fostering division and schism instead of love and compassion. Tears, prayers and applause from those who witnessed this!

Among those of us who came to be there in support of Fr. Fred and St. Nicholas were myself, members of Holy Family (Fresno), St. Francis in exile (former members of St. Francis Turlock), St. Michael's in exile (former members of St. Michaels in Sonora), St. Paul's Oakland, St. Aidan's San Francisco, Canon Bob Moore (Diocese of Olympia - also both husband of Bp. Nedi Rivera and Presiding Bp. Katherine's appointee to provide interim pastoral care to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin), Fr. Michael Backlund (representing Bp. of Northern California Barry Beisner), and Remain Episcopal attorney Mike Glass. At least four of us present are on the Remain Episcopal Board.

They were surrounded by our love, and by the prayers of thousands of people from around the world.

Fr. Fred has no plans to leave, and I understand that funds from outside the diocese are being made available to make sure he is paid.

After the service and a wonderful extended coffee hour, a number of us helped them distribute bags of food and turkey certificates to a low income Housing Authority project in the area, where we were greeted with enthusiasm and warm Christmas thanks.

The morning ended with several of us joining Fr. Fred and his extended family (parents, two brothers, nieces and nephews) for lunch.

Emotional, difficult, heartwarming--and Christ was very present."

Lord, have mercy!

Friday, December 21, 2007

How the Grinch Stole San Joaquin, part 1

(Excerpted from the article, "SAN JOAQUIN: Atwater vicar asks bishop to clarify planned visit" at the Episcopal News Service)

The vicar of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Atwater, California, in the Diocese of San Joaquin has written to Bishop John-David Schofield questioning his plan to visit the congregation December 23 and asking for clarification about his status as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Fred Risard noted in his December 20 letter to Schofield that St. Nicholas had "already had the pleasure of your annual visitation for 2007."

"Without notice of the upcoming visit we have not had the opportunity to prepare candidates for confirmation, nor is the Bishop's Committee prepared to meet with you," Risard continued.

The vicar told Schofield that he has the permission of the mission's Bishop's Committee (which is the mission equivalent of a vestry) to request the clarifications. Risard also noted that he has consulted with legal counsel.

"We would like you to state to us your pastoral and canonical relationship with St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, and myself," Risard wrote in his letter. "You publicly stated at our diocesan convention that you no longer are the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and instead you are a Bishop within the Province of the Southern Cone. As such, we understand your visit is simply to worship with us; there will be no liturgical role for you, neither celebrating nor preaching. The Episcopal Church welcomes all, and you are most welcome to worship, with the purpose of seeking transformation and reconciliation."....

Risard told ENS that Schofield spoke to a deacon at St. Nicholas by phone on December 20 and questioned the intent of Risard's letter. The vicar said that he emailed Schofield later in the day to assure him that he has no intention of banning him from worshipping with the mission congregation.

"I would never ban anybody from worship -- not even my worst enemy -- because I would hope that they would be transformed by the Eucharist and the grace of God," he said.

Risard said he is worried that Schofield is coming to St. Nicholas to either announce the closing of the mission or his removal as vicar, actions that Schofield has taken elsewhere in the diocese during his episcopate.

"Is it his intention to support the mission congregations in their call to worship and to serve the poor or does he want to close it?" Risard said. "He needs to go on record about what he's doing."

Noting that following their Eucharist, the mission congregation plans to "go out into the community to deliver groceries and coats to a dozen needy families as we seek to do the work of Mission which comes out of our worship of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior," Risard asked in his letter, "Will you be coming as our Episcopal Bishop, having repented of your actions at Diocesan Convention, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation? Or will you be coming to worship as a visiting foreign Bishop seeking to reconcile with your former congregation and Vicar, and, following the Mass, to join us as we take groceries and coats to the poor?"


Aghaveagh says, "what a courageous priest!"

Read the entire article.

Guaranteed to be more boring than Padre Mickey!

Our Great Christmas Adventure: we left the house yesterday evening to catch our plane for Philly (via Lost Wages), so that we would arrive two hours ahead of time. We put the two Rick Steves Back Door bags, one red overnight bag stuffed with socks, presents, and two giant Bubble Makers for the nephews, two briefcases and one purple coat (Liam's) in the trunk. Dan, our Classics student and Grendel-sitter, drove us to the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (International? Well, they have flights to Mexico.)

The line in front of the US Airways counter was not that long, and so we took our place. However, for the next 15 minutes, it did not move. After an hour, we realized that (as Grendel would say) Something was Very Wrong. Two hours later (really!), we got up to the desk. Our flight to Vegas had been delayed by over an hour, and so virtually everyone who was in front of us had missed their connecting flights and had to be re-routed, as did we. And because it's the Christmas travel season, there were major problems finding flights that were not full. After another half hour (I am totally accurate here, I want you to know; it's part of the excruciating boredom I promised) we had our new flight plans: we would return for a 6:30 am flight on American Airlines to Dallas/FW, and from Dallas to Philly, arriving there only 9 hours later than our expected arrival time.

They gave us a hotel voucher so that we could get our 3.5 hours of sleep before we had to be back at 4:30 am. I suppose we could have tried to go home, but we were dropped off so we didn't have a car, and we didn't even have a house key. So we trudged with our two Rick Steves Back Door bags, one red overnight bag stuffed with socks, presents, and two giant Bubble Makers for the nephews, two briefcases and one purple coat (Liam's) to the Holiday Inn a half-block away. We caught the bar ten minutes before closing and managed to order two beers and two chicken quesadillas before they threw us out. We then hauled the two Rick Steves Back Door bags, one red overnight bag stuffed with socks, presents, and two giant Bubble Makers for the nephews, two briefcases and one purple coat (Liam's) up the stairs (what, Fresno hotels have not heard of elevators?) to our room, only to find that the key did not work.

An employee came up to let us in. By the time we had finished eating and were drifting off to sleep, it was about 12 midnight. The nice man on the telephone wake-up call that rang at 3:30 said that today's weather would be sunny and warm. I think it was an old message.

So we schlepped our two Rick Steves Back Door bags, one red overnight bag stuffed with socks, presents, and two giant Bubble Makers for the nephews, two briefcases and one purple coat (Liam's) back to the airport and over to the line at the American Airlines counter. We waited in line. Luckily the line was moving pretty quickly, and in only about half an hour we were at the counter. We presented the paperwork that the nice man (Andre)* had given us last night to the equally nice lady (Claudia)* and found out that our confirmed reservation Did Not Exist. After about a half hour of waiting, and several phone conversations with Bob* at the US Airlines counter Claudia was able to get the Magic Numbers that, upon entry into her computer, would allow her to put us on standby for the flight.

* Please note: all names changed to protect the innocent and the incompetent.

Oh, dear...when Claudia tried to punch in the Magic Numbers it appears that they contained too many digits and hence lacked the requisite Magick. Another attempt to get Bob back on the phone. He was having none of it. We stood to the side while Claudia helped the people who actually were going to get on the plane for Dallas FW and tried to straighten things out with Bob over the phone, pleading several times in a plaintive tone for him not to hang up on her.

A total of two hours after we showed up at the AA counter, it became clear to all concerned: Claudia, Liam, me, and the six white German Shepard puppies from (evidently) a puppy mill that were being sent off as Christmas presents to various destinations (and who howled inconsolably in solidarity with us for an hour, nearly driving one of the agents to canicide) that we were going nowhere, except back to US Airways. Claudia apologized profusely, we thanked her profusely, and we trudged back to the US Airways with the two Rick Steves Back Door bags, one red overnight bag stuffed with socks, presents, and two giant Bubble Makers for the nephews, two briefcases and one purple coat (Liam's).

This time there were only three people in front of us, so after only an hour we found ourselves talking to none other than Bob himself. He was of the opinion that there was nothing wrong with the reservations that Andre had made the night before, that somehow the American Airlines people had screwed up, and he also broadly hinted that somehow it must be our fault for waiting at the AA counter for 2.5 hours. All very well and good, but it doesn't get us and our two Rick Steves Back Door bags, one red overnight bag stuffed with socks, presents, and two giant Bubble Makers for the nephews, two briefcases and one purple coat (Liam's) to Philly.

He typed arcane data into the computer for what seemed like hours (I could feel the stony stares of those waiting in line boring into my back, so I didn't turn around) but was in reality only about 20 minutes, and finally he had our answer:

We could board a flight to Phoenix at 7:15 pm, arrive in Phoenix at 9:52, then board a flight to Chicago at 11 pm, stay there for two-and-a-half hours, then board a flight to Philly, arriving there Saturday at 8:47 am…only 36 hours after we left our house with the two Rick Steves Back Door bags, one red overnight bag stuffed with socks, presents, and two giant Bubble Makers for the nephews, two briefcases and one purple coat (Liam's). And that was it. As compensation for our time, we got meal vouchers and an upgrade to first class on the Phoenix to Chicago leg (that was all that was available in First Class.

So now we sit in the magnificent Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, and since we couldn't check our bags yet, we’re stuck in the Ante-Inferno and have to lug around with us the two Rick Steves Back Door bags, one red overnight bag stuffed with socks, presents, and two giant Bubble Makers for the nephews, two briefcases and one purple coat (Liam's). So we sprung for a luggage cart. We also sprung for a day of wireless Internet access (unlike real airports, Fresno-Yosemite International Airport charges for wireless) so that I can relate to you the story of our Christmas Advent Odyssey, and as a real treat I have taken pictures of some of the exciting objects that will occupy our time for the next eight hours.

The two Rick Steves Back Door bags, one red overnight bag stuffed with socks, presents, and two giant Bubble Makers for the nephews, two briefcases and one purple coat (Liam's).

My Christmas present from Liam--I might as well wear 'em in the airport--we'll be here a while!

Distinctive Headgear and gloves I never get to wear in Fresno.

The Fresno FishWrap.

My Gingerbread Latte.

What I should be reading instead of blogging.

One of the Bubblemakers for the Nephews

A cool set of children's books for reading aloud to the Nephews.

Bored yet? So are we! Here Liam uses the Purple Coat to take a short nap.

By the way, it takes exactly four minute to walk from one end of the airport to the other and back. As Hamlet said, "I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."

So, Padre Mickey, are you still there? Padre?? [ZZZzzzzzzzzzz...]

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Belfries of all Christendom

John Gurka's version of "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

It always gives me goosebumps.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet the words repeat,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had roll'd along th' unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bow'd my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Next Sunday at a church very near you...

(saw it at Lindy's place)

All over but the grading...

Well, stick a fork in this semester; it is done. All but the grading...I finished giving my last exam on Tuesday and now am working my way through a huge stack of Blue Books, research papers, extra-credit assignments and the inevitable frantic flurry of late assignments ("to be turned in by 5 pm Thursday").

There is not much to be done but put nose to the grindstone, play Christmas... er...Advent music to keep one's spirits bright, take a break when one gets too disgruntled (Oh, just for once I'd like to be gruntled!), and keep the kettle warm.

Tonight is fall graduation with its pomp and ceremony. Much better to wear full academicals when it is 40 degrees out than when it is 100!

I hope you are warm and safe out there!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

As the Dust Settles

It's been a whirlwind few days. Saturday, after the convention, we all met at Holy Family to console, be consoled, and pray. We talked a lot about our fears, our hopes, and our sense of loss. Afterwards I spent some quiet time setting up for the Second Sunday in Advent service. The familiar task of filling the candles, setting up the altar, and preparing the elements was very soothing to a soul troubled by the recent events.

Sunday morning we had what must have been a record attendance for a non-holiday Sunday for our two services. We almost ran out of wafers! Luckily some prudent Altar Guild member put out a reserve :-). I can't honestly say if it will last, but it was wonderful. The mood was optimistic and the fellowship grand. Father Keith gave a great homily about "How can we find peace--in the world, in the church, in our hearts" filled with his usual humor and thoughtfulness.

Well, towards the end of the service several press crews started showing up, including one from Univision. Ojalá que usted esté aquí, Padre Mickey, for we had no fluent Spanish speaker at the early service. (As a bit of humor, we delegates at the HF table at convention began to speak in Spanish after the vote, but my Spanish is very rusty.) All the more reason seriously to discern your calling, Padre; we need you here in the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin!

There was a piece in the L.A. Times that had some good things to say, including the last bit about Father Keith:

"Meanwhile, Axberg, Holy Family's rector since 2003, urged his congregation Sunday not to worry about the future. He told them about the convention votes and answered a few questions about steps likely to be taken by the national church. Finally, he asked them to pray for all involved in the diocese's continuing struggle, including for Schofield. First one, then all, rose to applaud their priest."

Now things are starting to settle down from the buzz over convention, but as the word spreads, some folks in other parishes (not delegates, but the people in the pews) are beginning to realize what this vote means, and they are asking questions and writing letters.

One last thing: you cannot know how much your support has meant to us. Father Jake has opened up his blog as a place for comfort and news, and reading your comments has done much to lift our spirits. Kristin, Paul, Diane, Padre Mickey, and others, thanks for dropping by and adding your words of support!

Personally, I feel most for the missions, who have no choice in this process, and whose clergy are appointed by the Bishop. They can be closed at his desire, and their buildings sold. I hope that this does not happen, but as parishes begin to place their assessments into accounts earmarked for the Episcopal Church, not the Province of the Southern Cone, the diocesan budget will feel the pinch.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

We are still here

We mourn the departure of many of our brothers and sisters in Christ who did what they thought was right. We love them and pray for them and wish them well as they join the Southern Cone.

We, however, are not going anywhere. We ARE the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and although we are currently without a bishop, we have godly clergy to lead us and courageous laity eager to carry on the Great Commission.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Diocesan Convention, Day one

The first day of convention consisted mainly of procedural matters.

I attended the Eucharist that opened convention this morning at St. James Cathedral. It has been a year since I attended mass here. I felt a certain sadness because we used to attend here regularly until we felt we could no longer do so in good conscience.

It was certainly awesome in its ceremony! Three pointy hats, dozens of priests and deacons, pomp and pageantry, glorious music and wonderful sung liturgy. There was nothing liturgically here that I did not agree with--why am I not orthodox in their eyes?

The Bishop of Bolivia, the Right Reverend Frank Lyons, gave the sermon. In essence, he said that we are on a journey, and that it may not always be comfortable. In fact, although we may wish for a comfortable Jesus who shows up in the morning to give us tea, this is not the case. It's scary stuff.

In the afternoon, we heard the Bishop's address. Rather than giving you my paraphrase, here is a link to the text of the speech.

I will blog more tomorow. I am exhausted in body and soul.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thoughts for this weekend...from our friend Billy.

THE World is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon, 5
The winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gather'd now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn,— 10
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.