Wednesday, December 17, 2014

O SAPIENTIA



Antiphon sung by the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars in Oxford.

December 17

O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High,
that reachest from one end to another,
and orderest all things mightily and sweetly,
come to teach us the way of prudence!

O Sapientia, quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter
suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiæ.
____________________

Isaiah 11:2-3
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
__________________
In the Sarum [Anglican] use, all eight antiphons are used, beginning on December 16 and ending on the 23, leading up to the First Mass of Christmas, the Eve of December 24. In the Roman use, the observance begins on December 17, but only the first seven antiphons are used, and the observance ends, as with the Sarum use, on December 23.
Reposted with slight editing from last year, and the year before, and...and....  The reposts are a Wounded Bird tradition. Though the year is not 2006, the O Antiphons are timeless.

Text of the antiphon from Fish Eaters.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT


Collect
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come
among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver
us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and
the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


(Book of Common Prayer)
Another wonderful passage from Isaiah in today's lessons:
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.


(Isaiah 61:1-4)

Friday, December 12, 2014

MARIE LAVEAU AND THIBODAUX

A group of women who restored a 19th century Voodoo queen's tomb are now working in a Thibodaux cemetery.

Employees of the New Orleans-based Bayou Preservation will be at St. John's Episcopal Cemetery off of Jackson Street on Saturday. They said this will be their fourth visit since the church hired them to restore some of the tombs, some of which are 100 years or older.
That's our cemetery, next to St John's Episcopal Church.  St. John's is not just the burial spot for members of our church but, for many years, was and is known as the Protestant cemetery for the Thibodaux area. Older tombs are falling apart, and are now being restored through the restoration project, which began several years ago and continues now as funds are available.


The cloud of witnesses in the cemetery is filled with peaceful spirits, and it's a lovely spot to meditate. On a day of prayer and quiet time St John's, I spent the breaks for time alone for contemplation in the cemetery, but I was not really alone.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TORTURE REPORT


From the findings and conclusions of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence aka as the Torture Report. I've read only 40 or so of 525 pages, but below are a couple of snippets about actions taken by those in the highest levels of the White House.
A year after being briefed on the program, the House and Senate Conference Committee considering the Fiscal Year 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill voted to limit the CIA to using only interrogation techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual. That legislation was approved by the Senate and House of Representatives in February 2008, and was vetoed by President Bush on March 8, 2008. (p. 13)
....


At the direction of the White House, the secretaries of state and defense - both principals on the National Security Council - were not briefed on program specifics until September 2003. An internal CIA email from Junly 2003 noted that "...the WH (White House) is extremely concerned [Secretary] Powell would blow his stack if he were to be briefed on what's been going on." Deputy Secretary Armitage complained that he and Secretary Powell were "cut out" of the National Seccurity Council coordination process. (pp. 13-14)
As for what I've read of actual torture techniques, the details made me sick, and I know there is much more and worse to come. I seriously doubt I will read the entire report, but I'll read as much as I can stand.  The CIA was a rogue agency, but the rogues in the White House gave them permission.

President Obama issued an Executive Order directing the CIA to use only the interrogation techniques authorized in the Army Field Manual, but the order could be reversed by the next president. There needs to be a law.

Here's the link to the text of the report.

From the Faux News way back machine - George W Bush:
This government does not torture people. We stick to US law and our international obligations.


Did Bush say one word that was true? If he did, I missed it.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT

Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to
preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our
Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


(Book of Common Prayer)
Below is one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture and a favorite of mine.
Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

A voice says, ‘Cry out!’
And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand for ever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
‘Here is your God!’
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep."

(Isaiah 40:1-11)
Here I break the Advent rule and post a Christmas carol: Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma in an exquisite performance of  "Wexford Carol".  My Canadian friend, Tim Chesterton posted the carol, and I couldn't resist.  The carol is in my music collection, but I love to watch the musicians' performance.

Monday, December 1, 2014

CONFLICT AT GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY


From Kim Bobo at Religion Dispatches:
For more than twenty years I’ve supported workers who exercise their rights to organize to improve conditions in their workplaces. Workers care about their wages and benefits, but what usually moves workers to organize is either concern about their clients, concern about how they are treated, or both.

Religious workers who organize are no different. The General Theological Seminary (GTS) faculty organized out of concern for their students, the seminary and a voice in the workplace.
....

1. The faculty has serious concerns about the dean and his leadership....

2. The board disregarded faculty concerns....

3.The board fired the faculty members when they replied....

4. Replacement workers were hired....

5. The board offered to rehire the faculty and renegotiate terms with each person individually....

6. The faculty members accepted provisional jobs and agreed to a process in order to save their jobs....

This is a labor dispute. I know which side I’m on.
Read the details at Religion Dispatches.

I know which side I'm on, too.  My default position in a controversy between those in power and the powerless is generally on the side of the powerless, in this instance the faculty at GTS, unless there are one or more compelling reasons to take the side of those in power.  The work stoppage was scheduled for a day on which no classes were held, but the Board of Trustees of the seminary quickly moved to terminate the faculty who had not resigned.

The faculty speak for themselves on the GTS8 website, Safe Seminary, and provide documentation of correspondence between the faculty and the Board of Trustees.  The number of "returned" faculty  is now down to seven, because one member of the faculty, Dr Joshua Davis, chose to take severance rather than sign his new contract.
Eight of the ten active full-time faculty members teaching at General Theological Seminary, New York City, have reported very serious problems with the seminary's administration through a number of channels.  After being ignored for months, the 8 faculty wrote directly to the seminary's board of trustees about a hostile work environment created by the Dean and President, the Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle, and then undertook a legal work stoppage.  The Board of Trustees responded that they accepted the faculty's resignations, when in fact the faculty members did not resign.  The 8 faculty members are Dr. Joshua Davis, The Rev. Mitties McDonald DeChamplain, Dr. Deirdre Good, Dr. David Hurd, Dr. Andrew Irving, the Rev. Andrew Kadel, the Rev. Dr. Amy Bentley Lamborn, and the Rev. Dr. Patrick Malloy.
I've been following the story from the beginning, even before the faculty was terminated, and the many details make it a challenge to explain the series of unfortunate events that led to the present sad situation without getting lost in the weeds.  I was stunned by the response of the Board of Trustees to the work-stoppage, which unnecessarily escalated the controversy to a point that made it difficult for the trustees to back away from their position, since they would then appear to be "giving in" to the faculty.  Why didn't the trustees pay attention to the faculty's reports of serious problems at the seminary?  Why didn't the Executive Committee or members of the Board of Trustees agree to to meet with the GTS8 before the situation became critical?

The allegations against Dean Dunkle are quite serious.  It seems to me that if the Board of Trustees had done what was proper from the beginning, which was to place the dean on paid leave until the allegations against him were investigated, and the GTS8 allowed to continue teaching, there would have been much less disruption and turmoil at the seminary for both students and faculty. If the allegations about the dean were found to be baseless, then he could have returned to his position, along with a mediator who would help mend relationships at the seminary.

After more than a month, the faculty was reinstated only provisionally, not to their status quo ante; they were required to negotiate the contracts of their "return" to the seminary individually, an unfair divide-and-conquer tactic; and they lost titles and tenure.  Academic Dean Dierdre Good was demoted even before the one-day work stoppage.

The trustees called upon the law firm of Covington and Burling to investigate the allegations against Dean Dunkle, but no report was ever issued on the findings, and there was only the one statement from the Board that, "...after extensive discussion that there are not sufficient grounds for terminating the Very Reverend Kurt Dunkle as President and Dean."

I find it quite telling that after investigations of both dean and faculty, the details of which little is known, the trustees so swiftly accepted the non-resignations of the GTS7 (formerly 8), terminated their employment, stripped them of titles and tenure, even as Dean and President Kurt Dunkle was permitted to remain in his positions of power, as the board decided after "extensive discussion" that there were no grounds for terminating the dean.  In addition, the faculty and members of the Board are prohibited from discussing the details of their provisional acceptance back into the seminary community, which the faculty never left.  Of what the faculty is guilty to deserve such punishment, we have no knowledge.  How is this justice?
  
The burden of demonstrating to the wider world that justice has been done rests with those in power. Justice must not only be served, but must also be seen to be served.  Commentary by the Chair of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees is not encouraging.  “I think the trustees felt, who are these people?” Bishop Sisk said.  The actions of the Board of Trustees and the lack of transparency as to the reasoning behind them seem unjust.  Without justice, the seminary itself is diminished as a Christian institution.  Collateral damage extends to the institution of the Episcopal Church and remains, even now, an embarrassment to the church, and to me personally, as a member.  I search for Gospel values in the decisions by the leadership of this Christian seminary, and I don't find them. How do their decisions build up the Kingdom of God?

The Lombard Mennonite Peace Center will begin to facilitate mediation at the seminary beginning in December and continue into the following year.   The faculty requested an ombudsperson to be present in the seminary Close when they resumed teaching, and I have heard that the greatly admired Bishop Frederick Borsch will be at GTS this week, available for any who wish to speak to him.  I'm not certain he is called an ombudsman, but his will be a welcome presence.

The story was widely covered by various news sources, including The New York Times, which reports the story here and here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

EVENING OF THANKSGIVING


Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

(1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)

A Collect for the Presence of Christ

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer)

Monday, November 17, 2014

WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING

You ask what I've been watching lately. What? You didn't ask? Forgive me if I tell you anyway.

Last night, I watched the delightful film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and smiled all the way through, though the movie includes a good measure of seriousness in the mix with the madcap humor. Since I knew little about the film, except that several friends told me I should see it, I was surprised when well-known actors popped up unexpectedly in hilarious disguises and delighted that they played their roles so beautifully and unassumingly without striving to steal the limelight in their scenes.

Ralph Fiennes, as the concierge of the hotel, Mr Gustave H, was superb, and F Murray Abraham more than holds his own as the lobby boy, Moustafa Zero, to whom Mr Gustave becomes a mentor and a friend. There's lot to be said for knowing little to nothing about a film, and coming away charmed with one's spirit uplifted.

Last week, I watched Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.  Since I had already read critical reviews of the movie, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was completely caught up in the story. The main criticisms were that the very concept of a biographical movie about Mandela was wrong, because his character was too complex and his life too long and eventful even for a film that stretched into two and a half hours, and that a series would have been a more appropriate vehicle. That the movie telescoped the great sweep of history of the struggle for freedom for blacks in South Africa, as shown through the life of Nelson Mandela, who played so great a part in the story even during his long years in prison, was seen as a failure. Well, the film is what it is, and, though events moved along at a fast clip, and large chunks of Mandela's life were missing, it held my interest throughout.

Idris Elba was magnificent in the role of Mandela, Shakespearian, as one critic described him, and Naomie Harris was excellent as Winnie Mandela. The two dominate the film, with the other actors playing only minor supporting roles.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A NEW MEMBER OF THE FAMILY


The photos show the newest member of our family. She is a four month old kitten, who is very affectionate and who quickly bonded with both Tom and me. We're a beautiful match.  Scarlett is a lively ball of fire and has explored every nook and cranny downstairs and upstairs.  She peed once on the floor but has since used her litter box.  She was named at the shelter, and we decided to keep the name...wait for it...Scarlett! Get it?

Scarlett is reclining in her bed now. Yesterday afternoon, she went missing for a while. I searched upstairs, downstairs, and all around the house, but no Scarlett. I heard a faint "Meow" in the distance once or twice, but when I got closer - nothing. Then I remembered I had opened the door to the closet where I keep the clothes hamper and closed it after I put clothes in. When I opened the door, there she was lying on the clothes in the hamper, looking not too unhappy.

Our girl likes books, too.  Good thing, because our house is filled with them.  She also wants to share our meals. After searching the internet, I discovered the methods I've been using are not the best and may cause Scarlett to be afraid of me, rather than teach her to stay off the kitchen counter and table.  Yesterday, I used a spray bottle with water, and only after she punished me for my rudeness by staying away for several hours did she jump up on my lap to be cuddled.

Following the sad months of our Diana's decline after being our companion for 17 and a half years, the little kitten has brought joy and liveliness back into our lives.  After Diana died, when I returned home after going out, and Tom wasn't home, I missed having a live creature to greet me when I walked into the house.  Thus the decision to adopt a kitten companion from My Heart's Desire in Houma, Louisiana.