Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a peaceful day off, plus alarums and excursions

What with one thing and another, or half a dozen others, Friday didn't become the
"giorno di riposa settimanale" it is supposed to be, and so I took yesterday, all day, OFF.

It was going to be kind of a busy day-off: errands and housework and perhaps even an upending of the briefcase...

It didn't turn out that way, instead it was a day in which the total output of energy amounted to running the dishwasher once, cooking 1.5 meals for own consumption, and as for the rest, the clicking of the remote control, and a certain number of cups of tea.

I didn't try to go anywhere...probably just as well as the street in front of Tether's End is full of all-but-impassable ruts in the ice.

I did, however, feed Nefertiti the Wonder Cat first thing in the morning.

And woke, later, after the most recent nap, to think..."Gee...it's Awfully Quiet...I wonder where Nefertiti is." And then I couldn't find her.

There was running up and down stairs, there was opening and closing of bedroom, bathroom and closet doors, there was calling and chirping and rattling of can opener and food dish.

No stifled meows, no response at all. No cat.

I had just decided, totally heartsick, that she must have slipped out between my feet when I brought the mail out of the box by the front door... and I was trying to think HOW I was going to tell the clan that I had Lost The Kitten...
when she emerged, all good cheer and nonchalance from behind or under something down in the playroom.

And then we had Giant Cuddles and a lecture on why little kittehs should not HIDE when called because it Frightens Ma.

The rest of the day was unexciting.

This morning, however, I managed to get Harriet-the-Echo well and truly bogged in the deep ice-ruts in front of the house, with just her nose in the driveway. Pushing, pulling, rocking, sanding, shovelling and swearing to no avail...eventually the Motor Association was enlisted, a large tow-truck arrived and hoicked her out like a baby tooth and we were on our way again! (Quoth the tow-truck driver, with an evil grin: "You're not alone, this morning...")

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

in which the Rambler rejoices...

This is NOT actually the new aumbry at Most Holy & Undivided, but I wanted to post a picture of some sort.

The man who fixes stuff around and about, after some considerable persuading, launched the actual project last week by cutting a hole in the panelling near the credence table.

He has built a lovely box which just perfectly accommodates the big ciborium with its lid, and the big cruet for the consecrated wine. The box will have a door made of the cut-out piece of panelling, and a modest but authoritative ornamental cross. Also a lock.

And now we consider the purchase and installation of a suitably pompous-glorious Sanctuary Lamp.

*Rambler does Happy Dance*...

Monday, March 23, 2009

in which the Rambler preaches an ordination.

This is approximately what I preached yesterday afternoon over our three new ordinands...

May no word but truth…
Presently, this afternoon, Bishop Xena will ask you a whole series of searching questions, in response to which you will make extravagant promises, rather like those we hear made at weddings, inaugurations, and such auspicious occasions.
But I want to get in first with my question, which is NOT one of the ones you will be asked presently.
And it is just this: Are you happy? Right now, right this minute? And if you’re too hot and anxious at this moment to answer that, what about when you first became aware of your calling? What about when you knew you had an ordination date? At some point, along the way, have you been happy about what you are entering this evening? I really do want to know!
I hope so…in general terms, on your behalf; and in more specific terms, on behalf of the church. It was Anthony Trollope, I think, in one of the Barchester novels, who remarked that it is most unwise ever to ordain an unhappy man. The unwisdom of ordaining an unhappy woman was not yet imaginable, at the time.
So I hope for your sakes and for our sakes that you are happy.
And I encourage you to sit still in that sensation, and enjoy it and linger in it, and learn it by heart, let it soak into the marrow of your bones, because you will need it later. You will want to be able to recapture it, to draw upon it, throughout your ministry.
And I hope you are happy also because the Gospel reading this afternoon justifies and endorses that happiness , and models it into the bargain. By the way, I congratulate you on being ordained on a festival – a slightly-transferred festival, it’s true – but on a festival that has inspired so many glorious pictorial representations over the ages—have you a favorite picture of the Annunciation? I’m partial to the ones where the Virgin is represented as reading – and often the painter makes it plain that it is actually Isaiah 7 that she is reading – thereby inviting us to re-imagine the form that the Annunciation may actually have taken. Sometimes I have heard that image of the Virgin described as a prototype of ministry, and you may find it so…no sooner do you get settled down to read something that you need to read, when somebody is bound to come rushing in with his hair on fire and demand that you pay attention to him THIS VERY MINUTE. In that connection I enjoy the way the Virgin often has marked her place in her book with her finger…a woman planning to get back to her reading the moment she’s left in peace! (and she’ll maybe keep reading long enough to find out what all that chat about curds and honey signifies, with any luck!)
But what the Annunciation announces, is great happiness!
Of course we’ve varnished it over with successive translations until the happiness is hardly visible under all the accrued solemnity, but what that angel says is something like, “Well, hello there, you lucky thing…” -- Publishers Clearing House on the doorstep! And all the content of what he says is reason to be happy – and then after her initial bemusement, the Virgin’s response, in the Magnificat, is one great expanding whoop of joy… and I suggest to you that it is the model for the midset that we are invited to bring to ministry.
Now it could be argued that the Virgin Mary is such an extraordinary human being, however or however far you wish to define that, that she can’t really serve as an exemplar or model for the rest of us.
But then, I think we are also called to be extraordinary, all of us, …not just in light of ordination but in light of our baptism… there’s a trenchant statement of that insight in an old Western novel – once very famous, now almost forgotten (the source for at least two classic Western movies)…a novel called The Virginian (Owen Wister). Also memorable because it contains two “Great Lines.” The first one is… “When you call me that, SMILE!”
The second line has a bit more to do with ministry. The ranch has been visited by a travelling revivalist, and his visit has not gone well, so there is some discussion, in the aftermath, of qualifications for ministry. (Happy for an Anglican to note that the bishop of Wyoming comes off well in the discussion). But the hero gets off this great speech……"As for parsons "--the gesture of his arm was a disclaiming one--"I reckon some parsons have a right to tell yu' to be good. The bishop of this hyeh Territory has a right. But I'll tell yu' this: a middlin' doctor is a pore thing, and a middlin' lawyer is a pore thing; but keep me from a middlin' man of God."

So we are not to be “middlin’” – “mediocre” – but extraordinary…not in the ways that our society likes to measure human exceptionality, necessarily, at all. Not necessarily in intellect, or in physical strength, or in artistic talent, or in business acumen or in personal charm – none of which is to be despised, mark you;
But I do think that the one thing in which we must be extraordinary, is precisely in this quality of happiness, happiness in spite of all the reasons that we may have, and that our people have, NOT to feel happy…happy in that good news announced by the angel to Mary, glad tidings announced that shall be to ALL people.

And that is our privilege…to show to ALL people what ALL people are called to be…in spite of everything…to be hopeful, and faithful, and loving, and the greatest impetus to those good things is the happiness that comes from absolutely knowing God’s lovingkindness toward us. We carry that happiness, and in it we carry to the world Jesus Christ, just as his mother did.

Now when “the bishop of this hyeh territory” has asked you all her hard questions, in a few minutes, she will pray on your behalf… “May the Lord by his grace uphold you in the service to which you are called.” [because she is a good bishop, and a good woman, she won't roll her eyes heavenward when she does so]…now our Lutheran bros. and sisters put it a bit differently…”The Lord who has called you to his service, will uphold you by his grace.” And I give you permission to hear those words too.

May you be upheld in all your doings, in all your goings out and your comings in, by that grace which is the source of all our happiness and our very life.
And God bless you.

In nomine…

Sunday, March 22, 2009

in which the Rambler brains up...

Just a note in passing, after re-reading last week's whine, I made like Pig Three this morning and completed my morning set-up routine before anyone else arrived at church...even before the snow-crew arrived.

Yes! It is snowing again, folks, in Prairie Metropolis.

Anyhow! visiting preacher, novice celebrant, and the Rambler is preaching an ordination this afternoon on the readings from the Annunciation, somewhat violently transferred backwards.

This may be the only sermon delivered in this diocese this Sunday with supportive quotations from both Anthony Trollope and Owen Wister...

Pray for me, there are a couple of paragraphs still hanging fire!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

in which the Rambler proofreads the minutes of Vestry...

...and deals with the problem of "cavitating pumps" in the heating system, which at some point were transformed into "covenanting pumps" in the minutes of our Vestry discussion.

Ah, I can see it now, little oily lumps of machinery lurking and scuttling about among the heather in the rain on some windswept Scottish moor... and saying "Och!"
Actually they have been saying, "Och! och! och! och!" but that is now corrected and all is good cheer in the boiler room.

The Wonder Secketry, she whose occasional dyslexia is more than compensated for by her loyalty and good humour and courage, is not in fact in nearly such dire medical jeopardy as we feared. (Pause to set off fireworks, hang out flags, roast whole ox, etc.)

According to a recent Facebook quiz, the Anglican Theologian the Rambler most resembles is (drum roll) William Laud. I am, frankly, delighted and flattered. A thug, our Bill, indeed, in true seventeenth-century fashion, but that's not all he was by any means. And the more I read about him, the more I find to admire and give thanks for.

One of our parishioners has asked for a letter of reference to embark upon her work for a Master's in Theological Studies. I am thrilled; not least because she says, "Most H & U, especially your sermons, have made all the difference." Undoubtedly a hyperbole, but sweet to hear. I am savouring it!

If you are not yet acquainted with Geez magazine, I recommend it very highly. There is a website -- here -- if you'd like a little taste before subscribing. The latest issue just arrived. Amazing good stuff about Lenten observances. Just one of the lovely, mischievous recommendation -- not to attend any meetings you can't walk to!!!

And in the same mail, the New Yorker, the one with Michelle Obama on the cover...at the extreme opposite end of the magazine-publishing world, but oh my, oh my, there are John Updike's final poems, and they "take me by the roots out my heart" (an old vaudeville line that became part of the family dialect)...and exquisitely beautiful.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

kvetching again...

...but at this point, NOT about the weather.

Not that it doesn't offer opportunities.

But this moan is on the subject of How Hard It Is To Find Good Help...liturgical subsection.

I officiate at two Sunday services at MH & U, including the early one, at 8:30, with a tiny congregation, the old Book of Common Prayer, a splendid volunteer organist, and a "Lay Assistant," sort of a sub-diaconal role, with responsibility for carrying the Gospel book in procession, "handing things" at the Eucharist, and so forth.

At the early service there is a rota of three or four volunteers who carry out this role, according to the light that has been afforded them.

And there is ONE...who was on duty this morning...and now I'm going to whine, folks, because she manages to be across my hawse, that is, "test my vocation," every step of the way.

I usually arrive about 7:30 or 7:40. At 8 a.m. I unlock the front doors and set out the "church open" sign. At 8 a.m., she arrives at the BACK door, approximately half a block from the front door, and rings the doorbell for admittance. So I run back to "buzz her in" and receive the reproachful looks.

Once in, she sets about constructing herself a little nest in the chancel for her private devotions...in the process, she flits about the church turning on about HALF of what needs turning on...never the same pattern twice, and getting under my feet.

I worked myself out a little "route" through the premises, turning on lights, attending to the front doors and the sound system, taking down the hymn boards ready for the early morning hymn numbers, marking the lectern Bible for the readers, "setting" the pulpit, adding last-minute names to the intercession list, putting batteries in the mics, generally getting my feet and mind--such as it is--set for the liturgy.

But when Esmeralda is on the premises...she turns on HALF the lights...can't find the batteries for the mics (that's cuz they're in the CHARGER, sweetums, WHITHER you never, ever, return them), runs off with the intercession sheet (into her little devotional nook) before I've emended it... insists on carrying extraneous items when she's ALSO officially carrying the processional cross or the Gospel Book, insists on hiking up the slack of her alb in one hand in procession like 'Liza crossing the ice (while carrying the cross and extraneous baggage)...and placidly ignores all cues, commands, and corrections.

Isn't this childish. But I want to take her by her two ears and pound her head on the wall. Pray for me.

Monday, March 2, 2009


And many thanks to I am Chorus who bestowed the lovely Kreativ Blogger award you see over to the right!

Here are the rules:

List 7 things that you love and then pass the award on to 7 people...tagging them and letting them know they won! You can copy the picture of the award and put it on your sideboard letting the whole wide world know you are KReATIV!

Seven things that I love:

1. Anglican chant!
2. My job! (TBTG)
3. Reading!
4. Italy! (ah, Roma...)
5. Putting together people and text...giving books to readers and readers to books!
6. Red meat!
7. Laughter!

And if you're reading this, please consider yourself tagged?


(Not actually Most Holy And Undivided)

And yesterday we processed...through the Great Litany and Supplication in Morning Prayer according to the BCP...all around and about the church, indoors -- and if your processions go the other way around, well, that's the Coriolis effect for you.

Would anyone care to explain the mentality of crucifers, that when there is a very long hymn or chant to cover their displacement from point A to point B (or back to point A, as the case may be), they gallop like Seabiscuit? And when there are a bare four short-meter verses to get them over the distance, they go all languour and slo-mo?

Just askin'.