Sunday, January 22, 2012

movin' on...

It doesn't happen very often, but every now and then I get a useful and salutary -- I hope -- reminder of the kind of Total Desolation that used to envelop every experience of worship, a grim mixture of grief and rage. Didja ever have one of those Sundays when you just want to put your head down and BAWL? (too cold still, despite much moderation of temperature today, to go out and dig WORMS, you understand)

It's been an extra - ecclesiological sort of a day, wrapping up with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service this evening (anybody else HATE Sunday evening obligations?) at which a number of persons spoke. Some of them knew how, and some of them told truth. So that was restorative.

And then I indulged myself in at stop at the supermarket for Favourite Things for a very late supper here at home.

Re-thinking the local and current assumptions about ecumenism, however; and the (I'm sorry) prevailing cant about "unity," and "diversity" and so forth.

More and more, I think that we speak -- in the patterns of our habitual and "received" discourse -- perhaps not with forked tongue, but rather out of both sides of our mouths at once. And the left side knoweth not what the right side uttereth, worse luck.

More and more -- at least part of the time -- what is bandied about as churchspeak sounds to me like a rough draft of 1984; we have a list of nouns that are "double plus good" and a list of nouns that are "double plus un good"; and we fling them at each other like rocks; and everybody goes "YAY" and "BOO" right on Pavlovian cue, without ever examining what is actually being said.

Three more sleeps, however, TBTG, and I am within hailing distance of the end of the PRE-DO list. I can see that nice little bit of after-deck in my mind's eye, believe me.

My only worry is how they will ever be able to get the POINTY END of the boat sufficiently down into the water so they can cast off...what with all the Rev Gals falling on each other's necks back at the BROAD END.

Never doubt that you make a difference, y'all (or is it "all y'all"?).

Thursday, January 12, 2012


trying to put together the reading (I Corinthians 15, natch) for tomorrow's funeral with the reflection upon it -- I can do this, and have done it, with a small (very small!) group of hearers, but this is likely to be a big (monster big) funeral. And I'm feeling a bit...spooked by the prospect. Prayers would be welcome!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

language, and text, and liturgy, and like that there.

I am trying to establish a habit of blogging at the end of the day, but there is a little pause right here, and "the kids" or some of them are coming for supper in about three-quarters of an hour, so before I get the chicken going, I think I'll just make this post and let it stand. I really, really, really, wanted to get this up -- it's from a recent review in the Times Literary Supplement, of Harold Bloom's latest book on the Bible, and Cummings' work on the Book of Common Prayer. It -- and other insights in the review -- dovetail so well with Mary Beard's essay on the "future" of the classics, in the most recent New York Review of Books all about how reading and studying these texts is a matter of entering into dialogue with those who wrote them and with everyone who has ever read them since. Here we go:

"Liturgy is like a vast cognitive tapestry, in which text reaches within and around to meet other texts; in which one human experience is grafted onto another. The words of Morning Prayer or of Baptism in the seventeenth century, or for that matter in the twenty-first, contain the words of all previous centuries back to the time of the Roman Empire, and in some cases hundreds of years earlier, back to the rituals of Jewish communities at the beginning of recorded meaning."
--Brian Cummings, editor, The Book of Common Prayer: the texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mary Brown at work again...

A quiet day at home with some useful tidying and re-organizing, and some overdue writing projects out of the way, a book review, and a letter.

Slept a bit later than usual, which felt good; said Morning Prayer, read for recreation for a bit, then got up to a porridge breakfast and some kitchen work. Listened to the Gabrieli Consort, singing the Praetorius Christmettein the background.

So, not everything accomplished that I hoped for, but eliminated some clutter and consolidated some resources, and passed the time pleasantly.

Interested in the PBS series on Martin Luther, some new perspectives on that history.

Picked up a link to a NY Timescolumn by Sam Anderson: "What I really Want is Someone Rolling Around in the Text." Anderson is chiefly concerned with the technological possibility that e-readers of various sorts will soon allow us to make marginal notes, underline, and scribble, and comment on "the text" in a way comparable to our practise with the printed word on paper in bound codices. More, that we shall be able to share our "marginalia" instantaneously...

But what intrigues me is the overlap, kind of a Venn diagram arrangement, between what Anderson says over his shoulder about reading as a dialogue both with other readers and with the text, and with what Mary Beard wrote very recently in the same publication about the "future of the Classics" -- she goes so far as to suggest that classical study has always been, essentially, the conversation among those who read the texts -- including those who WROTE the texts.

And that makes me think again about my "personal hermeneutic". I am most at east with a kind of reader-response approach to the text: "what is happening in and to us as we read and hear these words in this order?" but my recent reading suggests more ramifications to this process.

and that redounds to preaching as well, of course. No end to it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

a pastoral/liturgical conundrum...

All right, fellow sufferers, here is the Question of the Day.

St. Curious parish church: Sunday morning: two services, eight a.m., ten a.m. Both, except in truly exceptional situations, services of the Eucharist. Attendance at 10 a.m., between forty and sixty most normal Sundays. Attendance at 8 a.m., anywhere between two and twelve, ENTIRELY unpredictably, although severe weather naturally lowers that number. Not always the same folks, either.

So last night we have a forecast of serious freezing rain through the whole area. A regular eight-o'clock person phones me to say he won't try to attend (he has mobility issues). Nor will he be bringing the lady who usually comes with him. A third regular attender entered into rest on Wednesday last. So I have reason to expect FEW.

But. Freezing rain does not materialize, TBTG. I arrive at church without incident. I set up the chapel space for the Eucharist, and I get the vestments on.

Now if NOBODY shows up, I have two, or perhaps three, options: to do nothing, or to perform the Liturgy of the Word and stop there, or to say Morning Prayer. These I can do all by myself, and put "1" in the appropriate columns in the Vestry Book.

But. At 7:55, the front door creaks open, and Ms. X appears. Ms. X comes quite often. She is East Asian. She almost never speaks. She absolutely never makes eye contact, with anyone. When the other usual folks are present, she allows them to shake her hand at the Peace, and gruffly mutters, "You too. You too." in response to their greeting. And she absolutely never receives communion.

Now a side-comment for non-Anglicans. The denomination is somewhat OCD about the celebration of the Eucharist...CANNOT take place if the priest is ALONE -- but the wording is: "There shall be no Celebration of the Lord's Supper, except there be at least one person present to communicate with the Priest."

OK! So what does A do in these circumstances? Cancel the service? Didn't seem right. Curtail the service to just readings and prayers? Seemed unkind and impolite.

I applied some sort of home-made clawhammer casuistry, in the sacristy, and decided I couldn't PRESUME that she wouldn't suddenly decide, this Sunday of all Sundays, to take communion. Nor could I presume that nobody would come in after the service began (not unheard of).

So I took a deep breath, and we launched into it. I did read just the Gospel, I abbreviated the prayers. In the parts where all the people are to respond together, I did hear just the ghost of a shadow of a whisper of an echo accompanying my own voice. And I was, eventually, the sole communicant.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Epiphany and epiphanies

This is just posted because I thought it was funnier than many recent cartoons.

Good long full day -- went to an open house, and had a nice time, home for a nourishing supper I had spent the day cooking...a fine bowl of soup, all pulses (aka legumes) and barley and a vegetable stock.

While it simmered all day long, had a splendid running forum on FB on the qualities of a bay leaf as a seasoning (Feel free to chime in, here). It's noticeable that any posting about food gets instant and copious response!

And while the soup was giving off splendid aromas (some of them attributable to the bay leaf, no doubt), had a go at modifying a sourdough bread recipe, adding a couple of eggs and about 1/3 cup of canola oil to a recipe that was basically flour, water, and leavening. It was highly successful, I think, giving a much more tender and elastic "crumb." So the smell of fresh bread was added to the domestic bouquet.

And I was able to wrap up one of the two nice round warm fragrant loaves to take as a hostess gift to a parish Open House, a warm welcome and pleasant conversation.

In the meantime, "with my other hand" I put together a kind of brief Epiphany sermon, not so much an exposition of any one of tomorrow morning's readings but a simple explanation of very basic doctrine--that God wishes to be known and loved, wishes to be IN TOUCH with his creation, and takes all sorts of initiatives to make that happen, not just then, but now, for each of us.

I'll be referring heavily to a wonderful Epiphany sermon from Robertson Davies' novel Mixture of Frailties in which he describes how the shepherds needed a full-colour four-part mass choir production of the heavenly host with brass accompaniments, just to get their attention; the wise men, pouring all their energy into meticulous attention to the skies, were alerted by a tiny anomaly, a little 'blip' in the sky; and Simeon and Anna, watching with their own kind of devotion, needed only a whisper in their alert hearts: "Here he is."

On which happy note, to bed. Freezing rain is forecast; tomorrow morning could be complicated.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Five A-ha moments on a Friday....or maybe only three...

kathrynzj over at RevGalBlogPals has given us a different kind of Friday Five today:

In the midst of the holiday season I had one of those moments where a path suddenly was made clear - A-ha! This experience has prompted me to wonder what some of your A-ha moments may be.

They can be mundane - a realization that you like/don't like a certain food or that you really look good in that color you never had the guts to try. They can be sacred - a way to better pace your day clicks into place or finally a devotion or meditation practice that really works for you. They can be profound - the moment you realized he/she was the one (or wasn't)or the moment you realized where your deepest passion could meet the world's greatest need.

Please tell us - what are five (more or less) of your 'A-ha' moments. Where have you had a moment of clarity?

Well, here's hoping "clarity" includes Primal Panic...

1. The moment I knew I could read, I guess -- I remember it...I was five, and my mother had taught me my alphabet. Sitting at the breakfast table I asked her what "C" said; she told me, "C says KUH" (approximately), and I said, "then this says ... CORN FLAKES." It was a distinct physical sensation in my head--something like the feeling of a run in a stocking. Same thing happened over and over, the year I studied Hebrew.

2. The moment I first realized I was pregnant -- had been travelling and lost track of the calendar, and felt Less Than Great for a few days before I suddenly counted on my fingers, and "well, well, well."

3. Probably the first time I ever consciously wondered, "Maybe I could do SOMETHING, in the church?" The thought was so terrifying I thought I had better pay attention and pursue it. (So here I am, 22 years later, still wondering whether "I could do something in the church"...)

...there are a couple more, but they're in the "unbloggable" category, I think. Interesting to reflect that most, not all, are under the heading of desperately extreme stress experiences.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


I am coming to see that the price of being at ease in my house is Unremitting Toil, which seems contradictory. But the daily necessities were neglected for so long that now just cleaning up after a meal, or tidying up after reading the paper, or running the vacuum cleaner, or completing the ironing, feels like Vast Accomplishment.

The problem of course is that it Doesn't's all to be done again next day, or at most a week later. Energy flags before I get to the Major Unpleasaunces in the house -- not to mention the yard (please).

However, today and this evening, I DEALT with one of them. In one corner of my kitchen cabinets I have a deep cupboard with a two-tiered lazy-susan arrangement. It's been a catch-all for almost 40 years... things get pushed to the back, and forgotten, and packaging deteriorates, and squalor ensues.

Most acutely, most recently, when I discovered that a can of evaporated milk had blown its bottom. ICK. Ick involving a lot of other items, too, of course.

So this afternoon I unloaded everything in the cupboard into a couple of stout cardboard boxes; disassembled and removed the lazy-susan mechanism (with some profanity); scrubbed its components, which involved some serious soaking and strong chemicals; scrubbed the cabinet shelves that surround the turntable space; and actually managed to get all the pieces and so forth back into the space and securely re-assembled (a little more profanity).

And then I scrutinized what I had removed, and some of it, including the Froot Loops that expired in 2006, went straight into the garbage. Some of the rest will go downstairs to the big pantry.

Most happily, I know, now, what's in that cupboard; and oh, there is going to be SUCH a cooking, and a baking.

For the foreseeable future, opening that cupboard door will be a minor, but real, pleasure. And that's clear gain.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

the real edge.

further adventures of the Rambler being priest-in-charge, pro tem...

Went into the office at St. Curious this morning, did some paperwork, sorted out all the alternative first-readings for Wednesday eucharists from now until mid-March. Secretary very pleased to have that squared away.

Made a couple of phone calls, caught a bite of lunch, and made a communion visit to one of our indomitable mothers-in-Zion who has been recuperating brilliantly from hip surgery, but now has A Pain that impedes her mobility rather a lot. Went on from there to visit her sister in palliative care at a not-too-distant auxiliary hospital. Another communion, and a lot of good conversation.

Back to church to tidy up and put stats in The Book. Altar Guild will have a fit when they see the number of little purificators soaking...

Home, some desultory supper, puddling about accomplishing not much of anything. And the phone rang. You ever have the phone ring, and you don't even have to pick it up? Yes. Lovely wife of a retired surgeon, he being a pillar of the "early service" -- and terminally ill -- and housebound after a fall on the ice before Christmas. I visited on Sunday and took them communion. He went to his rest earlier this evening. Now to help her plan the memorial next week. May he rest in peace and rise in glory -- a most engaging personality, a brilliant surgeon, and just perceptibly something of a rascal. Good to remember the insight of one of my favourite four-year-olds, that the Jacob Saga proves to us how much God loves rascals.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

working it

all right, on we go.

up early and got a few things done, like ordering a prescription refill, and organizing my grocery list (first Tuesday is 10% discount day)...Went to three different banks, went to the post office to send a parcel to Number One Son.
Went to two different supermarkets and laid in STAPLES. I have plenty of meat and the ilk; I will get my produce as it's needed from my beloved local market, cheap-cheap; but I bought flour, and sugar, and oil, and cat food (two kinds, dry and squshy), cat litter, cans of fruit juice and tomato juice. Next month I'll hit cleaning supplies.

As it was I spent about $200 with good discounts and some additional bargains. So then I took myself out for a late lunch -- pasta shells with a ricotta spinach filling and a rose sauce.

Home again and a bit of correspondence and some pastoral phone calls and emails. And a little quiet nap in my rocking chair, with COL (Cat On Lap).

Then I spent a fair while cudgelling my brains to remember the name, "Louis Weil" -- and to find his article on the sacrament of baptism (ATR, Spring 2010).

The laundry is in its last load, I've done a bit of mending, time for evening prayer and so to bed.

Tomorrow, VISITS. Some serious contemplation on Epiphany.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Productive Tuesday!

and the evening and the morning were the SECOND day.

Arranged to meet a good friend for breakfast this morning and after pursuing breakfast around Prairie Metropolis for an hour we gave up and came back to Tether's End and made do with what was on hand here...and conversed for the rest of the morning, which was delightful.

Lots of chores yet to do this evening, the couch ate me this afternoon while my attention was diverted. It's in cahoots with the cat. She got up and sat on me, most unfairly, and gave off sleep-waves all afternoon.

I have embarked on a Daring New Project -- I am reading the Bible. According to the tiny-print tables and charts in the front of the Canadian Book of Common Prayer, 1959 edition. Fortunately, I have a couple of those nice little bookmark magnifiers as supplied by the Canadian Bible Society. Timing the Evening Prayer stint is trickier than timing Morning Prayer (of course). So I have at hand my white leatherette zippered-up KJV that my aunt and uncle gave me for my 15th birthday (about the time of my confirmation -- first time around!), and the white leather BCP with hymn book that my soon-to-be in-laws gave me for my confirmation (SECOND time around!) when I was 21... and I think I am going to enjoy this. Just reading it for nourishment, not for study, not for sermonizing, just reading, laying one piece alongside another and watching for sparks to fly.

Because I am thinking it is about time for my personal theology to undergo spring cleaning and/or extensive renovations. Along with my abode and my own somewhat road-weary personal chassis!

This evening: laundry; and correspondence; kitchen-tidying; journal-time; and perhaps one other small, discrete, do-able tidying project somewhere in the house. Supper's over; time to get at it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Good afternoon, all.

Here we are in a new year -- and I am brooding over schedules and priorities and calling and resources and eternity (and wonderin' where the lions are), and like that.

New Year's Resolutions in other words. I've been making them for about 60 years. Not keeping them -- also about 60 years. Could be discouraging.

But, but. We start over. I've had two years now, since retirement began; I've had two years to work off some of the Total Fatigue accumulated in the preceding fifteen; I'm feeling more energy and more gusto and more "desire to Do Something" instead of "desire to prove I don't have to Do Anything."

And I'm also conscious of diminutions rolling down upon me (just watching, or listening to, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Foolishness, and, yes, seeing Big Stone Rollers in my path too), so, let us see, maybe this year.

I've started off with a new regime for morning devotions -- the whole-Psalter-in-a-month, every month schedule from the old Book of Common Prayer , and the morning and evening prayer readings from Scripture. Started off this morning briskly with circumcision according to Torah and circumcision according to Paul (Romans 2). I think this will be doable.

What else? Kitchen clean, every night by bedtime. Bedroom tidy every morning before I launch upon the day. Bathroom clean, every day. Laundry done up and finished, every Monday, for the week. Little cat, and house-plants, attended to every morning before I have my own breakfast. Grocery shopping organized, once a week and once a month for "big stuff" on the 10% discount day. And I rather think I'll have a go at making my own bread, again. I don't seem to use very much, I think I can stay ahead of it, and I like to do it.

I'm investigating how long my "staples" last me -- a jug of dishwasher detergent, a big jug of laundry detergent, a three-pound box of margarine, a big bottle of shampoo. (A tank of gasoline, for that matter.)

Some time every day for journal, and letters, and this blessed blog. Some discipline about responding to emails and letters and phone calls.

Exercise. Sigh.

I have dreams of a great grandiose LIST of everything that needs doing, organized in one place, so that I can ration it out and come to an understanding of what constitutes a day's work, so I know when I can feel entitled to quit and rest, or quit and play.

Because at 67 I don't think it's morbid to reflect that most LIKELY I have already lived more of my life than I have left before me, and it behooveth me not to waste any of the latter?

Fabrector, my boss, is away from the parish for a bit, so this morning's liturgy was in my hands. We had a happy time with the Naming of Jesus. Then after the second service I went and made a pastoral bedside call. I still struggle with the pastoral I ask whether I MAY come, do I announce that I AM COMING, how do I hear what it is, that the person on the phone is hoping I will say next? and utter it? The man I went to see is in the process of dying, at home. But not quite as imminently today, perhaps, as his wife thought he was, last night.

And so home, and a Beautiful Breakfast -- a couple of eggs omelette'd up with onion and celery and jalapeno and pre-baked potato cut up, and a piece of ham dolled up with some cranberry juice and a few raisins.

And then sleep, naturally. But I did not, I WILL not, lie down on the couch. I may doze off in my chair (and I did), but otherwise, sleeping is done IN BED. NOT, on the couch with the lights on and the TV roaring.

And, gulp, no more computer games. Except Sporcle quizzes. I mean, after all.

what's left, this evening? a salad supper; kitchen tidying; thank you letters; a couple of pastoral phone calls; and to bed, betimes.