Monday, February 27, 2006

From Sunday's Washington Post, A Voice of Courage:

This op-ed was in Sunday's Washington Post. Glad somebody is speaking out on this. Archbishop Akinola, BTW, attended the same Big Old Seminary that I'm to go to in August. Interesting.

A Gospel of Intolerance
By John Bryson Chane
Sunday, February 26, 2006; Page B07
It's no secret that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are engaged in a bitter internal struggle over the role of gay and lesbian people within the church. But despite this struggle, the leaders of our global communion of 77 million members have consistently reiterated their pastoral concern for gays and lesbians. Meeting last February, the primates who lead our 38 member provinces issued a unanimous statement that said in part: "The victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us."
We now have reason to doubt those words.

Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, primate of the Church of Nigeria and leader of the conservative wing of the communion, recently threw his prestige and resources behind a new law that criminalizes same-sex marriage in his country and denies gay citizens the freedoms to assemble and petition their government. The law also infringes upon press and religious freedom by authorizing Nigeria's government to prosecute newspapers that publicize same-sex associations and religious organizations that permit same-sex unions.

Were Archbishop Akinola a solitary figure and Nigeria an isolated church, his support for institutionalized bigotry would be significant only within his own country. But the archbishop is perhaps the most powerful member of a global alliance of conservative bishops and theologians, generously supported by foundations and individual donors in the United States, who seek to dominate the Anglican Communion and expel those who oppose them, particularly the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Failing that, the archbishop and his allies have talked of forming their own purified communion -- possibly with Archbishop Akinola at its head.
Because the conflict over homosexuality is not unique to Anglicanism, civil libertarians in this country, and other people as well, should also be aware of the archbishop and his movement. Gifts from such wealthy donors as Howard Ahmanson Jr. and the Bradley, Coors and Scaife families, or their foundations, allow the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy to sponsor so-called "renewal" movements that fight the inclusion of gays and lesbians within the Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches and in the United Church of Christ. Should the institute succeed in "renewing" these churches, what we see in Nigeria today may well be on the agenda of the Christian right tomorrow.

Many countries have laws restricting marriage on any number of grounds. Some of these, such as age, kinship and marital status, for instance, are prudent, while most of us believe other sorts of restrictions, including race and religion, are oppressive and indefensible. Our global community has certainly achieved no consensus on the issue of same-sex marriage or the related issues of civil unions.

But the Nigerian law has crossed the line in several important respects. Its most outrageous provision deals not with marriage but with "same-sex relationships" and prohibits essentially any public or private activity in any way related to homosexuality. It reads in part: "Publicity, procession and public show of same sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise are prohibited in Nigeria."
Any person involved in the "sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly" is subject to five years' imprisonment.
The archbishop's support for this law violates numerous Anglican Communion documents that call for a "listening process" involving gay Christians and their leaders. But his contempt for international agreements also extends to Articles 18-20 of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which articulates the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, association and assembly.

Surprisingly, few voices -- Anglican or otherwise -- have been raised in opposition to the archbishop. When I compare this silence with the cacophony that followed the Episcopal Church's decision to consecrate the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, a gay man who lives openly with his partner, as the bishop of New Hampshire, I am compelled to ask whether the global Christian community has lost not only its backbone but its moral bearings. Have we become so cowed by the periodic eruptions about the decadent West that Archbishop Akinola and his allies issue that we are no longer willing to name an injustice when we see one?

I also feel compelled to ask the archbishop's many high-profile supporters in this country why they have not publicly dissociated themselves from his attack on the human rights of a vulnerable population. Is it because they support this sort of legislation, or because the rights of gay men and women are not worth the risk of tangling with an important alliance?
As a matter of logic, it must be one or the other, and it is urgent that members of our church, and citizens of our country, know your mind.

The writer is Episcopal bishop of Washington.

Finally Finished!

PH's Christmas sweater, that is. Better late than never! I think you can see now why it took so long (besides procrastination on my part).


Well, the cabaret was a great success - we raised over $14,000 for mission trips to the Rosebud Sioux in S Dak, and to the Gulf Coast for rebuilding. I didn't trip over my feet in the dance numbers, our rendition of "A Little Priest" was a rousing success, and PH's solo (he who never sung until I started dragging him with me to choir eight years ago) was lovely.

Yesterday, the vestry voted in favor of acceptance of the recommendation of the Parish Discernment Committee that they commend me to the COM for the interviews. I didn't doubt that it would happen, but being a worrywart, I feared a hiccup or two. They will fax the letter of commendation and the PDC report to the Bishop's office today.

I am STILL waiting on the letters (two of them) from my COM represesentative. One should have been done after our first meeting almost a year ago, my rector should have responded, and there should be another from our meeting several weeks ago. Shame on me for not following up with her after the first meeting to ask the whereabouts of the letter, but now the deadline is Tuesday and I'm stressing in a major way. I called the bishop's office on Friday to verify they hadn't received them yet, and asked the bishop's wonderful assistant if she would call the COM rep to ask where the letters were. I called the COM rep's church this morning and got voice mail for everyone, which must mean they're all in a meeting or at Starbuck's or something (yes, that's catty, but it's Monday, and I'm stressed out). Realistically, I don't think they'll keep me out of the interviews if the letters are a day or two late, but this is the last hurdle, and I'm slightly freaked out by her inattention to what she committed to do. Trying to just take deep breaths...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday Five Friendship Meme

Name five friends who were there when you needed them.

Mom - who was the steel in my spine while going through an awful divorce and who taught me to speak my mind. That occasionally led us to some rather prickly conversations, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I see much of her in StrongOpinions, who was a mere sprout when she passed.

PH - who taught me that loving after loss is deeper and richer than I could have imagined. He also gently has encouraged me to try many things I thought I wouldn't like (ranging from Wagner to pickled herring) and has been my rock through my illnesses and my discernment process, which resemble each other more than I care to admit.

LyricSoprano - to whom I can tell ANYTHING without feeling judged, and who shares my very quirky sense of humor (which causes us to misbehave regularly in choir).

MathTeacherSIL - I didn't know what good friends we'd become when I first met her - we were so very different. I've laughed with her, shared parent-of-teenager struggles with her, gone shopping with her, had my eyebrows waxed with her...that's true sisterhood!

SeminarySIL - she has the biggest heart in the world, and I love her thoughful mind, too! She also has passion for family that I, who have had so little in the way of family, really cherish. She was the first in PH's family to make me feel really welcomed, for which I'll be forever grateful.

DocSIL - she reminds me so much of my early mothering days, when I had more questions than answers. I still have questions, but I'm more at peace about the fact that I don't have answers. A great doctor with extraordinary patience. I wish some of that (the patience part) could rub off on me.

And because I can't leave well enough alone, I'm adding a couple of bonus entries:

MIL - because mothers-in-law get a bad rap, and I'm the most fortunate of women to have one who loves me like a mother and respects me like an adult, and not just because her son loves me.

L - She started out as my priest and became a dear, dear friend. She has the mind of a university don and the joie de vivre of a twenty year old, and shares my frustration over clothes for women priests. And on our road trip to the Gulf Coast, we both got a wicked case of the giggles...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Please pray...

for dear friend N who has been battling a crippling deep depression for several months. N has just been taken to the hospital, having taken an overdose of pills. We hope N was found in time. PH saw the ambulance when he was coming home from work (N lives around the corner) and is now taking our assistant rector over to the hospital. I think it's going to be a long night for us all.

Dear Lord, sometimes the darkness falls like a curtain and weighs so heavily upon us. Help us to know that there is light, and it is found in You. Help us to know that healing is possible, with Your help. Hold N in Your loving arms, and N's family, who have tried so hard to help their loved one. Teach us the words to say, the tasks to do, the prayers to pray, to help this family, and N's whole community. This we pray in your name. Amen.

Whistle and Fish's Cat Meme

Many thanks to St Casserole, who introduced us to Whistle and Fish, her two ginger kittens, who are the authors of this meme.

1. What's your favorite food?

Mia: Fish (sorry, Fish kitten). Tilapia or salmon are best, but I will get up and amuse my humans by begging like a dog for just about any fish at the dining room table.

Spooky: The leaves from my human's alstromeria, which I then promptly throw up.

2. What is your favorite toy?

Spooky: Twist ties. Rubber bands. Paper on the desk. Anything but those sappy cat toys, unless they're doused in catnip.

Mia: The blanket under which I hide (note that I hate dangling participles. I'm an educated cat.)

3. What is your best trick?

Spooky: It's not a trick; it's a feline imperative. I sit at the backdoor and cry to go out on the sunporch. I sit there on the porch for 38 seconds and then cry to come back in. My record for getting my humans to get out of their chairs to let me in or out is eight times in ten minutes.

Mia: The aforementioned hiding under the blanket. That's a feline imperative as well.

3. What is your favorite human trick?

Mia: Ignoring me. I want to be alone. Except when there is fish on the dining room table and I want some.

Spooky: Cleaning out my LitterMaid self-cleaning cat box. I then immediately re-enter it and leave a gift. It's so much fun!

4. What human rule do you break often?

Spooky: Sitting on the dining room table in the afternoon sun.

Mia: Sitting on my human's pillow and shedding on it.

6. What are you glad your human does NOT know about you?

Mia: I am a tiger, not a tiger kitty. If I so chose, I could rip them to shreds. I do not so choose, since they do occasionally give me bits of fish from the dining room table.

Spooky: I am panthera panthera, and I kill dust bunnies. I act like the alpha cat around here, but the gecko definitely makes me nervous...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

1000 things do until we can sell our house. I spent today going back and forth between the computer doing "work" work, and painting the trim in my home office room. StrongOpinions is supposed to be doing the painting work and says she wants to do the painting work to earn money, but always has something else to do when she could be painting. So I guess I will tackle the downstairs hallway next.

At some point I need to start tossing things. Please kick me in the derriere and get me moving on this. I have also decided to sell my grand piano, since moving it is such a bear, and just get a little keyboard to keep me happy until I can settle into a real home again. Grieving a bit about that. It was my first major purchase after my divorce, and it was something of a staement of independence and self-reliance. Ah, well, I don't need such statements any more, do I?

(Your cue to say, "Mibi, snap out of that kind of self-pitying nonsense.")

PH and I spent the weekend at Big Old Seminary nearby, at a conference for prospective students. A wildly diverse group, ranging in age from 23 to 70. The students did a variety show which was quite fun, including three of the largest men in the class in tutus dancing to Swan Lake, several musical numbers of varying quality, and a "Community Norms Enforcer" skit which teased one of the quirkier Old Testament profs and the Dean, who took it with remarkable grace. My brain is full of ideas for classes that I want to take, planning to get two biblical languages done when i'm only really required to take one, and what kind of housing will work best for us, and will accomodate all our stuff (even after tossing the truly extraneous). There are some off-campus townhouses that aren't bad. PH and I had dinner with the Dean of Admissions and her husband - delightful evening. I'm only slightly terrified by the overwhelming change that this will mean for us.

Vestry votes on my recommendation on Sunday afternoon. I think it will go smoothly, but I'm still praying. The vestry needs to fax the commendation with the report by next Tuesday. Nothing like getting it done just under the wire. The Lord is laughing at me trying to "manage" this process...

We're doing a Mardi Gras on Saturday night at church to raise money for our two mission trips (one back to the Gulf, and one to the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South Dakota). Dinner, silent auction, and a cabaret. I'm singing "A Little Priest", a mordant ditty from "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street." The little priest in question has been baked into a meat pie. Should definitely raise a few eyebrows. Hopefully my blasphemy won't affect the vestry vote.

Off to choir practice.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I got word late yesterday afternoon that I have been accepted into the MDiv program at Big Old Episcopal Seminary nearby.

I went Monday afternoon for the interview. I thought it went reasonably well, but spent the next 24 hours replaying every question and every answer in my head, wondering if I had done a good job or failed miserably. I sent a thank-you email to the coordinator, and she replied with the good news.

Of course, the acceptance is contingent upon my success at the diocesan Commission on Ministry interviews next month.


Another thing to be neurotic about.

For a month.

So tell me why I'm not losing weight under the stress (dang)!

In other good news, Useless Boyfriend sent StrongOpinions a lovely bunch of sunflowers for Valentine's Day. Maybe he isn't quite so useless after all.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Working with Hands and Hearts

Members of our team pose with a lady whose home we rebuilt (interior sheetrocking and finish work) while in Mississippi. She's in the center with the red turtleneck on. I'm on the left with the white hat and black vest over red t-shirt. StrongOpinions is on the right in the black sweatshirt. The lady is currently living in the FEMA-provided trailer you can see behind us. We are hoping the finish carpentry and appliances and such will get done quickly, and that she can be back in her home by Easter. This is a story of hope amidst the ruins; there are many of these, but there are also people who are still in dire straits. While we were able to rebuild this lady's house, her next door neighbor's house was demolished while we watched. the house across the street, not 50 yards away and the same vintage as the one demolished, survived the storm with minimal damage. Such was the capricious nature of the hurricane.

Back from Mississippi

We drove all night from Mississippi to Virginia, in anticipation of a major snowstorm which is now pummeling the east coast.

I'm too tired physically and emotionally to blog about the trip, where we working on repairing hurricane-damaged houses on the Gulf Coast. St. Casserole's posts about the extent of the damage and its impact on the people there only begin to tell the story.

I'm glad to be safely home. I'm glad StrongOpinions and I went down to do the work. She was awesome, by the way. It was wonderful, and useful, and traumatic. It's going to take me a while to process it and to be able to blog about it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

From this morning's Writer's Almanac

So how does this guy know me so well? Thanks to Garrison Keillor for putting this out there for us.

Poem: "Change" by Louis Jenkins from The Winter Road. © Holy Cow! Press.


All those things that have gone from your life, moon boots, TV trays, and the Soviet Union, that seem to have vanished, are really only changed, dinosaurs did not disappear from the earth but evolved into birds and crock pots became bread makers. Everything around you changes. It seems at times (only for a moment) that your wife, the woman you love, might actually be your first wife in another form. It's a thought not to be pursued.... Nothing is the same as it used to be. Except you, of course,You haven't changed ... well, slowed down a bit, perhaps. It's more difficult nowadays to deal with the speed of change, disturbing to suddenly find yourself brushing your teeth with what appears to be a flashlight. But essentially you are the same as ever, constant in your instability.

Being baked as we speak...

X-rated Brownies

1 c sugar
2 large eggs at room temp
pinch salt
5 oz best-quality semisweet chocolate (I use Lindt Excellence)
3 oz best-quality unsweetened chocolate (I use Callebaut)
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
¼ c all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c miniature chocolate chips
¾ c chopped walnuts
¾ c dried tart cherries (you can also use Craisins)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8 or 9 inch square pan.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and salt for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the chocolates and butter in a double boiler over a low flame, or carefully in the microwave. When the mixture is about ¾ melted, take it off the heat and stir until everything is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Cool to lukewarm and fold gently into the sugar/egg mixture. Fold in the flour, vanilla, and chips, walnuts and cherries.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and set in the middle of the oven. Bake them for 25 minutes. They will look not quite done. This is as it should be. Cool on a rack for 6 hours.
These are VERY rich, and will make 32 small but deadly brownies.

This time, some of the semi-sweet was replaced by Scharffenberger Chocolate Nibby Bars (they have bits of cocoa beans in them). Once these are cooled and cut, they'll go in the freezer in anticipation of the trip to the Gulf. I figure I owe St. Cass something more northerly with chocolate since she shared Quotidian Grace's chocolate cake recipe with us!

Even if you don't watch the Super Bowl...

If you want to see some cool footage of the mission station in the Congo where PH grew up, and where his father was the surgeon for over 30 years, there will be a piece on ABC world News Tonight this Friday. The piece will also be aired during the Super Bowl pregame coverage somewhere between 4 and 4:30 EST.

PH's dad will be over there for the next couple for weeks for a short-term trip to assess continuing needs at the hospital. Part of his legacy continues to be the local docs and nurses he trained. What a guy!

Here's why there will be coverage:

"Doctor Roger", in the center of the picture, is PH's dad.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Counting the days

...until StrongOpinions and I head south to the Gulf Coast for our mission trip. I'm staging our stuff in Stonemason's bedroom. It now looks like the staging point for the Allied expeditionary Forces before D-Day in WWII. I think I'd better pare down the piles, given that we have lots of tools and other such equipment to fit in the truck as well. Now, will I be able to fit something yummy and chocolate to leave with St. Casserole?

StrongOpinions came home last night from North Country, having successfully qualified for the snowboarding nationals. She was, as usual, unhappy with her visit with her dad. I wish he'd listen to her instead of telling her his opinions about how she is. Sigh. I got an earful in the car on the drive down from the airport, but she calmed down considerably by the time we got home. hardest thing in the owrld to do is just to let her vent and not comment.

I'm ready to do some stuff with my hands instead of my head...