Thursday, January 29, 2009


I got up at 0 dark 30 this morning to take PH to the airport. He's headed to Orlando for several days for national conference of his professional association (he is VP) at Mauschwitz. He is leaving the remains of a snow and ice storm here. Roads are once again passable, although the sidewalks are still a dicey proposition. He was complaining last night that it was only going to be in the 60s there. I had little sympathy.

School starts again next week. I got virtually nothing done that I wanted to take care of over the Jan term. There is one small project that I'm hoping to wrap up in the next 7 days, so it's out of my hands before my surgery in eight days. If I also get some work done on the thesis, that will be all to the good. My wide-open schedule for this quarter is being nibbled away by various small responsibilities, mostly for pay, so I can't complain too much. I do wish I had been able to get the surgery scheduled earlier, but it was not to be.

The exciting news around here is that StrongOpinions and Litigator are coming tomorrow. Since I haven't seen SO since Christmas, and I haven't seen Litigator since last summer, I'm stoked. We had hoped to get StoneMason here as well, but his schedule is just too packed. If you're in the snow industry, this is peak season. They will be here through the weekend.

As we were driving out to the airport this morning, PH said, "So what's next in terms of the job search?" "Well, I've sent the resume to all the places with open positions, and I've gotten emails back saying they're just starting their process and will get back to me, so I've gone as far as I can for now." Silence. I suspect he's a bit nervous about the job thing, but he doesn't want to make me more nervous, so he left it there. And the net result? I'm more nervous.

I think I'll excuse myself now and go finish the first draft of Sunday's sermon. That I know I can do.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Saint Middle School

So here's what I'm doing these days at Saint Middle School:

Teaching Adult Forum most Sundays
Preaching at least once a month
Leading the first half of the service every Sunday I'm there
Proofing the bulletin
Proofing the Announcements
Writing articles for the e-bulletin
Hitting the Master-Reset button periodically for folks who feel the need to fill that vacuum of power since we don't have a vicar right now
Pestering our group of supply priests for the rota of who is going to be here when
Providing pastoral care for several parishioners
Organizing the lay pastoral care ministry
Talking with the assistant principal of the actual Middle School where we meet about whether we really did move magnets on a teacher's blackboard (I kid you not)
Coordinating with diocesan folks on the status of things.

In theory, as a seminarian, I am supposed to spend 12 hours a week (including commuting the 40 miles in each direction) doing SMS work. They pay me a grand total of $425 to cover gas and tolls per semester. I'm grateful for the breadth of experience I'm getting, and yet I'm feeling somewhat taken advantage of. I'd like to speak up about it, but fear they would think me a whiner.

What is wrong with this picture? Some guidance from you wonderful experienced RevGals would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Full Court Press

I went to lunch with one of my favorite members of Saint Middle School. Because he can afford it, he took me to a very lovely Greek restaurant, and we even had a glass of wine with lunch (how bold of me).

My agenda was to get him to open up about what he thinks SMS does well, and about what he sees as the parish's "growing edges."

His agenda was to get me to come be SMS's next vicar.

Could you hear me tap-dancing on the luncheon table?

There were so many elements of this that troubled me. First, he isn't on the Search Committee. Second, the Vestry and the Search Committee haven't done the bulk of the work they need to do to truly ascertain what kind of vicar they need, so even if they all wanted me right now, they wouldn't know if I was what they needed. Third, there are a number of moving parts to SMS's situation as a mission church that need to be settled out before they can propoerly define the job and the requisite skills.

And yet it felt good to feel wanted, even though I strongly suspect this is not the place God is calling me for my first job out of seminary. Which leads me to the "aha" moment of the day: I've got to be careful to sort out the compliment from the call. By this I mean the lovely feeling of someone thinking I have the gifts to do a good job there as opposed to my visceral sense that the Spirit is leading me to this place. I've also got to keep reminding myself not to freak out if I don't have a job lined up instantly, or next month, or even by mid-April.

That said, tomorrow begins the Diocesan Council, the official starting gate for the job search. While there, I'm hoping to chat with three rectors who are in search for assistants, and to find out what other positions may open up. Please say a prayer that I trust God and not try to do it all myself. And please also send me a great job with a wonderful mentor/colleague in a parish full of sane people and with a budget that can support a decent salary for me....yeah, I know. One thing at a time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Three Degrees of Separation

A friend is among the clergy at the Church of the Presidents, where yesterday began. She served at the prayer service, escorting the VP-elect and his wife to his seat. Her boss escorted the President-Elect and his wife to their seats. Does that mean that I know the new President with only three degrees of separation?

Another friend sat right near Oprah at the same event. Since he sat near Oprah, who knows the President, is that my other three degrees of separation?

A third friend served at the National Cathedral Prayer service this morning as a gatekeeper of sorts, and held the door for the President's entourage.

So does three degrees of separation times three mean nine degrees of separation (multiplication) or just one (division)?

There's a reason why I'm no longer in banking.

Oh, well...

The Day After

We spent most of yesterday glued to the television, watching the inauguration. Several friends were or are involved (two at St John's Lafayetter Sq, a few more at the National Cathedral today), and many friends went down to the Mall. An amazing day, a good speech, Rev. Joseph Lowery was amazing, Rev. Rick Warren was predictable (yes, Rick, you and I pray the Lord's prayer, but a large part of the rest of the world saw that as not their prayer), and the musicians who played in that cold are my heroes.

Praying for the new President and his team and his family, grateful to live in a nation where the transfer of power can happen peacefully, amazed that almost two million people can move around in the center of DC with almost no injuries, fights, arrests, happy that W is back in TX (my friend RM thanked Dallas for taking one for the team)...

So it's time to get dressed and go to work at school, setting up the choral music for the spring semester with our Prof of Church Music, doing some work on the debt relief research project, preparing for Diocesan Council. And it's time for the new president to get to work on the war in Iraq, the economy, health care, closing down Guantanamo, ending torture...time to pray.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Long Time A-Comin'

It feels like all of us who are progressives in the Church are taking our first deep breath in many moons. Finally, the change is really here. And we are here with it, celebrating.

Hineni. Here I am. What Samuel said when the Lord called him in this morning's Old Testament reading.

Hineni. Yes.

What that means, though, is that we stop being the loyal opposition, decrying the misdeeds of the Bush administration. Now it is up to us. Yes, we've gotten the President we hoped for. But it is not his work alone. It is all our work, and it begins now.

It also means that (as I heard in a sermon this morning) when compromise comes, we are responsible to name it if we feel this compromise is wrong. It's easy to speak out against those whom we oppose. But when the ones we support do things we disagree with, we are obligated to speak.

That's what true support means.

Hineni. Here I am. When we celebrate, when we disagree, when we are disappointed, when we are overjoyed. Hineni. Here I am.

It is all our work.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cold Hands, Warm House

Yeah, yeah, I know that's not the right quote, but it works for me.

We've had a couple of verrrrryyy cold days here in Your Nation's Capitol. The good news is that it will be warmer for Tuesday's Big Event. Right, now, though, it's still pretty cold (up to a balmy 23 degrees after several days in the teens and below). I went out for a total of four minutes today, to drop the Netflix movie in the mailbox at the end of the street. That was enough. I just wanted to stay in the warm house and go nowhere else.

I made soup, did laundry, read a novel. Bliss. Ate way too many little nibbles, but it was that kind of day.

Tomorrow will be back on the treadmill. I'm going to do some field work for the big research project instead of going to Saint Middle School - an odd sensation, because since the vicar left SMS, I'm the "continuing pastoral presence" and I feel I am supposed to be there. But it's fun to go do the field work, to hear someone whose sermons I really enjoy, to see some folks at that church whom I hold in high regard, to exercise a different part of my brain and my spirit.

This coming week will be busy. I really have to get some serious writing done on the other research project, before Friday, when I go off to Diocesan Council to flaunt my brilliance (or something masquerading as brilliance) and start conversations about job possibilities with several potential employers. The Bishop will introduce us senior seminarians and parade us out in front of the assembled masses like so many prize heifers. I've got three people with whom I'll have preliminary conversations. I'm also expecting to have a conversation in a week or so with the rector of a big-name church in DC that will be central to some of the coming week's festivities...not sure if I want to work there, but it would be an interesting interview nonetheless.

The challenge is to find a place that feels like a "warm house" to me, and a boss that feels like a mentor, but will treat me as a colleague with skills to offer. We'll see what the week brings. And I'm trying not to be neurotic about what to wear. Really. Well...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Five: Take Me, Baby, or Leave Me

Songbird says, "Although written by a young man, this song from "Rent" became an anthem for women of a certain age ready to be taken on their own terms. Maureen and Joanne love each other, but they are *very* different.

Whether it's new friends or new loves or new employers, what are five things people should know about you?"

1. Don't lie to me. Ever.

2. When you agree to do something, and then don't do it, I'll probably take care of it. But you will suffer from my crankiness afterwards, and that's probably not worth it.

3. I do lists. It's how I stay on top of things. Don't make fun of the lists.

4. Teasing is not a helpful way to tell me you don't like the way I am doing something. Just tell me straight out, please. I'm tough enough to take it. Conversely, I do like to hear if I'm doing something right, and you can tell me that any way you want.

5. If you say nasty things about someone we both know, I'll usually be wondering what you say about me behind my back. And it will be hard for me to trust you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Underhill vs. Mars Hill

I ran across a piece about the British writer and retreat leader Evelyn Underhill on the Episcopal Cafe website. The post was written by one of our professors at Big Old Seminary, the poet Kathleen Henderson Staudt. Whether it was serendipity or the working of the Holy Spirit, or both, it was a gift. Staudt cited Underhill on the topic "What is the Church For?" and included a marvelous quote:

"The Church is in the world to save the world. It is a tool of God for that purpose; not a comfortable religious club established in fine historical premises. Every one of its members is required, in one way or another, to cooperate with the Spirit in working for that great end: and much of this work will be done in secret and invisible ways. We are transmitters as well as receivers. Our contemplation and our action, our humble self-opening to God, keeping ourselves sensitive to his music and light, and our generous self-opening to our fellow creatures, keeping ourselves sensitive to their needs, ought to form one life, mediating between God and His world, and bringing the saving power of the Eternal into time."

I needed that reminding, that affirmation, because I've spent the last few hours grinding my teeth over an article in Sunday's New York Times magazine about the Mars Hill Church in Seattle and its pastor, Mark Driscoll. Driscoll is a self-identified neo-Calvinist who leads a Gen-Y/ Millenial church that makes Jesus into a tough-guy, macho smackdown specialist, decrying mainstream churches as putting forth a vision of Christ as "a neutered, limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture." His language is strong and often homophobic, he doesn't believe women should preach (for that matter, he thinks all women should be subservient to their men), and he doesn't brook disagreement from his flock.

As I thought about what has been bothering me about this article, and about this pastor, I found myself thinking about Matt 25:33-45. The sheep and the goats. What we're supposed to be doing, as individuals and as Christian community. You know, the whole "feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison" thing.

And that was what was missing in this Mars Hill Church, at least as the Times piece described it. Everything was about this community justifying itself and its pastor, as he defined justification. No one turned outward. No one seemed to be doing "good works." And it all reminded me so much of the writing of Robert Bellah in his classic "Habits of the Heart," written in the eighties about religion and individualism in America. Bellah talked about people who defined their own church based upon their own religious beliefs in a way that seemed self-serving, as I read the book. Although Driscoll claims his church is about Calvin, it really seems to be more like what Bellah described as "The Church of Sheila," the unique religion that one of his subjects developed to honor her own spirituality.

Mars Hill feels like the Church of Mark to me.

And that takes me back to Evelyn Underhill, because it's useful to remember what focusing on Christ's words does when one tries to define the purpose of the church.

As Underhill says, the church is not a social club, it's a tool for God's work in the world. Whether it is through prayer and practices of piety, or through the works of our hands, church is not about us. It is about God's saving work. It is about Christ's words in the Gospel, and about living out those words.

I doubt it's about Mark Driscoll, as much as he would like people to believe that it is.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Today's Sermon: Sorting Things

Sermon for January 11, 2009
Gen. 1: 1-5, Acts 19: 1-7, Mark 1:4-11

The beginning of the Book of Genesis is intense. I’ve always loved it because it is poetic, but it is not in the least bit romantic.

The first two verses, in particular, have long intrigued me: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”

Think of it: a formless void, with a wind from God over the face of the waters. It’s a dark picture, isn’t it?

At seminary, when I got serious about my study of Biblical Hebrew, one of the most marvelous moments was when I knew enough to be able to read today’s passage from Genesis in the original language.

Bear with me a minute while I read those first two verses in Hebrew – trust me, I’ve got a reason.

{here I am inserting a rough transliteration, because Blogspot doesn't support Hebrew fonts}

Biresheeth burah elohim eth hashamaim ve’eth ha’aretz
veha’aretz haeethah tohu va vohu vitoshek al-pineh teh’hom
Va-ruach elohim meratepet al-peneh hamaim.

You can hear the strange and beautiful poetry, can’t you?

Did you catch that little phrase in the middle, tohu va vohu?

It’s translated in the NRSV translation as “a formless void,” but in my Hebrew class, my professor told us that it really wasn’t translatable into English. The picture those three words painted was much more chaotic, much more like all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle tossed out of their box across the living room floor. He struggled to come up with words that would convey the sense of the Hebrew, and finally looked up at us, shrugged, and said “Higgledy piggledy!” Tohu va vohu. Utter disorganization…not just disorganization, but the antithesis of organization.

We think we understand a lack of organization – certainly my office desk is a prime example – but this is chaos to the nth degree, this tohu va vohu. But then there is a wind over those wild waters – ruach – not just a wind, but God’s own breath. And then the breath incarnates into God’s voice, speaking the words that begin to bring order to the chaos. God’s word, in God’s voice, in God’s breath, taming the water, making sense of the insensible.

At the very beginning, it takes God’s voice to turn the chaos into something comprehensible.

There is a wonderful phrase that the English use to describe someone whose life and whose choices are chaotic and don’t make sense: He needs sorting. I read it first in British mystery books, and I loved it. Someone who’s really messed up needs to be sorted out. The stupid things he may have done means that he’s not thinking straight, and he needs guidance to organize his mind so he no longer makes those foolish choices.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll remember the scene in the first book, where the new students are assigned to their house. There is a magical hat, The Sorting Hat, which tells each student whether they’ll be in Gryffindor, or Ravensclaw, or Slytherin. The voice of a higher authority sorts them, organizes them, into their proper place.

That sorting function is one that is a basic human need. We like things to be organized. We hunger for some level of predictability in our lives. We want to know that certain things will happen in certain ways, like the light being separated from the darkness. We don’t like chaos; it makes us profoundly uncomfortable. Perhaps that desire for order is one of the ways that we are made in God’s image, because God certainly does some sorting, the first of a long series of sortings, in the work of Creation as the Book of Genesis begins. No, we don’t like disorder. We like things to be categorized, organized, in their proper place.

So it feels familiar when we hear of another sorting in our Gospel reading today. John the Baptizer makes sure his listeners understand who is who. John wants to make sure that he is properly categorized, and tells them that there is someone on the way who is a whole different category. John reminds those who have come out to the River Jordan that he merely baptizes them with water – a familiar Jewish ritual still observed by Orthodox Jews as the mikvah, a purifying bath – but that there is someone else coming who will baptize them with the Holy Spirit. That baptism will be the ultimate sorting, one that will change those who are baptized in a fundamental way. John is not only distinguishing between himself and the Messiah to come, he is talking how those who come to know the Messiah will be sorted differently as well. And isn’t it true that God’s voice does the sorting in this story as well? When John baptizes his cousin Jesus, there is a voice coming from the clouds, God’s voice, categorizing who Jesus is: "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." When we hear that voice, we know who this person is.

Sometimes we rail against being categorized, but there is, as I said, a need to know where we stand, with whom we stand. It sounds like confusion about categories was in play amongst the people whom Paul met when he went to Ephesus, in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The Ephesians had been baptized in the manner that John baptized – the baptism of repentance – but they didn’t know there was a more powerful kind of baptism available to them, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And when Paul baptized them in this manner, they were radically transformed, re-categorized, sorted into something different, something wild and untameable…they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy because they were so changed by God through the Holy Spirit.

And that’s the marvelous and frightening thing about God’s sorting – it isn’t a tame thing. We don’t know when God sorts us out where He will place us. A few years ago I certainly couldn’t have imagined myself standing up here and preaching. Others among you may have never anticipated that you would serve as Lay Eucharistic Ministers, offering the chalice at Eucharist. Still others may never have imagined they would be teaching in Sunday School, or coordinating a ministry area. God’s sorting is neither predictable nor tame, and the results are sometimes very different than we expect.

So what does that mean to Saint Gabriel’s, to each of us who are part of this limb of the Body of Christ here at Belmont Ridge Middle School?

Well, one thing that it means is that we have to be aware that God is sorting us all the time, not just individually, but as a community. We think that we organize ourselves into a community, but God is there all the time, doing the sorting. As we were on the vestry retreat yesterday, we talked about how we thought we would get one piece of land several years ago, and it was really a sad moment when that fell through. A little while later, we received the gift of the land on Battlefield Parkway. Not what we expected or planned, but God was doing the sorting. We may be wondering why it had to be that Pastor Jeunee had to go to Farmville. God was doing some sorting.

Here’s the challenge: can we be open to some radical sorting here? Can we accept that the Saint Gabriel’s we know right now may be sorted by God in ways that we cannot anticipate?
What this requires is the willingness to enter a space of “tohu va vohu,” of that crazy jigsaw puzzle chaotic world, and then to stop and to wait. To listen for “ruach elohim” – the breath of the Lord – to come murmuring, shimmering over the dark waters of the unknown. To hear the words humming through that shimmering breath guiding us to what our future might be. To accept God’s sorting in those words coming from heaven, as Jesus did after John baptized him. To live into our own response to the Word, as the Ephesians did after Paul baptized them and the Holy Spirit descended upon them.

It takes more than a little courage to enter into the wildness of God’s sorting, and a great deal of trust. Are you willing to trust, and dive into the chaos so you can rise up to become who God names you to be?


Friday, January 09, 2009


I finished the last GOE question at around noon today. It was a rather interesting Church History one looking at the founding of the Episcopal Church in America and at the Colenso controversy in South Africa in the mid-1800's and how the issues in both situations might inform our current disputes relating to Anglican identity.

Frankly, I had never heard of Bishop John Colenso of Natal before reading the question, but it turned out to be an interesting little controversy, and I think I did adequately on the question. It did feel good, though, to click on the "submit" button and have it done.

After almost a year of anxious build-up to the General Ordination Exams, it feels rather odd to be done. It will be several weeks until we get the scores, but at this moment, I care not a whit about what someone else thinks of them. I'm just grateful to be done.

Tomorrow I've got a one-day vestry retreat (at my house - how did that happen?). Somewhere in there I've got to finish the sermon for Sunday. I doubt it will be one of my best, but it will be something or other. Then I'm leading the adult forum (topic: could you pass GOE's?) and meeting with the LifeCare team on our plan of action. No rest for the weary.

But tonight I will be taken out to dinner by my dear darling PH, and will enjoy it completely and utterly!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Sermon from Tonight's GOE Eucharist: Mark 6:30-44

It’s been a challenging week, answering these questions, and we are right to be exhausted. This may seem like a perverse sort of torture, sitting at a desk for hours on end, writing essays in response to questions that make us scratch our heads. What are they really asking? What are they really looking for? It’s a puzzlement. But these questions may, in fact, be the most apt kind of training. After all, a large part of the work that we will do after ordination will be the answering of questions, all sorts of questions. And the frustration we may have felt in the answering of questions this week will be the same sort of frustration we will hear from our parishioners: why isn’t there a clear answer? Why can’t you explain it to me?

How is it that my sister, who was such a good person, has died of lung cancer, and my father, who was a miserable human being, is still around , being nasty to everyone?

Why is God always killing people in the Old Testament, and then why does Jesus teach us to turn the other cheek?

In Matthew’s story of Palm Sunday, how can Jesus ride on a donkey AND a colt?

The fact is, not all questions can be answered satisfactorily, whether it is in GOEs or in the parish, and we’d best get used to that fact. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

So here’s a question: there’s an odd thing in this evening’s gospel reading. This story of the feeding of the 5000 in the Gospel of Mark is different from its parallels in the other three gospels. In all four stories, when Jesus sees the crowd coming to him, he is moved by their need and comes back to minister to them. In Mark’s gospel, though, and only in Mark’s gospel, the way that he ministers to them is different. He sees them as sheep in need of a shepherd, and in response to their need, he teaches.

He doesn’t heal.

He teaches.

He responds to their need by answering their questions, much as we will be called upon to do when we are working in a parish.

Questions: they’re part of the human condition aren’t they? We think when we answer these seven questions this week, we’ll be done. But no, it’s just the beginning. And that gets me thinking of the disciples’ questions of Jesus in this story. Do you want us to send these people back into town to get some food? No? Well, do you want us to go get two hundred denarii of bread to feed them? The disciples sound aggravated, don’t they, just as we have felt aggravated in some ways by the questions we’ve been asked this week. And Jesus sounds pretty annoyed with them as well: You yourselves give them something to eat! Emphatic statement. Imperative verb. There’s an answer that’s a kick in the pants!

As we often hear in the Gospel of Mark, the disciples need some prodding and remedial instruction to figure out their role, and this passage is no exception. The disciples are whining and asking what they’re supposed to do, and Jesus edgily says, “It’s time for you to do some heavy lifting here. It’s time for you to actually take care of these people.” It’s funny, isn’t it, though, that he asks them to take care of the feeding part, not the answering of questions. I guess he figures they’re not quite ready for that, and he’s right!

But getting back to the feeding part, they still don’t understand, because what he is suggesting seems to make no sense - all they have amongst them is a few loaves of bread and some dried fish…not even canned tuna fish, but the nasty dried stuff.

Still, a remarkable thing happens, despite the disciples’ tone of voice, despite Jesus’ frustration with them. Jesus takes what they have, these meager offerings, and gives thanks for them. He gives the food to the disciples, these men with such limited understanding, who struggle to conceive of what is happening with this strange and marvelous teacher. The disciples distribute the five loaves of bread and the two dried fish…and there is enough for everyone. More than enough, actually. Leftovers.

Jesus uses the quotidian materials around him – stale bread, dried fish, even confused assistants, with more questions than answers – and turns all of them, food, men…all of them into something more than they once were. The whole of the event is so much more than the sum of its parts. There is a transformation that teaches everyone present as much, or maybe more, than Jesus’ words of teaching to the crowd. With this teacher, miracles are possible. With this teacher, we are changed in a fundamental way, we are given the answers to questions we didn’t even know to ask.

And that’s the thing that is happening here, now, with these seven questions that so exhaust us. We, too, are transformed by this week in ways that we cannot understand. We may rail against this test, and wonder what it has to do with ministry. But the fact is, this is not simply a rite of passage, it is an enactment of the work we will be doing, God willing, in the years to come. Our gifts may be meager, at least in our own eyes, in the darkness of a cold damp Thursday evening. But Jesus will give thanks for us, and use our gifts and transform them and us into the ones who can face the questions, not with all the answers, but with the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and aid us in this work that we are called to do. The questions, too, will be transformed from solitary moments, to a rich tapestry of how our lives in Christ are woven by lived experience, by the many voices of scripture, by all those theologians and doctors of the church we may have referenced this week. Our understanding of life as God’s people has been transformed by our studying, by our writing, by the events of our own lives, and all of these things will be the tools by which we take the questions we are asked and, with God’s help, turn them into food that feed the soul.

God is with us. As the disciples were guided in the work of feeding a hillside of people by their teacher, we too are guided. We are not alone, at our desks or in our offices, or at coffee hour. We, like the questions, are transformed by God’s grace, and that’s the answer we seek.


GOEs Day Three

All in all, a good day.

This morning was the Ethics questions. This was another topic where some very - ahem - unusual questions have been asked in the past. Blessing upon blessing, this one was about virtue ethics and the martyrdom of Jonathan Daniels, a seminarian who was killed in Selma Alabama while fighting for the right to vote of the African-American population there. Since our primary ethics professor is a virtues ethicist, and since we also covered aspects of it in my Medical Ethics class last quarter, I felt like I could do a good treatment of the subject and talk about how Daniels' actions were consistent(mostly) with a virtues ethics methodology. Three solid pages, with some good references to solid sources.

This afternoon was Theory and Practice of Ministry, which is one of those questions that allows you no outside resources. The question was about having a pregnant teen in your youth group, who wants you to help her get an abortion and not tell the parents. What issues does it raise, and what's your pastoral plan? We had talked about this kind of situation in a couple of my pastoral care classes at some length, and as the mother of a 20 year old daughter, the topic of "what if?" has certainly crossed my mind on occasion (but hasn't had to stay there, thanks be to God), so there was plenty to write about there, despite the fact that we had to answer from our own hearts and minds, and not from someone else's ideas.

So another day ends. I am preaching this evening at our Eucharist, which feels like a real gift.

I intend to watch television tonight to stay relaxed. Tomorrow morning is the final question, on Church History. Open resources. Thus far, we have had no really odd questions, and it is rare that the Church History one fits that description, so I am hopeful that I will end this up tomorrow without weeping, wailing, or gnashing of teeth. May it be so.

We will get our scores sometime in mid-February, but I feel reasonably good about my work thus far, and whatever happens after that is in God's hands. Thanks for the prayers and good wishes so many of you have sent - I could feel them.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

GOE Day Two

I got a good night's sleep, had a good breakfast, and headed in to the library for GOE day two with fear and trembling in my heart. The first question would be in the category labeled "Contemporary Society." That kind of catch-all title could mean any number of different topics, which is why my draft bibliography was for some 40-odd books, grouped under titles like Human Sexuality; Race Issues; Diversity and Enculturation; Feminist/Womanist Issues; Debt Relief and get the picture. I was braced for just about anything.

A pleasant surprise when the question popped up at 9:02 am: it was about the Millenium Development Goals. We could choose one of the goals and write on it. Theological/scriptural references in support of it, what the national church could do about it, what dioceses and parishes could do about it, what were the economic/political/cultural issues raised by it. Sweet! I had written a major final paper on MDG#1 (debt relief and poverty) in the spring for ethics class, so I had a bunch of good material at my fingertips. The challenge was squeezing it into the three page format. I actually ran a little over (we were given the grace to stretch out to 3.5 pages if we really needed to and I was glad for it). So I was pretty jazzed about it. Nice to start the day with what felt like a successful piece of work.

After lunch, we had the question on Liturgy. Episcopal/Anglican eucharistic theology as expressed in the eucharistic prayers - give two examples of how it influences how we live as community, two examples of how it influences how we live as individuals. Seem a little thin to you? It did to me. Remember, we are supposed to write three single-space pages. I pulled out everything I could think of (we weren't allowed to use any resources beyond the Book of Common Prayer, the Bible, and the resources in Enriching Our Worship). I managed to reference Scripture, the Catechism, lex orandi lex credendi, Hooker on Christ's presence, Rowan Williams on the reality of the elements and of Christ's presence in them, specific language from the prayers, some examples of implications in community life, implications in our lives as individuals...and I still couldn't get it all the way to three pages. It wrapped up at 2 and three-quarters, and that'll have to do. Given that I ran over on the first one, I expect I'll be given a bit of grace that the second one was a wee bit short. Ah, well. In any case, I came away from the experience wondering if there was some secret subtext to the question that I hadn't sussed out. Had I been able to reach out for some other contemporary sacramental theologians, I might have been able to do more with it, but if I missed the boat, the worst thing that happens is that I will be assigned some sort of make-up essay.

Tomorrow is our day off, which comes just in time for me to write my sermon for Sunday. I have it sketched out but it still hasn't come together as I had hoped. Maybe the spirit will descend overnight and it will flow. I hope so. I've got a couple of little errands to attend to tomorrow, one meeting, and several phone calls. I should probably review my class notes from Ethics, since that's the topic area for Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon is Theory and Practice of Ministry (no external resources) and heaven only knows what THAT will be. Then I'm preaching at the 5:30 pm Eucharist. Thanks be to God, that sermon is already written.

I think it's time to have a glass of port before I retire to the bath...

Monday, January 05, 2009

GOE Report

We had our first two sections of the General Ordination Exams today. Two three-and-a-half hour sessions, the fruit of which was to be a three-page (single-spaced) essay for each section.

The first question was on Scripture, and it was a four-part question on covenant. The only resources allowed were an annotated study bible and the Book of Common Prayer. I felt quite good about the essay I wrote, but heaven only knows if there is something mysterious that I missed in the question.

The second question was in the category Theology/Missiology, and actually turned out to be focused on Missiology, and on missio dei. I think I did an okay job, although the answer didn't feel quite as well argued as the morning's question. At least I referenced a bunch of the big names, including Karl Barth, Richard Hooker, David Bosch, Lesslie Newbigin, and the Episcopal Standing Commision on World Mission.

...and God. Yes, I did reference Scripture. Always a good thing, I'd say.

We had a lovely evening Eucharist, very quiet and soothing to the soul, and then I got to go home and e-sign paperwork for a student loan for StrongOpinions. That brought me back to earth. That and the beef stew. Good comfort food for this week!

Tomorrow morning is Contemporary Society, which is really a wild card. I'm hoping it's not too bad, but we will see. The afternoon is Liturgy, which is a strong area for me, although you never know what they'll ask. I'll be very glad when tomorrow is over, and I will be past the halfway point. What an endurance contest this thing is!

Talk to you tomorrow!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I Guess It's Real

PH got home today from his visit to his family in the Windy City. I stayed home and prepared for GOEs by cleaning my house, and by going to a lovely party at my friends' house last night.

We do a pull-the-name-out-of-a-hat gift exchange in his family amongst the adults, and PH brought home my gift, from my dear in-laws C&J. An exquisite pottery communion set - paten, chalice, and pitcher - with an ichthus on each piece.

The message from this amazing gift is that there are some folks who really do believe I'm going to get ordained in a few months, even on a day like today when I wonder if it will EVER happen.

Thanks, C&J, for your faith in me and in this process, and for the gift, which makes me so happy and more than a little blown away by it all.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Friday Blessings

I had a massage today. It was a lovely, almost-on-the-edge-of-painful thorough massage that left me feeling a whole heck of a lot more relaxed than I expected. PH and I gave each other a massage package (we get three sessions each) as our Christmas present to each other - we decided we didn't want anything we'd have to pack when I graduate in May. After the major housecleaning I did yesterday, it was particularly necessary. I wish I could afford to get one a week.

The house is clean. Funny thing - when you clean the house, you have a clean house. Somehow I had never made that connection before. Either that, or I've just not cleaned house often enough in these past 2 1/2 years.

Chico's was having their post-Christmas sale, so I went to take a look. How it differed from their pre-Christmas sale, I don't know, but I was glad I went. Found a pair of $100 dressy grey slacks for $29. Best of all, they actually fit and look flattering. Mirabile dictu. I restrained myself from further retail exploits, but it didn't look like many of the other folks in that shopping area were. Lots of shopping bags on the arms of folks going by me on the street. Maybe it's just Old Town, but people were spending money.

The scale was kind this morning - down two pounds. Now if I can only do that twenty more times, I'll be skinny again. But then the new pants won't fit. Sigh.

Thursday's sermon is written, but the one for the following Sunday is still just a bunch of disjointed notes. I normally wouldn't worry about it, but since this week is GOEs, and my brain will be jello each night, I'd really rather get the thing to a further state of completion this weekend. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not.

My friend L and I went to dinner (actually just appetizers) at a favorite Indian restaurant, then saw "Slumdog Millionaire." Marvelous, but some scenes were too hard to watch. Picture "Trainspotting" crossed with "Mississippi Masala" crossed with "The Namesake," with a little Bollywood thrown in, and you'll get a sense of it. There are a couple of sermons in it, for sure.

Tomorrow is a silent day. That's a true blessing. Prayer, reading, a pot of tea. This is good.

And now, to bed...