My Church Can Has A YouTube Channel!

St Nicholas Episcopal Church has a new video camera, and we’ve been uploading to our own YouTube channel. Soon everybody in the world can hear me mess up singing that one solo…
YouTube – 1bread1body’s Channel

Welcome to St. Nicholas Episcopal Church! We are a church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago that celebrates all people and focuses on mission to children, LGBTQ individuals and families, the hungry, those in need of healing, and those seeking a deeper spiritual life.

The church is located at 1072 Ridge Avenue, Elk Grove Village IL

They haven’t uploaded anything that they taped during Lent, so I hope new content will be going up soon. I’m interested to see how it looks, especially for some of the special services we do over Lent where the entire space gets re-arranged into a new configuration.

Holy Week services have been effective and pretty well attended except for Maundy Thursday, but Palm Sunday was a big deal as it was a single, combined service. We “strowed” the palm leaves all over the space, especially in the area between the font and the current location of the altar, which is more or less centered in the sanctuary.

I wasn’t all that impressed with the sermon on Thursday; it was given by one of our lay preachers, who tends toward the “show and tell” end of the spectrum, and also likes to dramatize a little. A display was constructed from small tables draped in black (okay, wooden TV trays covered with black plastic tablecloths) and each table contained something symbolic of one of the 6 Sundays in Lent and the sermons other people gave. At the end of the display, a small barbecue had been set up with Sterno cans, with small rocks piled around to make it look like a campfire. This was actually lit and the lights were dimmed while the sermon went on (and on).

It could have been a disaster, as the little rocks were cracking from the heat and sparks occasionally flew up. I could just see Fr. Steve’s fancy new chausuble (think “holy poncho”) going up in flames. As it was, all the little display tables became an obstacle course when it was time for Communion. By the time I finally left, I was wiped out – for such a lightly attended service, there was A TON OF MUSIC that we had to perform. We’d worked on the two (two??) anthems for months, and there was a lot of extra music.

Last night’s service went really well – the Good Friday music was challenging, but aside from having to chant the entire 22nd Psalm (“I am a worm, and no human”) it didn’t seem to be overly long. My friend Dave gave the sermon; he’s another lay preacher of ours (we have a pretty deep bench) and he did an excellent job. Check out his blog, Beware of Pfalz Prophets – he’s a former denizen of the old Jake’s Place comments.

It’s been a long, long week – tonight we have THE BIG VIGIL at 8pm and I have to be there at about 7pm for rehearsal, screaming, and last minute agita. Tomorrow there’s an Easter Sunday service at 10am, so I’ll be there at about 9am. I’m taking it easy today, although it’s a beautiful day; may get out later and enjoy the outside for once. It’s supposed to be nice tomorrow afternoon, too.

Reviews: The Language Of God, Inherit The Wind, Frost/Nixon

I started reading this book, but set it aside a while back. Now I need to get back into it, because we’re starting to get to some meaty stuff in the Adult Forum group I’m in at church.

Amazon: The Language of God

We’re discussing Evolution, Creationism Intelligent Design, and whether science and religion are as incompatible as some say. It’s a pretty free-ranging discussion group, as one member studied philosophy, another is a scholarly Jewish guy who runs the program, and the rest of us bring our own take to the party. For instance, I have a background or interest in evolution, paleontology, anthropology, and geology. But there’s also a lady in her 90’s who just likes interesting conversation and marvels at all the change she’s seen (and accepted) in her lifetime. And there’s a mixture of younger and older people batting topics around. It’s a lot of fun, but now I need to start doing a little more background reading. Vague memories of articles read during the week (and 30-year-old memories of college evolution and anthro classes) just won’t be enough in the weeks to come.

Inherit the Wind DVD

We started the series a few weeks back by watching “Inherit the Wind” together. I had to miss a couple of weeks due to my stupid winter sinus infection/cough, so I borrowed the DVD from the library last week and caught up with the ending Friday night. I already blogged about this earlier, but the ending didn’t hold many surprises.

I have to say that although I agree that this is a significant film, there are a lot of distractions that prevented me from really enjoying it and seeing beyond the rather creaky, stagy production values. I kept focusing on the odd details that seem ludicrous to the post-Millennial eye; did people really march around in Tennesee with beautifully printed protest signs, singing “That Old Time Religion?” Was the fundamentalist preacher character played by Claude Akins a Methodist or an old-line Episcopalian, as who else wore round dog collars all the time in the steaming hot South? And what was that junk they painted on his hair to change its color to grey? Also, David couldn’t stand to watch it because of all the singing, shouting, and praying that takes place in the opening reel, and he found the Matthew Brady/William Jennings Bryant character (played by Frederic March) excessively loud and annoying.

I’m glad I watched the movie, but the fundamentalist 20’s seen from the point of view of the post-McCarthy era 50’s made for a bigger suspension of disbelief than I was willing to deal with.

Last weekend my husband David and I went out to see Frost/Nixon, which we really enjoyed. First because it was done in a really naturalistic syle, and second because it took place in an era that we both lived through. The distractions of hair and clothing were there, but they were somehow a much more acceptable part of the experience because we both remembered when big sideburns and wide lapels on men looked cooool.

Also, it came in handy as background material for events of this week, during which our former governor evoked Nixon and the infamous tapes a few times on his rounds of the talk shows before he was ceremoniously booted from office. This might be a good DVD for the collection once it comes out.

Earthrise: Christmas Eve

Flickr

40 years ago, Apollo 8 orbited the Moon on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve at St Nicholas – 430PM family service, 9PM Lessons, Carols, and Eucharist.

 

I have to be in Elk Grove by 8pm for rehearsal before the 9pm service at St Nicholas, but don’t get off work until 5pm. It’ll make for a LONG, cold, snowy night, but it’ll be wonderful if we can pull it off, as we’ve worked on some of this music for months. The highlight for me is probably John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music,” but we’re also doing some old, rarely heard Christmas hymns from the 1940 Hymnal and some modern arrangements of traditional carols like “People Look East.” I’m off the hook for the family service at 430pm – partly because I’m working, but none of the choir are required to be there as it’s very much a “DIY” music kind of service. We’ve got enough on our plate with all the extra “Lessons and Carols” music in addition to the regular service music and hymns.  I tend to think we’re doing too much… it’s a lot to ask people to sit through on a cold, wintry, stormy night.

 

Particularly appropriate this year: “In The Bleak Midwinter.” I love singing the alto line on that: “frosty wind made moan.” Oh, yeah, I’ll be moaning about the frosty wind as I drive home sometime around 1030pm… 

Via: Flickr Title: Earthrise: Christmas Eve By: GinnyRED57
Originally uploaded: 24 Dec ’08, 10.04am CST PST

Full program follows after the jump…

 

Continue reading

Big Red Snow Beast

big-red-snow-beast

Last night’s snow (or as I originally typo-ed, slow), dumped only about 4 inches on suburban streets in the area, but the traffic was horrendous and there were enough minor accidents to put corks in all the bottlenecks. And due to the way the east-west arterials around here are blocked by large tracts of parkland or shopping malls, there’s only a few ways to get between work and home. If there’s bad weather, or traffic, everything gets choked off at one of two places.

I started out pissed, as I had a late “hit” call where someone needed an exchange ticket issued by the end of the day, and there were technical problems getting it done. I call down curses and imprecations on high-mileage status travelers who upgrade themselves before the new ticket issues! But I was able to get through to an airline res agent (miraculously; it’s an airline that outsources a lot of calls to India)
and downgrade the traveler. Heh, that’ll teach them not to mess with their records… I felt very unsympathetic.

As I headed west towards home, I puttered along at about 5 miles an hour. It took about 30 minutes just to get to where I could turn off my “bottleneck” route to an alternate street that avoided the worst of the traffic. Then I had to navigate around some other obstacles, cut through a high-school parking lot to an outlet to residential streets that I knew of, and finally got back to a more direct route home. It turned out that my zig-zagging didn’t really save me much time, but it did give me a sense of accomplishment since I was moving rather than sitting in a jam-up.

David texted his location a couple of times… he started an hour before I did because he’s farther away, and it took him all of 3 hours to get home. I beat him home by about half an hour and had started using the Big Red Snow Beast on the driveway. It was still snowing pretty heavily and I had all my snow
gear on; boots, gloves, long down coat, muffler around my ears and face, fleece jingle hat with ear flaps, and had the faux-fur trimmed hood up as well. I was seriously rocking the Arctic look.

Of course, David had to take a picture. Fear the Beast!

(It is left up to the discretion of the reader to decide which is meant, the machine or the operator.)

I’ve recently gotten sucked into the time warp that is Twitter and was monitoring a few locals who complained of 3 and 4-hour commutes. It was particularly bad in the north suburbs, where there was more snow, no plows, no salting, and nothing but side streets and minor arterials that were all completely backed up.

I’m currently writing this at work in Wordpad while waiting for a call with my “ears” on, with the plan of sending the text to myself and updating at home. This is my first full week sitting with my new team, and I’m comfortably settled in with my new work-mates. I kept much more to myself on my former team,
partly because I’d formerly held a position that was between line agents and the previous team leader, and I was not popular because I was responsible for quality control at one time and was gathering data about error rates for each agent. That was years ago, but I sensed there was still some lingering… not resentment, but reserve. I wasn’t entirely to be trusted, I guess, and I didn’t bother to try to overcompensate by bringing in a lot of treats or being very social with everyone else. I don’t have this
baggage with the new team, and as it happens I work with a former team leader who stepped back to agent level whose company I enjoy. And I work with people who make me laugh and enjoy being here. It’s a pleasant change from my previous “anti-social” stance to actually chat with my neighbors.
There are minor drawbacks to the move, of course – there always are. But the compensations are: great coffee (they bring in their own bags of it and keep it in a thermos at one of the desks) and great cameraderie. It’s nice. Also, I’m closer to a window now that I don’t have to be hopping up and down
printing and faxing forms to hotels, and I have a view that looks along a tollway towards Chicago.

Currently, traffic is flowing. But don’t ask me to do constant updates. I will say that there’s snow on all the rooftops and the sky is a solid grey. Visibility is probably only a mile or two, and I don’t think we’re
on the flight path today because I don’t hear planes overhead. This may or may not be a good thing.

It’s kind of slow today. I haven’t taken that many calls. One of my mates from my former team and I send IMs to each other with questions and comments now and then, as we back each other up and she’s not physically located in the office. Now and then she sends funny emoticons and animated
GIFs.

I call this one “ZOMG! I’m In Crazy Town!”

crazy-town

It’s animated in the original format so that the background wobbles up and down, but I didn’t save it that way. My office mate sends me a lot of wacky crap like this. Most of them involve animals or weird cartoons expressing extreme agitation. I think there’s an underlying theme…

It helps to pass the time chatting, of course, but sending IMs is also dead useful when you can’t reach someone by phone, but they’re logged in to the messaging network. To ask questions like “WTF can’t these people put in the right format???” Both of us are crabby, perfectionists when it comes to formats, and unsociable; this makes us ideal IM partners.

Later, after lunch….

I continue to see more and more small signs of the bad economy. There are empty “big-box” stores on my way home, there are empty offices in my building at work, and just now I got waylaid by my hairdresser lady who said that they’re closing the hair salon downstairs. They needed to increase their visibility, and had lost a lot of regular clients because so many companies here pulled out and went away. It’s not a ghost building, but the trend is not an upward one. Anyway, she stopped me to give me a business card with the new address and phone number. They merged with another salon in the area and there are a couple of locations, but the closer one is farther to the east of me.

It may be that once they’re moved, I’ll get my hair done on choir nights, as I have about 90 minutes
to kill between the end of the day and choir, and this new location is not far out of the way to Holy Moly. So it could work out that I could keep going to Evelyn, because I like her and she’s willing to give me a simple, unfussy cut. And she likes long hair, which is a plus: some hair stylists are always on about “this long hair drags your face down.”

Dudette, I come from a long line of horse-faced people; there’s only so much you can do with a chin-length pageboy or an unnecessary (and damaging) body wave perm. Evelyn is happy to keep my hair long.  Done.

Actually, with short hair, I look a lot like Mr Crazy Town, especially without makeup. Let’s not go there.

Today’s weather has gradually cleared – the clouds that were overhead this morning are gone, replaced by mostly blue sky and fairly bright sun. It makes for some pretty shadows and contrast where the light is coming across the trees from the forest preserve across the way. By the time I leave, though, it’ll be dark. And I’ll be on my way to choir practice, so I won’t be home tonight until after 8pm.

For music this year at Holy Moly, we’re doing a modified “Lessons and Carols” format for Christmas Eve – for the later service at 9pm, that is. I’m not part of the earlier Family Service, thank GOD. It conflicts with work, anyway, as I’m scheduled to work until 5pm on the 24th. Bleh.

Anyway, the music will be good and lovely and I hope it puts people in the right headspace. One is especially good, as it’s not one of those standards you always hear: it’s called “What Sweeter Music” by John Rutter. It’s gorgeous, with floating harmonies that shimmer. Even with our few, poor voices, it sounds good. We’ll have some “ringers” on the night, though, so it’ll be even better.

Some of the other pieces will be effective – some are kind of required favorites, but a few are nice arrangements that aren’t just the plain vanilla versions sung from the choir book. One of the traditions at St Nicholas is for people to bring little bells to ring, so there’s something for that as well. We’ll have something for every taste, high class singin,’ low-class ringin,’ everybody join in on the chor-e-us.

On my mind in the news: the sheer gobsmackery of Rod Blagojevich’s hair, and the special hairbrush called “the football” that was carried by an aide, ready for any photo or video opportunity. It’s going to be what used to be called a “mare’s nest” of countercharges, questions about members of the impeachment committee’s own “favors and perks” for friends and family, and will turn out to be a giant waste of everybody’s time. Blago reportedly is defiant and claims he’s done nothing wrong; impeachment proceedings were being floated around the General Assembly months ago because he was seen as incompetent and an obstacle to the legislative process, not because of any of Fitzgerald’s charges. Still, they add spice, all those recordings of Blago (and his wife) dropping the F-bomb. I keep an eye on the news via the iPhone while waiting for calls.

Nearing the end of the day here, finally; the number of calls picked up and the afternoon went faster than the morning. Time is weird that way.

I’ll get grumped at at choir, because I was sick last Wednesday and still not feeling great Sunday, so I’ve missed 2 practices AND a Sunday, le horreur! but it’s never a good idea to run around in sub-freezing weather with a cold. In my experience, it just leads to the cold going into a sinus infection or bronchitis, so I’ll take the dirty looks in my direction, because I got over the cold without further ado (or catarrh).

UPDATE: Made it home safely after choir practice. We sounded awful, not sure why. I think it was because Mary decided to rearrange us and we were “upside-down” musically (or more likely, sideways) and hearing a different blend. Also, it was time for Mary’s annual Christmas Hissy… the stress of the season gets to her, especially when we’re not sounding good after months of work (and after sounding much better in our previous configuration).

Also, my friend Kevin reminded me via Facebook of the very funny “conversation between Rahm and Blago” that was posted at dKos the other day. Heh. This is the best part of this CLEVERLY SATIRICAL PARODY.

BLAGO: What if I appoint Valerie, what if she takes it?

EMANUEL: What do you want me to say? We’d appreciate it, I’m not gonna fucking kiss your ring over it.

BLAGO: “Appreciate it”? Come on, this is a Senate seat we’re talking about. It’s worth a fuck of a lot more than appreciation.

EMANUEL: You asked us for a list, we gave you a fucking list, you want to make your own list then make your own fucking list. [Raising voice] But if you’re asking for anything else from me, or Barack, or Valerie, then you can fucking stop talking right now Rod.

BLAGO: Wait a sec there Rahm. Wait just a fucking minute. Who are you to talk to me like that? I fucking made you.

EMANUEL: You made me? You made me? Tell me you’re fucking joking.

BLAGO: No no no, you listen to me shit-face. You see this list I got, the names motherfucking Obama fucking wants for the Senate. I just ripped it in two. How you like that? Oops, Harris just dropped it in the shredder. Harris?

HARRIS (muffled): Yes sir?

BLAGO: Did you just drop that list in the shredder?

[Whirring, shredder noise]

HARRIS (muffled): I did.

EMANUEL: Do you have me on fucking speakerphone?

BLAGO: It’s in the shredder, Rahm. The list is bye bye.

EMANUEL: Hold on a sec — you got me on fucking speakerphone? Who the fuck do you think I am?

BLAGO: Who are you Rahm? Who are you? You’re shit, you hear me? Don’t come back to Chicago Rahm, it’s not your town any more.

EMANUEL: Pick up the phone Rod.

Also also, more holiday-themed “heh.”

funny pictures of cats with captions

Blogyear In Review

While putting off the task of adding a personal note to holiday cards that MUST! GO! OUT!, I decided to review My Year In Blogging.

January:

Today, at Holy Moly, we had some excitement too. I ended up staying for both services just because there was a rehearsal for the big day after the second service. There was lots of laughter, a little girl threw up in front of the choir, Pat Kalicki stood in for Bishop Katharine in the run-through wearing a paper bishop’s mitre, and there was lots of chaos and general anarchy.

Later on in February, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori visited Holy Moly. A good time was had by all and sundry.

Via My Week: Cold, Busy, Cold, Busy, Cold

February

One of the blessings of a “mixed” family heritage is that you get to eat comfort foods from more than one buffet line. Case in point: yesterday’s family confab and lunch nosh, which was held at Max’s Delicatessen in Skokie.

I knew going in that on a bitterly cold day, fighting a “bug” and trying not to cough too much, I needed lots of chicken soup, STAT. Probably with kreplach (dumplings) or matzoh balls (actually, one ginormous matzoh ball). But I’d never seen anything like the menu item under the various listings for chicken soup extras – underneath all of them, it said “Mish-Mosh Chicken Soup.” It was a lot more expensive, and my rudimentary knowledge of Yiddish told me it was a mixture or a little of everything. Good enough, and then I saw that the 1/2 soup, 1/2 sandwich option for lox and a toasted bagel included a note: “$3.50 extra for Mish-Mosh.”

Sold. I ordered. The waitress asked “Nova, or regular?” and I knew to answer “regular” because Nova Scotia lox is more expensive. David ordered mish-mosh for his half-and-half, too. My nephew Josh chuckled “Mish-mosh, it’s brutal.”

Presently, a tremendous bowl arrived, with all kinds of stuff sticking out of it. A giant matzoh, made with dill weed. A couple of kreplach, including some broken ones. A bunch of little bitty thin, flat noodles like the kind that come in Lipton’s dried onion soup mix, but longer and curlier. A ladlefull of rice. And finally, a whole bunch of loose crumbled corned beef, that must have falled out of yet more unseen broken kreplach.

Oh, man, was it good.

The lox and bagel arrived after a few minutes’ work on the soup. It was a disappointment, with two thin strips of lox, barely enough to put on each half of toasted bagel. I’m used to sandwich places that give you FOUR strips and CAPERS, but no. And the onions were the super-hot kind, not the mild sweet kind that goes better with smoked salmon and any kind of plain or savory cream cheese (I had plain).

But the soup more than made up for this deficiency of lox. I finished most of the solid stuff out of it and didn’t leave much liquid behind, either. MMM, yummy.

After we’d all mostly finished eating, the announcement to the family was made. Somebody will be going through chemo after surgery again. This was a surprise to a couple of people, and just at that moment, all kinds of service people descended on the table offering bills, more coffee, more new pickles, and offering to box up uneaten food. Argh! Go away! But it was the most convenient place to meet the busiest subset of the family, so that’s where we were instead of at one of our homes.

So we listened, and we pondered, and we offered help and casseroles, and expressed hope and love and support.

My mom-in-law Leah came through with flying colors and again sports a full head of hair. YAAAY!

Via Mish-Mosh of the Soul

March

My husband David and I – as he noted on his blog – were finally seduced by the Light Side, the Forces of Brightness, the White Lord of the Pith, the Core of All Good, etc. etc. We both got iPhones as we’d previously warned.

Stupidly, we went to Woodfield Mall yesterday, rather than driving to the brand new AT&T store on Algonquin in Rolling Meadows, which as of March 17th had 16G iPhones. The Apple store was out of the 16G’s and didn’t expect to get any for some time, so we shrugged and said “Okay, we’ll take the 8G phones, we won’t need the extra capacity, it was just a thought.”

We may yet have cause to regret this impetuousity.

Plus, this timely link:

You can have my iPhone… when you pry it from my cold, arthritic, obsessively clutching fingers.

Via We Drank The Kool-Aid

April

Wow. I still can’t believe that I had a chance to see the McDades at the Abbey Pub, a well known Chicago institution. And that my husband David and I got to see them gratis, a fact that makes me absurdly grateful and humble. Hell, this blogging gig is pretty cool if people contact you out of the blue and give you free stuff and invite you to all the best parties.

Okay, enough about that, I’m a mere amoeba on the Great Evolutionary Chain of Blogging Being.

The thing I REALLY can’t believe that there were only about 10 people at the show. I feel bad about this, because that means that at least 20% of the crowd was there for free. So the next day, I went to the The McDades – Music website and bought their latest CD, Bloom. No, I could have downloaded it from iTunes for less, or I could have gone to Borders and rooted around in the Celtic/World Music bins until I found it, but no. I freaking felt compelled to pay Canadian funds and Canadian shipping, because I felt terrible for the band and for their mom, who was nice enough to contact me in the first place.

Via The McDades at the Abbey Pub 22APR08

May

A selection of photos from our trip to Maine and Washington DC

I Heart Maine

Can I just say, I “heart” Maine?

IMG_4462_edited-1

This looks like a nice place to stay, right?

Well, not exactly:

IMG_4471

It’s probably a bitch to get to in the winter, but you’d never have to worry about sightseeing rubberneckers trying to poke their noses into your business.

IMG_4479_edited-1

Or maybe not.

IMG_4492

Local color, to better lure the tourists into the restaurant

After some more wandering, we decided to give Hyannisport a complete miss and found our way to a beautifully serene nature preserve dedicated to Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring.

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It was a nice walk in the woods, very quiet.

IMG_4499
Sunset

Boothbay Harbor at sunset

Via The East Coast Trip Part I

June

Perhaps the most telling endorsement of Obama is something I just heard an NPR “In Character” piece on Mr. Spock, the Classic Star Trek character played by Leonard Nimoy. After a discussion of Spock’s intriguing hidden qualities and his half-human, half-Vulcan heritage and how that translates to contemporary issues, we find out that Nimoy is an Obama supporter, too.

Actually, I bet someone’s already done a parody of the candidates as Star Trek characters. McCain would have to be late-stage Kirk, perhaps from one of the odd-numbered movies. Although I’m also tempted to see him as Commodore Matthew Decker…

Ron Paul might make a good lesser commander, probably one of the insane ones with fanatical followers, like Capt. Ron Tracey.

Hillary Clinton? the best she could hope for is as a wannabe Janeway, in my opinion. She runs the ship, but doesn’t really get anywhere, is literally tossed around the galaxy by events beyond her control, is in permanent damage control mode, and everybody is relieved when it’s all over in a confusing jumble.

It seems I missed a bet on re-casting Kirk

Via I Am A Demographic Anomaly

July

My husband David and I are well on the way to fogeyhood: without consulting each other’s schedules, we made doctor’s appointments for the same day within 15 minutes. He’s up first, then me.

By way of illustration, I see the large-type Readers Digest has a relevant article.

photo

As you can see the Readers Digest large type edition has an article about the Things Your Doctor Isnt Telling You.

Via Officially Middle-Aged

August

“He who is tired of London is tired of life. “

We’re not tired of London, and are already plotting a return trip. But it’s time to move on to the Cotswolds for five nights and we won’t miss our cramped little hotel room near Paddington.

On Sunday, I made good on my threat to attend services at St Johns-Hyde Park. Met the Rev. Margaret Legg, who presided while the Vicar preached. Very diverse, progressive people – they’re looking forward to the Blessing of the Horses Sep 21, where the vicar will don cope and split cassock and bless the cavalcade (I believe there is a pub visit as well). Terrific young female soloist, plus a young man who played classical guitar.

Before church David and I walked in Hyde Park, with all the dogwalkers and riders on horseback. We paid several appendages to eat breakfast at the nearby Hilton. After I returned we headed out and wasted a lot of time on the Original Bus tour on a boat to Greenwich; took too long and the museum was closing by the time we got done with lunch and then had a terrible time getting back on the tube.

Also encountered: an old gentleman feeding his squirrel friends in St James Park, and a polite young Peruvian bear named Paddington, who we met at the station as we were leaving London. We gave him a lift and he now lives in Mt Vernon, IL with our niece Melissa. She calls him “PB” and is always fussing over him.

Via Horsies and Squirrels and Bears Oh My!

September

Flickr

The story on this image: David and I were doing something we rarely do – watching TV more or less “live”, and even more unusually, we were watching a network show and not bothering to zip through the commercials. This one came on for a product called Botox Cosmetic — with the tagline “it’s all about freedom of expression!” We had to pause the TiVo just to laugh. Apparently, the makers are quite proud of their product and address the troubling question of “Will I be able to make facial expressions after using Botox-Cosmetic?”

Yeah, right. Aaaaanyway.

My husband David said “there is something so wrong about a product ad that says “toxin.” I said “I thought botox gave you freedom FROM expressions.” As we looked at each other, we both made the same facial expression… the “I’m so blogging this” expression.
We both dove for a blogging appliance.

Via Botox: Freedom From Expression

October

Flickr

I have to say, early on it was a thrill, because I got to vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the Presidential race at last. At last! Great God almighty… well, two more weeks until we know for sure. But I decided it would probably be inappropriate to burst into tears, song, or both, so I sucked it up and kept on voting. I was happy to vote for Sen. Durbin, who’s kind of been on fire the last two years what with suddenly being one of the highest ranking majority members and being able to get a lot more bills through committee and passed than ever before. And I voted for Bean, who’s done all right and also benefited by becoming a majority-party U.S. Representative in her second term.

There was definitely electricity in the air, though, and we overheard the village hall guy say that on Friday and Saturday, the first days of early voting, there was a wait of 35 minutes, with people out the door waiting to vote. Earlier today, I was reading about how Utah’s doing early voting, and today was the last day to register. So in Salt Lake, they had so many people show up that they set up a drive-thru outdoors, with extra staff deputized to hand applications to drivers, who filled them out in their cars (or on their motorcycles) and handed them back. A number of people then were able to vote early. A TON of people have been registered in Utah; many of them are Republicans who never bothered voting for the last decade because in Utah it was either a waste of time (Clinton) or safely in the bag (Bush).

But there are a lot of Democrats in Salt Lake, and Salt Lake County. Also not a few in the Park City area; I think that’s Summit County. They might be electing a few down-ticket candidates, else why would Hillary Clinton bother to show up for a couple of fundraisers in that reddest of red states?

And we pretty much know how that turned out, thank GOD. Also, Salt Lake County went (barely) for Obama. The Democrats in Utah are feeling good.

Via V is for Voted

November

Palin fakes admirably and fails irrevocably, trying to not let on that she has absolutely no clue who the people are that “Sarkozy” is raving about. She doesn’t even drop to it when “M. le President” notes that he can see Belgium from his ass. Sarah laughs uncomfortably, perhaps not wishing to embarrass the gentleman over his poor command of English idioms. Too bad Palin’s never bothered to glance in the direction of Canada from her bathroom window, or bone up on the name of its premier.

UPDATE: Okay, he may have said “from his ‘ouse” in his strong Quebecois accent, but it sounded like “ass,” same as what he made of Palin.

You get the impression that Sarah is listening for those dog-whistle phrases to which she knows the answers. She knows enough about Sarkozy to gush about his beautiful wife and family. And finally she is told she’s been pranked by the Masked Avengers comedy radio duo from Quebec. The background discussion between Palin and at least two aides after she repeats aloud “Ohhhh, we’ve been pranked… what radio station?” is worth the toe-curling agony of listening to Palin. At the very beginning, she can’t even take the call with aplomb, starting to talk to the prankster who’s playing the part of the aide to the French President. She bobbles her greeting and then hands the phone back to her aide, saying “I always do that!” before getting back on and saying “Hel-LO” to the fake French leader just like she did to the “aide.”

Funny stuff. I doubt they’ll have much success with Obama’s people.

Good times, eh?

Via Daily Kos: Palin Pranked AAAAAH!!!! SO FULL OF WIN

December

We went to the holiday party last night for David’s office. In recent years, it’s been an enjoyable enough affair, especially after they stopped booking the DJ nobody liked… but the experience we had was somewhat beyond our wildest expectations of a nice evening.

Meson Sabika was the setting, a large mansion in Naperville, which is one of the few Chicago suburbs with a sense of its own history. First settled in 1811, it’s set in gently rolling country, with a vibrant and architecturally appealing downtown, with public space and art everywhere. We drove down after work, and I was in my typically grumpy “I HATE GETTING DRESSED UP” frame of mind on the way. All that changed as soon as we walked in the door.

Via Meson Sabika Flamenco Holiday Party

Speaking to the Soul: Talents Great and Small

I don’t usually do anything remotely approaching scholarly discussion of the Bible, ever, but today’s Gospel reading is one that I find interesting and troubling.

Here it is, starting from the part where the slave who was given one talent and hid it away, and now has to explain to the Master why he didn’t “double his investment,” so to speak:

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, `Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, `You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.‘ ” The Lectionary Page: Proper 28…Nov. 16

Here’s the scholarly, dare I say it – rationalist explaination of this parable, from Episcopal Cafe:

Speaking to the Soul

Now we need to look at the shadow side of this parable [of the talents]: the third slave who was given only one talent and did not do anything with it. Here is a somber warning without doubt. There are two ways of being unfaithful. There is the “hot” way, which is to abuse our powers and use them destructively. This is the sin of commission. Then there is the “cold” way of being unfaithful, which is to do nothing at all and therefore neglect and abort one’s potential. . . .

[It] may have been that the smallness of his talent led him to conclude that what he did with it did not matter. If I believe anything at all, it is this: in God’s universe, there is nothing that is insignificant. The great things were first of all little things that were lifted up to God in reverence and gratitude, and then used to the fullest. It is a mistake to confuse size with value. . . .

Now that is all well and good – the slave given one talent is castigated for not trusting his Master, and for not trusting himself to succeed at making it grow into two talents. But what often bothers me with this passage is first of all, the one talent is taken away from the slave, and given to the more successful of the other two slaves. Which, in a way, seems uncomfortably like “taking from the poor and giving to the rich” to me. In my mind, I identify the third slave with the poor, who have so little to begin with, they can’t afford to put their small amount of money to work for them, feeling the need to hoard it instead. Also, the advice to “give your money to the bankers” may or may not be wise depending on your interest rate or the financial health of your local savings institution, in these uncertain days – substantial penalties for early withdrawal, minimum deposit penalties, and all that! But I’m also troubled by the thought that this Gospel is used to support the doctrine of the Prosperity Gospel, and to justify blaming the poor for their poverty because they’re lazy, wicked, worthless… is that a dog-whistle inaudibly setting my teeth on edge?

However, no matter how troubled I am by this passage, there’s always somebody of the ultra-conservative bent who will take it to extremes of analysis that are simply astounding.

While casting around for a conservative or fundamentalist response to this reading, I came across this little gem from a well-known site full of yapping, basement-dwelling right-wing attack pups. A pastor posted a well-written sermon, describing God as a “good and gracious Master” and calls on us to be faithful stewards, doing such good works according to the talents given to us by our Creator, rather than being damned by our own unbelief like the third slave. That’s fine, a well-reasoned response.

But one of the first comments at the well-known site, to which I will not link, somehow turns it into Yet Another Condemnation Of The Gays. The reference to the protests is to the current anti-Prop 8 protests that took place Saturday all over the country. Note that there is no previous mention in the thread or in the sermon about gay people, yet the protests are now cast as “making war on God’s children.” The stupid, it is everywhere:

It’s interesting how the Gays in this country are now protesting, not realizing that this country is only blessed because of the contributions of Christians, to the philosophies that are the foundation of our constitution. Unfortunately, people do not understand that all blessings come through God and his son Jesus when people follow his teachings. Even people who live in wickedness are blessed only because of the goodness that coexists. These people are making a grave mistake by declaring war on God’s children. It says in the bible, that when it rains and the fields are watered both god’s people and those not god’s people benefit. Look what happened to Germany when they declared war on his children, look where it ultimately got them? It was only because of the intervention of the United States after the war, that they were delivered from that hell. Our nation was founded on the principals of Christianity. Those people should never want to find out what it would be like if they ever got their way. They don’t want to know, no they don’t!

Huh? This was about faith, in God and in one’s God-given talents. Not about spiritual warfare, wicked gay people, or Nazis.

Anyway, I’m still bothered that the whole rationale for the Prosperity Gospel seems to be made on the backs of the poor. But that’s enough bad Bible scholarship for me today. I turned in my packets of orders for Fannie May candy, and I’d classify myself as a two-talent steward, rather than a five-talent steward, as I was reluctant to flog the candy aggressively at work this last couple of weeks. But I got four or five orders in, and I’m okay with that.

The Old Folkie’s Home

Today being the third Saturday of the month, I managed to make it to Asbury Court in Des Plaines for Holy Moly’s monthly ecumenical service. It was pretty lightly attended, probably because of a competing holiday craft fair event, but it was a nice time and those that were there were our “frequent flyers.”

Father Paul and Mary did a reprise of their duet from last Sunday’s service of “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream” with Paul on banjo, but as the words were printed, I joined in anyhow.

Some of the other old folkies that were there today were Richard, who was delighted to deputize a young St Nick’s member name Molly who was in attendance, very shyly, with her mother. Molly was very proud of her deputy sticker; Richard is a retired cop who writes children’s stories and always tools around in a souped-up electric scooter festooned with flags and patriotic cop stuff. He actually administered an authentic sounding oath when he gave Molly the sticker – something about “deputize you under the laws of the State of Illinois to uphold the Constitution” or whatnot. She was very taken with it as she silently clutched her pink stuffed kitten.

I mentioned that Paul had brought his banjo with him, which reminded Richard of the time he was playing the drums in a police marching band unit. Apparently, they got downtown for a parade on Michigan Avenue a couple of hours early, and one of the guys spotted a nearby bar. So they all trooped in (literally) and started playing, and the more they played, the more the patrons bought them drinks. So by the time they were rousted out by their sargeant to get to their position for the parade, they were already “half-smashed” by Richard’s estimation.

After the parade was over, they were chided by somebody back at the station house that had watched them on TV who said “Well, you guys sound like you were playing pretty good, but your (marching) lines were a ragged mess!”

Someone else that’s always there is Anna, a Jamaican lady with an emphatically black wig, a warm Islands accent, and a huge personality. She was sporting an Obama button, pinned next to a mess of chestal jewelry and a cross necklace. The button looked kind of home-made, with a photo of Obama and a flag graphic, not like one of the slicker buttons available from the campaign website. So during the Peace, I went up to her to greet her, pointed at the button and said “I like that button.” Her face lit up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “I just LOVE HIM.” She got the same reaction from Mary, who also liked the button, and when I left she was just beaming about it.

We’re pondering what we’ll do for the December one, and Mary and I are plotting a “pulling out all the stops” program with favorite Christmas hymns, and maybe inveigling enough choir members to come for a kind of “dress rehearsal” performance of one of the fancy anthems we’re working on for Advent or Christmas Eve. We’re doing a Lessons and Carols service for the first time since I’ve been at St Nick’s, with all the prep and rehearsal that entails. And so we might pull out one of the special pieces for performance at Asbury, and hope to enlist the social director’s help in getting it publicised in their monthly newsletter.

As I left, the sound system in the main gathering room was playing 50’s oldies, and I realized that even though that music is 50 years old, I still associate it with images of teenagers. It seemed incongruous for a retirement home, but it’s not that far off the mark; some of the residents were young enough to be bobby soxers, although the oldest were probably in their late 20’s and early 30’s when the music I heard was new.

Which made me consider; in 30 years or so, will retirement homes play punk rock anthems on their sound systems? Elvis Costello? KISS? Hillary Duff? This continued to be on my mind as I drove home listening to WBEZ’s Sound Opinions, which featured “bubblegum” or pop music from the 50’s right through to today, and how some of it was able to transcend its own genre of “rock and roll.”

But as nobody at all sang along with us when Paul and Mary and I sang the old classic “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” I guess they don’t play old folkie music much at the old folkies home.

Yesterday: Summer Sunday, Various Services

Right, right, right…. some actual blogging, rather than mere links shared lazyblogged via Google Reader.

It was a late start, but David had made some good, strong coffee (and didn’t have to be prompted via Twitter) and I got to church in time for most of choir practice. I’d gotten word that the father of a good friend had died over the weekend, so the first thing I had to do was give her a hug and a smooch. Was surprised to see her standing at the rehearsal piano with the others, but she looked fine, and not wrecked, so it was obvious she was there for a little “getting on with it” action.

Mary handed us (yet again!) something new to look at – a nugget mined from the 1940 Hymnyniminal – and she laid out her plans for gradually differentiating the service music and even some special anthems between the 9am and 11am services. We’ll be one choir for monthly anthem Sundays, where we sing both services. This was in reaction to a growing feeling that if we’re going to sing out of different hymnals for the program year, why do we keep using the Gather service music at the early service? I’m afraid I’m one of the murmurers, but Mary clearly wants to do it this way too, so I’m happy with it as long as no one is truly bothered by the prospect of a “two churches under one roof” split along musical battle lines. I don’t think this is the case; it’s a stylistic choice and also a matter of “whatever floats yer boat (ARRRR!! in honor of The Great Observance of the Feast of the 19th of September)”

So we read through it, and although the notation was tricky and the harmony sketchy, we got through it. Our youngster, Holly, was not feeling good so she promised to go home early once we practiced. She works hard, that kid. School, and job, and yet more responsibilities, plus music.

Anyway, while practicing we were happy to see [Pirate Pete] come in slowly, with his partner [Barry Tone].

Whew. Well, what to say? [Pirate Pete] was beaten up a few weeks ago and hospitalized with skull fractures, and he sustained some kind of neurological injury. He can’t remember the attack, walks very slowly and is very wobbly, and really shaky when standing unassisted. And a few weeks ago he was a very vigorous and able-bodied middle-aged man. There was time for a quick and very gentle pat on the shoulder (again, looked very rocky). [Barry Tone] stayed with him through the service rather than taking his usual place in the choir. So that’s another choir buddy hurting. I had a long talk with [Pirate Pete] afterwards, more on that later.

A few unfamiliar faces. People trickled in. Fr. Ted dropped in (formerly vicar at Holy Innocents). A guest preacher came in, Randall Warren from the Diocese of Chicago, so we had a plethora of priests – a total of four either participating or partaking. Priests: we has them.

Here’s a picture I took of Randall a few years back, when he was counseling us at Holy Innocents through the decision to close and merge with St Nicholas:

Randall and Mark

That’s Randall on the right, talking to Mark, who still occasionally attends St Nicholas post-merger. Randall is Canon for Development and Pastoral Care, and he was on hand to preach both services and cheer us on as we mark another milestone in our growth toward full parish status. He’s both very excited about the coming building project (which seems to be nearly back on track again after a long “waitabit” ) and about what we’ve been doing.

And, he has mad preachin’ skillz. His skillz, let me show you them: no notes! Empty hand! He certainly prepares carefully – he always starts with “a laugher,” and then an illustrative example, re-states the core text, and brings in some reading from other sources that he’s done in the preceding week. And he brings it home, tying up loose ends and weaving a fabric that you can read like a tapestry, all while standing “down front” and away from any lectern.

He’s also the only preacher I’ve ever seen at St Nick’s who didn’t use the microphone, didn’t NEED the microphone, and was not ONCE interrupted by a jet on final approach to O’Hare. We’re on the flight path most Sundays, and that last point is near-miraculous.

I suspect that even had there been an overflight, he would have been clearly audible over the roar; he knows how to project and get the most out of a room’s acoustics.

The musical stuff all went along as it normally does, and we were pleased to hear that “the vicarage” has finally been vacated (long story: back rent, years of basically writing it off, need the space). So after the service, we were all invited to go over to the house (which is on a lot kitty-corner to the back of the church) to go through it and see what needed to be done.

Well, at first glance, things look pretty good – clean and nothing left behind, and maybe needing some kitchen flooring and painting. It’s larger than I thought – it has a screened patio, a funky little flat deck, a kitchen-family room with a fireplace at the family room end, a living/dining room, and a study on the first floor too, with its own entrance. Basement too, apparently (which fortunately did not flood). Upstairs, 3 bedrooms, including one with master bath. All very outdated fittings though, and only a stove remained of “major appliances.”

So the plan, since the housing market went bad, is to move programs into the house such as Sunday school, choir, and various AA/GA/support meetings. We’ll be able to use the church in the evenings again soon, as currently there’s only Wednesdays when we can schedule something and not turf one of the support meetings out. I chatted with Fr. Paul, our resident folk-musician/priest, about the possibilities and looked around as the Bishop’s Commitee did a “walk-through” meeting. The Sunday school kids are thrilled. Naturally, with so many little rooms and doors, we’re scheduling something like “Keeping God’s People Safe” training as soon as possible. The little boys were inclined to shut doors (to keep girls out) and such… so we’ll have to educate ourselves about the Proper Use of Rooms with Doors.

After I wandered back in to the church, I chatted with [Pirate Pete], who leaned casually against the doorjamb at the back – but it was more for support rather than to look cool (which he just does naturally anyway). Heard more of the story, gave more support, offered whatever help I can give. What there is of it is not a pretty tale, and there seems to be little interest on the part of his local police to investigate or prosecute… and even less interest on the part of his neighbors to come forward on his behalf, because they seem to be afraid of the consequences. It’s someone local, he thinks. Maddening to be a victim, and not know if the person who just walked past your house is a neighbor, an assailant, or both.

I was also surprised to find that he comes from way down beyond South Chicago, just over the line in Indiana. But was not too surprised to find that as far as welcoming and inclusivity (aside from some stalwart Chicago and west suburban parishes that are hard to reach for him), we’re it for him and for [Barry]. And that’s just sad. I think there might be other places, but they’re uncongenial musically or liturgically, or make them feel just a little uncomfortable. So they’re with us, and we’re glad of it. [Pirate Pete] is colorful (and has a great sense of style) and [Barry] literally anchors the choir, usually singing baritone. And it seems like it might be a good idea to use pseudonyms, since I didn’t mention the idea of including them in a blogpost to either of them. Which is also quite… maddening.

And so after traipsing around in the wet grass looking in an empty house, and eating a lot of Oreos and drinking coffee with the forum, I headed for home, started some laundry, and logged in to Second Life.

Blah, blah, blah Second Life! Is that all you ever do, Red?

Well, but… it’s fun and relaxing, and also a great way to put off chores. So, WIN.

Sundays are the day my home sim’s weekly newspaper comes out. It seems we had a panther attack, and a noble knight died well on the fields of battle and was buried in the graveyard (I’ll have to find out what the real story was, the editor may have embroidered JUST a stitch or two). The weekly Celtic music performance at the Green Dragon had been canceled on account of bleargh. I do enjoy reading the Sunday paper with my post-church coffee (that’s post RL church).

The thing was, it was your basic Sunday not-much-going-on kind of day, but then I found several fun events to go to, and one very interesting solemn event to attend. By the end of the day, I’d kind of run the gamut of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

About the first thing I did was check in at the Snail Races, which was just to look around, because they only schedule events on Saturdays. But I was surprised to find several people getting ready to run a practice race, so okay, I stayed to watch the time trials. No commentary, which made it kind of hard to follow, even with the bouncing benches that follow a designated snail. You can watch previous, full-on broadcasts (with wacky commentary and slick graphics and “camera” work) anytime online. The course is constantly changing: currently there’s a collapsing bridge over a tank full of kitty-eating sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads, among other things.

After watching the previous broadcast just to get the gist of where things are (It’s a couple of months since I attended Race Day), I found a really interesting venue that looked promising, New Music Live at HD Artists Hall. Or was this Saturday? In any case, New Music is mostly electronica, with a strongly classical bent, but definitely of the 21st century (often with a good beat, and you can dance to it). I ended up joining the HD Artists group just to get on their announcements list. Great stuff, nicely hosted. It’s an Internet radio simulcast, apparently, I’ll have to find out more about their stream.

If that WAS Saturday, oh well; things kind of smush togther in SL, which is why I really should keep a better journal of my doings there.

Later on, I definitely did go to church for the noon SLT service at Epiphany, and chatted with people afterwards, including my friend Cady. Also, tried not to chat with a rather strange lady who seemed to be baiting us with dark hints about being possessed by a little devil attachment. I think people took long enough to ensure that there was not a real cry for help, and to verify that indeed someone was trying to pull a not-very-funny prank.

Whatever. That’s Second Life church.

After that, I was dinking around sorting crap and stuff and treasure, and got word that my neighbor Mistletoe was having an opening party to celebrate her fall fashion line, with a DJ. Well, that turned out to be an extremely fun time had by all. The music was dub, the elves be chillin, and there was even a large but shy dragon. Wow. Talk about cultures clash. My friend Cady (yes, the one from church) threw on some medieval glad rags adn came along – we danced, relaxed, and chatted for at least an hour or more.

Then that started to break up, and I checked on the laundry and made the unfortunate discovery of a pen in the dryer – sound of anguish well up from the underbeneath! But only one top really showed signs of spots, so not so bad as it might have been.

After some reading and catching up on news, back online to see what was going on. Dancing again? Okay, the DJ is a friend and always plays great stuff. Mostly, I was reading the news and thinking about the stupidity of the American political process.

But someone dropped a surprising invitation card on everyone there – an online memorial service for a person I did not know, but whose work was known to me. So… since the invitation was open, I changed into something more subdued and less “purple haired kitty la-la girl.”

It was both heartwarming and mind-boggling; the person was a highly respected and accomplished person, in both his real life, and in his Second Life. I was able to get to an obit and was very moved by it. It was also moving to see what his online friends had pulled together – he was the creator of a very popular sim called “Diegoland” and many people kind of got their start there in music or spoken word performances – back in the days when all this was very new. I was surprised to recognize a couple of artists – visual and performance – plus there were a lot of musicians who chose to perform. Technologically, it was a major challenge to pull this off, with so many people broadcasting by “picking up” the stream from their locations scattered all over the country. Most people ‘there’ (virtually there, that is) had never met this guy in real life, but they cared very deeply for him because of who he was and how he chose to present himself in the online milieu. He was, by all accounts, a healer-knight in both worlds. And an accomplished musician, too.

There were moments of inadvertent comic relief – it would not be Second Life without an SL moment or two… one woman started to type a command as she started to “speak” at the microphone, and inadvertently sent a pretty funny chat macro, complete with sound effects. And… there was a very earnest performance by a rather good Elvis impersonator. I… well, it was heartfelt. He loved the guy so much, he was willing to perform, you can’t fault him for the effort. Most of the other musical stuff was pretty good quality, good sound. The speakers were less successful, as maybe some hadn’t really been prepared with a good quality mike for voicechat. But they tried, and just like in real life, people strained to hear. Unlike in real life, though, they did that by “moving camera” (the viewpoint can be set to see and “hear” from whatever spot you wish within a fairly large area).

It was the largest crowd I’d ever seen in one place in SL. I think the venue is on the edge of several adjoining sims, in order to spread the load. It was quite a testament to the memory of their dear friend.

I contented myself with sittinq quietly, listening, watching people, and IMing with an acquaintance, who was also invited from the same dance party. In fact, it was the DJ, who apparently wrapped early so he could attend. A couple others I knew from my groups were there, too. In some ways, SL is like a medium-sized town – depending on the hour of the day, it’s likely to be the same few people logged in…you tend to run into them at art galleries, musical events, and dance events.

So: even in Second Life, there’s death. Not just the fairy-tale fantasy of a noble knight sacrificing his life for a just cause or a lady’s honor, but the real-life tragedy of a good man gone before his time, missed by his friends.

And that makes it.. yep, 3 services of one kind or another that I attended. Plus a lot of time spent “thinking good thoughts” for [Pirate Pete]. Its a lot to process, actually. So many issues, problems, challenges, triumphs, and sorrows. And laughs. Lots and lots of laughs, even with some tears mixed in.

Project Fair Play | Stop Illegal Church Electioneering

It’s amazing how much I didn’t know about the separation of church and state.

I’ve always been a big proponent of the concept (hmm, something to do with being bullied as a redheaded stranger-child in a near-theocracy). But I didn’t know where the limitations lay, and I came up short in a discussion of politics at, of all places, Holy Moly.

I had been incensed over the last week or so about how the LDS Church was throwing a lot of money at Proposition 8 (the gay marriage ban) in California, and today I was dismayed to find that the Obama campaign is sending out a Prop 8 supporter on some kind of “faith-based” election tour touting Obama to religious moderates, liberals, and even mainstream conservatives.  But yesterday, I sat in on the “Adult Forum” discussion group, which was into its second or third week of discussing current events. Sunday, the topic was more or less “What is, and is not, the Line Thou Shalt Not Cross between the church and the state?”

I was surprised to find out that the LDS Church has every right to speak out on issues it perceives a moral imperative to address. They have every right (this makes my teeth ache) to give money to political causes and ballot initiatives that are in line with their values, and to inform their members of the issues that they believe must be addressed from their particular (or proudly peculiar) point of view. Steve G., our resident Jewish Guy who runs the adult forum discussions, set us all straight on that score.  Churches may not endorse candidates, or give them money, and the helpful site I found below notes that they can’t invite just one candidate to talk to the faithful, they must invite all candidates fairly (and offer space at the church for rallies even-handedly, too).

Wow, I did not know that.

Project Fair Play | Stop Illegal Church Electioneering

Quick Facts

Houses of worship may:

  • Discuss public policy issues.
  • Sponsor non-partisan voter registration and encourage voting as good civic behavior.
  • Sponsor candidate forums as long as all leading candidates are invited and a broad range of issues is discussed.
  • Urge congregants to communicate with candidates and make their concerns known to them.

Houses of worship may not

  • Issue statements endorsing or opposing candidates.
  • Donate money to a candidate.
  • Offer church space to one candidate and refuse it to another.
  • Sponsor rallies for candidates in church.

Okay then. As surprised as we were to find this out, several of us in the discussion were still very uncomfortable with the idea of a hierarchical church or clergyperson telling parishoners to give money to support a ballot measure in another state. Although it’s not illegal, it seemed unethical or an abuse of power. Steve G. was gleeful; he’d found a topic that made everyone uncomfortable and urged us to argue our point of view. It was a really stimulating conversation.

Next week, we’ll take up the issues flying around the Veep choices. I think the only issues that concern us are all with the Republican choice… I don’t think anyone really has strong feelings about Biden, but everyone has strong feelings about Palin. So we’ll explore that, and I’ll send Steve G. a link to this Project Fair Play site.

Ready for use

Flickr

Here’s the story: The two pieces of slate, and the large rounded glacial pebbles set in crushed limestone around it, are the salvaged pieces of the altar at Holy Innocents Hoffman Estates, my former Episcopal mission parish. When we closed the church at the end of December, 2006, there were a few people who mourned the loss as if a family member died. Many of them left after trying to remain with the rest of us; they just couldn’t continue in the new place.

One of the things that was discussed in the run-up to the closure and merger with St Nicholas was a crazy-ass idea: the St Nick’s people offered to help us dismantle the altar and move it to Elk Grove, where it would become an outdoor altar for summer use. This was receive politely by some and enthusiastically by others, but privately a lot of us thought “nice sentiment, but not possible.”

Well, butter mai butt and call me a biskit, they got ‘er done last week, a little more than a year and a half later. A few months back, the old altar was carefully demolished at the old building, as the new owners had agreed to letting us take it down. They’re not a liturgical church and did not need it (and it was in the sightlines between the congregation and the ministers).  A crew of volunteers went over and took the altar apart. Most of the men who originally put it up have died, but a few older ladies remembered the story on how it came to be. The men had gone up to Kettle Moraine State Park in Wisconsin to liberate some glacial rubble from a quarry area, and the slate for the altar top was duly ordered with a nice set of Maltese crosses at the corners and in the center. A relic of the Blessed James De Koven was set in the top – this explains uch about our Anglo-Catholic tradition at Holy Innocents. But when the then bishop of Chicago was to come for a visit in the early Sixties, he told the mission that the top of the altar was much too low – it needed to be raised a matter of inches to be “correct.” Well, so they went and bought another piece of slate, which was quickly marked with crosses (they appear to be done with a stonecutting saw, very utilitarian). The family of Florence Keller donated the cost of this second piece of slate, and it was installed on top of the first one. Here’s how it looked after the closing liturgy, when we cleared out the worship space immediately after church on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. And here’s how it looked ‘undressed for Advent‘ the year we started the “grocery bags for the hungry” pantry ministry.

When the altar was dismantled, it was found that the stones were mortared in place around a simple wood-and-chickenwire frame, which came apart pretty easily. The two pieces of slate were separated for the first time in forty years, having been held together with little more than gravity and caulk.

The whole affair was trucked over by the volunteers to St Nick’s, where the pieces spent the winter on wood pallets under canvas. Then a few months ago, a committee started working on what to do with it all.

Originally, the old altar was to be restored as it had originally been. The workmen decided that the old top would form the supports for the new altar, and they cut it in half and angled the halves in order to give as much support as possible to the newer top – the plan was to rebuild the “cage” around them and put the rubble boulders back, covering the old top back forever.  But then after church a few weeks ago, we were all “volunteered” to move the boulders to around the edge of the newly laid concrete slab, and this was the first time for us to see the slate altar “in situ.”

We admired the Maltese cross carvings (one of them had to be sliced in half). Manny, one of our priests, is Maltese, and he took a lot of ribbing. Several of us started talking as we lugged boulders… “what if we did something else with the boulders instead of replicating the old altar?”

We decided, just a random group of sweating folks, that we liked the modernity of the exposed “old” and “new” slate and the way the legs were angled, with the Maltese crosses toward the street, appealed to us. We didn’t mind the machine marks on the back, either. They just showed that it was an altar that had been used – it was a working altar for decades, and a little wear and tear is inevitable. So after some discussion, and moving the boulders again, the Bishop’s Committee ratified the informal “what-iffery” of the boulder-haulerrs, and came up with a nice solution (approved by the ultimate authority, the “stone guy” that Tim had found who was willing to do the work at cost, with free labor).  So now it remains only to be used. We’d better do this quick! Summer is almost over. But we think that seating won’t be a problem, as everyone has at least one camp chair or folding tailgater chair at home. I just hope it doesn’t happen while I’m away on vacation, although it probably will.

It’s funny how things work themselves out. Father Steve, our vicar, had been so anxious to preserve the past, but the people who were interested in doing something new were the former Holy Innocents people – in fact, pretty much ALL of the former HI people that have become integrated with the rest of St Nicks. He was so worried about causing hurt, but we were all very quick to come to the same conclusion – we’re happy to see the old made new, for the greater good of our own church community. Now we have to figure out how to rededicate the altar, and ourselves.

A harvest blessing, perhaps?

Ginny
I can has iPhone?

Via: Flickr Title: Ready for use By: GinnyRED57
Originally uploaded: 31 Jul ’08, 7.00pm CDT PST

Ginny
I can has iPhone?