Monday, April 30, 2007

Solo Flight 

With the Boss Man out of town this past weekend, I had my first experience "doing everything" by myself on a Sunday. This particular Sunday, "doing everything" translated into not only preaching and presiding over 2 liturgies and running an adult ed sunday school, but performing a conditional baptism at the 8am service and participating in the Deanery Confirmation service in the afternoon. It was funny, because the fella we baptised at the 8am service, was confirmed that afternoon and after the confirmation service I asked him - since the evening was still open - if he had any desire to just go ahead and be ordained while we had the Bishop on hand. He joked back, "Hey, I guess I could! I'm on a roll today!"

At the 10:15am service a priest from Chicago, Davis Fisher, who I knew peripherally up there, joined us. It seems his daughter and son-in-law live here and are considering making our church their church home, which is great. I introduced myself to him and we reestablished connections, so that was neat. He is now attending St. Luke's, Evanston, so, small world.


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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lots of Work to Do 

We learned yesterday that the Boss Man's terminally ill aunt passed into the arms of her Savior. May her soul and the soul of all the faithful departed rest this day in peace and rise in glory.

The service will be on Saturday, outside of Chicago where she lived. This means that I'm it for this Sunday, and next Sunday too, cause he's scheduled to be out then for CREDO II (a clergy health and wellness conference). Basically, I have a lot of work to do, but if I take it one step at a time, it shouldn't be a problem. This coming Sunday is the Deanery Confirmation, so I need to make sure everything is in order for that as well. It is a lot of things to remember, but I am mindful that most of my colleagues do this all by themselves every week.

In more exciting news, there has been some energy generated around here recently for the creation of an additional worship service, one that would bear the epithet of contemporary.

Well, the first question is, what does that description actually signify? A popular answer aroun these parts is a couple of guitars playing 1970's Marantha Singers music. But that isn't exactly the direction we want to go. We want it to be truly contemporary, using the cutting edge of liturgical and musical ideas for worship. A tremendous amount of good things are coming out of England (in part because the church there really must reinvent itself or perish) and we're gonna be looking at them carefully, particularly the liturgical texts from the Common Worship volumes (the main volume of which is available online for full perusal and local liturgical use).

A little while back I purchased a copy of the Common Worship: Daily Prayer volume, and can I just say, I love it! I love the way it is laid out, the number of options it allows for and provides, the use of language and imagery, and generally just the whole thing. So, when I took a gander at the main volume, which includes the Eucharistic Prayers (A - H, in contemporary or traditional language, according to Order I or Order II!!!! Count the possibilities!!) it was no surprise to me that I wanted to go say Mass right away! Several of the Eucharistic Prayers are very responsory in style, really getting the congregation involved, in a similar was to 1979's Prayer C (the Star Wars prayer). I like that. I think a more "contemporary" worshipping body will like that, particularly younger families. The prayers are modern enough, but they accomplish this by blending modern imagery with ancient ideas and biblical themes in a seamless fashion. Ahh...I could go on and on.

Good stuff coming out of England, let me just say. Coming soon to a church near you (provided you're near to St. Mark's, Tampa)!


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Monday, April 23, 2007

Gump Implodes in the 4th 

Somewhere in the 4th inning, the Gump defense went out to lunch and never quite returned. Easy outs were missed, fly balls were dropped, and fielding errors were capitalized upon by the oppossing team. Blowing an early 8-0 lead (4 RBI's of which came off of Jeremy's Grand Slam!), Gump loses 18-12.

Welcome to intermediate league.


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Excellent Weekend; Odds and Ends 

The weekend was a lot of fun - I hosted the Forrest Gump "End-of-Season" party at my house Friday night and (after a slow start) it turned out to be a blast. I think pretty much everyone had a good time. There was a ton of food! I had almost two whole hams left over from what I grilled, but my beef satay skewers got devoured instantly. Several people stayed over and trickled out at various points from the early to late morning the following day. There were no injuries.

Saturday afternoon I spent hanging out with Elise and my brothers (Trevor came up for the party and the weekend) - we hung out at Elise's pool and then went to Jimbo's BBQ. All in all a fantastic way to spend a lazy afternoon. We followed up dinner by watching Blood Diamond - a movie which I loved, but found extremely intense, disturbing, and altogether hard to get out of my head. This one probably goes on my list of movies that all American's should watch; it's up there with American History X. Seeing Blood Diamond makes me want to hurry up and get to reading Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone all the more.

Sunday was busy as usual, with church, seeing Trevor off, confirmation classes, and then the Boss Man and I split up to do a house blessing a piece! I had a good time blessing my good friends' Anthony and Keri-Rose's house, though. It was very meaningful to me as my first one. The Boss Man and I are both fairly tired today, but have managed to be productive, knocking out a Presiding/Preaching schedule through June!

Forrest Gump plays tonight at 8:30, and it'll be our first real test in the new, more competitive division, as the last (and only) game we've played in it so far was against another team that had also been moved up. So, wish us luck!


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Thursday, April 19, 2007

That They May Have Life 

Last night, I set aside my plans to begin a study on the Epistle of James with the Youth in order that we might take the entire evening's meeting to share thoughts and feelings about what happened at Virginia Tech. It proved a worthy endeavor. I remember times in my youth when a teacher or professor would out and out cancel whatever plans they had for class that day in order to discuss some current event that carried more import than their lesson, and I remember always being thankful they did that.

So, taking a page from their book, after our check-in time, I inquired, "Does anybody have anything they want to say about what happened at Virginia Tech this week?" Instantly 3 or 4 hands went up, and by the end of the evening, I think everyone had spoken. It did me good to hear what these young persons had to say and I hope it did them good to have an open forum where they could work through their feelings about this with their friends. The tragedy touched one of the Youth a little closer than most - his best friend's older brother was among those killed at VT.

The discussion ranged from such questions as "Why?" to a pretty thorough discussion of gun-control measures. Everyone was upset and some were scared. Above all, it struck me that there was a need to be together and to talk about it together. I don't know if their classes in school afforded them the same opportunity, but I hope so.

At one point, one student said that a person he knows from school thought that maybe Cho Seung-Hui was being used as the arm of the Lord, as in "the rod of [the Lord's] anger...the club of [the Lord's] wrath." (Isaiah 10:5) I think the idea was some sort of avenging angel.

I took the opportunity to interrupt the queue of hands that had been raised to address this idea specifically. I said that I hope everyone in this room understands that this is a wrong idea. That the God we believe in would not act in this way. I read them a passage from the Gospel of John (10:9-10) the most important part of which was,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

And again, from 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11,
"For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing."
The point was that no matter what else these killings were, they were not of God. It was important for them to understand that. We concluded the evening with the Litany at Time of Death. I hope it was a meaningful evening for them. It certainly was for me.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

2 Memes 

I don't normally do these things, but in the wake of the killings at Virginia Tech I feel like anything I say that would pretend to be of import would fall well short of the intended mark.

My heart goes out to those who are grieving, scared, confused, and/or in shock. May the souls of the departed rest this day in peace and rise in glory and may the holy angels attend and minister to those left in the wake of these killings.

This meme, from Adam Jacob, tagged me a long time ago and I never answered. So here are the Seven Things:

1. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies.
I have to say the Bible I guess. There's not a book that I otherwise regularly give to people, unless the BCP, but that's not a book you read through, so to speak.

2. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music.
DC Talk's Jesus Freak. This song, when I first heard it, helped me understand music as a form of self expression rather than just as entertainment. More recently, I've been altered by a foray into more classical forms of music, and so I would have to say, Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suites.

3. Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue.
Star Wars, Episodes 4-6.

4. Name a performer for whom you suspend all disbelief.

Kevin Spacey.

5. Name a work of art you’d like to live with.
Rodin's The Burghers of Calais.

6. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life.
The Lord of the Rings. Hands down. This is the book I can read again and again and never get tired. This is the novel that speaks to me often and on different levels. When I applied for entrance to Wake Forest, we had to compose an essay in which we stated with which character from fiction we most identified and defend our decision. I chose Sam Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings.

7. Name a punch line that always makes you laugh.
"I don't have any film." (From the classic campfire skit, "Beans".)


This one comes from Jane: 6 Weird Things About Yourself.

1. I am not necessarily the most punctual person in the world, but I do have a compulsion about beginning or ending things at specific times. Namely, it is far easier for me to say, I'll leave this party at 11:45 than to just leave at say, 11:43. Things like that have to be, for me, at times that make sense, which is to say, at a time that ends in 0 or 5.

2. When I was younger, I hated baseball. When my family would go to games in Atlanta, I would take a book and generally read from innings 3-8. I would walk around the stadium and had specific innings when I would get a frozen lemonade (4th) and a pretzel (7th). But I couldn't stand sitting there for so long and watching that boring sport. Now, I love it and don't get to go to enough games. I play softball and watch the Braves on TV whenever I get the chance.

3. While eating out, I cannot order the same thing someone else orders. If someone else orders what I plan on ordering, I will order something else. If I have ordered first and they order what I ordered, I may change my order. I am getting better about not doing this.

4. I much prefer appetizers to dessert.

5. I have to read a little in my novel each night before going to bed. Even if it's just a page before I clunk out. If I don't, my mind wanders, I have a hard time sleeping, and I'm irritable.

6. With regards to a new book, new movie, or new album, I have to have the idea to check it out first myself. If someone else recommends it, I may get it, but it'll be a long time before I partake of it, long enough for me to be able to say, "Ryan, this was your idea to read/watch/listen to this."


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Monday, April 16, 2007

Heaven, Hell, & the Resurrection of the Body 

We're beginning a new adult Sunday school class on the topic of Death, Dying, the Resurrection of the Body, and the Theology thereof. It should prove to be pretty engaging and, judging from this last Sunday's enthusiasm during the class, pretty fun.

We'll be looking specifically at N.T. Wright's "For All the Saints?" and using the Episcopal Church's "Faithful Living, Faithful Dying" collection of essays and practical guides as reference. I think we're gonna get a couple of guest speakers to talk: a hospital chaplain, and a lawyer at least. This is an important topic for us all and I think there is a lot of misinformation out there about it.

So, we started off by making two lists: one of everything that came to mind when we heard the word "heaven," and likewise, another list for "hell". It was pretty informative, with a lot of folks saying things like, "I know that this isn't the way it really is, but when I hear "heaven" I think of_______". Fill in your own blank.

I gave them a packet of information about the topic, including a few definitions out of the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, and a non-exhaustive list of New Testament scriptures dealing with these subjects. That stuff will form the basis for next week's discussion, and the week after that we'll dive into the texts (when we all have a common working vocabulary for this stuff!).


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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Maybe Imus should wear #42 

I have to say that I'm a little bit surprised by all the uproar surrounding Don Imus' characterization of the Rutger's women's basketball team as "nappy headed hos". Sure it was a rude thing to say, but folks like Imus have been saying rude things for years - they've made a career of it. It was only when I was talking with my brother, who either used to or still did listen to Imus in the Morning, that I learned that what people were upset over was a racially charged slur. I thought to myself, "Oh, I didn't hear that one." I was informed that actually, I did; the phrase "nappy headed hos" is apparently racially charged. I didn't know. And to tell the truth, I still don't know. But ask any of my youth group kids, I'm asking them all the time to keep me up on the lingo - just this week, I finally learned what was meant by, "shortie," clearing up vast amounts of confusion when I listened to Bow Wow's "Shortie Like Mine," and other songs employing that word.

I don't even know what "nappy headed" means, let alone how it is racially charged. So I did a little research. I assumed it had something to do with hair and the general state of frizziness of anyone's hair. 5 or 6 definitions down in dictionary.com's entry for "nappy" you find, "(of hair) kinky." Only at the 10th definition with a heading of etymology, do we find something indicating race: "nappy (adj.) "downy," 1499, from nap (n.). Meaning "fuzzy, kinky," used in colloquial or derogatory ref. to the hair of black people, is from 1950."

Now, I am the first (ok, probably not the first, but at least the second - I've still got my own work on the sin of racism to do) to decry racism and racist comments, but this time, it seems a little weak to me. If I were a woman, and someone called me a "nappy headed ho," I would be far more insulted over the insinuation that I prostituted myself rather than over some silly comment about my hair which may or may not have a 1950's version of racism worked into it (but that may be just because I am particularly immune to comments about hair, having heard it all before). What happens when we turn a minor thing like this into a national news story about racism is that people think this kind of thing is the last kind of racism we have to deal with, the old racist desperately hanging on to old ways in a culture that has surpassed him. And that's just not the truth. Racism has changed, and it's face now is, if not more sinister, then certainly more hidden: hidden in the systems that run our nation and govern our lives. That's the racism we should be calling attention to, not this red herring version.

I know I'm gonna be shot down here, but sometimes I think we make an idol of racism. I really do. And I think that this instance is one of those times. I'm not defending Don Imus, he made a rude and inappropriate comment, and his network can do whatever they want with him, I don't care. I don't listen to him. I find all radio talk show people like him to be assholes. But what I'm saying is, you don't have to listen to him either. If he is a racist, (and he probably is, cause one thing anti-racism training taught me is, everyone is racist) then he and his ilk are a breed going out of style. Let them and their inappropriate comments die off and don't invigorate them with with new life by making it a national news story. I'm glad the Rutger's team got to meet with him and I'm glad they've reached reconciliation. But that should have been between Imus and the Rutger's team, and possibly the rest of the Rutger's community, without the nation getting in the middle.

Perhaps a more fit punishment for Don Imus would be to make him wear Jackie Robinson's number on April 15, but then again, Torii Hunter already thinks too many people are wearing it.


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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Papa G Joins Blogaria 

In an effort to reaquaint himself with frequent writing as a precursor to heading back to school, my life long friend Griffin has begun a blog.

He wants to focus on literary criticism and as a person who reads both vigorously and with considered attention, he's just the man to do it. He'll be taking a far more in depth look at the books he reads than the way I "review" the novels I read. Having recently finished Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, he's now turned his attention to the proto-postmodern novel by Nabokov, Pale Fire.

When you get a chance, stop by and say hi. He can be found at Beyond the Zero, which is linked to here and in my blogroll.

Happy reading and welcome Griffin to the wide world of posting for the whole world to see and not look at.


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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Acts of Faith 

Philip Caputo's Acts of Faith was an intensely involving novel and one that took me a long time to get into. However, once I did, I really couldn't put it down. The story is one that is primarily character driven as I saw it. The narrative of the Sudanese civil war is so vast that Caputo doesn't try and delve too far into it, but seeks, rather, to tell a portion of its story through the lives of his characters. He does not attribute political blame and strives (I think) not to take "a side," though by the dearth of sections in his book examining the Sudanese Arab's perspective, one can take a guess where Caputo would fall.

I liked how he would write each chapter about the different characters, their back stories, and spend enormous amounts of time fleshing them out. The trouble was that at the beginning, several of the characters who are engaged in the NGO aid business are so similar (Wes, Doug, Fitz) that it is hard to remember which characterization belongs to whom. And, since so much time is spent on characterization, the story moves along slowly. Only towards the middle of the book did I statrt having clear ideas about who was who and who had done what. Quinnette, Michael, Diana, Ibrahim, and some others were distinctive enough to tell apart, but then again, relatively little time was spent on them at the beginning.

I think the main point Caputo is trying to make with this book is contained in a quote which he repeats throughout the novel, "In Sudan the choice is never between the right thing and the wrong thing but between what is necessary and what isn't." The same could probably be said of any place embroiled in war. I liked this enormous ethical gray area he develops, because I think it is the place most of us tend to reside most of the time in most of the situations in which we find ourselves. Or at least I do. I like to think I would remain objective if it were I flying aid supplies into a warzone, but I can sympathize with Douglas' character who, throughout the book, struggles with that objectivity. In my own experiences and travels in Israel and Palestine, I can clearly see objectivity having slowly melted away.

Quinnette's journey was the one that fascinated me the most, I think. She starts out as an Evangelical Christian missionary, sent to use money raised in the US to redeem Black Sudanese "slaves" (in a sense other than 'chattel,' more like prisoners of war) captured by Arab Sudanese slavers. Yet, the farther she gets immersed in that world, the more corruption and lies she becomes aware of and it grates on her soul, slowly eating away at her optimism and objectivity. She, in essence, marries the land, the conflict, the war, and it becomes her even as she becomes a product of it. Her transition is fascinating and sad at the same time.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has a little bit of literary patience - it can serve as an interesting primer on what is going on in the Sudan and might encourage you to learn more form a more factual point of view. While Caputo is careful to say that his work is one of fiction, the things he details in the novel did and do go on. The novel's title is interesting to me as well, now that I am finished with it. Each character sets out to do, what in their minds, are acts of good faith - the eternal optimism of the human spirit - and yet, each one, in their own way, turns out differently. So, the point is driven home, it isn't about what is right and wrong, but what is necessary and what isn't.


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Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Hallelujah! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

With the arrival of the Easter season, I am hereby announcing the end of my blogging fast, as it in fact turned out to be.

I have thought a lot about my blog during my time away - things like: what compels me to write and why, what do I write about, who reads and who cares, the fact that now that I am in a parish, I no longer can write with the level of impunity I once enjoyed, do I have a purpose to writing here, etc.

I can't say that I have come up with answers to all of those questions, but I am at least further along in my thinking about them than I once was.

As I continue to seek and discover more questions and hopefully answers, I will probably be writing mostly what may seem like frivilous stuff at first. Also, because I need to get back in the habit of regular writing.

Recently, I finished reading Philip Caputo's Acts of Faith, an amazingly in-depth novel about the Sudanese Civil War. Tomorrow I hope to write more on what I thought about it.

And, for those who care, the following are important updates of stuff going on in my life, listed in order of importance:

  1. As Facebook would put it: Ryan went from being listed as "single" to being listed as "In a Relationship."
  2. I am going to the Dominican Republic in June on a mission trip. This will be the first mission trip I have ever been on.
  3. Forrest Gump got moved up by the Powers That Be to a more competitive division in the softball league. We came out swinging and won our first game in the Intermediate Division, 16-2. Our second game was rained out last night, and next week is a bye week. So, it will be two weeks before we play again. I do not think our first game is indicative of the kind of competition we will face later in the season.
  4. Sometime on Holy Saturday, after what was already a grueling series of services, Ryan actually uttered the sentence, "I'm tired of church, now."

That's enough for now. I'll see you tomorrow.


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