First Confession Session

fkne3The first rule of confession –

you do not talk about confession.

The second rule of confession –

you don’t talk about confession.


Well, actually I can talk about the experience if not the contents.  Today was my first experience with individual confession.  I admit to some trepidation about starting this process.  Part of the trepidation begins with the fact that confession has always been something I associate with Roman Catholics.  There is nothing wrong with that except that I don’t consider myself Catholic.  Media shows this as stepping into a dark claustrophobia-inducing closet, speaking to a veiled person quasi-anonymously, who then prescribes penance and sends you off to perform it.

This was not in the least the experience I had during this first confession.

First of all, it was in a wide open space.  To be specific a kneeler-rail in a side chapel which has no walls separating it from the main sanctuary.  No one was in the sanctuary but us, but it definitely was not claustrophobic.

Next, it was instructional.  My confessor sat and explained the procedure, which is largely “follow the rubrics” as for form.  He gave a suggested time frame, and set me at ease about the expectations for this first vs. future confessions. But in addition, after the formal confession he sat and discussed and probed the things I had said and a few things I hadn’t mentioned.  He looked at a theme, and commented on how it seemed to run through everything I’d shared.  In the end, I wasn’t ordered to do penance as much as given insight into something in myself to be more aware of and work on.  Then I was absolved.

I don’t really know if Catholic confession looks like it does in the movies, but I know now that this Episcopal confession was an experience which I value, and would gladly repeat.  It didn’t feel like obligation, it felt like therapy.




He lent me a universe with all the trimmings
A planet so beautiful and messy
I could spend forever exploring it.
He lent me ashes and dust to live in
Organized into brilliant chaotic order
By laws he called into being.
He lent me his spirit
While giving me gifts and free will
And his ear when my choices went astray.
He lent me his word
When I could not make sense
Of any of these tenancies.
The note has come due,
Although his terms require no payment.
I serve him all the same,
His universe, ashes, and spirit shall be returned in time.
And I intend to pay with interest.

The Annual Parish “How-Can-I-Shorten-This-Meeting” Meeting

Hello, beloved.
Here’s the budget…discuss
Here is what every committee did/does and they all really need your help. Or …well nevermind…we know you can read.
By Title
By Title
By Title…
Here are the souls we’ve conscripted into nominations for Vestry. Let’s take a vote!
Synod anyone?…anyone?
We now return to our regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon nap.

If you give a Visitor to Our Church a Cup

St.JohnsMugIf you give a Visitor to our church a cup,
they’ll want coffee to go with it.

They will visit the fellowship hall to fill the cup..







photo1-old-2014323-67762-9..and discover that Jesus has set up a fun group. There are snacks and friends.

They will grab a plate and look for a place to donate a dollar or so.

When they find the collection plate
they will notice the sign up sheet for future weeks.



servong volunteers

Once they sign that list,

they’ll notice the volunteer opportunities and sign a few of those too. They might get carried away by the Holy spirit and spend a few minutes reading about the ministry of being a supportive Eucharistic Community. They may think of new ways to serve as well!







When they finish signing up,
they’ll return the pen and sit down to chat.
As they chat they will hear about an interesting discussion at Sunday School,

so they will ask questions about what we believe about God and about the class.When they learn the class is a good one they’ll decide to join in next week.

sundayschoolWhen the next week arrives, they’ll arrive early to find the Sunday School teacher and ask what they need to do. The Sunday School teacher will invite them to come as they are. She or He will fix a little packet for they so they won’t feel lost.




They’ll settle in, listen until they are comfortable engaging as well. They may even pick up a Bible and begin to read a few passages. They’ll begin to experience God for themselves.




They’ll probably ask about the passages we read each Sunday. When the class provides some context about liturgy, they’ll ask to see the Book of Common Prayer. When they look at the prayer book they’ll get excited and want to use one of their own to help develop their Christian life. They’ll ask about being a lay reader.

photo2aThey’ll start to serve Him. When they’ve served for a while, they’ll want to be full members of His Church. They’ll ask for a confirmation class.









Once confirmed they’ll want to have communion “as oft as they are able”.








photo14Confirmation and communion complete they’ll sit back and look at His church, the community which they’ve joined. This will remind them of the joys of fellowship they first observed. So..


they’ll head to the fellowship hall after service for some fellowship with snacks and coffee.


And chances are to get that coffee…



St.JohnsMugthey’re going to need a cup to pour it in.





(Based on the Book If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. All images are from the St. John’s Episcopal Church Website and Facebook Page and depict actual events within our Eucharistic Community)

Although we quip about our coffee habits as Episcopalians, they serve a purpose in fellowship, community and outreach.

PSALM 23:5. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” [NIV]



Reflection on Anglican Communion’s statement

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 7.35.52 PM
Nothing changed today, and yet people use words like schism and fracture and suspension and some are happy and some are sad.

Nothing changed. And yet…Link to the Statement of the Anglican Communion Primates meeting 2016.

Welcome to being a mature denomination, Episcopalians. In the same way that a birthday, or right of passage officially declares you have reached a benchmark, but doesn’t actually make you a grown up, so being Episcopalian and not Anglican was until today.  What makes you a grown up is taking responsibility for yourself, good and bad.

This summer, our denomination took a bold stand, and today we take responsibility for it.

The Anglican Communion in this analogy is a bit like a family with many members who don’t approve of our grownup choices.  They don’t want us representing them, and indeed we no longer do.  But that is an ok and necessary part of maturing.  We represent ourselves, and our understanding and relationship with each other and God.

Personally, I have come from a family so supportive that I’ve largely led  a charmed life.  But when I was in my 20s first becoming the servant/teacher/leader that I am today, I remember a specific conversation with my father.  He told me that someday I would see the error in my thinking and realize that I would never live the way I wanted based on the choice to become a teacher.  I remember that stark disapproval, but I also remember realizing how little my father understood and knew me.  Not the daughter he imagined I’d grow up to be, the daughter I actually am.  The separation stung, but it was right and good and in time led to a stronger relationship because we knew a real thing about one another rather than an imagined one.

Today the Anglican Communion expressed its dissatisfaction at the grown up US Episcopal Church.  We make our own decisions, via a process we chose.  Much of it is modelled by whom the Anglican Communion raised us to be, but we are also distinctly our own, distinctly mature, and right or wrong we forge our own path in prayer and love. I am relieved that we belong to a family which does not (as the Catholic Church did) have the right to order us to get back in line.  Instead we remain in communion, we are not “suspended” as the headlines say. We are still a family.  We are just a family which has a strained relationship due to mature differences of opinion.

I am still prayerful that as more and more members of the family mature, the larger Communion will grow to accept us as the denomination we are.  Already many provinces do, and over time we may see that the fear and hurt feelings and loss of the imaginary understandings will lead to a greater community of the Kingdom of God.  But we should be prepared for some awkward family gatherings in the interim.



Primates’ Dilemma from a Pittsburgh Girl’s Perspective

As a young woman graduating from high school in Pittsburgh, Pa in the 1990s I was blissfully unaware that other Episcopalians were not like me.  But more than that I was under the impression that it didn’t matter.  God never once asked me to question sexuality, race, gender, or politics.  It has been said, “there are no atheists in a fox hole” and make no mistake, what felt like the death of an entire generation was a war.

I belonged to a faith group which ministered to those affected by the ever growing AIDS epidemic.  People were suffering, and it was our job to care for them.  Men, women, and children died. Some of them in my arms; many of them due to a fearful and willful ignorance which had been foisted upon Americans about this horrible disease.

I fed one dying man as I sat in a room full of quilts he had made, completing the squares of others which would eventually become woven into a massive tangible memorial comforter, binding us together as a humanity in sin and in need.  As we discussed the Steelers’ chances, and he talked about his artwork, he talked about the pain and suffering of separation from humanity.  So many people in those days were afraid of even being near someone with AIDS. I held his cup as he sipped from a straw and I prayed with him for reconciliation. It wasn’t wine, I was not a lay eucharistic minister, but that meal has always in my mind felt like a sacrament.

Sin, is the act of separation from God. And whether you act to separate yourself or act in such a way that you trespass on other’s journey to reconciliation, we are all sinners. I am, you are.  The Primates of the Anglican Communion are. The most important lesson I ever learned at the Eucharist was that God desires reconciliation, God desires us to be there for one another, pray for one another, share in his creation, and be in communion through the Eucharist.

“This is my body, which is given for you.”

In the years that followed my time there, Pittsburgh became the battleground of a contentious split of the Episcopal Church into the ACNA and the TEC. Today we sit at the precipice of a larger split in the Worldwide Anglican Communion.

There are real problems in this world.  But when God walked among us he never shrank from the Humanity of us.  He embraced us brothers, sisters, sinners all.  He actively sought the company of the disenfranchised, and they often saw his grace more clearly than those bogged down by opinion, tradition and law.  Today when I serve as a chalice bearer I share with you and pray words over you and share in the process of reconciliation.

So, forgive me dear friends for whom and with whom I have prayed and broken bread and shared wine in the sacrament of his body and blood if I don’t understand.  I don’t understand in the least how we come to a place where our differences seem more important to the Primates than our communion.   I don’t understand the dilemma.  I didn’t understand it in Pittsburgh when it began, I don’t understand it now.

And I pray that the voice of God can be heard in the Din.





Reflection on the Anglican Communion’s Statement 1/14/16

Stars above

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

As we sneak up on Epiphany once again I am reminded, like the magi who followed a star a few thousand years ago,  the stars call to me.  In Revelation of the Magi (Brent Landau,  HarperOne, 2010), a second apocryphal text on the Magi which is stored in the Vatican library the Magi’s story is translated.  In what now seems like another life, I trained in the sciences and have a master’s degree in the study of space and today I am reflecting on what that education brings to bear on the Magi’s journey.

Having used stars as navigational tools there is a miraculousness to this  story that a GPS and even a map bound generation may not appreciate.  By today’s terminology, the “star” would more rightly be termed a geosynchronous satellite, asteroid, or possibly even a drone.  2000 years ago there were not separate words for these things.

Stars only hold their position in the sky if they are located roughly due North of the North Pole, or due South of the South Pole. As the Magi were travelling East-West following the “star” we can effectively rule out an event such as a naturally occurring supernova.  A comet would have had a long tail and pointed like an arrow, but as the Earth rotated it would have pointed at different location throughout the journey and not provided a definitive endpoint.  Translationally, we might argue that they saw the “star” on only the first day, so we can’t entirely rule out the comet nature. Comets have two tales one of which consistently points away from the sun and the other follows the comet’s path through the sky, so they can appear quite arrow-like.  But, while they celestially point consistently, they “go out” (stop glowing) when headed away from the sun and become visible when headed towards the sun.  This alone means that navigationally they would not provide consistent directional information on Earth.

A satellite, such as the moon or a gravitationally captured asteroid could hold it’s position in the sky.  However the Magi would have known what a Moon looks like and not used the word star.  Which brings me to the satellite (asteroid or other) hypothesis.  Satellites can hold a geosynchronous position.  That means that they stay in place above the Earth as it rotates.  This would also give credence to the concept of following a “star” from the East.  A geosynchronous satellite to the west of the observer is most easily visible from the ground in the early hours of the day due to the position of the sun which would likely increase the glare on the object. It would then again be a bright sky object just after sunset growing brighter as the observer gets closer.  To date we have not seen a naturally occurring phenomenon of this.  Because of the moon and the Earth’s gravitational pulls, most objects such as asteroids either fly right by or get caught by one or the other and crash either as a meteor to Earth or into the moon.  The only stable satellites of Earth are the Moon and the man-made satellites of the last century.

Why seek to explain a supernatural event?

By no means does any of the above mean that some naturally occurring phenomenon confused a bunch of Maji.  In fact a thorough understanding of solar system astronomy makes the event of a guiding east-west celestial object decidedly miraculous.  A night sky object, visible from Earth for a period of roughly two weeks to two years (depending on the scholarship you prefer to use as a timeline) which provides an East-West navigational point is not something which happens everyday or even every century.  In fact in the millennia before and after, until humans became space-faring, it has never been recorded to have happened outside of this event.  This “star” was unlike anything else we’ve ever known.

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son
to the Peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by
faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to
face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.