Tuesday, May 25, 2010
My parents are to thank for this photograph, taken in May 1986. I used to stand on the dinning room chair and pretend it was my pulpit. I would make my parents sit in the living room and listen to me preach! I even passed around a bowl asking for a collection, though I padded it with pennies to pretend that money was in there. I thought of everything, down to the grape juice and saltine crackers for the Eucharist.
In Sunday school class at St. Peter's Episcopal Church (Huntington, WV) where I grew up, we made these felt stoles which all the children wore in a grand Palm Sunday procession. We even had a wooden donkey on wheels that some lucky child got to ride! While I don't think that I would do this now, liturgically speaking, it was something to behold as a child.
The lesson, I suppose, is that you never know what can really speak to a child about holy things.
Monday, May 24, 2010
It begins today. On Sunday, November 7th, me and 40,000 of my closest running buddies will be zigzagging through all five boroughs of New York City in the 40th running of the New York City Marathon. How many miles is a marathon, you ask: 26.2 glorious, painful miles! Founded in 1970, the NYC Marathon is considered one of the "majors" in the marathon world.
I started running--seriously--during my first year of seminary. I ran a 5K during sunset in Key West in 2008, I've run Central Park, and added cycling to the mix of activities. Last year, I ran five half-marathons (13.1 mi.) across Tennessee and Alabama. I over did it, you could say, and got burned out. Logging over 500 miles was sometimes fun, sometimes painful, but always exhilarating. I took much of this past year off from running and the weight crept back on. Running quickly became more than just a physical release from stress--it became an important part of my prayer life.
I won the lottery in order to secure my spot in 2009. Because of burnout, I was able to delay my acceptance until 2010. Last year, I was asked to serve as one of the Chaplains for the ecumenical service prior to the start of the race.
In just 116 days, I'll have completed my first full marathon. NYC, the Big Apple, will be mine! The race begins on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island and finishes in Central Park. I am excited, a bit nervous, and looking forward to commencing the long training schedule to get ready. No more sweets, extra nibbles here and there, no more good beer. Nope, it all starts today.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Attending The School of Theology at the University of the South was both an honor and a privilege. I was stretched in so many ways, taught to expand my own theological and spiritual dimensions while complimenting a formation for priestly ministry in the church. It hurt at times, the stretching and letting go of all those views that I felt important, and then there were those profound moments of clarity. Seminary did not "take away" anything of mine, but rather challenged me to go deeper and deeper into Christ's ministry. Formation, I used to believe, was a bad word; feeling as though I was an empty mass of clay that needed to be shaped into some pre-determined earthen vessel. What I discovered was that the faculty and curriculum was in fact meeting me where God had begun the work, and the formation naturally takes off.
Praying my own goodbye has been hard but ultimately proved fulfilling, a way in which I am reminded to let go and put trust in God's hands again. The idea is not mine, it comes from a remarkable little book that I discovered this past semester on loss and goodbye written by Sister Joyce Rupp, simply called Praying Our Goodbyes (Ave Maria Press, reprinted in 2009). Just remember, there is always a "hello" to be heard if your ears are opened to the Spirit. I feel as though I am able to listen now and sense those hellos echoing daily.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
I created a simple, working pattern for what I call "book desks." These are great for writing papers, sermons, etc. They are made from pine which is very easy to work with, though the staining is somewhat tricky. For seminarians, I have been burning the Saint Luke's cross into the wood as a center piece.
I have now built a few of these "prayer benches" which are modeled after the pattern found in Martin Smith's (former SSJE) seminal work, The Word is Very Near You: A Guide to Praying with Scripture. (Cambridge: Cowley Publications, 1989). These are great for contemplative prayer. I've also burned the Saint Luke's cross in the center. I've used poplar since these require support.
The "Saint Luke's Cross" is the official cross of the School of Theology, Luke being the patron of our community. Why it's Celtic, I have no idea. A metal, pectoral version is presented to all graduates during Commencement. I'll have mine in two days! These are wall crosses done in pine.
Finally, I am excited to begin work on my summer project, an icon crucifix. This is a Western-style San Damiano but written in the Byzantine tradition--I really like blending the two. I went ahead and cut the wood and prepared the icon board so that I don't have to fiddle with it once moved. This will be my first crucifixion scene. I wanted to make this large so as to inhabit a chapel one day.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
There is an old catholic tradition of building and maintaining a "May altar" dedicated to Our Lady throughout the month of May. The photographs of these May Altars come from the home of my brother, Fr. Robert-James, OPC. The following excerpt comes from the webpages of The Marian Library/The International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, OH.
To the specific characteristics of the May devotion is to be counted the specially set up May altar - be it as an addition to or specially decorated altar in the church or as a "house altar" in the family circle. Like the May devotions themselves, the custom to highlight this type of May altar stems from southern European countries. A report from France in 1842 speaks of Our Lady's altar in May showing off in rich splendor, while the families also erected and decorated small home altars.