Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sound, sunlight, and Serra

School starts Monday, and so my two grandsons and I are doing our best to enjoy this last week of freedom.

This afternoon we went to the Kimbell Museum to see Butchers, Dragons, Gods and Skeletons, film installations by Phillip Haas inspired by works in the collection. I don't know if the exhibit's title was specifically designed to attract little boys, but it worked. They were enthralled by the installations.

We viewed one [inspired by James Ensor's Skeletons Warming Themselves]while sitting on the floor inside a room-sized skull; another [inspired by Apollo and the Continents] while stretched out flat on the floor while amazing images floated across the ceiling overhead, and another [inspired by Annibale Carracci's The Butcher Shop] seated on a bench in a room where we watched the artist on one wall and his subjects on another. At times, images moved from one side of the room to another, a process that fascinated all three of us.

We didn't see all the installations, leaving some for another day. It was time to let off some energy so we crossed the street to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, my grandsons' favorite museum in a city full of museums.

One reason they love it is Richard Serra's Vortex, a 67 feet, 10-inch high sculpture of Cor-ten steel.

When you walk inside this amazing piece of art, sound changes. The sculpture is a giant sounding board, turning steps into soft booms, taps into sharp little darts of sounds, sighs into breezes, and giggles into full blown laughter.

Gavin, 5, thinks it is just about the best place in the whole city. What's more, the openings in the bottom of the sculpture create a nice little wind tunnel, making its shaded interior about ten degrees cooler than outside.

Looking up at the opening at the top is not unlike being inside a cathedral.

Curran, 7, likes leaning on the walls in various places, seeing how the sound changes as he moves.

And if you hop and leap about, your feet make wonderful musical sounds.

Rubbing your hands on the walls, raising your voice, tapping your toes -- all make interesting and varied noises.

And of course, yelling makes great BIG echoes.

Gavin wraps himself in sound and sunlight inside the Serra.

Then we head home where popsicles, cool tile floors, and happy dogs await us.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lazy Summer Day

Today was a hot August day in Texas.
My two grandsons and I did not want to spend the day inside, so we went to Oakland Lake Park to feed the ducks. [see photo]
Then we went to Trinity Park to a shaded play area, where the 7-year-old proceeded -- without being asked or told -- to clean up the litter that someone had strewn in front of the slide in the play area. He started carrying dirty paper plates, water and Coke bottles, napkins, etc., to the trash barrel. Then his 5-year-old brother began helping.
Next the other children in the play area began helping, and pretty soon, all the litter was cleaned up. Then they all resumed playing.
On the way home, I told them how proud I was of them, that they had been good citizens.
The 7-year-old said, "If we don't clean it up, who will?"

Science and Religion

[Education is a stained-glass window at Yale commissioned from the Tiffany Glass Company]

I am one of the panelists for the Texas Faith blog of the Dallas Morning News. The question posed to us last week was "How would you make a case for mutual engagement between science and religion?"

But here is how the question was given in the newspaper today:

"How would you make the case to scientists for mutual engagement between science and religion?"

Those are two very different questions. I would have framed my answer differently if I had known I was addressing scientists instead of a more general audience. So please take that into consideration as you read my response and those of the other panelists.

Here is what I said:

KATIE SHERROD, Episcopal lay activist, Diocese of Fort Worth:

Nowhere is the conversation between science and religion more important than at the intersection of what science teaches us we can do with what we know and what religion teaches us we should do with what we know.

When we separate science and religion we are left with two of the most frightening images in our modern world--that of a scientist operating without any moral anchor and that of a religious leader operating without any respect for scientific revelations. Both can do immense and long lasting harm to innocent people.

We shudder today at the infamous Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, a clinical study done by the U.S. Public Health Service between 1932 and 1972 in which 399 poor black sharecroppers suffering from syphilis were left untreated in order to observe the "natural progression of the untreated disease."

Even though by 1947 penicillin was known to cure syphilis, doctors withheld it from the infected black men. The study ended only when a leak to the press resulted in public outrage. But by then many of the men had died from syphilis, many of their wives had contracted the disease and many had children born with congenital syphilis.

The Catholic Church at one time declared left-handed people servants of the Devil. Islam declares the left hand and everything associated with it unclean. But science knows that left-handedness has nothing to do with evil. Sonograms reveal that babies in the womb will exhibit a preference for their right or left hand. The odds of a child being born left-handed are not the work of the Devil, but of genetics, a fact confirmed by scientists in 2007.

Using left-handedness as evidence of a "sinister" nature strikes many religious people today as slightly ludicrous. But the harm done to generations of children by efforts to undo their left-handedness -- such as stuttering -- lasted a lifetime.

And what are we to do with the growing body of data showing that human sexuality is much more complex than ever envisioned by the writers of Genesis 1 and 2? Some humans are born "intersexed," i.e.: born with chromosomal or other biological characteristics of both male and female. Scientists have concluded that this is a normal, if rare, form of human biology. How does this fit in with Genesis 1.27: "male and female he created them in the image of God?"

What about the growing body of scientific evidence that homosexuality is innate, not a "lifestyle choice?" Given that homosexuality occurs in humans at about the rate that left-handedness does, one wonders how long it will be before we look back at religious declarations about homosexuality with the same chagrin we do declarations about left-handedness.

Our intellects are gifts from God. Separating science from religion or religion from science impoverishes both and leaves humanity and all God's creation vulnerable to terrible abuses.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Doubts about ACNA?

Interesting post at Fr. Jake Stops the World. It is about a recent sermon given by the rector of St. Gregory's in Mansfield.

Check it out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Texas Faith on the role of play

I am one of the panelists for the Dallas Morning News' Texas Faith blog. Each week we get asked a religion-related question:
This week's question comes from our own Texas Faith panelist Amy Martin, and it certainly is appropriate given that we're still enjoying summer, a time many of us associate with play. Here it is:
We live in society where so much attention is devoted to work. But we're headed into August, the vacation month. What do your spiritual paths say about the role of play?
Well, if God could create Leviathan for the sport of it -- to say nothing of giraffes, koalas and other creatures of which the mere sight is enough to make us smile -- and we are made in the image of God, it seems to me a playful spirit is part of that.

Indeed, Christians and Jews are commanded to "keep the Sabbath," a day of rest and recreation. The Puritans tried to turn the Sabbath into a day of dourness and boring inactivity, and many adults have bad memories of Sundays as days to dread.

I think that is very sad. Our Jewish brothers and sisters seem to have a much healthier view of Sabbath as a day for family, good food, lovemaking, playing, and enjoying one another. The Episcopal Church has a very healthy view of play, and indeed has a whole curriculum called "Godly Play" built around the idea that we learn best when we are happy and enjoying ourselves.

Think about what happens when we play. Time is altered. Space becomes pliable as we travel in our minds to all sorts of other places. If we are playing actively, our bodies are working and oxygen and blood are pulsing through our bodies at high speed. We are changed physically as well as mentally. All of this sharpens our minds, heightens our senses and makes us more aware of and in tune with the world around us -- and for me, brings me closer to God.

I 'play" in my garden, which is also where I do most of my praying. I'm not talking about the hard physical work of gardening, although that is enjoyable to me. I am talking about wandering through the garden in the cool of the day, deadheading here, pulling up a stray weed there, praising a lazy bougainvillea for finally catching up to her sister in blooms, righting a pot knocked over by a squirrel using it as a springboard, and generally letting my mind and body relax into the sensuous pleasure of the scents of the plants, the caress of the breeze, the sounds of the fountains.

Note that "play" and "pray" are separated by only one letter. I believe it is in playing that we are most open to hearing God's voice. That's why play is a vital part of my spiritual life.
Click on the link above to read what the other panelists had to say.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Thanks to Scott Gunn for pointing me to this meditation by Bosco Peters on today -- the Feast of the Transfiguration AND the anniversary of our dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Here is an excerpt:

We read the story of the Transfiguration on this day with some ambivalence. Before the fifteenth century, a few Christian communities had been keeping the feast of the Transfiguration on August 6. But we would probably not be celebrating that date if it wasn't for a terrible battle. On the sixth of August 1456 news was announced in Rome that John Hunyady had overcome the Turks near Belgrade and the bells of many countries still ring at midday to commemorate the slaughter. Pope Callistus ordered the whole church to commemorate the victory by celebrating the feast of the Transfiguration.

But the ambivalence of August 6 is highlighted, because on this day in 1945, someone climbed not a holy mountain, but into the cockpit of a plane - a machine of war. There had been a lull of a week in the fighting between America and Japan. The Americans had a new secret weapon and they wanted to use it with the maximum psychological effect. They had prepared three atomic bombs. On the 16th of July, one had been tested in New Mexico. Now on August 6 one was dropped on Hiroshima, and three days later the last one wad dropped on Nagasaki. The bomb had more than 2,000 times the blast power of the British "Grand Slam" till then the largest bomb ever used in the history of warfare. 150,000 people lay dead. Other people later died from the effects of atomic radiation. 75,000 buildings were destroyed. Two cities were devastated. The world will never be the same.

Here we have a new voice booming from heaven. Here too was brightness, brilliant as burning magnesium. Here too is a cloud that has come and has covered us all with shadow. Truly, under the shadow of this new cloud, we are right to feel afraid. The shape of that cloud hangs now forever in our sky. Look at the shape of that cloud. It is the new tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We have eaten of its fruit and we shall never be the same again.

Read it all here. And if you are not familiar with his site, you are in for a treat.

Jake is back!

Father Jake Stops the World
The musings of an eccentric and sometimes heretical Episcopal priest

Jake is back and stopping the world here.

And that noise you hear is Episcopalians and Anglicans around the world rejoicing.

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"

Our beamish boy is back and while he hasn't slain the dread Jabberwock, he will certainly once again strike deep into the heart of the lies and misinformation being spewed like water from a fire hose by those who would undermine - indeed destroy -- the Episcopal Church.

I can tell you there are MANY folks in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth who are overjoyed at the news.

In the dark days before our former leadership left the Episcopal Church, his blog was a lifeline thrown to us from the wider church. Jake's World was a source of news, information, and hope to more people here than he ever knew or could imagine.

There's a reason a community grew up around that blog. It's because people are drawn to truth telling and honest dialogue -- the hallmark of Jake's place.

So while I am sorry his other job disappeared, I am glad he's back doing this.

Welcome back, Jake. We missed you.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Man kills three, self, at gym

Heidi Overmier, 46, of Carnegie, PA.
Elizabeth Gannon, 49, of Pittsburgh, PA.
Jody Billingsley, 38, of Mount Lebanon, PA.

How many times have we seen variations on this headline -- "Man Kills [insert number], Self at [insert location]?"

The only thing different about this story is that the man killed random women instead of family members.

Heidi Overmier, 46, of Carnegie, PA.
Elizabeth Gannon, 49, of Pittsburgh, PA.
Jody Billingsley, 38, of Mount Lebanon, PA.

These women died because they went to work out at a fitness center at the same time a man decided some women had to die to pay for his injured ego.

A man who feels he has been rejected by women deals with the problem by killing women. And after he kills as many as he can, the big brave gunman kills himself.

Let's compare that with the news story that the 24-hour-a-day news cycle had so much fun with just yesterday-- the story of the four women [one of which was his wife] who repaid an unfaithful man by gluing his penis to his stomach.

Stupid and illegal of course, and terribly painful for the guy no doubt, but not lethal.

News reports says the women face punishment, perhaps six years in prison, and at least one said in a Monday news report that "the story has gotten twisted and she's embarrassed. 'I am disturbed. I am upset. I am having a hard time handling life; an emotional wreck,' Wendy Sewell, 43, of Kaukauna, said in a telephone interview from her home. 'I am ashamed.'

The women did a stupid criminal thing, and they will most likely spend time in prison because of it. They are reaping the consequences of their actions.

George Sodini, on the other hand, joined the hundreds of men each year who kill a woman or women and then kill themselves.

The Associated Press reported that George Sodini apparently kept a "Web page in which he wrote about years of rejection by women and an earlier plan for violence at the gym in which he said he 'chickened out.'

"He also complained of not having a girlfriend since 1984, not having a date since May 2008 and not having sex for 19 years. 'Women just don't like me. There are 30 million desirable women in the US (my estimate) and I cannot find one,' he wrote."

It appears from news reports about his blog that he had been planning the killings for nine months. The New York Times reported that he recorded his frustrations in his online dairy:

“I actually look good,' Mr. Sodini wrote in an entry dated Dec. 29, 2008. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne — yet 30 million women rejected me — over an 18 or 25-year period. That is how I see it. Thirty million is my rough guesstimate of how many desirable single women there are."

Get that? All 30 million of the "desirable single women" in the world rejected him. Can you say meglomania?

The Times reports that he wrote, “A man needs a woman for confidence. He gets a boost on the job, career, with other men, and everywhere else when he knows inside he has someone to spend the night with and who is also a friend.”

He wanted a woman for confidence, to get a boost with other men. The phrase "who is also a friend" is an afterthought.

This man, for whatever reason, believed that "Women just don't like me." So the problem had to be with women, not with him, right? The lack of self-examination seems pretty astonishing, but sadly, pretty typical of a type of man who believes women exist solely for his pleasure and to serve his needs.

I'm thinking that if he was as attractive, financially stable and as smart as he portrays himself, then there must have been something seriously "off" about him that set off warning signals to women. Like perhaps the fact that he saw women as personal accessories that exist solely to serve as evidence of his manly success, the same way a fast car or a big house might.

Women aren't accessories. Women aren't status symbols. Women can't make everything better in your life if you're not willing to do some work on yourself, like for instance, trying to understand why you think using violence to solve problems is a good idea. Like, why women had to die because your ego was hurt.

These women:
Heidi Overmier, 46, of Carnegie, PA.
Elizabeth Gannon, 49, of Pittsburgh, PA.
Jody Billingsley, 38, of Mount Lebanon, PA.

May they rest in peace and rise in glory. And may all the men who are as horrified about this as women are join us in speaking up and speaking out.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Where are the voices of women?

Rowan Williams' essay in response to the actions of General Convention has been analyzed all over the web, quite nicely both at Episcopal Cafe and by Mark Harris.

So I am just going to say this about it. He lost all credibility for me at the "lifestyle choice" statement and with his comparison to faithful monogamous lifelong unions to adultery. Oh please.

I'm really really tired of churchMEN outside and inside the Episcopal Church trying to force an institutional solution onto what is a relational problem in the Anglican Communion.

Yes indeed, we don't all agree on how issues of human sexuality should be handled theologically and we don't all agree on how faithful Anglicans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender should be included in the life and ministry of the church. We've lived for centuries with many other differences more significant than this one without splitting.

So what solution have these men come up with? Destroy classic Anglicanism and replace it with a centralized, top down, clergy-in-charge system complete with power to punish those [read the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada] who get out of the narrowly-drawn-lines these men will put into place.

It is, as we say in Texas, like using dynamite to kill an ant.

This whole tempest over sexuality has been the product of men. For the most part, it's been ostensibly straight white men who have been screaming that the inclusion of LGBT folk in the life and ministry of the church is the worst sin of all because they are the worst sinners of all. [I keep wanting to hear Rowan Williams talk about the theological danger of singling out one group of sinners as worse than the rest of us but he's too busy scolding us to have time to do that.]

When these disgruntled men couldn't get their way in the US, they recruited African and Asian bishops to help stir things up.

The amount of male hysteria they have stoked up has been amazing to see. These men are clearly not only willing to split the church, they are willing to do so at the cost of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc. And those primates who don't agree with them are apparently willing to sit by in silence, thereby rendering themselves useless to stop people who are willing to destroy this church to 'save" it and make it pure enough for their precious little selves.

Where are the voices of women in all this?

Yes, our own Katharine Jefferts Schori has been a voice of sanity, but she's only one Primate among many.

Here's what the Anglican Consultative Council’s International Anglican Women’s Network had to say when they gathered at the March 2007 session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women [emphasis added]:

"The IAWN reaffirms its commitment to unity in Christ:We remain resolute in our solidarity with one another and in our commitment, above all else, to pursue and fulfil God’s mission in all we say and do. Given the global tensions so evident in our church today, we do not accept that there is any one issue of difference or contention which can, or indeed would, ever cause us to break the unity as represented by our common baptism. Neither would we ever consider severing the deep and abiding bonds of affection which characterize our relationships as Anglican women."

From the Statement made by the Anglican Women gathered at the 51st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, 3 March 2007

This amazing statement got virtually no attention amid all the male-generated noise and threats of splitting the church. Still small voices often get ignored by the men in charge.

So here's a modest proposal.

Before giving up totally on the Anglican Communion, let's have all the men -- Rowan Williams, all the male Primates, all the male bishops, all the male priests, all the male laymen -- take a vow of silence on this issue for a year and let the women of the Anglican Communion work on reconciling us to one another.

Let's let the people -- women -- who really DO make up the largest numbers of Anglicans in the world work on finding a way we can all live together in love despite our differences.

Let's make IAWN the instrument of Communion.

Let's do what Jesus did time and again. Empower these women. And then listen to them.

Wonderful things could result.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Choices have consequences

From Episcopal Cafe:
A voice for the voiceless in the Anglican Province of Central Africa
Saturday 1st August:

The election took place today for a new bishop of Upper Shire Diocese, Malawi vacant since the resignation of Bishop Christopher Boyle now working as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Leicester, U.K. The elected candidate was the Revd Fr Leslie Mtekateka of St Timothys, Chitipa.

Previously, the then only candidate, the Revd J. Scott Wilson, SSC, formerly of the Diocese of Fort Worth in the United States had withdrawn his candidacy. His active membership of a breakaway faction from the Episcopal Church known as the Anglican Church of North America (A.C.N.A) had ensured that even if elected he could not become a bishop in the Central African Province because he does not belong to a province in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The divisions in the Anglican Communion which have so plagued North America in particular and which have insidiously damaged parts of the Anglican Communion in Africa have had their logical outworking in this manifestation of schism.
Note of importance for those who followed former Bishop Jack Iker out of the Episcopal Church and into ACNA: See the second paragraph above, especially this statement:

"His active membership of a breakaway faction from the Episcopal Church known as the Anglican Church of North America (A.C.N.A.) has ensured that even if elected he could not become a bishop in the Central African Province because he does not belong to a province in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury."

As has been pointed out before, despite what Bishop Iker and your priests may be telling you, not only are you no longer Episcopalians, you are not Anglicans either, since the definition of Anglican is being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Aligning with the Southern Cone does not provide Anglican "cover" either, because the canons and constitution of that Province do not allow for extra-territorial dioceses such as Fort Worth or San Joaquin. It didn't become legal just because Gregory Venables said it did. Even Primates are supposed to follow their own canons and constitutions.

As always, my hope is that those who left the Episcopal Church are finding the spiritual home they desire. But if part of that desire is to remain Anglican, neither the Southern Cone nor ACNA is looking like the place they want to be.

Choices have consequences. The consequences of the decisions made in November 2008 are still playing out.