Friday, July 31, 2015


Sometimes God is gracious enough to knock us over the head with the baseball bat of The Obvious.
Gracious -because we are saved a lot of work in sifting through the stuff of our daily lives to find meaning.  Gracious - because the dots come all connected.  This morning, I have received such a gift.  God has delivered a salient theme.  All week long

              I have heard stories of "homing."

"Homing" is the practice - or event-  of finding home.  Of coming home.  Some definitions of "homing" point to the inherent ability of one to find a place of origin- 'een traveling through unknown territory-  think of homing pigeons.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a message on FaceBook  that our cat had escaped from the condominium that we're renting.  I was stupid enough to take her outside before she was fully settled and a sudden noise startled her and she bolted.  I was just short of frantic;  this cat is really my husband's cat and here I was in PA (he was still in CT) and I'd lost the cat and I couldn't imagine how she'd find her way back to our condo... our place... that looked exactly like the other 200 brick-faced, cement-patioed places in this development.  I fretted.  I paced.  I called my husband.  And the cat came back an hour later.  She slipped in the narrow opening of the screen door, cool as a cucumber, as though nothing unusual had happened.  Homing.  My posting of this story on FaceBook elicited a great number of responses-  many of them with homing stories of other cats and dogs gone astray.  My favorite one was about the cat who ran away and 7 months later returned... on Easter.  An appropriate liturgical homing.

The stories that I've heard this week have been about finding home in the Episcopal Church.  I've heard about the journeys of 4 different people who found their way to the Episcopal Church- a Church that they have found to be welcoming and inclusive.  A Church  that they have been able to claim as their spiritual home.  The Sacraments.  Dignified Liturgy.  Mystery. Challenging theology. Inclusivity.  Diversity. Social Witness.  These are some of the elements of our Episcopal tradition that were mentioned again and again in these homing stories.

I like that "challenge" is part of these stories.  While I think of "home" as a place that features mashed potatoes and meatloaf... a big, soft down comforter to curl up in.... sunlight playing on the leaves of sturdy geraniums squatting in clay pots on broad windowsills- while I love the image of home as comfort-  I also appreciate that home can be a place of challenge.  Of truth telling. Of vulnerability.  Growing up with several brothers and sisters, I can testify to home as a  place of comfort and a place of challenge and learning.  Negotiating the way forward as a teenager who shared a room with a sister 10 years younger... jockeying for car privileges with 5 other teenaged drivers in the house... sharing clothes and bikes and trading Oreos for earrings... this crazy home of mine offered comfort and the challenge of learning to live in community.    I hear similar strains from those who belong to church communities-  of the way that different groups within parish systems either work together (or rub against each other)  in the sharing of their spiritual home.  And, for the most part, this communal push and pull is good, because it shows life and engagement.  It shows investment.  It's when we lose sight of the prize-  working for the Glory of God and participation on God's mission- that we get stymied and stuck.

My husband and I are looking for a home.  I've told several people that I feel a little bit like a dog who is walking around and around in circles, trying to find the exact right space on the floor to settle. We must have looked at over 50 homes in the Greater Harrisburg area by tracking down addresses of places that we've seen on the internet, and we've dragged our patient realtor to at least 15 different houses for an inside look.  Without jinxing it, I think that we may have found "the one."  So- what is it about this place that puts it above the rest?  Mostly, it is the "feel."  Sure, it's within a reasonable commuting distance of the diocesan offices, it is  in "turn-key" condition, it's (almost) in our price range, and we've decided that our old arts & crafts style furniture won't look silly in it, but at the end of the day, it just feels right. It is comfortable.  It could be home.

I was out on a bike ride this morning.  I like to walk, run and bike around the "neighborhood" of our condo complex.  I'm fascinated with how people personalize their small plots of land to make them their own.  There are garden statues of Mary, mini windmills, short trellises with climbing vines, annual flower beds and wind chimes.  Our next door neighbor has a pink flamingo standing in a large grecian urn with tropical flowers spilling out of the top.  Anything goes, it seems.  And all of it in an effort to "make home."  I joined the game and found a solar charged lucite hummingbird  that floats over our patio at night, changing color every three seconds.  It's a happy little thing. 

And while these talismen help to project our identity and claim our space, to "make home,"  there is a deeper source of identity in which I find the ultimate "homing:"  The homing in God.  I could not help but think, this morning, as I rode around cul de sac after cul de sac, of the worlds of Augustine: 
"Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee."  (Confessions, Book 1)

Yes. It is in God that I find my supreme rest.  And it is in
God that I will finally stop my circling 'round and 'round and find comfort, wholeness and home.

The link at the top of the page is to a Youtube presentation of a hymn.  A clergy person who visited with me yesterday said that this is her favorite hymn and I immediately thought of its next-to-last verse.  The tune is Slane, and the verse goes like this:

        Lord of all kindliness,
        Lord of all grace, 
                your hands swift to welcome,
                your arms to embrace; 
       Be there at our homing and give us we pray, 
                your love in our hearts, Lord,
                at the eve of the day.

Friday, July 24, 2015


My grandmother called it a “snippet.”

In seminary, I learned the Greek word, “pericope.

In the past two weeks, I’ve been dealing in snippets… pericopes… of the life and times of the Episcopal Church in Central Pennsylvania and assembling a new life for myself in a place that is brand new to me by collecting experiential snippets.

Snippets and pericopes are bits.  Bits of stories, bits of scripture, things (words, stories, experiences and places) that are not fully representative of the whole to which they belong, but are integral tads that tell part of the story.

When we go to church on a Sunday, we hear the lessons from scripture and they are small snippets of much larger books.  Sometimes- most usually, in the epistles and the gospels- we hear these lessons seriatum: week by week we get the next part of the story, in order, eventually making our way through the book.  In this season of the church year after Pentecost, we also have the option of making our way through a book of the Hebrew Scriptures (the first lesson) in a seriatum manner, as well. At other times of the year, these first lessons are usually selected to illuminate the gospel. 

But even seriatum reading of scripture in church on Sunday is a little maddening.  Who remembers from week to week what we heard… last Sunday?  What if we miss  a week?  Is it helpful to hear only part of the story?   If we follow the Daily Office, those of us with “advancing age memories” have a better chance of stringing the story together - the story advances day by day, and the developing story is easier to follow.  These days, as I read Morning Prayer I’ve been enthralled, again, at the stories of David, Samuel and Saul; this morning Saul came to a bloody end at the tip of his own sword, unwilling to fall to the Philistines.  Heavy stuff to digest before one’s even finished the first cup of coffee.

As I make my way around town, I am collecting snippets of experience that are informing my impression of Harrisburg and Central PA… and guiding my way forward as I (we) choose a place to live.  I discovered St. Thomas Coffee Roasters at the rotary in Linglestown.  Delicious coffee; soft sofas; generous pieces of custardy quiche; a cozy, hip vibe and a generous front porch on which to sit and watch the world go by.  I got to drive from Mount Hope back to Harrisburg last Sunday through some amazing farmland. The clouds were puffy white, the silos stood in the center of the farm like sentries, keeping watch; the fields went on and on and on in wavy rows of corn, not quite as high, yet, as a elephant’s eye.  It was a pastoral “snippet” that made my heart sing.  I found the post office on Jonestown Road and mailed a package.. Now, this is not an award-winning achievement (and, truth be told, my GPS got me there) but it is another snippet.  Another dot.  Another piece of putting a life together here, in a new place, that goes into the mix of experience, and adds up.  Next time, I won’t need the GPS.

Most importantly, I’ve been listening to stories.  Stories of diocesan leaders, parishes, bishops, events and places that are helping me to form a picture of this place where God has sent me to lead.    I’ve heard about church picnics, concerts, floods, people rallying together to support the sick, and joining together to build parish houses.  I’ve heard about youth events, mountain bands, vacation bible schools, choirs and preachers.  I’ve heard some stories of betrayal, disappointment and loss.  And I’ve heard snippets of great joy, delight and deep satisfaction. 

These are pericopes of the past, mostly, and they are helping me to understand where you’ve been.  No one story tells it all.  And every story is essential.

I’m looking forward to the day when I can tell some stories.  When I can share my snippets of life here, as an Episcopalian in Central PA. and know that they are part of the whole truth. But now, I’m collecting- snippets, bits, tads, pericopes. And it is all good. I’m listening.. .and I’m learning.

Ponder about the stories that you might tell about what you’ve seen… about the place that you hold as your own in this collective story.  What pericope is yours? Which snippet do you claim as integral to the story of you and your community?  And what might someone “from away” learn from you- only you- that is important and essential?

Friday, July 17, 2015

coming into view

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13: 12

These words of St. Paul wind up his “Hymn to Love” - part of Paul’s first letter to the new Christians in Corinth.  In this letter, Paul has been working to call the Corinthians back to basics- they’ve been distracted by the splendor of the many gifts of the Spirit and in this letter Paul is trying to re-ground them in the fundamental principles of the Jesus Movement:  Faith, Hope and Love… and he teaches “…the greatest of these is Love.” (I Cor. 13:13)

The part of this letter that has resonated with me this week is the verse about seeing in the mirror.  Older versions of scripture use the phrase, “...for now we see in a glass, darkly….”  (which strikes me as a little more mysterious and antique) but really, either of these translations capture quite well, my experience of this past week:  Now that I am here, in Central PA, I am beginning to see, face to face, the beauty and the gifts of this place and the work to which you have called me. 

One week ago, my husband Glenn and I waved goodbye to the 18 wheeler in our CT driveway and watched as it lumbered out of our driveway and down the narrow street (barely missing the power lines and our neighbor’s parked car).  Inside this truck was nearly everything we owned.  We waved goodbye and I held a slip of paper in my hand with a scrawled address of a storage facility in Camp Hill, PA; that’s where our “inventory” would rest until we came to call for it.    The next day, Saturday, we loaded up a rental van with the remainder of our things (the “basics” that we thought we’d need for our temporary rental unit- clothes, pots and pans, linens, office supplies) and we found our way to Rt. 8 and to Rt. 84,  to Rt. 684, to the  Saw Mill Parkway, over the “Tap,” through New Jersey, and… finally, to PA.  I was sad.  Sure, I was sad. I’d lived in CT for 52 years. We’d lived in our community for 30 years and were leaving friends, family and a happy life.  But we were, finally, going to see what it was that we figured was God’s next idea for us:  ministry in Central PA.

Finally, after more than a year of thinking, dreaming, reading, talking and praying about this place and this call… we were going to get started.

In this past week, I have begun to get a clearer vision of the work ahead.  I’ve settled in, some, at Pine St. and I have begun to figure out some of the essentials:  Pine Street is a one-way street.  Cats do not abide harnesses and leashes (a story that deserves a blog post all of its own). Duke’s mayonnaise may become the replacement for my beloved Cain’s.

The office staff has been incredibly welcoming and I’m beginning to find my way around that old mansion that has more nooks and crannies than an English muffin.  I asked Carolyn to hold off making any “outside” appointments for me in this first week so that I could get my bearings and I have spent time with Bishop Gepert and staff members trying to catch up on the “work in progress.”  One thing that I want to acknowledge and honor is that while I have been sitting in CT for more than a year dreaming about this place and, even more, for the past 4 months since the election, making plans… you have been here, in PA, worshipping, working, singing, praying, and participating in the mission of God, all along.  I am hardly coming to “get started” with you as much as I am coming to wade in the water with you, and join in the ministry and life that God is already working in you, for the sake of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I have ideas.  Sure, I do.  And my first idea is to get to know you. To see you, face to face.  Some of my early initiatives will be to engage a more compact visitation schedule so that I can be with you in your parishes as frequently as the calendar will allow.  I’m hoping for a more robust visitation experience that (more often than not) will allow for an “overnight” visitation with a dinner or meeting or fellowship event on Saturday afternoon, leading up to Sunday morning.  I’m working to find space in my calendar to include some 3-day Convocation “tours” in which the members of each Convocation can plan a “field trip” for me to show me their particular part of the diocese, and, even sooner, I am looking forward to the “Meet and Greets” that each Convocation is setting up for us in August to spend time together and to begin to get to know each other. 

For me, the Church is the people.  You’ve called me to lead the Church in the Episcopal Diocese of Central PA- to listen for God’s Word to us and to  find ways for us to best participate in God’s mission of reconciliation and restoration.  I am thrilled that the time has arrived.  I am ready to meet you, to hear your stories of success, to learn about the sticking places and disappointments, to craft a way forward and, above all, to remain close to what St Paul – and Jesus- would hold up as True:  Faith, Hope and Love.

In Christ’s love,