Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What happened to Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers?

Today is Shrove Tuesday. I realize that I have not heard from local congregations announcing their Shrove Tuesday pancake supper this evening as I have in past years. I have asked others, customers and staff, about pancake suppers at their congregations this evening. The reply has been the same. “No, we aren’t having one this year.”

A few years ago, as I remember it, most of the congregations held Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers. Now I can’t locate any that are offering one in Seattle.

Questions arise:
1. Is this only a Seattle situation or are congregations across the country forgoing Shrove Tuesday events?
2. I wonder why has this happened? What am I missing?
3. Has the penitence of Ash Wednesday displaced the last minute celebration of Shrove Tuesday?

I don’t have answers today, only questions.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A story of integrity

A gentleman visited our store yesterday and as part of the conversation shared this story.

His grandfather, Paul, with his brothers inherited his father’s farm in Iowa. A few years later Paul developed two hernias and could not work the farm. That was before hernia repair was the simple outpatient surgical procedure that it is today. Since he could not work the farm Paul’s brothers bought Paul’s share of the farm. Paul moved into to town and opened a barbershop and saved his money that he received from his portion of the farm. A few years later the Great Depression hit.

Rancher, Tim, while getting his haircut shared with Paul that it looked like he was going to lose his ranch to the bank because times were hard, the price of beef had fallen lower than anyone could remember or even imagine that it could, and he owed the bank for seed and feed for his ranch.

Paul offered to help Tim stay afloat by paying some of the payments to the bank. The two men discussed it. Tim finally accepted the offer with his commitment that he and his wife would work as hard and as frugally as they could, but would accept Paul’s help when they needed it. The two men sealed the agreement with a handshake.

Paul helped pay some of Tim’s loans. Tim and his wife worked the ranch. The Depression finally eased, and the Second World War began.

By the end of WWII Tim had paid back all that Paul had loaned him. Tim kept the ranch. Paul continued to barber. The men became very good friends.

Does anyone today enter into an agreement involving paying off debts to the bank and paying back the money loaned by an agreement that is sealed with a handshake?

That, my friend, is integrity and trust. That is the way part of the world used to work.

Part of the joy of this ministry-which-is-the-store is that I never know who today might visit the store and share a portion of their story.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why is our congregation in existence here?

When a congregation experiences shrinking attendance I wonder and worry about them. Some I have observed lose members and barely “hang on” as a result of clergy abuse that remains unhealed, even after the abuser departs, even many years after the abuser departs. I understand that situation because it parallels the trouble that individual persons experience who have been abused and do not receive recovery help. You, too, may know of women or men, perhaps in their fifties, who have just discovered that they were sexually abused as children but have suppressed it so much that they are not even aware of it. They require excellent counseling to help them towards recovery. There are congregations that parallel that, in my humble opinion.

Other congregations appear to lose sight of their reason for existence within the community. By not meeting the needs of the community there appears little reason for those seeking a church home to join them. A wise priest we had in a congregation many years ago pushed the questions upon us until we provide accurate answers, “What makes us different from any community club in this local area?” and, “How would this community be changed if we were to close?” At first we were hard pressed to present a viable argument and that was quite disturbing.

There is a congregation located near our bricks and mortar store in Seattle that shows one path to vibrant spiritual life. The pastor of Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church, Paul Hoffman, has written a book that has just been published that details the simple yet profound change in direction in his congregation over the past 15 years. They have developed a (very) successful yearlong process of faith mentoring that has become the center of the congregation’s ministry.

Hoffman’s book, Faith Forming Faith, is an easy, yet compelling read. I recommend it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Marriage Equality in western Washington State

Here in the State of Washington it looks like the legislature is about to pass the Marriage Equality act.

Where does the Episcopal Church in western Washington stand on it? Here are the thoughts of our Bishop Rickel as posted on his blog.

Marriage Equality: A Conservative Proposal
 Posted on February 1, 2012 by bishoprickel
 It is expected that our Washington state legislators will very soon, perhaps even tomorrow begin floor deliberations on HB2516 & SB6239 with the Senate to begin. Passage of these bills or a version of them would make same sex marriage law in our state. Our Episcopal Church, after a long discussion about this over the years is poised to do roughly the same this summer at our General Convention.
 While I am careful about wading into our legislator’s business, I would say this is the church’s business too. I have been asked by many about my feelings on it, and I have decided to share them. The ideas are not new, I have shared them openly in the walk-abouts before becoming your bishop and in many venues before and since.

Christianity has held, when considering relationships of all sorts, but especially in relation to two people in marriage, fidelity to be our value. Fidelity is the value in most all our sacraments and also in our life as Christians.

It seems to me we have held our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in a “catch-22″. We say they cannot live up to our value because they cannot be married, or even blessed in their union. While many of them have begged for this, it is still not possible. What they ask of us, the church and the government, is to put boundaries around their relationship, to hold them in the same regard and with the same respect, which would also mean that we expect the same from them. They are not asking for special treatment. They are asking for equal treatment. They are asking to be accountable, as a couple, in community. To me, this is a conservative proposal. I am for it, and I hope we will finally make way for this to happen, not only in our society, but also in our church.


The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel