July 27, 2011


On Tuesday morning, July 26, I received an e-mail message from MoveOn.org. It said, in part
In his speech last night, President Obama called on Americans to contact Congress demanding an approach to the deficit that makes millionaires and corporations pay their share. MoveOn.org posterSo many did that they crashed the House’s servers.

Today, we’re taking that pressure directly to Rep. Murphy’s office in Pittsburgh. The office is at 504 Washington Road.
Clicking on a link further down in the message offered specific instructions for a noon demonstration and a variety of signs that could be printed. (A sample is at the right.)

I can’t recall ever participating in a demonstration, but I decided that pressuring a Republican congressman to behave like an adult was a good place to start. I had neither the materials nor the time to assemble a truly respectable sign to carry, but I did have some letter-size card stock. I did what I could and checked the map to figure out where I might park.

I parked a couple of blocks from Congressman Murphy’s office. I got to the office about 11:45. One woman was already there, showing a couple of signs pasted on poster board to passing cars. Clearly, she was part of the demonstration, but I was a bit embarrassed at the prospect of perhaps being half a demonstration, so I decided to take a bit of a walk beyond the office. By the time I returned, another 10 or so people had shown up, and I felt more comfortable being part of the group. Over the next few minutes, more people arrived. Below is the scene in front of Congressman Murphy’s office soon after I joined the demonstration. (For this and other photos, click on the photo for a larger view.)

Fellow demonstrators
At least two of MoveOn.org’s signs are visible in the picture above, but many people, like me, decided to compose our own slogans. (I hope that MoveOn.org doesn’t think we went too far off-message.) One sign, for example, said “Balanced Approach” on one side and “Compromise” on the other. A crowd favorite was “Who Elected Norquist?” I was jealous of those who had attached their signs to sticks of some sort. Being new to this sort of thing, I didn’t have an appropriate device at hand, so I could only hold my letter-size sign in one hand or two.

At first, it was not clear to whom the signs were addressed. No one could be seen in the office, but people were holding signs where passing motorists could see them. Lots of people looked, many honked in support, so we had a wider audience than I expected. Some demonstrators, including the woman I saw when I first arrived, decided to go across the street to show their signs to northbound vehicles.

Demonstrators across the street
Several Mt. Lebanon police cars drove by, and, eventually, a couple of policemen came by and placed a few traffic cones in the street. They didn’t stick around.

Eventually, a couple of aides emerged from the office and began talking to the crowd and collecting names and contact information. One man—it was not clear whether he worked for the congressman or not—distributed bottles of water. This was much appreciated on a hot July day. The crowd was good-natured, and the congressman’s staff did a fine job both of explaining Congressman Murphy’s position and listening to what people had to say. (The congressman is too conservative for my taste, but he is not a Tea Party crazy.)

I left before the crowd broke up—it wasn’t clear how we were to decide that the demonstration was over—and I went home and uploaded some of my photos to MoveOn.org. Before I left, however, a fellow activist offered to take my picture with my sign, which you can see below.

My sign

July 24, 2011

St. James’ Update

I attended a planning meeting at St. James’, Penn Hills, on Wednesday. This, remember, is the property recently vacated by an Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh congregation. (See “St. James’ Episcopal Church Returns.”) As I rounded the curve on Frankstown Road, I saw not only the noncommittal “St. James Church” sign but also a new “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” banner with foot-high letters. (Click on the picture below for a bigger view.) Note that I will refer to the church as “St. James’ Episcopal Church,” though there seems to be some ambiguity about the need for the apostrophe. In a recent story on the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site, the church’s name appeared both with and without the apostrophe.

Signs at St. James’
As it happens, a group of people had been praying for and planning for an Episcopal future for St. James’ for some time. (The “Anglican” congregation that had become part of Bob Duncan’s schismatic diocese had long been rumored to be a failing enterprise unable to maintain the property. Those people turned over the keys declaring that the negotiating ground rules for parish property set down by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh were unacceptable.) The Episcopal planners-in-waiting began their work praying on the lawn even before they gained access to the building. Now they are meeting every Wednesday to help make St. James’ into whatever it is about to become.

Bishop Ken Price has entrusted the Rev. Vicente Santiago to reëstablish an Episcopal congregation on the St. James’ property. Vicente led the Wednesday meeting, which comprised about a dozen people, both lay and clergy. The participants were Episcopalians, non-Episcopalians, and Episcopalians-to-be. I knew about half the people there. I was there to see what was happening and to help figure out the sound system in the church, a task I tackled after the meeting was over.

Much had happened since I was last in the building. (See “St. James’ Episcopal Church Returns.”) A large fan was ventilating our meeting area to dispel the odor of fresh paint. Several dozen comfortable new chairs were in the parish hall, a contribution from a Lutheran source. Various people and groups had volunteered to clean up the place, fix the plumbing, and do other chores. Much of the meeting, in fact, was devoted to getting everyone up to speed regarding what has been happening at St. James’. (I was not the only first-time participant.)

The most bizarre story told at the meeting involved a very large cross that had been located behind the altar and that had been removed before the first Episcopal service earlier this month. The cross, which was not unattractive, would be appropriate for a church ten times the size of St. James’. In a small parish church, however, it must have simply been intimidating. Apparently, members of the departed congregation complained to Bishop Price about the removal of the cross. I cannot imagine why they thought they had standing to make such a complaint!

I had several times heard Vicente speak of establishing a healing ministry at St. James’, but I was unsure just what that meant. The meeting gave me a better sense of what he had in mind. Although St. James’ had had but a tiny congregation before it was turned over to the Episcopal diocese, a number of outside groups were meeting there. Nearly a dozen 12-step groups met in the building and are continuing to do so. Whereas members of these groups seem to have had a somewhat tense relationship with their former landlord, they are being welcomed as partners-in-mission by the Episcopalians. They are helping to spruce up the place and have developed a new sense of belonging at St. James’.

People from other denominations have been dropping by St. James’ from time to time to see what is going on, and there may be ecumenical partnerships that develop there. The building has a good deal of space, after all, and it can accommodate more activities than it is presently. One participant in the meeting articulated a vision of a mission of “hospitality, healing, and recovery” for St. James’.

I found all this a little surprising. St. James’ is, in a real sense, a church plant, though it has a head start in having an appropriate building at the very beginning. Usually, however, one imagines building a congregation and then developing mission projects for the congregation. In a sense, St. James’ has already found its mission, and its congregation is being built from members of the community who happen by and by those people already using the facility who see a willingness to welcome all God’s children.

St. James’ has the potential to become a very exciting place.

July 19, 2011

Everything You Need to Know about the Anglican Covenant on One Page

No Anglican Covenant buttonWearing my “No Anglican Covenant” button prompts many questions, the most common being “What does that say?” (My friends are polite enough not to invade my personal space and old enough to have trouble reading the button at a respectable distance.) When I tell them, the next question is usually “What’s that about?” That question cannot easily be answered succinctly.

I have been troubled by the lack of awareness of the Anglican Covenant among Episcopalians generally, despite the wealth of material about it on the Web and elsewhere. I expressed frustration over this in Pittsburgh in my post “Pittsburgh Diocese Unexcited by Covenant.”

My Facebook notice of my June 20 post attracted this comment from a friend who had clearly not gotten excited about the Covenant: “What is needed is an ‘Anglican Covenant for Dummies,’ maybe even an ‘Anglicanism for Dummies.’ I’ve been an Episcopalian since 1993, and I still don’t understand most of what Anglicans believe.”

There are, of course, lots of books both large and small that might qualify as “Anglicanism for Dummies,” though I am increasing becoming convinced that none of them will be satisfying to all, perhaps even most, self-described Anglicans. The world has been waiting patiently for “Anglican Covenant for Dummies,” however.

The world need wait no longer. The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has just published a one-page explanation of what the Covenant is, where it came from, and, unsurprisingly, why it should not be adopted. The document is titled “A Short Introduction to the Anglican Covenant.” Here is an excerpt:
Development of the Covenant resulted primarily from the growing discomfort of conservative Evangelicals in the Communion with “innovations” in Anglican churches—acceptance of divorce; ordination of women, gays, and lesbians; non-literal interpretation of Scripture; and, especially, the blessing of same-sex unions and the consecration of partnered gay bishops. Leading the disaffected were dissidents in The Episcopal Church in the U.S., who found allies in African and Asian churches, particularly in those countries where the founding influence was that of English Evangelicals. The dissidents settled on rejection of homosexual activity as their defining issue and, at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, passed Resolution I.10, which declared “homosexual practice … incompatible with Scripture.” Contrary to 130 years of Lambeth Conference tradition, Resolution I.10 has been touted as “the teaching of the Communion.”
“A Short Introduction” is ideally suited to duplication as a handout to groups large and small. It can be used as a conversation stater among those unfamiliar with the Covenant, as well as those who already know something about it. Despite its having being created by Covenant opponents, except for the final paragraph, the document is, arguably, substantially objective.

The news release from the No Anglican Covenant Coalition can be read on its Web site here. “A Short Introduction to the Anglican Covenant” is available as PDF files formatted for letter-size paper and A4 paper.

Update, 7/21/2011: “A Short Introduction to the Anglican Covenant” is now available as a more attractively formatted two-page handout. See the announcement on the Comprehensive Unity blog.

July 17, 2011


ZucchiniSummer means that zucchini are plentiful, in supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and backyard vegetable gardens. The long, green squash are irresistible, but I don’t always know what to do with them. In the past, I’ve diced them and concocted an Italian-inspired dish with tomatoes, onions, and oregano. This is a fine dish, though the texture is a bit on the wimpy side.

Lately, I’ve dropped the tomatoes from my zucchini recipe—I was surprised that I can get a tasty dish without them—and I’ve added potatoes. This improved the texture somewhat, and, with a bit more experimentation, has yielded my best effort yet. I’ll describe what I did the other day, but, since I was flying by the seat of my pants, I won’t offer an actual recipe.

I began by washing and dicing a medium-size potato. I made the cubes as small as possible using my chef’s knife. I put these in a sauté pan with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil, which, after a little while, yield something like tiny French fries. I set the potatoes aside, added more oil, and sautéed diced onion, green pepper, and garlic. After a few minutes, I added the washed and diced zucchini. As the zucchini was getting soft, I returned the potatoes to the pan, stirred the mix, and added salt and pepper, as well as freshly chopped basil and parsley.

The resulting dish was a satisfying one that had a very pleasing crunch. Maybe next time I’ll try throwing in some tomato.

July 15, 2011

Arguments for the Covenant

I’ve just offered a challenge on Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog. In my post “Where are the best arguments for the Anglican Covenant?” I ask readers to identify the best arguments in favor of the Covenant and the essays where those arguments are advanced most effectively. As I explained in my post, solid arguments for the Covenant seem few and far between:
Although there have been many reasons advanced for scrapping the Covenant, reasons that have been carefully laid out and fully explored, arguments for the Covenant seem to rely on the notion that no one can think of anything else—the Covenant is the only way forward we are told—or on what can only be called naïve hopefulness.
I have even offered a prize. The person offering the best entry gets to say anything relevant and civil on the Coalition’s blog that he or she wants to say for one day. The winner could, of course, argue for or against the Covenant. Entries are to be made as comments to the blog post.

July 14, 2011

Gay Rights Worldwide

The campaign for gay rights in the United States is certainly an important struggle for social justice. Most people know, however, that LGBT folks are better off in the U.S. than in most countries, though perhaps they are not treated quite so well as in some European nations.

What many people do not appreciate is just how badly gays are treated in some places, particularly in Africa. Sunday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carried an enlightening essay on this topic by Jonathan Zimmerman, professor of history and education at New York University. Writing from Ghana, Zimmerman said, in part,
Consider that 76 countries ban homosexuality, and half are located here in Africa. Kenya makes gay sex punishable by five to 14 years in jail. It carries a penalty of 10 years in Zimbabwe, where dictator Robert Mugabe has accused “gay gangsters” from the West of conspiring against his regime. The parliament of Uganda is still considering legislation that would impose the death penalty on anyone convicted of having gay sex, despite an international outcry.
You can read Zimmerman’s complete report, “Where gay people are not allowed to exist,” on the newspaper’s Web site here.

July 13, 2011

More Aphorisms

I have again added to my page of original aphorisms on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago. Here are my two latest additions:
Beware of trying to do good things with bad people.
Do not encourage masochists to apply the Golden Rule.
The first assertion was inspired by the country’s experience in Afghanistan.

Gold bullion

July 12, 2011

Clarifying the Rules

The recent rather tepid response from Lambeth Palace to the advent of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) led me to new insights about the Anglican Covenant. The July 5, 2011, statement includes the following:
The Archbishop of Canterbury has had the opportunity to speak with the Archbishop of Kenya about the situation: the good faith and fraternal good intentions of our Kenyan colleagues are not at all in question, but it seems that there were misunderstandings of the precise requirements of English Canon Law and good practice as regards the recommendation of candidates for ordination and deployment in mission.
Of course, this is polite Anglicanspeak. The “good faith and fraternal good intentions" of the Kenyans are most certainly being called into question. The Archbishop of Kenya and his allies probably know English Canon Law better than the Archbishop of Canterbury does. They have carefully calculated not only what is or is not permitted but also what they can have a reasonable expectation of getting away with. From the AMiE perspective, so far so good.

What does all this have to do with the Anglican Covenant? Consider the origin of the pact. It was not the case that the Anglican Communion was getting on swimmingly and its member churches thought that tighter integration would yield an even more effective and happy global body. Well, not exactly. Instead, many churches believed that other churches were acting badly by not obeying what they took to be the implicit rules of Communion behavior.

The Anglican Diocese of New Westminster was well aware of Resolution I.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference when it promulgated a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions. So was The Episcopal Church when it agreed to consecrate Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. Likewise, the churches of the Southern Cone, Rwanda, et alia, understood the longstanding convention against bishops’ exercising jurisdiction over churches in the diocese of another bishop. In each case, a church acted contrary to convention because it believed that was the right thing to do.

The Covenant comes up for adoption, then, in the context of Anglican churches acting “badly” but believing themselves justified in doing so. Our churches don’t need the Covenant to tell them what the expectations of other churches are; those are known quite well. (Curiously, the Covenant is actually silent on the very issues that created a “crisis” in the first place.) If those expectations were ignored in the past, why do we think they will not be ignored under the Covenant?

The Covenant attempts to enshrine “shared discernment” as the ultimate arbiter of Anglican doctrine. This procedure is intended to assure that no church movesWobbly Anglican bar stool forward until they all do. The process will be dominated by Asian and, especially, African, churches that will effectively wield a veto over any departure from “orthodoxy” and will, thereby, govern the Communion. (We all know how good Africans have proven to be at self-government!) The three-legged stool of Anglicanism will, under the Covenant, become a wobbly, four-legged bar stool, as Scripture, tradition, and reason are joined by the collective wisdom of the Standing Committee as Anglican authorities. Good Lord, preserve us!

We must face reality. Adopting the Covenant will not make disagreements go away and make all Communion churches think alike. Our churches are more different than anyone seems to want to admit. A happy Communion can only be bound together by tolerance. For Western churches to adopt the Covenant with any sincerity would be to abandon their beliefs and to agree to be governed by Third World churches in environments quite unlike that of the West. The resulting Communion would be bound together by intimidation, hatred, and self-loathing. Of course, that could not—would not—last long.

No Anglican Covenant

Get your No Anglican Covenant merchandise at the Farrago Gift Shop. Beat the price increases. Order before July 21, 2011.

July 11, 2011

Buy Merchandise before Price Increase

As you may know, the price of cotton has been rising. This is, I assume, the primary reason that Café Press is raising prices on clothing items, effective July 21, 2011. This means that many prices will be increasing at my Farrago Gift Shop. If you are considering buying apparel carrying either my No Anglican Covenant logo or curve-stitch isometric cube design, now is the time to order to avoid higher prices.

No Anglican Covenant Women's Cap Sleeve T-ShirtCurve-stitch Design Jr. Jersey T-Shirt

July 7, 2011

Groupthink and Courage

My friend Jim Beyer has just published a guest post on MadPriest’s blog. It is titled “Groupthink and Courage.” Jim offers an explanation for why so many are willing to support the Anglican Covenant, even though its adoption is clearly a demented idea. Here is a sample paragraph:
Groupthink mentality is very hard to escape. [Bill] Moyers is a powerful intellect, and even he was not able to do so for quite a while. So the persistence of other group, the Lambeth staff, English House of Bishops, and the lay leadership that continues to promote the Covenant, is hardly surprising. We hear that there are members who know the Covenant is a multi-dimensional failure. They know it won’t be universally adopted and will not therefore bring the Communion together, let alone keep it together. The covenanted Church will become hugely litigious. But they do not speak up; they do not resign. They stay in the inner circle. It is safer there. The group thinks well of them.
Jim is on to something here. As a bonus for reading Jim’s essay, MadPriest offers a bitterly funny cartoon.

No Anglican Covenant

Get your No Anglican Covenant merchandise at the Farrago Gift Shop.

The Debt Ceiling Crisis

Jim Wallis posted an essay today called “The Debt Ceiling Play: My ‘CliffsNotes’ Version” on his God’s Politics blog. It is hardly the definitive word on the ridiculous drama playing out in Washington, D.C., but Wallis does offer some notable lines. For example, he offers this characterization of the conflict:
It is a conflict between those who believe in the common good and those who believe individual good is the only good. While a biblical worldview informs Christians that they should be wary of the rich and defend the poor, a competing ideology says that wealth is equivalent to righteousness and God’s blessing.
My favorite line is this one:
Not raising the federal debt limit isn’t like cutting up your credit card. It’s like cutting up your credit card bill.
You can read what Wallis has to say here.

Like most Americans, apparently, I am frustrated with President Obama. My complaint is not that he is too “liberal,” but that he is too nice. He persists in believing that Republicans actually care about ordinary people, that they are willing to negotiate in good faith, and that they have some clue as to how to control the Tea Party and prevent its crazies from destroying the Republican Party and the country along with it.

In the present circumstances, I am frustrated that Obama has bought into the notion that immediate reduction of the federal deficit is more important than devising a plan for rescuing our anemic economy and making it possible for the economy eventually to support the level of government needed in a complex and (one hopes) humane society.

So, what should the President do? He should declare that the debt ceiling is a mythical construct, that Congress’s authorizing spending obliges the Executive Branch to finance that spending, and that to fail to pay the country’s debt is unconstitutional. The basis for this is Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
He should then tell Congress to turn its attention to something important, such as figuring out how to create more jobs. Certainly, threatening to default on government obligations is not a strategy likely to encourage investment and job creation! If the Republicans are unhappy with the President’s new-found cojones, they can sue. They won’t win, but the country will.

July 6, 2011

No Anglican Covenant Coalition Names Episcopal Patrons

A surprisingly small numbers of “ordinary” bishops have had much to say publicly about the Anglican Covenant that churches are being asked to adopt. There are exceptions, of course—the Archbishop of Canterbury is the head cheerleader for the pact, and some of the GAFCON primates have derided it as too little too late—but, for a document that promises to remake the Anglican Communion and redefine Anglicanism itself, it is odd that bishops are not falling over one another to assure that their voices will be heard on the matter. This is especially remarkable in the U.S. and Canada, the churches of which are expected to make a decision about the Covenant (or, perhaps, defer a decision) in their forthcoming meetings. It is perhaps less notable in the Church of England, where there seems to be inordinate deference paid to the Archbishop of Canterbury, leading to a reluctance to oppose his views in public.

In a welcome development, however, two English bishop, albeit retired ones, have chosen to make their opposition to the covenant more prominent. Bishops John Saxbee and Peter Selby have just been designated as Episcopal Patrons of the No Anglican Coalition.

Here are statements from them from the Coalition’s press release, first from Bishop Saxbee:
The Anglican Communion doesn’t need a Covenant because Anglicanism is a Covenant, predicated on grace and goodwill. If there is grace and goodwill, a Covenant is unnecessary. If there is no grace or goodwill, a Covenant will be unavailing.
From Bishop Selby, we have this:
This proposed Covenant is not the solution to the tensions in the Anglican Communion. It will inevitably create a litigious Communion where every serious disagreement will become a possible occasion to seek a province’s exclusion.
Perhaps the boldness of Bishops Saxbee and Selby will encourage more bishops to speak out against the ill-conceived Covenant.

You can read the whole statement from the No Anglican Covenant Coalition here.

No Anglican Covenant

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July 5, 2011

New Aphorism

Lionel Deimel’s Farrago includes a page of original aphorisms. I added a new entry today, and I think it is one of my better ones:
The fastest way to gain the coöperation of your colleagues is to do all the work yourself.
Unlike some of my pearls of wisdom, this one is not so much the product of philosophical musings as of actual experience.

You can read all my aphorisms here.

Coöperating workers

Alvarez Grounded

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ third baseman Pedro Alvarez has been away from the team while trying to come back from a recent injury. I was reading about him in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The leading story in the Sports section was “Pirates’ Alvarez finally healthy; bat not there yet” by Michael Sanserino. Unfortunately, I never got past the second paragraph:
Facing professional adversity, the injured Pirates third basemen credited his wife, Keli, who he married in the winter, for keeping him grounded.
My initial interest in this sentence—the paragraph is only one sentence long—focused on the word “grounded.” Did Keli Alverez keep the ballplayer mentally healthy, or did she keep him from going back to work, possibly against his will? “Grounded” is insufficiently clear.

As it turns out, however, Mr. Sanserio crammed a great number of errors into one sentence. (Does the Post-Gazette employ editors?) For one thing, Alverez is a third baseman, not a third basemen! Finally, “who” should actually be “whom.”

When I get around to it, I may read the rest of the story.

July 3, 2011

St. James’ Episcopal Church Returns

As I explained in “Third Congregation Settles with Episcopal Diocese,” St. James’, Penn Hills, is beginning the next phase of its life as an Episcopal parish. Representatives of the “Anglican” congregation turned over the keys to the building last week, and the first Episcopal service at the church in several years was scheduled for today at 9 AM.

Suppressing guilt for abandoning my own parish’s choir on the Fourth of July weekend, I decided to attend church at St. James’ this morning. I knew that an old mailing list had been used to contact those who had attended St. James’ before the October 2008 split in the diocese, but it “The Episcopal Church Welcomes All” buttonseemed unlikely that many people would show up for the service. I thought that some people needed to attend to show the flag, so I put on my “The Episcopal Church Welcomes All” button and headed off on the half hour trip to Penn Hills.

I had not been to St. James’ in years, and I had never been inside the actual worship space. In fact, I remembered little about the church and feared a rather dreary service with a tiny congregation and no music.

Like many Episcopal churches in Pittsburgh, St. James’ is not visible from any major road. The entrance to it is on a busy thoroughfare, however, so the church does have something of a visible presence in the neighborhood. As of today, however, the sign on Frankstown Road does not include the word “Episcopal” and fails to indicate the service time. (For this and other photos, click on the photo for a larger view.)

Entrance to St. James’ The church is on a hill and is hidden by shrubbery and buildings. I drove up the hill and parked in the parking lot. I got out of the car and proceeded to the church.

St. James’, Penn HillsI was hardly in the door when Gwen Santiago, wife of Priest-Developer Vicente Santiago ran up to me and gave me a hug. I had not announced that I was coming.

The Rev. Vicente SantiagoGwen and Vicente (see picture at left) were at St. James’ for much of Saturday, cleaning and organizing the church for today’s service. When I arrived, the place looked pretty much like any other Episcopal Church. Construction on the building began in 1955, when the parish was already more than a century old. The building is decidedly modern and neither lavish nor spartan. I was surprised (and delighted) to see that we would have an organist for today. There was a minimalist service leaflet, which I suspect was composed and duplicated Saturday night. I was happy to see an Episcopal Church flag in evidence, though it was wrinkled and faded. Apparently, it had been in storage for a few years.

The church before the service beganVicente was celebrant and preacher, and Gwen performed all the other duties, except for reading the lessons and leading Prayers of the People. For these, she recruited volunteers. I read one of Paul’s tongue-twister passages from Romans, which was difficult without preparation. (Sample: For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.) Music was largely patriotic, which was fine with me for a July 3 Sunday. We sang, among other things, “My country, ’tis of thee” (#717), “God of our fathers” (#718), and “O beautiful for spacious skies” (#719). The service ran relatively smoothly under the circumstances, and I felt very glad to be a part of it.

The congregation numbered about 10, and included no one from the recently relocated congregation. Some people were there for the same reason I was, but there were others. For example, I met a former senior warden and his wife who had left St. James’ before the congregation decided to follow Bob Duncan out of The Episcopal Church. They have not been attending church at all, but they seemed ready to return to their former parish.

I was talking to the organist after the service when a woman walked in asking the time of the service. The newspaper article she read did not give a service time, and she was surprised to learn the service was over. We made her feel welcome, however, and invited her to have refreshments with the rest of us. As it happens, she is a Roman Catholic living in Penn Hills and looking for a more welcoming place to worship than she experienced in her own church. I think she left a recipient of warm hospitality and a few mini-lectures on The Episcopal Church. I suspect she will be back.

Gwen gave me a tour of the buildings and grounds, both of which are surprisingly spacious, and we talked about ideas for developing the parish. Along with others, I also talked to Vicente about plans for St. James’ and about its history, of which I had known little. (I had even been a bit uncertain about just where Penn Hills was.)

Gwen as tour guideAll in all, my visit to St. James’, Penn Hills, was an uplifting experience. Rebuilding a parish that has undergone so much trauma will be difficult, but it can be exciting as well. Vicente and Gwen seem determined to make it work. God willing, St. James’ Episcopal Church will once again become a major parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.