November 27, 2014


It’s time for the annual posting of my poem “Thanksgiving,” which I wrote in 2002. (Details can be found on my Web site here.) May all my readers have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.
by Lionel Deimel

So many holidays for this and that—
But most are just a time for recreation,
Not opportunities for celebration
Or contemplation of their origins.

Who gives a thought to Martin Luther King?
He’s on our minds his day like any other,
When seldom do we think who is our brother
Or bother reaching out to those in need.

We see a baseball game on 4 July—
We sing our anthem, watch the color guard;
But Revolutionary thoughts are hard
To mix with scorecard, chili dog, and beer.

The labor on our minds on Labor Day
Is but our own that we don’t have to do.
We must instead to summer bid adieu
With picnics for a special few, or bed.

Ah, Christmas is a special time of dread—
That deadline of the frantic shopping season
Through which we march for half-forgotten reason
That escapes us fully when the day has come.

Thanksgiving, though, is different from the rest—
We gather in our family and friends;
We stuff the turkey and each person who attends,
And, in the end, how can we not be thankful?


November 26, 2014

A Concise Summary of the GTS Debacle

Kim Bobo has written a concise summary of the disaster that is the situation at The General Seminary, a subject I have written about before. (See posts here, here, here, and here.) The title of the essay on the Religion Dispatches Web site is “GTS Situation Is Just a Typical Labor Dispute…But with Clergy,” which suggest the author’s viewpoint (with which I agree, by the way). I particularly appreciate this paragraph:
The Board of Directors [Trustees, actually]  had backed itself into a terrible corner and few of us like to admit we are wrong. This is especially true for many clergy and bishops who believe they are not only right but empowered by God in their rightness. (Ask any union organizer who has negotiated with a religious hospital.)
Anyway, I highly recommend the Bobo essay, which can be found here. The facts seem pretty much right, although there is no mention of the reconciliation process being managed by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center.

November 12, 2014

Diocesan Convention 2014: An Outsider’s View

The annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh was held this past weekend, on November 7 & 8, at Trinity Cathedral. Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) had a table in a room that hosted displays of many organizations with a connection to the diocese. PEP board member Beth Stifel attended the convention as a visitor. She was there primarily to talk to people who stopped by the PEP table, where we were promoting the November 14 screening of the documentary Inequality for All. In the essay below, Beth offers her thoughts as a non-deputy attendee.
This past weekend’s convention was the second over which Bishop Dorsey McConnell presided. There was no hype, no palpable anxiety, and little, if any, animosity in evidence. People were enjoying seeing one another. That’s what I noticed as an observer who was there to greet people at the PEP table, not to participate in the main business of the convention.

I spent most of my time in a room filled with displays from various organizations, and I felt as though I had been transported to a not-so-spiffy version of the mid-seventies. As I looked around, I thought about what a visitor would notice:
  • A lot of us were white-haired.
  • The exhibits seemed to be from the mid-seventies era and were not outstanding examples of the same.
  • The room in which a lot of gathering was happening felt dim and dreary.

Where were the younger members of our congregations, who were nowhere to be seen?

Neither computers nor evidence of their use was apparent. PEP’s table was the only one offering a PowerPoint presentation. This is the twenty-first century, people! High school students in Pittsburgh were required to be computer literate in the mid-eighties! We certainly should care enough about our organizations to produce current and relevant displays using commonly available technology.

Near and dear to my heart, the Neighborhood Youth Outreach Program had a fairly nice poster. Where was the technology-based presentation illustrating the incredible things they do with song and dance? They will have one next year!

Every organization that had an exhibit probably has someone who can put together compelling video to promote the group. This isn’t rocket science. Such a presentation lets the community see what you’re doing and helps you communicate important information to your audience. I suggested to cathedral parishioners that a history of the cathedral might be great, perhaps in the form of a did-you-know presentation. We need accessible displays that say that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is committed, interested, welcoming, and really in the twenty-first century.

The room housing the displays was dirty. The carpet was filthy. The table covers had seen many better days. It felt a lot like the grandfather’s house where the furniture hasn’t changed in 40 years and dusting rarely happens.

I’m not sure that, if I didn’t know the people there, I’d even want to find out about the groups represented. I happened to know that the people at the displays were smart, interesting, and fun. Not knowing that, I could easily have walked in, looked around briefly, and left.

There are simple things we could choose to do that would make us feel better about ourselves and would let visitors know that we respect ourselves and want to be relevant.

The room itself needs some work to make it more pleasant. I’m not sure about the cost, but fresh and clean, with better table covers, would go a long way. A new floor covering would be wonderful. A paint job would change the whole feeling of the room. (The recent transformation of Brooks Hall at St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, shows how a little redecorating can work wonders.) Such changes would cost money, of course, but they would let visitors know that Trinity Cathedral is a friendly, welcoming place. It is, after all, the center of our diocese and the bishop’s seat. We can and need to do better.

I firmly believe the gospel is relevant in our time. Communicating with people under 45, however, demands that we demonstrate that we live in the twenty-first century. Otherwise, there will be no one for us to talk to.

November 5, 2014

Bill Maher Had It Right

Before yesterday’s elections, Bill Maher, on his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher, excoriated Democratic candidates for not embracing Barack Obama and his real accomplishments. Sensing the unpopularity of the country’s first black president, Democratic candidates pretty much agreed with their Republican opponents that the Obama presidency has been a disaster.

No one can prove that adopting the strategy urged by Maher would have produced results more favorable to the Democratic Party on election day 2014, of course, but it is hard to imagine that things could have been any worse. At the very least, Democratic candidates standing up for the Democratic Party and a Democratic President could have played an educational role for the country: It is not a universally acknowledged fact that Barack Obama has been a terrible president. As played out on the ground, however, the notion that Obama is a feckless and incompetent president was reinforced not only by Republicans, but by Democrats as well.

With both Republicans and Democrats viewing a Democratic presidency as a failure, why would anyone vote for a Democrat? Why not give the other party a chance to govern? Did the logic of this really escape Democratic Party strategists?

Bill Maher had it right.

Bill Maher
Bill Maher (photo by Angela George)

Thoughts on the 2014 Elections

No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.
—H.L. Mencken, 1926
In the run-up to yesterday’s elections, many voters complained  about the gridlock in Washington. So, of course, they voted in overwhelming numbers for the party that was responsible for the gridlock.

God help us!

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