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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Remembering the Influential Women in our Lives: Women's History Month

My friend, Frank Goodsir, sent this recollection to me sometime last week and I wanted to 'get it in' during March for national Women's History Month.

If you have stories of memorable 'characters' in you life (men or women) - whether a relative, friend, colleague or a chance encounter, I'd be honored if you would send them on to me I'll read them over and post when I can.

If you have a reaction, comment or additional contributions to Frank's submission, simply click on word 'comments' which may be preceded by a number. Thanks again, dear Frank, for sharing this witness. It's good to know that the apostle Andrew wasn't the only one to say "Come and see!" N.B.: The first section, in italics, is a bit of history on the subject of this essay, Mary Jane Melish. The second section, in regular typeface, are his recollections.

Mary Jane Melish's father-in-law was the Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights during the 1940s & 50s and her husband was the Curate of Holy Trinity at this time. Mary Jane had a vibrant ministry of her own reaching out into the environs of Holy Trinity with programs for disadvantaged youth keeping them off the streets. Holy Trinity became a beehive of activity where youth were introduced to social functions such as dances, and all kinds of classes were held for the youth's enrichment, etc.

In the 1990s Mary Jane was an active member of the merged Church of St. Ann and The Holy Trinity and was still active in the churches activities especially church sitting by opening the doors to the sanctuary every weekday so that the public could gain entrance to this historic church where they could rest, meditate and pray and under the guidance of Mary Jane learn about the history of the church and a tour of the famous stained glass windows which are the first set of figural stained glass windows made in America.

These are two wonderful recollections that I have of Mary Jane who contributed to the advancement of women the church.

1) One day I was selling items in a flea market outside of the Church of St. Ann and The Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights. A customer bought a sterling silver teaspoon and said that he was going to make it into a bracelet for his daughter.
He also mentioned that in the 1950's he had participated in a youth program at Holy Trinity Church. "Mary Jane Melish taught me how to craft jewelry," he explained but went on to say that he hadn't seen Mary Jane in many years.

I told him that she was church sitting at that very moment and that she'd be glad to
see him. Later, on her way home, she stopped by to tell me the gentlemen had indeed visited her and she elaborated that people from Holy Trinity's programs would often greet her on the street; even truck drivers would honk their horn to acknowledge
her. Mary Jane and her good works touched the lives of many youth who are blessed for having her as a mentor and friend. What a beautiful legacy!

2) On a sweltering hot summer Sunday in 1996, I was Master of Ceremonies at the 11 o'clock mass at the Church of St. Ann and The Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights. The Archdeacon of St. Marks Deanery Brooklyn was the celebrant and two babies (cousins) were baptized. Everything seemed to be going well.

At the end of communion, the celebrant abruptly said to me, "Bring the chalice and follow me." We hurried down the nave and right out onto Clinton Street into an ambulance to administer Holy Communion to Mary Jane Melish (who had been stricken by
the heat during the service and was lying in the ambulance on a gurney. Apparently she didn't want to go to the hospital to care for her physical needs until her spiritual needs were fulfilled. This was, indeed, a wonderful example of faith and

She spent that night at Long Island Hospital and went home the next day. Two days later I looked up to see Mary Jane, on her own steam, coming up Montague Street pushing her shopping cart to continue her ministry of church-sitting and greeting
visitors and telling them about the historical, beautiful stained glass windows. The Nativity window was her favorite and she was instrumental in getting funds for its restoration.

Now as a senior citizen myself I have been inspired by Mary Jane to be active and involved as long as I can. Never give up. She didn't!

The Twelve Steps and Lent: Step 12

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to OTHERS, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. (my change from the original word alcoholics)

Notice, please, the specific phrasing used here: HAVING HAD A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING...

Even if you done nothing more than read these twelve steps (not even my commentary/meditation attached) since the 22nd of February,something has moved in your heart of hearts: your soul.

Boiling it down, there is a thread throughout the Steps: you are NOT the center of your life, surrender to your Higher Power is empowering, keeping life more simple by being sincere and simple through acknowledging your failings, embracing repentence, keeping your conscience clear and cleaning up as you go along instead of leaving a mess in your wake.

The last step is about spreading the Good News. You don't NEED to be recovering from the abuse of yourself, of substances or others to testify that there is still help and hope and faith left to be had in this life through your Higher Power... the being (the I AM) I personally call God by many, many names.

You don't NEED to be 'in recovery' to spread the Good News. Not all of us are natural-born evangelists... that being written, if you were baptised, you DID promise (with God's help) several things: that you would pray, that when you sinned would repent and make amends, that you would strive for justice and respect the dignity of EVERY human being and..... would "proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ".

You needn't hit anyone over the head with the 12 Steps. They are a guide, a useful tool in our spiritual growth. If you choose to use them as a guide, your evangelism will be Franciscan - you will preach by your very demeanor, by your actions.

If you are struggling with a form of addiction, there are many 12 Steps groups out there providing a safe community and structure complete with resources to assist you.

Beyond AA© there are daily devotionals and meditations put out by such publishers as Hazelden ( I found a slew of written resources by using Google under Recovery meditations published by Bible or independent publishers (they popped up for me on


Life is one heckofa journey that engenders many different emotions, reactions, twists and turns, highs and lows. We need our Higher Power - and we need each other - to get through it with a sense of joy.

I pray that this (for some of you) introduction to the Steps has been helpful - or on a healthy level, provocative - on this year's Lenten journey. May your Holy Week be enriched and rewarding in very personal way. In Christ's service, Joanna, deacon

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Now HERE'S a good idea!

You may or may not be an "Oprah (Winfrey)" fan, but one of the features on her Tuesday, March 13 show caught my eye.

Go to: You will see a box on the right with the question: 'Are you a complainer? Take the challenge'.

Pastor Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, Missouri, is trying to change all that.

In a Sunday morning sermon, Will told his congregation he wanted to make the world a complaint-free place. To prove he was serious, Will passed out purple bracelets to each church member and offered them a challenge.

"If you catch yourself complaining, you take [the bracelet] and you move it to the other wrist," Will says. "The idea is to ultimately keep it [on the same wrist] for 21 days." Will chose this length of time, he says, because scientists believe it takes that long to form a new habit.

Will believes if everyone would stop complaining, the world would be a much better place. "[I think] everybody agrees the world is not the way we would like it to be. I wonder if there's some relation between the two."

Well, even if you don't write to Pastor Will to get one of his purple bracelets, you might find your own way to monitor you complaint frequency..

Check out the article.... and perhaps there is a link to watch the segment.... just a little something to think about in your spare moments (or one of those character defects you can work on)!

Thanks to Ms. Debbie here is the link if you would like your very own bracelet (for yourself, or a whiner of your choosing:

Liturgy of the Palms (or branches)

It is suggested that the people be gathered in a place other than within the church itself for the Liturgy of the Palms/Branches (perhaps some other local greenery is plentiful and less costly than palms: young evergreen, cedar or hedge branches are equally appropriate.

Priest or Deacon begins: What we commemorate today is the spontaneous parade which picked up momentum on the road that led from Bethphage to Jerusalem when Jesus rode into the city on the back of a borrowed 'colt'.

Reader 1: He had asked his followers to go to the next town and procure the animal - saying to questioning bystanders only that 'the Lord has need of it'.

Reader 2: They came back to Bethphage, draped their cloaks on the animal's back and made their way to the heart of Jerusalem. Along the route, the crown grew. They had no red carpet to spread before him so that they took the clothes off their backs and laid them down in the dust to pave the way into the city.

Reader 3:Some climbed into the trees or went to nearby bushes and cut down branches to pave a smooth road for him - treating Him as royalty, calling out:

Everyone gathered together; Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!"

Reader 4: The twelve walked along, with smiling faces, proud to be seen with the man who had the love of the crowd. Everyone had seen or heard of the miracles Jesus had performed and they were honoring him as an important, welcomed prophet.

Priest: Now bless these branches,(making sign of the cross) that we, like them, may welcome our Lord into our presence as we begin the celebration and recollection of the final earthly days of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lived and died for us and lives in us still when we follow in his footsteps of justice, humility and love.

All: Amen.

Priest: We then, take up these branches (palms) to honor the one who came in the name of the Lord as the Lord among us. [the branches/palms are distributed]

Deacon or Priest: Let us welcome Him again into our midst.

When the Liturgy of the Palms/Branches is completed, a Palm Sunday Processional hymn is begun and used during the winding path into the church. Perhaps a strip of red cloth could line the main aisle for dramatic effect - with additional branches/palms (unblessed) being thrown or strewn onto the cloth strip (or even old coats, jackets or sweaters laid down by designated people) before or as the procession makes its way down the aisle. After the church everyone is settled into their places, the ends of the red cloth are picked up in unison by 2 people, walking the 'red carpet' in a dignified and quiet way to the back of the church where it is gathered and inconspicuously taken elsewhere so as to have cleared the aisle for safety reasons.

Copyright © 2007 K.L.Joanna Depue and Deacon J on

The Twelve Steps and Lent: Step 11

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Conscious contact with God comes through prayer in its various forms: adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, petition (see p.856-7 of the Catechism is the Book of Common Prayer)and/or meditation. All of these actions are intentional. Until we are spiritually advanced, none of this comes unfailingly automatically. One must intentionally focus on developing our relationship with our Higher Power. No long-term, lasting, reliable relationship 'just happens'.

Don't get me wrong here...there are instances when the connection to our Higher Power and the Divine will feels nearly effortless - similar to the 'click' connection some of us make with certain friends, even strangers. Most of us, however, have to invest more time and some discipline to establish and maintain our prayerful (conversational) relationship with God.

A time-honored tradition is to set up a regular prayer time - in the morning, noon, afternoon, afternoon or night. The time you establish will be dictated, in part, to your disposition as a 'morning' or 'evening' person... in part, it will be dependent on the flow of your day. Perhaps your lunch hour or morning or evening breaks will give you that set 15 minutes in a quiet spare office or a park bench to give God a 'call'. You may have to try on different times of day before you find a comfortable, reasonable conference call, but if you want it to happen (and it begins to dawn on you that you need it to happen in order to maintain your equilibrium and progress) it will happen.

You needn't provide your Higher Power with a shopping list of your woes or wants -- remember, it's the omnipotent creator of all that you're dealing with -- you are required, with no particular dress code, to show up ready to listen. Confess your faults, offer your struggles... then listen.

Even if you don't hear words or see sparkles or feel the hairs stand up on your arms, you will be heard... and the part of your heart which had become hardened to unconditional love will slowly learn to hear- and perhaps feel - the love, warmth and direction of God in a new way.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Time Marches on to Jerusalem

It is nearly Holy Week. As Christians - in theory at least with Baptismal vows at the root - we set out to mark every day as holy, make each act as holy. Sometimes that works. For some of us, it means going back to bed for another hour and having a cup of coffee before attempting to think "holy" things. Yet, with God's help (and often through God's power alone) our words are kind, our giving is selfless and our dedication is pure. In this sense, please God, there are many, many holy weeks in the year.

Let's shift from our personal life to our corporate life in the greater Church. By a remarkable process that is marked in calendar time, all the collective parts that make the church - the eyes and service dogs and ears and hearing aids and hands and canes and hearts and pacemakers and voices and pacifiers and interpreters and feet and prosthetics and wheelchairs - all the parts of the Body of Christ come together in a particular way for a collective week that compresses the final days of the earthly life and transformed life of Jesus Christ, the one we call our Lord and Savior.

This Holy Week is steeped in a cast of characters and rituals and symbols.

In MOLC I will be writing frequently this week - perhaps multiple entries a day - of the symbols and the rituals.

The first will be a new version of the Blessing of the Palms and the Palm Sunday ritual. Whether you chose to use it or not, it's all good. But do read it. I will be attempting to bring you closer to that time - or to bring the Christ closer to this time that your heart may be touched anew and the corporate acts the Church engages in may take on a life a bit closer to your heart. It is our heritage to tell the story of Christ - in what appeared to be His most triumphant and most defeated moments - on both sides of the tomb.

May the way you keep your Holy Week be truly blessed. With peace in my heart for all of you, DJ

The Twelve Steps and Lent: Step 10

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Once is just not enough. Just as sure as you will begin to reap the benefits of freedom that come along with succeeding in these steps, a snag will pop up.

Our long-standing coping mechanisms or our additions or our character flaws came not as the mischevious neighbor sowing weeds among the good seeds... over night... in a flash. Nope. Some of these flaws are more like bulbs, hidden deep below pop up at certain times under certain conditions.

Annoying still is having a beaufiful, fertilized, crab grass free lawn. You have seeded and weed whacked and watered and are sitting on your front stoop out on the wonderful work that you and God have put time, sweat and tears into with some satisfaction. You may be so enchanted with your newly restored lawn that you have not looked to the lawns on either side of your property speckled in bright yellow dandelions.

Step 10 asks us to keep an eye on the prize and an eye of the clean slate you have worked on. If you are surrounded by those things which would damage your sobriety (of whatever variety), be vigilant. Make sure you put down some weed-be-gone and have your dandelion lance at the ready because - as sure as the wind blows, the dandelion seeds will float through the air and end up on your 'perfect' lawn. Take inventory of that lawn and take care us business - stay on top of it!

Or maybe - just maybe the weedwhacker is not your own...... you borrowed it from your cousin 3 years ago and never brought it back! Take a deep breath, clean up the whacker and give it back to your cousin with an apology and a thank you - and then get one of your own to stay of top of the nuisance weed that can spread like willdfire without attention.

After the initial inventory, keep your heart and mind keen to maintain and sustain your clean conscience with an open lifeline of prayer and gratitude with your Higher Power. And with Spring coming on..... see what your lawn and garden will grow!

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