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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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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Easter 7 (RCL): Knowing the Good News and Passing it On...

Acts 16:16-34; Psalm 97;Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21;John 17:20-26

Jesus - during his earthly life and after his transformation -made a point of letting us experience the Good News of God: We are loved.

Despite the inestimable expanses of God, we are loved individually. Despite our circumstances, we will be welcomed with love; when we are with others, we show God's love by being generous, gracious, hospitable, inclusive, non-judgemental. We can harken back to Psalm 8 for a question that has crossed the minds of many who question their worth in comparison with God's infinite power, resources and omnipotence: what is man that you are mindful of him.

When an earthquake rocked the prison where Paul, Silas and others had been detained, mysteriously they were freed from their shakles and the gates loostened. The guard on duty thought he would be killed by the Roman authorities because all the prisoners had or would try to escape - the only honorable thing to be done was to fall on his own sword. "Hold up, there. We haven't budged. No need to panic. You need not kill yourself". When the guard came to, he rushed through the prison only to find everyone in place. This pacifism was so radical that he fell down before Paul and asked to be saved. It also seems the guard let Paul out, cleaned his wounds and, with his household, was baptised. One in power - in the political sense, bowed down to another who had seemingly no power whatsoever in this field.

The power and majesty of God saturates Psalm 97: God can consume his adversaries, has dominion over fire, lightning, the mountains, false gods, and protects those who are faithful to him... even though they are lowly in comparison to all these other things.

John, the 'Christian' evangelist, has Jesus saying over and over that He and the Father are one. Here He goes one step further in lines 22 and 23: The glory that you have given me I have given them so that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one- so the world may know I have loved them even as you have loved me.

If one allows the Spirit within to take this compelling, extraordinary love in as fact and to be relied on, we might well wonder how we can possibly treat others poorly in so many situations.

Yet our goal is to strive to live a life of gratitude: giving, loving, trying, paying attention - similar to the ways Jesus did. If we are one, then let our minds be as one.... one day at a time, one encounter at a time. Our actions, says St. James, the brother of Christ, will display our faith without words - and the message of Good News will not need interpretation. The Trinity is one of Love - the kind you want to pass along.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A post midnight run

Don't make excuses. OK. I will try not to.... but I DO have reasons.

I have known this Cursillo in NY was going to happen for several months and have been praying for its success for weeks now.

Alissa asked me to pick up two candidates from the parish of Trinity, Wall St., NYC on Thursday the 17th because she had another commitment and because she doesn't have a car. OK. I can do that. I Googled the directions and, as is my inner clock, was late, but not significantly (15min). I picked up two lovely people who were off on the adventure that is Cursillo. In the back of my car was a special box of things I had promised to contribute to the effort. The problem was that I was not finished with the other projects I had committed to.

True, I had been in ill health and under a bit of pressure lately. True, I am trying to figure out how my ministry will look on the Geranium Farm in the future. True, I am about to retire after more than 28 years working in the same 'business' - in fact, in the same department I joined in March 1979.

But no excuses..... I knew this was on the docket and I had pushed it to that infamous back burner..... and the time had cometh for me to deliver. My entire dining room table was strewn with stickers and bags and names and stuff, but nothing was in any state of order.

I and my charges made our way.... on a bogged down Major Deegan right around Yankee Stadium (what an unexpected surprise!) up until the exit for the GW Bridge, then it was smoother sailing.

We stopped at a diner for dinner, then to the retreat house. Upon arrival, my chickadees disembarked with their suitcases and I chatted with friends old and new. I stayed for a short time to grab a cup of coffee, then back home.

I fed Emmy Lou and sent her to the backyard for toiletry and patrol duty and went back to face the dining room table in all its semi-contained chaos.

It took hours (lucky for my nightowl ways), but everything was done by 1:45am. I loaded the stuff in the car, Em climbed into the co-pilot seat and off we went back over the TappanZee Bridge. What a change. No traffic (except for the patrol cars who were not at mid quota for traffic tickets) to be had. Through Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and the old Dutch Church and cemetary (of 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' fame), through Scarborough and finally Ossining.

As I turned onto the property (which is a Roman Catholic convent and retreat center) I was reminded of how much wildlife was still trying to keep a hold on the acres of trees, shrubs and greenery that Mariandale afforded them. I went down to a crawl of 5mph while I saw a possum waddle/scurry across the driveway, its ratty tail giving away its identity.

As I neared the building, taking care to go very slowly over the intentional speed bumps, I saw three creatures moving with exceptional prowess. It wasn't until I got closer that I saw a cluster of raccoons.

Then I saw them escape into their man-made shelters - the storm drains! While one headed in the opposite direction, the two I saw with my high beams each found a grid and, with the dexteritiy and finesse of an Olympic gymnast, grabbed hold of the curb lip and did a somersault past the grid into the drain and safety. Holy smokes, I'd give those guys a perfect 10!

I got to the shield door, punched in the code, got into the storage room and delivered the goods. I checked into the kitchenette for a piece of fruit (avoiding the inevitable trail mix w/M &M's, muffins, etc) and off I went as quietly as I had arrived. Didn't spot any critters on the way out... but after the raccoons, anything else would be a disappointment.

I got back home at 4, had a 3hr nap and was up and moving again.

Late bloomer that I am, I'm hoping that two things will occur after my retirement: 1) without the stress I can work a bit on my internal clock to make it a bit more in alignment with the rythum of an 'average' person and b) finally realizing I had the wherewithall to get things done without the 'rush' of a deadline looming ever so close.

Not that there might be any semi-procrastinators out there in the far reaches of The Geranium Farm.....

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Good, the Bad, the Neutral

I was once again strolling into work today, noticing the bits of NYC life available to me on my brief walk from the UN 3rd basement garage over to my office building.

Teachers from Holy Family School.... obviously the pre-school division walked on the wide sidewalk, three mini children of about 3 years of age toddling on each side, strolling along with their hunched over teacher in the middle. The caravan was short but wide and not in any hurry... falling down would really hurt on the asphalt tiles that make up the pavement.

All of the boys had those mini sneakers that either made sounds or blinked when their heels hit the ground. ALL of the girls had on sandals. Up they came toward me, a herd of turtles, either distracted by the dogs on the park side of the road or watching their feet so as not to trip.

I looked at the tree lined street. Tulips and azelia had replaced daffodils which had replaced the sad looking evergreen twigs put down around the base of each tree before Christmas. The branches on the trees are that 'new' green. Blossoming trees are decked in full regalia. Lilacs in the Mary garden between the church and rectory of Holy Family RC have shot up with their lilac and lavendar shaded harvest bending over - as if praying - creating a cathedral effect over the statue of Our Lady so prominently on display.

All of these plants are beautiful to me.... but because of asthma, allergies just take my breath away - literally, leaving me gasping for air and a body shaking hack of a repetative cough.

I think of so many wonderful things in life - neutral within themselves - can be wither wonderful or dangerous to the human in contact with them. Contact with dogs, monkeys, birds - our wonderful companions, providing vital service functions to disabled persons - can be deadly to some. Penicillin - a miracle drug - can cure or kill.

Belief in God - must be life giving, right? Yet if we become overly zealous in the man-made doctrines of a faith tradition/denomination the life that God's love affords can be squeezed right out of our hearts.

When I was 18, things were very clear cut to me. Yes or No, Bad or Good, Worth or Worthless. I believe in my middle years I have shifted into neutral.... not so much to coast as to give the Spirit room to influence my life, my actions and reactions. Those changes are very hard to make with the emergency brake engaged!

There is plenty of room for a spectrum, and many shades of nuance in the middle. Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cursillo- A short course to enrich our public and private lives as Leaders

Cursillo, a Spanish word meaning "a short course", is a movement within the Church intended to help Christians know God's love and grace and to help these same Christians discover and live out their personal vocations in the world. Please look through this website for information about Cursillo in the Episcopal Church and how God has been made known through Cursillo.

What is Cursillo?
Cursillo is a movement of the church. Its purpose is to help those in the church understand their individual callings to be Christian Leaders. The leadership may be exercised in work situations, in the family and social life, in leisure activities, and within the Church environment. Leadership, in Cursillo, does not mean power over others, but influence on others; all of us need to be aware that we can exert a positive influence on those around us.

What is the Goal of Cursillo?
The goal of Cursillo is the goal of the Church: to bring all to Christ. This is done when informed, trained leaders set out with the support of others having a similar commitment.

What does Cursillo do?
It helps to renew and deepen Christian commitment. Cursillo is one of many renewal movements. Many people have said Cursillo provides an important learning experience which causes many to feel like newly made Christians with a purpose and with support.

What is the Cursillo Movement About?
Cursillo is patterned on Jesus' own example. He searched out and called a small group of potential leaders (pre-Cursillo); He trained them by word and example and inspired them with a vision (Three-Day Weekend); He linked them together and sent them out into the world to bring the world to Him (Fourth Day).

Pre-Cursillo: During this period, sponsors (i.e. those individuals that have been to the three-day Cursillo weekend and are living the Fourth Day) identify those Episcopalians who are leading an active Christian life and are a living witness to their love for Christ, recommending their candidacy. It is also the period that selected candidates are informed of what to expect at the three-day weekend and assisted in appropriate preparations.

The Three-Day Weekend: The Three-day weekend brings together a diverse group of Episcopalians to share the richness of many modes of worship and to broaden each one's appreciation for our Church. Lay people conduct the weekend with two or three members of the clergy functioning as spiritual advisors. Cursillo presumes that those who attend are already well grounded in the faith. It is not intended to be a conversion experience but an enriching and deepening of what is already there. It often provides new insights into our faith as well as fostering ministry among lay people. The weekend begins Thursday evening spent in the Chapel with meditations, discussions, and Compline. Then blessed silence is kept until after the worship on Friday morning. After breakfast participants are assigned to table groups for the weekend. The three days are filled with talks and group discussions with emphasis on the doctrine of Grace, the Sacraments, and the great Cursillo tripod: Piety, Study, and Action. Plus there is fellowship, singing, good food, and time for privacy, meditation, prayer, and walks. Eucharist is celebrated each day.

Fourth Day: The Cursillo weekend is not an end to itself. It is a starting point that lasts the rest of your life. It is a springboard to a long-range practice of the Baptismal Covenant in the life of the Church called the Fourth Day. The Fourth Day is composed of three major elements:The Group Reunion the heart of Cursillo, is a small group of friends (usually 3-5) who meet weekly, and who hold each other accountable for their spiritual journey. They report on their piety, their study, and their apostolic action. A bonding develops that institutes a strong support group for life. The Ultreya which is usually held monthly, is a "reunion of the reunions". It provides support and builds community by allowing the sharing of communal experiences.Spiritual Direction is an important element of the Cursillo Movement. It is a commitment to seek out skilled lay persons or cleric for spiritual direction to provide help in deepening their union with Christ.

Are there Cursillo Secrets?
You may have been told by some who have attended the weekend that they cannot tell you what Cursillo is all about or what goes on during a Three-day weekend. This is not correct. Everything that goes on during the weekend may be told to anyone. Cursillo literature is available to anyone who wishes to read or purchase the materials.

More information?For information within your Diocese, call or write your Diocese. For further information about the Episcopal Cursillo movement in the United States, contact your NECC representative or the NEC Office.. . . But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. And His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ . . .Ephesians 4:7, 11-12

Misinformation about a Cursillo weekend/retreat takes on the proportion of mythology or a cult. Neither is true. The weekend I spent left me feeling revived and loved; the weekend when I was one of 3 spiritual directors I felt the power of God leading me to wisdom and insight.

Our most recent NY Cursillo will end tomorrow afternoon. I'll be going up to join with them in communion, song and celebration.... and playing chauffeur by driving 2 participants back to NYC.

Think about making a Cursillo.... if you need more information, you can always go to : You may find that a chapter is active in your or a neighboring diocese.
Jesus said the laborers are few-- by investing in a weekend Cursillo, many more laborers are raised up to stand tall in their jobs, their homes and their minitries.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Goodbye, GGs (Gilmore Girls)

I don't watch much TV..... being more frank, I only watch certain shows and watch TV more often when I'm under the weather and in a fog.

When I met C last March she kept referring to "The GGs". The BeeGees? No, the GGs.... the Gilmore Girls. You know, the series. No, I don't know about the GGs. I'm a Discovery, History, Food, Animal Planet and former ER kinda girl. Oh, you have to watch it, she gushed.... you'll love it.

The Gilmore Girls ran for 6 seasons.... one could say 5 1/2. The main characters? Richard and Emily Gilmore, very well heeled, well-off couple from Hartford, CT who had one child - one rebellious child - Loreli. At age 16 Loreli became pregnant by her high school sweetheart, Christopher. They did not get married, the Gilmores were mortified and Loreli ran away. She, as a single young mother, ran away and started a life of her own that had nothing whatsoever to do with the cookie-cutter life she perceived her parents would have put her through.

She had a daughter - whom she named Loreli (after all, men name boys after themselves!) - who took the nickname Rory. Mother and daughter were as much friends as anything else. Loreli started out as a maid at a bed and breakfast, (the Independence Inn of Stars Hollow, CT) and worked her way up to manager. Eventually Loreli went into business with her best friend, Suki, a chef. All the while, Rory grew up as a brainiac with Loreli's wicked, often sarcastic, witty sense of humor. Stars Hollow had its own cast of characters - real 'one of a kind's. Some were recurring characters, others temporary.

One thing had remained constant - from the onset of Loreli's pregnancy to Rory reaching age 15 - there was little or no contact with the Hartford Gilmores. Until Loreli had to borrow money to pay for Rory's tuition to a private school which would give her and edge to get into Harvard.

Richard and Emily would make the payments, but in return, Loreli and Rory would have to come to dinner in Hartford every Friday night, without fail. The friction was palpable during most of the dinners. Christopher, Rory's father would pop into the storyline from time to time - Loreli and Christopher even recently married, only to find out that it wouldn't work: Christopher had been inconsistant and Loreli was not in love. There were a few engagements - or at least proposals - even to Rory (who eventually went to and graduated from Yale). There was the affinity with Luke, owner of the town diner (which had formerly been his father's hardware store).

Last night was the series final episode. Rory had spontaneously gotten the job of online correspondent with full press credentials on the election trail with Barack Obama. The town was thrown for a loop because it was planning to throw a graduation re-enactment party the following week. At the last minute, Luke (in invisible shining armor over his flannel shirt and reversed baseball cap) saved the day and got the town organized to throw the party in about 24 hours - under a makeshift tent on the town square.

Loose ends were tied, Rory was happy finally becoming a journalist, there was a hint of a romantic reunion between the once engaged Loreli and Luke and .... especially touching..... was the moment when Loreli told her mother she would still show up for Friday night dinners.... even without an ounce of obligation held over her head. Laughter and tears, the stuff of which this life is made.

The writing, casting, direction, acting were first rate, even toward the end of the run. The scripts, dialogue, situations sounded like real life. For the most part, the series was real, often sounded chattery but real and the themes of abandonment, disappointment, forgiveness, individuality, reconciliation, aching for acceptance and validation came through week after week.

Peace and tranquility on the GGs were a rare commodity...... sort of sounds like life and church, doesn't it??

Goodbye, good folks of Stars Hollow and the DAR and Hartford. I will miss you and am sure others will too.

Got a comment? Just tack one at the end of this essay.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Helping to Feed animals currently in shelters

PLEASE NOTE: THIS Message IS COMPLETELY ON THE UP AND UP....... CHECKED IT OUT ON WWW.SNOPES.COM (the urban legend website). Do what you can, animal lovers!

Hi, all you animal lovers. This is pretty simple. Please tell ten friends to
tell ten today!
The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it
daily to meet their quota of getting free food donated every day to abused and
neglected animals.
It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on "feed an animal
in need" for free. This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate
sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate food to
abandoned/neglected animals in exchange for advertising.

Here's the web site! Pass it along to people you know.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Re-entry: Breathe on me, Breath of God!

I am back at work. After a couple of stretches of absence, I am back.

Although I had to postpone my initial date of departure, I am now putting the finishing touches on outstanding matters in order that transition to retirement will be as painless and smooth as possible.

Starting this evening I began to divest my desk of my own personal items - before I make any kind of announcement. The department I work in is still in the process of attempting to make me capitulate and take a disability benefit rather than a reduced benefit with a lump sum (with which I could pay off the balance of my mortgage. I will stand firm on this issue. It was sad enough that they have refused to go along with the near system-wide practice of buyouts for people over 55 with 25 years of service or more.... the mandatory retirement age is 60, but for certain people, exceptions are made.

I have never given my soul off for a favor or a monetary gimmick..... so the likelihood that the would either extend my contract or call me back as a retiree until I hit the ceiling (whereby getting both the retirement benefit and a maximum of $22,000/yr ) would plainly not happen.

So I have to visit the medical service so that they can see I was really sick, despite medical certificates from my doctors, an examination of their own, checking out what my health insurance premiums will be, the cost of my life insurance and a vague idea of what my monthly income will be. The northeast is notorious for getting less bang for the buck, then approach my current bank to find out what it would cost to finish payments as of a certain date. Whoa, nellie..... lots to do.

Then a break from the routine and in August starting up officially as getting the workings of the office side of the Geranium Farm organized and easy to manage. In fact, I will start that in about 10 days.

Re-entry into the work force, then a retreat, then re-entry again! Sounds like the ebb and flow of energy and life....... and my extended family, the Church, supports me in prayer. I pray that my heart and soul will flourish in a different environment..... it will, with God's help.

Emmy Lou is counting her toes waiting for the day..... nice to have her in my life as a strong companion.


I took more time than usual walking to my building today, looking at all the ready to pop tulips, the azaleas in the Hepburn garden, the children drawing with oversized chalk on the tiles of the passageway between the park benches facing each other. So many different variations to green were apparent to me today - the snappy green of a Granny smith apple in the new buds coming out on some of the limbs...... the tadpole shaped whirlygigs making helicopter patters as they blew off the tree from ahigh.

As a rule I don't slow down in the City..... I trudge at a metered pace without noticing very much. As each day counts down to the zero point I will be more diligent to take in the breezes (sans the pollen, of course). Ascension is nearly upon us... and then Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit to all the earth.

Give me eyes to see you, Lord - especially in these days of seasonal and life transition - and animate again this soul to new days, new challenges, new adventures, new joys. Breathe on me, Breath of God!

Hymn 508

Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God, until my heart is pure,
until with thee I will one will, to do or to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God, till I am wholly thine,
till all this earthly part of me glows with thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God, so shal I never die
but live with thee the perfect life of thine eternity.

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