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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, June 16, 2007

.....Lest we forget........

I have been sitting here at the computer, working on some correspondence. Emmy Lou is downstairs 3/4 asleep on the couch and the TV is on.

My concentration is pulled away from writing when one of those infamous info-mercials grabs my attention. I don't know if this one is by K-Tel or Time-Life recordings, but it is a series of "oldies" that you can buy. Early rock and roll, blues and a string of 'boy' and 'girl' groups, some a capella, others with that big Phil Spector 'wall of sound', Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and many other black singers and performers.

What caught my ear and jarred my nerves was hearing - faintly in the background - one of those performers who is still alive today..... and the script went something like "remember those wonderful, carefree days with its music you just had to dance to, sock hops and good clean fun? Remember those simple, memorable melodies and close-knit harmonies? Oh, I have many fond memories of those days".

The script she was prompted from could hardly have been written by this now middle-aged woman who still looked pretty 'hip'. Perhaps there were days when her journeys were wonderful and the whirlwind of fame for a 'colored girl' must have been pretty heady stuff.

Yet, lest we forget, those were NOT the 'good ole, carefree, simple times". The background themes of the times were addressed in a much more palatable manner in the initial film Hairspray (directed by John Waters) with Sonny Bono, Divine, Ricki Lake, Jerry Stiller, Debbie (Blondie) Harry, and famous vocalist Ruth Brown [who could have taught everyone the darker, hidden side of segregation which she had, during her own singing career been subjected to]. As you probably know that film made the transition to Broadway and is now being re-made.

I bring up this film becase the story line touches on some of the stigmas, integration, stereotypes, racism and discrimination of the day. Tracy Turnblad, a significantly obese young girl yearns to be on the local dance TV show out of Baltimore. She has learned some of her dance moves from her black friends. From there on in, you have to see what happens yourself.

Documentaries from that day show a far more sinister side: the white only seating, bathrooms, water fountains, diners. Testaments of entertainers who had to walk through the servants entrance to entertain white people. Unscrupulous record producers and companies who wrote contracts which denied appropriate compensation and royalty rights to black performers who were not counselled to read the fine print. individuals of many groups who had giantic "hits" in the 1950's have since died in poverty as a consequence of these dreadful practices.

Wonderful musicians, lyricists, performers went through a great deal behind the scenes before civil rights legislation was passed and enforced. Let's remember their work - and appreciate what they went through to bring it to us.

It is important for us to recall accurate history faithfully so that we may learn from it and it does not repeat itself under another name for another group of people.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Proper 6, Year C (RCL). Sometimes More is More;....

This essay is for the upcoming Sunday, June 17. Feel free to borrow all or some, with just an attribution.

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a and Psalm 5:1-8, Galatians 2:15-21, Luke 7:36-8:3

Sometimes More is More; Sometimes Less is More

Not that I HAVE to keep you on your toes during a homily, especially since everyone is sittting..... but I'd like to ask you a few questions and let's see what comes up.

We can use a show of hands for this interactive part. OK, here goes: Have you ever known people who, for some inexplicable reason, more out of the ordinary things happen to again and again?.... you know, more than the average, with a few very odd things thrown in the mix? Have the majority of people that you have known had only a smattering of 'unusual' things (that You know of, of course) happen to them?

Next question: in your lifetime, what kind of people have offered you the most acts of kindness and generousity of all kinds: those who have lots of money and contacts? Those who are on a medium to lower income range?

Next question: Of the people you consider comedians (famous or not) do the majority come from well-to-do, families? Do they come from families with problems or have had to overcome great obstacles?

Next questions: Of those people you know as actors (famous or not) have the majority come from well-to-do families? Have they come from disadvantaged or split families or have had to overcome great obstacles?

Last question (and this is a tough one): Of those people you know who have been ordained (famous or not), have the majority come from middle to middle upper class families? Have they come from low, abusive or disadvantaged families?

These are all subjective questions; I cannot quote to you statistics about who came from where and the percentages of each. It is telling, however, that the majority of people think that the people who have been more generous to you, stuck by you, are funnier, are better actors have had to deal with shortages.... and still made a place for you or gave you something.

It is also interesting that the perception is that the people who become ordained have come from more priviledge, who 'had' more.

Perception is an amazing thing. Clergy may not necessarily come from the upper crust, yet the pedastle principle is alive, despite a scandal or indescretion here or there.

Look at the first reading. Ahab had plenty... he was king. Because he was pouting that he couldn't strike a deal with a local landowner to make a nearby vineyard his own private veggie garden, Jezebel goes behind his back, sets up Naboth by making certain that two lying traitors would slander Naboth in front of the local leaders, ending in Naboth's being stoned to death. To add insult to injury, as soon as Ahab found out Naboth was dead, he headed straight away down to the vineyard to claim it. The prophet Elijah is sent by God to call him on it. When is enough enough? Is a vegetable garden worth the life of an honest man?

Psalm 5 emphasizes God's longing for his people to be honest and free of deceit and evil.

The letter to the Galatians gives us even more. If we have faith in Jesus Christ, we have and will -in deed - surpass the letter of the Law of Moses. If I live now, it is Christ, the Lord of Love who lives in me. Faith, the living Law, is my guide.

Lastly we come to the scene in a Pharisees home. Somehow a woman of sinful reputation comes in, (it makes not mention that anyone detains her at any point), kneels at the feet of Jesus, and, while crying in sorrow for her own shortcomings and sins, applies kisses, tears and ointment on his feet, and wipes his feet with her hair. She does not look up once. The Pharisee, a follower of a sect of Judaism which considered themselves set apart because of their strict adherence to purity - the purity of following all the laws set forth in the Torah - was inwardly beside himself with the numerous violations of the Law that this woman's action incurred. He inwardly questioned Jesus' reputation as a prophet.

Knowing this - Jesus put a question to him: Two people owed money to one man. Although the amounts were vastly different, which debtor will love (be grateful to) the man more. Simon the pharisee guessed it would be the one who had owed more.... and Jesus agreed.

He finally looked directly at the woman and said to Simon (I'm paraphrasing here)You've invited me to your impressive, beautiful home - but noone washed my feet: this woman who noone greeted - who is a stranger in your home, but known to you has knelt at my feet and bathed them with her tears of regret and expensive ointment and dried them with her own hair. You did not greet me with the customary kiss of peace, and she has showered my tired feet with her kisses. You did not bless me with the oil of blessing and she has covered my feet with comforting ointment. She has given from within and given from what little she has, showing humility and remorse for her shortcomings and repentance. I forgive her because she has shown exceeding love. You may be doing all the right things according to the Law, but your heart and gratitude is not behind your actions.

He then made a shocking statement: YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN. His host and the other guests were aghast and the question they may have actually asked might have been:"WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS??? He thinks he can even forgive sins? [The Law states only G_d can forgive sins!!!!!!!!!!] Jesus continued: Your faith has saved you [remember, this echoes the letter to the Galatians].

We don't know what happened at the rest of the dinner party. I imagine some of it was very uncomfortable, if it continued at all. Perhaps the next day Jesus was back on the road again - along with the twelve, proclaiming and bringing the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Among his entourage there were women: cured and forgiven women, Mary - a woman who had experienced an exorcism plus a few other women - women who had their own money at their own disposal - who provided food and other necessities.

Did you find yourself as any of the characters in this story? I can think of fitting into the sandals of several of these people. Yet I come away with one bottom line. Sometimes More is NOT more. Those who had much considered themselves following the letter of the law and denying the Spirit. Those with less gave from their shortage - and were given incomparable forgiveness and peace.

Think back to the lady on the block who had a worndown house, but always had a home made cookie for you...... about the comedian who made it through perseverence and providing for their ailing parents.... about actors to can play it up or down because they only had their imaginations and wits - no toys - to keep themselves company. They started with less, yet reaped much more.

Sewing Love where you go - - - turns out to reap quite a return on your investment! Sew on, my brothers and sisters! Sew on!

Copyright © 2007 K.L.Joanna Depue and DJ on

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Catholic question

When the topic of religious affiliation comes up, how often have you heard someone respond:"I'm a Catholic"?

Funny thing, but we Episcopalians are 'catholic', too. Each Sunday when we go read or recite the Nicene Creed we state that we believe "in one holy catholic and apostolic Church".

There was a time.... long before our own.... when the word 'catholic', while having one meaning, namely: universal, stood for two things. In Christian terms, the Roman Catholic church was everywhere Christianity was. In those days, before the split with the Orthodox churches, being catholic and being Roman Catholic were synonymous.

While those days are long gone, the language has remained the same. When I have asked someone "Catholic" about their church tradition or practice, I have heard the following responses: "I was raised Catholic; My family is Catholic; I went to Catholic school; I grew up Catholic; I'm a Catholic, but don't go to church; I'm a lapsed Catholic; I'm a Catholic in name only; I'm Catholic but don't believe in the Pope; I'm Catholic, but priests should marry; I'm Catholic but I use birth control; I'm a Catholic, but I don't believe half of what they tell you".

Of the five parishes which I have attended or served as deacon in, the percentage of Roman Catholics is fairly high. In fact, the number of "cradle Episcopalian" percentage is often small in comparison to those of other denominations who attend or have been officially received into the Episcopal Church.

Having been "raised" a Roman Catholic myself and been received into the Episcopal Church at age 20 - years before I entered and Episcopal religious community - I understand that it can be difficult, particularly in terms of family dynamics, to change religious affiliation. My grandmother, "Mare", was originally convinced that someone had talked me into 'leaving THE FAITH'. It took many years for her not to equate my reception into the Episcopal Church with a rejection of faith altogether. She initially was convinced that my chances of getting to heaven were pretty slim, as I was no longer "a Catholic".

So much has happened between the days of my ponderings and today. Most of it would not have happened if I had remained a Roman Catholic 'in name only', singing in different churches and synagogues to make some change on the side. When I decided to stop sitting on the fence between one tradition and another and go for one my life became more rich. I tapped into a new community, made many friends, was challenged time and again about what I believed and what God had to do with it all.

At this point I'd like to put in a little ad for those among us who remain Roman Catholic yet attend the Episcopal Church. That "plug" is for you to look into an inquirers class. Perhaps your parish, one in your diocese or the diocese itself may sponsor such a class where you have the freedom to ask questions that you may not ask in a a mixed group. Example: What is the difference between the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church? Why don't we have a Pope? Do you have confession? Do you believe in Saints? What is the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Episcopal Church"? These are ALL good questions - not one of them is 'dumb'. There are similarities and there are differences. Perhaps after you have some of your questions answered, read a book or two and think deep inside yourself you may, as I did, choose to be received into the Episcopal Church.

Whether you do or do not, we do want you to keep coming back to get the things your heart and your soul need. There is something particular about corporate worship... even when two or three are gathered... that no amount of individual prayer can equate with.

In the end, of course, God is so much bigger than our divisions or practices or self-imposed laws. God smiles on Catholic (of whatever shade) and Jew alike. Our salvation is not dependent on our goodness, but that of God alone.

To all Catholics, everywhere on the planet, Shalom! May the Peace of Christ be with you!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Coming back from ole' Jordan

I made it upstate later than I had hoped, but not as late as expected. After a tasty dinner, Pastor Kate Day and I drove to pick up her son who is acting in a production of a children's play at the local college..... and they we went for ice cream....mmmmmmmm!

The next day dawned early (every day dawns too early for me, but Nature is a more powerful force than I will EVER be). We left with enough time to spare... and I had to borrow vestments, but it worked out fine in the end. The wonderful people of Christ Episcopal Church in Jordan welcomed me warmly.

During preaching I used - with additions and subtractions - the outline of "He Touched Me" posted last week. Having a background in prayer and massage it seemed the natural thing to do. For a small Church of this size, innviting the parishioners to be evangelists without speaking, of giving a gentle touch or meaningful hello to whomever they came in contact with that week made perfect sense to them. During the peace everyone made a point of shaking my hand and looking me in the eye with love. THANK GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT IS ALIVE AND WELL AND INSPIRES US STILL!!!! That's just about what I was saying. God was in this place and it is holy ground indeed.

I am hoping that her Bishop assigns Pastor Kate a deacon in training to help the congregation do what they do best - evangelize and live out their faith.

The Q and A about deacons followed during the coffee hour and with Pastor Kate's help, I believe some misunderstandings were laid to rest. We were home by noon. My stomach had been a bit off for most of the morning, do I declined some noodles for lunch. After de-briefing, Peter and Kate were off to a recital and I settled down for a mid-day nap which, after a phone call or two, ended up to be a mid afternoon nap.

I left at about 8 and kept strickly to the speed limit... taking into consideration my prior infraction near Damascus and the number of dear which grazed precariously close to the 2 lane highway.

A look at my care in the daylight testified that it made the journey to Jordan and back. The front end is thick with the remains of the less than fortunate bugs that were on a collision course with the hood of my car.... and lost. Luckily, the local carwash has a Tuesday special..... so that's where we'll be headed, first thing.

I have brought home a program and fond memories of my maiden voyage.... and the wonderful news that I will be back there (tentatively) the first weekend in November for a retreat: Friday eve, all day Saturday and preaching on Sunday about prayer: its many forms and ways we can incorporate it in our daily lives.

Picking up Em tomorrow..... it gives her one more day at the 'spa' and one more evening that I can take up as much room on the bed as I want!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Out on a Limb

It's not that I haven't preached sermons in different churches, because I have.

It's not that I have had to teach a class before, because I have.

This is, however, the first time 'Deacon J' is the deacon of the Geranium Farm and out there presenting something without the comfortable/comforting safety net that is my friend and 'boss', Barbara Crafton.

It was different getting into the car today.... I only had to pack for myself, remember my own vestments, not packed a sack of protein snacks and caffeine free Diet Coke. I even chose slightly different 'on the road' music. I arrived only a little later than expected and much less late than I would, having to stop for gas along the way. I passed Damascus and hearkened back to the trip to Horseheads, NY and the snow storm and the ticket the officer issued me for an ill functioning speedometer (oh, that was working just fine, thanks, but so was my lead foot.... but there we sat, Barbara and I both in our collars, so he issued a ticket for something significantly less taxing, no points attached and about $45). And so it goes.

Tomorrow it will be preaching and teaching about the diaconate.... an order about which many, many people confinue to be confused. As the Rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Jordan, NY (near Syracuse) she is hoping to be assigned a deacon and this is a good way to break some ground and more than a few misconceptions..... I trust the Holy Spirit will make sure the right things will be heard by those who need to hear them.

Then it's back home again. Miss Emmy Lou is at her FAVORITE spa, the home of my friends Julie and Doug (and HER doggie friends Sophie and Ozark). I will be far too exhausted to get her tomorrow, so Monday will be the big pick up day. I know she'll be thrilled to see me, but just as sad to have her extended playdate cut short.

So, here goes one for the team. The virtual deacon appears in the midst of the congregation! Thanks be to God!

p.s. if you're in the Syracuse area, please DO stop by this lovely church and join the congregation for a celebration of the Eurcharist! Service is @ 10 am.

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