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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, September 27, 2008

Announcement and Invitation from the Presiding Bishop

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori prayerfully invites you to attend A Two-Day Solemn Observance: October 3 - 4, 2008.

Where the Episcopal Church, in accordance with General Convention Resolution A123, will publicly apologize for its involvement in the institution of Transatlantic Slavery.

An historic and contemporary exploration of slavery and its effects on the church and society and Diocesan responses to Resolution A123 will culminate with A Service of Repentance

The Service of Repentance will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 4, 2008 at The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Lancaster Avenue and Overbrook Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori will be Celebrant and Preacher.

The two day event will also feature the following:

Historic Presentations and Displays: 1:00-5:00 PM, Friday, October 3, 2008;
Opening Reflections with the Master of Ceremonies, The Very Rev. Lloyd Casson,
Acting Dean, Philadelphia Cathedral;
Revisiting the Past with The Rev Dr. Harold Lewis, Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh, PA and author of Yet With a Steady Beat;
Taking Action in the Present: Diocesan Initiatives Across the Church
- Moderators: The Rt. Rev. Chip Marble, Assisting Bishop, Diocese of North Carolina/Retired Bishop of Mississippi and Dr. Anita George, Chairperson of The Anti-Racism Committee of Executive Council;
Charting a Course for the Future with The Honorable Byron Rushing,
Member of the Massachusetts State Legislature/Former Director of the African American Historical Museum in Boston, Massachusetts

*Other presenters have been invited
Reception immediately following from 5:00 - 7:00PM

We would be pleased and blessed if you would join us for this landmark event. Please plan to arrive on Friday, October 3, in order to fully experience this rich program.

In addition to the presentations, there will be archival displays courtesy of St. Thomas' historian Arthur Sudler; the Director of the Episcopal Church Archives, Mark Duffy; and the African American Historical Project at Virginia Theological Seminary.

Come help us examine the past and the present as we proceed with hope and love into the future.

Friday, September 26, 2008

When One Life Touches Another, Both Can Grow

The following story was originally sent to Debbie of Hodgepodge fame by Geranium Farmer Alice Fish. Thanks Alice!

When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our
neighborhood. I remember the polished, old case fastened to the wall.
The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the
telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother talked to it.

Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an
amazing person. Her name was 'Information Please' and there was nothing
she did not know. Information Please could supply anyone's number and
the correct time.

My personal experience with the genie-in-a-bottle came one day while my
mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the
basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer, the pain was terrible, but
there seemed no point in crying because there was no one home to give

I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving
at the stairway. The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the
parlor and dragged it to the landing Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver
in the parlor and held it to my ear.
'Information, please' I said into the mouthpiece just above my head.
A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear.


'I hurt my finger...' I wailed into the phone, the tears came readily
enough now that I had an audience.

'Isn't your mother home?' came the question.

'Nobody's home but me,' I blubbered.

'Are you bleeding?' the voice asked.

'No,' I replied. 'I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.'

'Can you open the icebox?' she asked.

I said I could.

'Then chip off a little bit of ice and hold it to your finger,' said the voice.

After that, I called 'Information Please' for everything. I asked her
for help with my geography, and she told me where Philadelphia was. She
helped me with my math. She told me my pet chipmunk tha t I had caught in
the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts.

Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary, died. I called,
'Information Please', and told her the sad story. She listened, and then
said things grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was not consoled. I
asked her, 'Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring
joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom
of a cage?'

She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, 'Wayne
always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.'

Somehow I felt better.

Another day I was on the telephone, 'Information Please.'

'Information,' said in the now familiar voice.

'How do I spell fix?' I asked.

All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest . When I was
nine years old, we moved across the country to Boston . I missed my
friend very much. 'Information Please' belonged in that old w ooden box
back home and I somehow never thought of trying the shiny new phone that
sat on the table in the hall. As I grew into my teens, the memories of
those childhood conversations never really left me.

Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene
sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient,
understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in
Seattle I had about a half-hour or so between planes. I spent 15
minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then
without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown Operator and
said, 'Information Please.'

Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well.

I hadn't planned this, but I heard myself saying, 'Could you please tell
me how to spell fix?'

There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken an swer, 'I guess your
finger must have healed by now.'

I laughed, 'So it's really you,' I said. 'I wonder if you have any idea
how much you meant to me during that time?'

I wonder,' she said, 'if you know how much your call meant to me. I
never had any children and I used to look forward to your calls.'

I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if
I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.

'Please do', she said. 'Just ask for Sally.'

Three months later I was back in Seattle A different voice answered
'Information.' I asked for Sally.

'Are you a friend?' she said.

'Yes, a very old friend,' I answered.

'I'm sorry to have to tell you this,' she said.
'Sally had been working part-time the last few years because she was sick.
She died five weeks ago.'

Before I could hang up she said, 'Wait a minute, is your name Wayne?'

'Yes.' I answered.

'Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called.

Let me read it to you.'
The note said, 'Tell him there are other worlds to sing in.
He'll know what I mean.'

I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

From a Hebrew Perspective

Barbara forwarded this article to me some time ago and I'd like to share it with the rest of our growing Geranium Farm community.

Genesis and the origin of the Origin of the species

The argument that God exists based on design figures nowhere in the Hebrew Bible.
There are some even in this sceptical age who still believe that God is an old man with a long beard. His name is Charles Darwin, patron saint of scientific atheists.

Next year will be a double anniversary for followers of Darwin: the 200th anniversary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species. We will no doubt hear it asserted that Darwin dealt a death blow to religious belief.

That, it should be said, is quite untrue. What it dealt a death blow to was one very poor argument for the existence of God, namely the argument from design. This argument figures nowhere in the Hebrew Bible. It does not even belong to its world of thought. It belongs instead to the tradition of Ancient Greece and to the idea that the most important truths are those that can be proved.

In fact none of the most important truths can be proved: that right is sovereign over might, that it is better to be loved than feared, that every human being however poor or powerless is worthy of respect, that peace is nobler than war, forgiveness greater than revenge, and hope a higher virtue than resignation to blind fate. Lives have been lived and civilisations built in defiance of these truths, yet they remain true.

What might a religious believer say to Darwin’s heirs? The following thoughts are purely hypothetical, but he or she might say, first, that Darwin helped us to understand the “how” of God’s “Let there be”. The Creator created not just life but life that is in itself creative.

That may be the meaning of the otherwise untranslatable phrase in Genesis ii, 3, that on the seventh day God rested “from all His work that God had created la’asot”, which means literally “to do, act, make”. Jewish commentators understood this to mean that God implanted creativity into nature. God creates something from nothing. Nature creates something from something. Darwin brought new depth to this idea.

The believer might continue that Darwin helped us to understand one of the key ideas of the Bible: the kinship between humans and animals. The first humans were forbidden to kill animals for food. The covenant with Noah after the flood was made also, as Genesis ix states five times, “with every living creature”. The Bible forbids cruelty to animals. This is the polar opposite of the view of Descartes, that animals lack souls and therefore can be used as we will.

The believer might go on to say, as does Matt Ridley in his book Genome, that we now know, having deciphered the genetic code, that all life in its seemingly endless variety has a single source. In his words: “There was only one creation, one single event when life was born.” The miracle of monotheism is that unity up there creates diversity down here.

The believer might wonder, as does Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, in his Just Six Numbers, at the extraordinary precision of the six mathematical constants that determine the shape of the Universe, such that if even one were fractionally different neither we nor the Universe would exist.

The believer might mention other mysteries, such as how did life evolve from non-life? How did sentience emerge? How was the uniquely human capacity for self-consciousness born? How did life evolve at such speed that even Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, was forced to suggest that it came from Mars? And the ultimate ontological question: why is there something rather than nothing?

We might refer to the arguments that persuaded the philosopher Antony Flew, late in life, to abandon his atheism. She might cite the curious paradox, noted by Richard Dawkins, that selfish genes get together and produce selfless people. We might wonder at the fact that Homo sapiens is the only known life form in the Universe capable of asking “Why?” And we might add, in the spirit of Godel’s Theorem, that there are truths within the system that cannot be proved within the system.

We would then say: None of these is a proof. Each, rather, is a source of wonder. The Psalm does not say, “The heavens prove the existence of God”. It says, “The heavens declare the glory of God”. Darwin helped us to understand how the many emerged from one. The more we know about the intricacy and improbability of life, the more reason we have to wonder and give thanks.

[Sir Jonathan Sacks is Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth]

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Earth Friendly Psalm 23

Farmer Marguerite Casparian was kind enough to forward a copy of a poem by her friend, George Ella Lyon. Even as autumn has begun to descend upon us in the Northeast of the United States, these lush, verdant lines are welcome, refreshing and full of life and comfort for all. Thank you, George Ella and Marguerite for your offering us all this gift!


The Earth is my Mother.
I shall not want.
She invites me to lie down
in green pastures.
She offers me the calm
of still waters.
She restores my soul.
She leads me in the paths
of right relationship
for our home’s sake.

Yea, though I walk
in the circle of life and death
I shall fear no evil
for I belong here.
Goldenrod and walking staff
they comfort me.
She prepares a garden before me
in the presence of my emptiness.
My cup is full.
Surely wholeness and mystery
shall follow me
all the days of my life
and I shall dwell
in Earth’s sweet fields

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