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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.
Send emails to: or add a comment on an existing post.

Friday, April 08, 2005


If the Geranium Farm had a motto, I think it would be: For God's sake, Plant a Seed! Whether the Farmer involved be Barbara, Debbie or myself, we are all about the same thing- planting a seed in your life: a seed of comfort, a seed of inspiration, a seed of practicality, a seed of hope, a seed of humor. The most amazing thing that has happened, particularly recently, is that the seeds that were sown are beginning to reap a harvest! I thought it would be a good thing to share the harvest: two 'off-site' farmers are offering their seeds now. And the Farm is very happy to provide the fertile ground to let those seeds get what they need - growing, flourishing, and potentially inspiring production of your own.

Please take a read of these two offerings: thoughts on the Gospel for Apr.4 from Thom Shuman of Cincinnati, OH and Emmaus, a poem by Kyle Wisely, of Portland, OR.

May God's grace send a warm radiance and a gentle shower that these gifts produce a bountiful harvest in the hearts of your faithful people.
Amen and Amen!


This is the day we have all been waiting for!

No, not the first day of spring, silly - Opening Day! The first day of the brand new baseball season. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the birds are singing, and the Reds are playing baseball!!!

And here in Cincinnati, it is the same as a national holiday. Call just about any office, any person and the message is the same - "sorry, I am working out of
the office today; I won't be in the office today; my apologies, I am not at my desk today." Right. The critical work that everyone is "out of the office" for today is baseball. If you don't have tickets to the game, you are at home sitting on your deck, in your favorite chair, listening on the radio.

A local sports writer says that baseball players are luckier than the rest of us who work. Every year, they have a day when the slate is wiped clean, when the past is forgotten, when the future lies open before them, when they can write new statistics, new chapets, a new life. It is called "Opening Day".

Oh, don't we all wish we had an annual Opening Day at our jobs, in our marriages, in our journeys, in our lives!

As believers, we do.

Because of what God, in Christ did on that great Opening Day of all opening days, we have that chance to have the pages torn out of the book of life and new, blank pages put in. Because of that first Easter, when Jesus strode forth from the darkness of death into the new creation, we can walk out of the shadows of our sin into the future God holds out to us. Because of that first day of the week, when the stone was rolled away, and the doors to the Kingdom were thrown open, our past is behind us, our life is before us, our journey begins anew!

And now, every morning is Easter; every waking is a fresh start; every day is Opening Day!

Play Ball!!!

- - - -
(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Thom M. Shuman
Greenhills Community Church, Presbyterian
Cincinnati, Ohio

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


I've journeyed down this road
As long as I can remember,
And always, they tell me,
The village of Emmaus
Is just ahead
"Just a few more leagues,
A few steps more --
You should arrive ere sundown
If you do not tarry."

But I have trod this road so long
That the destination is indistinct.
What really lies at the end of this journey?
Is this village a worthy destination,
As I have been led to believe --
Or is its unknown nature
Something to be feared and dreaded?

I know of none who have returned from there
Except for One,
And he has shown himself all too infrequently,
And ever in a manner so unclear
As to arouse considerable doubt
(The mind can play tricks, you know).

And so we walk this day -
I and a friend who recently joined this path -
A third one joins us:
Suddenly, unexpected and unobtrusive.
We chatter on of things that matter to us:
The events and people that we find important
In our lives,
And it seems as news to him,
He listens kindly and intently.

"Who are you, anyway?"
As I walk I hear me ask myself,
And spend great time and effort
Pursuing the answer.
But there are always other voices that distract,
Clamoring with their news,
Their needs,
Their wants,
Their pain.
And there are always many
Eager to provide the answers,
Describing you in great detail
And teaching why and how
I should proceed.
But their answers are never mine.

And so we walked,
Coming at last to a resting place;
And you lingered with us -
Were present in our sharing.
And as you broke the bread -
Which was my heart -
I caught a glimpse
Of who you are.

And what has this pain of recognition taught me?
That the journey is more important
Than the destination;
That the pathway more instructive
Than the inn;
And that the pain,
For reasons known only to the One
Who fashioned us,
Is the only doorway
To that Eternal Place
Which is not at the end of the path,
But is the very path itself -
If we but see.

White Salmon, Washington
18 September, 1994

copyright 1994, Kyle T. WIseley

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"When morning gilds the skies......."

I was up at 5:35 am. Let me refine that. I GOT up at 5:35am. No earthquakes were felt on the east cost, yet it happened (mind you, I went to bed at 9:30 the previous night, which is also earth shaking).....

And my breath was taken away by the beauty of the sky, the colors, the sounds. Emmy Lou dutifully chased each squirrel to an actual inch of its life and tried to hop up the trees, to no avail.

Todays thought might be considered "less" church, because I'm gonna put a plug into three books it's good for each of us to have (all the better if you already have them)... and even better for all of us to USE.

One is a Bible... one you are willing to use... (which may or may not be a version utilizing antiquated language);
Next: Book of Common Prayer.... version optional;
Finally: A Hymnal or Hymn Book (what's the difference? the "hymnbook" doesn't have the service music in it: settings for specific prayers, sections of Morning & Evening Prayer, canticles, sung sections of the Eucharist, dismissals, etc).

Why? Because the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer are there for your public AND private worhsip and enrichment. They are considerably more than just reference books.

It is easy to imagine someone mounting a late 30's style publicity build up for the Bible:
[Try to imagine a way-too-earnest announcer giving you the compelling reasons]
Romance!! War!! Deceipt!! Natural Disasters!! Miracles!! Redemption!! See the remarkable story unfold before your very eyes!! The odd thing is, the hype is really true.

The Book of Common Prayer. Depending on the version, there may (or may not) have abridged or complete Bible passages for every Sunday of the year, the entire book of Psalms, prayers to fit many occasions and situations. Many people (clergy, monastics and laity alike) incorporate a service or two into their daily prayer regime, as a part of their Rule of Life.

The Hymnal. To me, this is an amazing volume - tunes you may or may not know - and some remarkable poetry. Try the words - with or without the music... as a meditation.

Once you have the basics the Episcopal Church offers, you might want to check out the books used for worship by different segments of the Anglican Communion. I often delve into the Australian or New Zealand BCP. How about the book of woship for the ELCA (Lutheran) or other denominations?

If your personal prayer life feels a bit dry, use one or more of the above to quench your thirst. Then invite the Spirit in to assist you in writing prayers of your own (for private or public use). If there is a Deacon serving in your parish, approach her/him with a view to drafting a new parish form of "Prayers of the People", using the guidelines in the BCP.

So much is possible... with God's help. (OK kids, be the first to name the hymn above and get your name mentioned in the next installation of MOLC!)

See below a beautiful message received today here @ "More or Less" from fellow farmer, Molly Clark:

by Molly Campbell Clark
April 27, 2004

I was in one of my “valley times,” a common occurrence in my peak and valley journey of spirituality. As a hospital chaplain, I daily speak to others of hope in life beyond this one, and most of the time I truly believe what I say. But when in the valley it is sometimes hard for me to really believe. I keep my doubts to myself and put on a brave face, and continue to speak words of comfort to those to whom I minister, reminding myself that faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.[1]
There was one place, however, where I didn’t have to keep on my brave face. Early on Tuesday mornings I attend a Bible study group, and one morning we were talking about being assured of life after death. I shared with my friends how I wanted to believe, yet I was so often plagued by doubts. Susan shared an experience when she felt that she was touched by God’s presence in such a way that she feels that she will never doubt again. How I wished that would happen to me! I’d experienced times of closeness with God in the past, but it was so long ago. I wondered if I’d feel that closeness ever again.
As we were leaving the group that morning one of the group members returned a hymnal that she had borrowed. When I got to work, I began leafing through it and found a hymn that was just right to sing to one of my patients. It was a beautiful new psalm, which opened me up to the beauty and mystery of God. Then I turned the page and noticed another hymn that yet another member of my early morning sisterhood had pointed out to me. And there it was, both the personal touch from God that I longed for and the assurance of God’s presence throughout this life and beyond.
The hymn is entitled, “I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry,” both the words and the haunting hymn tune were written by John C. Ylvisaker in 1985.These are the words that God spoke to me that wonderful morning:
I was there to hear your borning cry
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized to see our life unfold.
I was there when you were but a child with a faith to suit you well;
in a blaze of light you wandered off to find where demons dwell.

When you heard the wonder of the Word,
I was there to cheer you on.
You were raised to praise the living Lord to whom you now belong.
If you find someone to share your time and join your hearts as one,
I’ll be there to make your verses rhyme from dusk till rising sun.

In the middle ages of your life, not too old, no longer young,
I’ll be there to guide you through the night, complete what I’ve begun.
When the evening gently closes in and you shut your weary eyes,
I’ll be there as I have always been with just one more surprise.

I was there to hear your borning cry
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized to see your life unfold.[2]

I saw in this hymn every stage of my life thus far. God spoke to me of a holy presence past, present, future, hill and valley, in this life and beyond. I may have doubts again, but now I have a song in my heart to ease me up from the valley of the shadow of death and I can fear no evil.3]

[1] Hebrews 11:1
[2] SING THE FAITH, Pew Edition, Louisville, KY: Geneva Press, 2003. “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry,” by John C. Ylvisaker. Hymn # 2051.
[3] Psalm 23::4 King James Version

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Actions and Reactions: The Death of the Bishop of Rome

Many people have had a gut reaction to the life and death of Pope John Paul II...

Here is a piece by a fellow farmer, Douglas Blanchard:

On the Death of Pope John Paul II
The Good Pope
-his decisive support of the Solidarity movement in Poland helping to spark the revolutions that eventually ended the Soviet Empire and European communism. (He deserves much more credit for that than Reagan ever did. He showed much more imagination and courage).
-his very articulate and forceful criticism of market capitalism for its nihilism and exploitation pointing out that there is no salvation through economics.
-his ecumenism; his respectful outreach to other Christians, to Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists; and especially his efforts at reconciliation with the Jewish people.
-his opposition to the death penalty world wide.
-his opposition to the invasion of Iraq by the USA.
-his incorporation of non-Westerners into the life and leadership of the church.
-his great courage and determination in the face of physical pain and weakness.
-his willingness to forgive his would-be assassin.
-his travels and his great efforts to be as accessible to the public as possible.
-his insistence upon a right to life with decency and dignity for everyone.

The Bad Pope
-his authoritarianism, centralizing church authority in the papacy; encouraging secrecy in the Vatican; tolerating a culture of privilege and unaccountability in the hierarchy; and shutting out the laity in any decision making that affects them.
- punishing dissident intellectuals in the church; and preemptively ending discussions of difficult and divisive matters.
-his opposition to women¹s emancipation.
-his opposition to the emancipation of gays and lesbians.
-his resistance to changes in sexual mores; and taking too abstract and rigid a position on matters of human reproduction.-his underestimation of the magnitude of clergy child-molestation scandals and of their impact on broad opinion in the laity.
-his suppression of liberation theology movements in Latin America.
-infantilizing both clergy and laity by concentrating so much decision making in the papacy and by requiring a hierarchical absolute obedience.

-- Douglas Blanchard
New York City
and something I wrote for St. Bartholomew's blog last Friday:
The Courage to be Vulnerable

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!!After the drought and subdued nature of Lent, the introspection and participation of Holy Week here we are in Eastertide (yes, it DOES last more than one Sunday), it's joy, thanksgiving, celebration and relief.... well, the clergy en masse are recovering from a long - usually lonely - week. It's over and it isn't.

I sit here, this Friday night, writing these words after listening to NPR and the decline in the health of Pope John Paul II. HE valliantly made it through Lent, Holy Week and Easter. And he too is about to take his rest.

Having been a Roman Catholic until age 21 I look back on this man with a mixture of awe and disbelief. It was the first time that the world has ever had unprecedented access - through the press and through his globe traversing travels - to the man holding an office in a city unto itself. He had a colorful, passionate past which most of us discovered only after the commencement of his papacy.... for Pete's sake, the man loved to ski!

Now, I cannot say that I agreed with some of his decisions or writings or the directions in which he decided to point the Church under his authority. I can say that it was obvious that - with his entire being - he loved God and did everything he could to follow the Jesus he knew.

During the last twelve months, I have developed an admiration for this man, this world figure. He has been courageous enough to show his frailty, his vulnerablility even when it must have been uncomfortable for him; even when it has been painful for us. The photographers of today did not adhere to a Franklin D. Roosevelt rule of withholding unflattering pictures or candid photographs. No. We have seen the Pope's aging, illnesses and frailties in the unflinching light of day and flash photography. Perhaps it has been a videography of surrender. There were no videographers at Calvary... and we strain to imagine the amount of courage and determination it took for Jesus to be THAT vulnerable.

We have, however, seen the faith it has taken another man, walking in the footsteps of St.Peter the apostle, to embody the courage to be vulnerable to the end of his earthly journey. And we are all: Christian, Jew, Muslim, Confusian, agnostic, Taoist, women or men, old or young, disabled or fit...... we are all better for it. For this, we thank you, John Paul II and wish you a pea
ceful transition to your next destination.

Eye to Eye, Nose to Nose

"More or Less Church w/Deacon J" has been 'live' for 3 days now and it seems like my world has changed... it's getting expedentially larger by the day, in fact. I'll try to keep up with it and keep everyone talking (and me typing, thinking and writing). Just as Barbara is a "morning person", attested to by the hours on her postings for her e-Mos and salutations to prayer (Let us bless the Lord, Alleluia, Alleluia...) I will probably become known for my night visitations... NOT that I don't have a day job.... because I do... but because it takes me a while to get going in the morning and quite a while to slow down at night.

That being said, let me go ahead and share some of what has been coming in by four respondents thusfar:

Dear Deacon,

Could you email me a liturgy for a pet who has died and was very dearly loved? or some worthy references. ? Andrea


Dear Deacon Joanna,

I was delighted to find this new addition to the Geranium bouquet! I do
need a liturgy for a beloved cat. Pyewacket, our Maine Coon, died when our
Catskills were in winter freeze mode. We had Pye cremated. Now we are in
mud mode but nearly thawed out. If you could e-mail me a liturgy for Pye, I
would be most thankful!

Deacon Linda

DJ, I really would like some comforting words to say to friends who
have lost pets. I am a big animal person and most of my friends are
too. We would also like some cards to send if your church might happen
to put out some of these. Just let me know. I really enjoy the musings
I receive every day. Rhonda

For these three good 'farmers', let me say that in response to your voiced need, I will write three pieces - which I hope to post within about a week's time - 1) prayers for the departed companion and some will be for the surviving human companion/owner/friend. 2) Prayers for an animal who has been injured in an accident, the other for a pet suffering from 'natural causes. 3) The third will be in the form two slightly different memorial liturgies for pets: one geared more for participation by kids, the other geared for participation by an adult.

Then, depending on feedback, it might be useful to have prayers for planned changes to add a pet to the family: for a family about to adopt a pet, or for celebrating the actual adoption of a pet.

I have had to bury two cats.... one who walked home with my friend Charlotte and another who I rehabilitated after she had been mauled by a dog. It was difficult both times... the second one with Mandy was harder, because it took quite a while for her to bounce back from her first major trauma. "Kit" lies beneath the pine tree in my back yard. Mandy was cremated and her ashes reside in my home office, next to a box holding my rosary beads from the convent. I have no doubt she will eventually tell me - but only when she is good and ready to - where she would like to settle eventually.

I am currently possessed of a dog, Miss Emily Louise, Emmy-Lou for usual, 'though I admit to cringing when I get a notice from of my vet addressed to Emmy-Lou Depue makes her sound like a Louisianna dog, which she is not (she hails from Georgia, thank you very much).

On another site I posted a St.Francis meditation about looking into my dog's eyes and seeing a divinity I wasn't sure I had experienced elsewhere... maybe the way a parent feels the first time their newborn seems to look them straight and unflinchingly in their eyes-- focused, intense, full of wonder. With that recollection in mind, it doesn't surprise me in the least that there would be interest in having prayers and liturgies for celebrating these amazing furry (or sometimes fur-less) members of God's creation.

Back to the business at hand: If you are interested in checking out prayers and liturgies for animals, the book I found helpful last year was "We Thank You, God, for These" written by Chiffolo and Hesse, published by Paulist Press.

In addition, another farmer, Ginger Buck sent the following Monday morning. What had been an attachment is now shown below the message.

I got an email saying the Geranium Farm is seeking contributions for the new "More or Less Church" part of the site. Last week, my beloved black lab died, and after searching in vain all over the internet for any kind of liturgy for a buriel service for him, I wrote one myself (which was actually a very healing activity). I have attached it as a word document, and you can adapt it to use on your site if you would like. The only things that would have to be changed for others to use it would be the name of the dog and one paragraph that recites particular memories and characteristics of the dog in question.

Ginger Buck


Almighty God, you created animals as the first companion for man, and you endowed dogs, in particular, with the capacity to love and be loved, and to show unwavering loyalty, faithfulness and trust toward us.

Officiant and People
Let their unconditional love be a model to us of your own love, and let their loyalty, faithfulness and trust be a model to us of how we may show our perfect devotion to you.

Lord, you care for all your creation and take note of every sparrow that falls. We know that if we, possessing far less capacity to love than you, hold so great a love for our pets, then you must love them exceedingly more.

Officiant and People
Increase in us our love for your creation, and show us how to care for all your animals in accordance with your great love for them.

We thank you for the gift of Mikey, and the joy and pleasure he brought Ginger during his time with her. We thank you for his silly antics that made her laugh, the way he rushed to her side when he heard her crying, the safety he provided when strangers approached, and the rawhide he proudly brought her as gifts.

Officiant and People
Let the glad and pleasant memories of that time together provide comfort and solace in this time of grief.

Lord God, sooth the hurt of separation and fill the void of this loss with your own presence, until such time as we will be reunited with all those whom we have loved who have gone before us.

Into your hands, O Lord, we commend Mikey, returning to you the gift which you gave to us. Receive him into the land of forests and streams, squeaky toys and endless belly rubs and the penetrating power of your presence and love.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in
believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thank you, Ginger, for sharing your thoughtfullness with us... and to you other farmers for your questions. I'll be sending some of my work onto the site as soon as I've finished it. Go in Peace... with your four legged friends by your side or in your heart.... to love and serve the Lord... Alleluia, Alleluia!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

What are ya gonna do? Ya gotta love 'em.

Years ago, before this nudge from God to ordained ministry began, I was a parishoner in a church in Flushing, NY. Very big Asian community near the center of town; on the far side of Flushing, big Jewish community.

Among the parishoners there.... were a couple: Alma and Kelsey. Both elderly, they were unlike anyone else there, falling into the category my Grandmother would call "characters".It was a conservative parish. Small. An anomaly in the neighborhood which now surrounded it. Alma and Kelsey were faithful people. Kelsey always was in his best to come to church, tie, jacket... usually a suit. Time had obviously shrunken him just a tad... so the suits moved on him a bit. He wore rimless THICK glasses - what we would call Coke bottles - looking a bit green on the sides. It always made him look wide-eyed and surprised... and that's just about the way he wore his soul... fresh and wide-eyed and smiling. AND REPUBLICAN!Alma, in contrast, could have passed for a later-career Selma Diamond. An avid smoker most of her life, her features were a bit craggy and a bit grey.... and her voice.... I'm certain she could have done the voice for a cartoon character resembling a cement mixer.

They loved each other immeasurably, there was not doubt about it. They would pass winks, back and forth, nudge each other not to eat sweets at coffee hour (and would the moment the other turned a back) and Kelsey, perhaps the more frail of the two, would always help Alma up from the communion rail at which they would both kneel, side by side.

One Sunday Alma was not there. Kelsey's eyes were red-rimmed. The priest told me there had been an accident... Alma was in the hospital... being a Lay Eucharistic minister, I was allowed to visit her if I got the chance. Kelsey just couldn't talk about it... and looked very lost.

Two days later, I finally got to the hospital. There was Alma.. laying in bed wrapped here and there, in traction and as no-nonsense as ever. "Some hellavuh set up, right" she snapped out of one side of her mouth, the Bronx pouring out of her speech. Yes, I acknowledged, it was a rather elaborate contraption."Ha!" she barked.."I say, what the hell ya gonna do about it". OK..... how do I approch this situation. She is elderly, in pain, obviously annoyed, and I have not been briefed as to what kind of accident this had been. WARNING TO THOSE WHO MAKE HOSPITAL CALLS..... GET SOME INFO BEFORE YOU STEP INTO THE ROOM... (this is the voice of experience here.) I could only manage something bland and non-combative...Well, Alma, I'm so sorry to see you laid up like this... what happened. "For God's sake, didn't Fathuh they tell you nothin'? Kelsey ran me over....twice."

I didn't know how to respond... it was so out of character for Kelsey and one of those moments when, despite yourself, you feel as if you'll explode into laughter..."Yeh, Monday we was goin' to the store. Kels got into the car and was backin it up... we shoulda trimmed the hedge. Anyhow, he's backin up an I'm tellin him to come on an backin up and lookin at the hedge and backin up and I'm tellin him to stop but he don't hear me an my foot went out an I didn't get outta the driveway an I went under and he went over. So, I'm layin there and can't scream so good, tellin him to get the f--k offa me and he finally heard me... but he moves the damn car forward and flattens the shit outta me again." At this moment I am doing my best to keep it (and my teeth) together.... not once, but twice... being run over by someone you love as much as life itself.

Inexperienced me asks stupid question #2: How do you feel? "How the f--k am I supposed to feel? My hip's broke, my ankle's broke, I got more pains than ever and Kels is home, not eatin and can't stop cryin. I just gotta love him. That's it. I'm too old for a divorce an I can't break another one in. Ya just gotta love 'em".

Twenty three years later, I am certain Kelsey and Alma are still carrying on where they are now - still winking and needling each other... and still loving each other. I have taken the time to think about my enemies lately, those who simply cannot abide the idea of my existance, let alone the reality of it. And I forgot something very primary: I had and have the option to love them, or at the very least, acknowledge that God would and does love them. That holds true whether the THEY be the prelates of the worldwide Anglican Church that believes that a certain segment of baptised Christians are welcome to be healed by the Church,but not well enough to heal others; welcome to learn from but not teach the Church; welcome to contribute their time,treasure and talent, but not the entirety of themselves.

I'll take a cue from Alma. They are what God has given me, they're trying, I might really dislike what they've done, but hey - I'm not gonna leave 'em. What the hell ya gonna do? Ya gotta love 'em.

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