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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, February 24, 2007

The Twelve Steps and Lent: Step 2

I went through Step 1 when I introduced the idea of using the 12 step model for a Lenten practice. Due to the positive response, I'll be continuing with the steps and throwing in a thought or two to ponder.

Recap: Step 1: You have already come to the conclusion - because you have hit the bottom of the barrel or the collapse of your business or personal life because of focus on one thing above all others (the essence of addiction) that your life is out of balance - and in some cases, is completely out of control.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Notice in this step the word COULD. You're not completely sold on it - you still have your doubts. YET despite your doubts, despite the chance you are about to take, you know the one thing you have to compare this chance to... the predictable, painful, unproductive wall you have been running into time and time again.

Let's take this step apart: 1) you came to believe [not a small feat to reach this destination] that 2) a power greater than ourselves [bravo - you have come to face a real truth: you are finite, your 'power' is finite, your need exceeds your ability to address the need] 3) could restore us to sanity [there is hope - there is possibility - there is more than an fleeting chance, more than a "Might"]

Taking this next step we move into the realm of flirting with faith - a very good move indeed. Taking this step you move out of your comfort zone (no matter how miserable, painful, destructive a place, at least you were intimately familiar with it) into a new place - a place of possibility.

The longer you stay at this step, the more bold you are to move from the belief that your Higher Power not only could(theoretically) restore you, but that that same Higher Power CAN AND WILL restore you to sanity - to wholeness.

Again, I say take these steps slowly. Most probably your downward spiral was gradual, not a freefall - and that your recovery will be gradual as well.

I encourage you to post your comments, experience, reflections below or write to me @ If you write to me personally, let me know whether I have permission to share your experience or story with the rest of the Farmers @ MOLC.

Blessings and courage on your journey into a life of health and freedom!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Alone with God- from the book "The Fruits of the Spirit" by Evelyn Underhill

Evelyn Underhill was born in England in 1831. Although confirmed in the Church of England, she had little formal religious training but read, wrote, prayed and meditated regularly. Her contribution to spiritual literature is filled with the conviction that the mystical life was not confined to a few extraordinary saints, but was open to anyone who would nurture the gift and make it a part of their everyday life. She wrote many books, the first of which is entitled Mysticism and the most famous of which is entitled Worship. She became an internationally respected and highly regarded lecturer and retreat director and died - at age 90 - in 1941.

This excerpt was published in book form by her late husband from individual letters she had written to others as well as talks she had given in the country and abroad. It deals with retreats.

We all know pretty well why we come into Retreat: we come to seek the opportunity of being alone with God and attending to God, in order that we may do His will better in our everyday lives. We have come to live for a few days the life of prayer and deepen our contact with the spiritual realities on which our lives depend - to recover if we can our spiritual poise. We do not come for spiritual information, but for spiritual food and air --to wait on the Lord and renew our strength-- not for our own sakes but for the sake of the world.

Now Christ, who so seldom gave detailed instruction about anything, did give some detailed instruction for that withdrawal, that recollection which is the essential condition of real prayer, real communion with God. 'Thou, when thous prayest, enter into thy closet-- and shut the door'. I think we can almost see the smile with which He said those three words: and those three words define what we have to try to do. Anyone can retire into a quiet place and have a thoroughly unquiet time in it -- but that is not making a retreat! It is the shutting of the door which makes the whole difference between a true retreat and a worried religious weekend. Shut the door. It is an extraordinary difficult thing to do. Nearly every one pulls it to and leaves it slightly ajar so that a whistling draught comes in from the outer world, with reminders of all the worries, interests, conflicts, joys and sorrows of daily life. But Chirst said SHUT, and He meant SHUT. A complete barrier deliberately set up, with you on one side alone with God and everything else without exception on the other side. The voice of God is very gentle; we cannot hear it if we let other voices compete. Our ordinary life, of course, is not lived like that and should not be; but this bit of life is to be lived like that. It is no use at all to enter that closet, that inner sanctuary, clutching the daily paper, reports of all the societies you support, your engagement book and a large bundle of personal correspondence. All these must be left outside. The motto for your retreat is GOD ONLY, GOD IN HIMSELF, SOUGHT FOR HIMSELF ALONE.
Copyright © 1982 Morehouse Barlow

While the wording is antiquated, what a marvelous model she has set up for us. The retreat director will set up a premise under which we can take these things into our hearts and shut the door and speak with our hearts to God. Along with Evelyn, I know great things can happen!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Twelve Steps and Lent: Step 1

NB: The meditations and interpretations in this series are my own and do not necessarily express the opinions of Alcoholics Anonymous or any of the other 12 step programs which have been modelled after the original 12 steps.

We know that the head grows - the brains grow (and can shrink... yuck)- the body grows - the human heart grows.

None of these, however, appear to grow to their fullest potential in a vacuum or in weightlessness. We are challenged to use all of our parts to bring them to superior functioning.

Why not, then, the soul? or our humanity? our humility? our God-given gifts, whether of the spirit or of the intellect or the physical?

Lent is an extraordinarily good time to flex those organs or gifts or states of being. At the center of things, discipline provides the structure for that growth.

Abstinence is one viable option. Using the twelve step path can be an extremely freeing experience for nearly everyone.

There may be those of you who have not experienced or read 'The Twelve Steps' of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). I encourage you this day to do so. It can be used as a basis for giving our inner life the close examination it periodically needs; it fosters a spirit of forgiveness of ourselves and of others; it sets in motion a chain of amendment to free ourselves of baggage we need not carry any longer.

Here are the 12 Steps as shown on their website:

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

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

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.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Copyright © A.A. World Services, Inc.


How has your life become "unmanageable"? Unhealthy focus on work alone - to the detriment of health or a personal life? Problems with food, drugs (including prescription drugs), shoplifting, 1/2 truths, lying, gossip, melancholy, hoarding, a chaotic (beyond messy or cluttered) home or work environment, fear of intimacy, the need to control people/situations/outcomes, reckless spending, inappropriate anger directed at others. You can add to this list. Focus on any of these things to the point that it disrupts your life and the interaction with others and your God is unhealthy and cries out for the healing of the Great Physician.

I just ask you to think about it and be gentle but honest with yourself. God knows what you do and what you have done and how it has affected others. Those things cannot be hid. Admitting to the shortcomings is what brings us growth - slow sometimes painful but more oftentimes uncomfortable growth - just like going to the gym after 20 years of being a couch potato or trying to do a challenging crossword puzzle.

If you would like to put a comment on this post, please do so. If you would like me to spend some time on the steps during lent, post a comment as well, or drop me a line or two at I will answer anyone that writes in. In the case of a post.... due to come inappropriate spamming activity, you put the post there, I clear it and you will see it pop up, probably the next day.

My other idea for a Lenten aid is to give you a quotation from a saint for each day - with a short comment if necessary - as food for thought. Again - put down whether you would prefer this option as a comment on this post or send me an e-mail directly.

Wishing each of you an enriching, informative, transformative Lent. With love from DJ

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

....and Who rules the Leaders? Ash Wednesday

In case you have not seen this in your local paper or heard it via other media, Debbie sent this to me.

The article is entitled: Anglican leaders rule on gay bishops

Here also is an excerpt of the Communiqué of the Primates' Meeting 02/19/07
in Dar Es Salaam dealing with the issue of the selection and election of a suitable candiate (who is homosexual) as Bishop and any religious rite which may be used to celebrate the union of homosexual persons in a committed relationship:

"Following through the Windsor Report
9. Since the controversial events of 2003, we have faced the reality of increased tension in the life of the Anglican Communion – tension so deep that the fabric of our common life together has been torn. The Windsor Report of 2004 described the Communion as suffering from an “illness”. This “illness” arises from a breakdown in the trust and mutual recognition of one another as faithful disciples of Christ, which should be among the first fruits of our Communion in Christ with one another.

10. The Windsor Report identified two threats to our common life: first, certain developments in the life and ministry of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada which challenged the standard of teaching on human sexuality articulated in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10; and second, interventions in the life of those Provinces which arose as reactions to the urgent pastoral needs that certain primates perceived. The Windsor Report did not see a “moral equivalence” between these events, since the cross-boundary interventions arose from a deep concern for the welfare of Anglicans in the face of innovation. Nevertheless both innovation and intervention are central factors placing strains on our common life. The Windsor Report recognised this (TWR Section D) and invited the Instruments of Communion to call for a moratorium of such actions .

11. What has been quite clear throughout this period is that the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 is the standard of teaching which is presupposed in the Windsor Report and from which the primates have worked. This restates the traditional teaching of the Christian Church that “in view of the teaching of Scripture, [the Conference] upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage”, and applies this to several areas which are discussed further below. The Primates have reaffirmed this teaching in all their recent meetings , and indicated how a change in the formal teaching of any one Province would indicate a departure from the standard upheld by the Communion as a whole.

12. At our last meeting in Dromantine, the primates called for certain actions to address the situation in our common life, and to address those challenges to the teaching of the Lambeth Resolution which had been raised by recent developments. Now in Dar es Salaam, we have had to give attention to the progress that has been made.

The Listening Process
13. The 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, committed the Provinces “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons” and called “all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals”. The initiation of this process of listening was requested formally by the Primates at Dromantine and commissioned by ACC-13. We received a report from Canon Philip Groves, the Facilitator of the Listening Process, on the progress of his work. We wish to affirm this work in collating various research studies, statements and other material from the Provinces. We look forward to this material being made more fully available across the Communion for study and reflection, and to the preparation of material to assist the bishops at 2008 Lambeth Conference.

The Panel of Reference
14. We are grateful to the retired Primate of Australia, Archbishop Peter Carnley for being with us to update us on the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference. This was established by the Archbishop in response to the request of the Primates at Dromantine “to supervise the adequacy of pastoral provisions made by any churches” for “groups in serious theological dispute with their diocesan bishop, or dioceses in dispute with their Provinces” . Archbishop Peter informed us of the careful work which this Panel undertakes on our behalf, although he pointed to the difficulty of the work with which it has been charged arising from the conflicted and polarised situations which the Panel must address on the basis of the slender resources which can be given to the work. We were grateful for his report, and for the work so far undertaken by the Panel.

The Anglican Covenant
15. Archbishop Drexel Gomez reported to us on the work of the Covenant Design Group. The Group met in Nassau last month, and has made substantial progress. We commend the Report of the Covenant Design Group for study and urge the Provinces to submit an initial response to the draft through the Anglican Communion Office by the end of 2007. In the meantime, we hope that the Anglican Communion Office will move in the near future to the publication of the minutes of the discussion that we have had, together with the minutes of the Joint Standing Committee’s discussion, so that some of the ideas and reflection that have already begun to emerge might assist and stimulate reflection throughout the Communion.

16. The proposal is that a revised draft will be discussed at the Lambeth Conference, so that the bishops may offer further reflections and contributions. Following a further round of consultation, a final text will be presented to ACC-14, and then, if adopted as definitive, offered to the Provinces for ratification. The covenant process will conclude when any definitive text is adopted or rejected finally through the synodical processes of the Provinces.

The Episcopal Church
17. At the heart of our tensions is the belief that The Episcopal Church has departed from the standard of teaching on human sexuality accepted by the Communion in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 by consenting to the episcopal election of a candidate living in a committed same-sex relationship, and by permitting Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions. The episcopal ministry of a person living in a same-sex relationship is not acceptable to the majority of the Communion.

18. In 2005 the Primates asked The Episcopal Church to consider specific requests made by the Windsor Report . On the first day of our meeting, we were joined by the members of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council as we considered the responses of the 75th General Convention. This is the first time that we have been joined by the Standing Committee at a Primates’ Meeting, and we welcome and commend the spirit of closer co-operation between the Instruments of Communion.

19. We are grateful for the comprehensive and clear report commissioned by the Joint Standing Committee. We heard from the Presiding Bishop and three other bishops representing different perspectives within The Episcopal Church. Each spoke passionately about their understanding of the problems which The Episcopal Church faces, and possible ways forward. Each of the four, in their own way, looked to the Primates to assist The Episcopal Church. We are grateful to the Archbishop of Canterbury for enabling us on this occasion to hear directly this range of views.

20. We believe several factors must be faced together. First, the Episcopal Church has taken seriously the recommendations of the Windsor Report, and we express our gratitude for the consideration by the 75th General Convention.

21. However, secondly, we believe that there remains a lack of clarity about the stance of The Episcopal Church, especially its position on the authorisation of Rites of Blessing for persons living in same-sex unions. There appears to us to be an inconsistency between the position of General Convention and local pastoral provision. We recognise that the General Convention made no explicit resolution about such Rites and in fact declined to pursue resolutions which, if passed, could have led to the development and authorisation of them. However, we understand that local pastoral provision is made in some places for such blessings. It is the ambiguous stance of The Episcopal Church which causes concern among us.

22. The standard of teaching stated in Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998 asserted that the Conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions”. The primates stated in their pastoral letter of May 2003,

“The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites.”.

23. Further, some of us believe that Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention does not in fact give the assurances requested in the Windsor Report.

24. The response of The Episcopal Church to the requests made at Dromantine has not persuaded this meeting that we are yet in a position to recognise that The Episcopal Church has mended its broken relationships.

25. It is also clear that a significant number of bishops, clergy and lay people in The Episcopal Church are committed to the proposals of the Windsor Report and the standard of teaching presupposed in it (cf paragraph 11). These faithful people feel great pain at what they perceive to be the failure of The Episcopal Church to adopt the Windsor proposals in full. They desire to find a way to remain in faithful fellowship with the Anglican Communion. They believe that they should have the liberty to practice and live by that expression of Anglican faith which they believe to be true. We are deeply concerned that so great has been the estrangement between some of the faithful and The Episcopal Church that this has led to recrimination, hostility and even to disputes in the civil courts.

26. The interventions by some of our number and by bishops of some Provinces, against the explicit recommendations of the Windsor Report, however well-intentioned, have exacerbated this situation. Furthermore, those Primates who have undertaken interventions do not feel that it is right to end those interventions until it becomes clear that sufficient provision has been made for the life of those persons.

27. A further complication is that a number of dioceses or their bishops have indicated, for a variety of reasons, that they are unable in conscience to accept the primacy of the Presiding Bishop in The Episcopal Church, and have requested the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates to consider making provision for some sort of alternative primatial ministry. At the same time we recognise that the Presiding Bishop has been duly elected in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, which must be respected.

28. These pastoral needs, together with the requests from those making presentations to this meeting, have moved us to consider how the primates might contribute to healing and reconciliation within The Episcopal Church and more broadly. We believe that it would be a tragedy if The Episcopal Church was to fracture, and we are committed to doing what we can to preserve and uphold its life. While we may support such processes, such change and development which is required must be generated within its own life.

The Future
29. We believe that the establishment of a Covenant for the Churches of the Anglican Communion in the longer term may lead to the trust required to re-establish our interdependent life. By making explicit what Anglicans mean by the “bonds of affection” and securing the commitment of each Province to those bonds, the structures of our common life can be articulated and enhanced.

30. However, an interim response is required in the period until the Covenant is secured. For there to be healing in the life of the Communion in the interim, it seems that the recommendations of the Windsor Report, as interpreted by the Primates’ Statement at Dromantine, are the most clear and comprehensive principles on which our common life may be re-established.

31. Three urgent needs exist. First, those of us who have lost trust in The Episcopal Church need to be re-assured that there is a genuine readiness in The Episcopal Church to embrace fully the recommendations of the Windsor Report.

32. Second, those of us who have intervened in other jurisdictions believe that we cannot abandon those who have appealed to us for pastoral care in situations in which they find themselves at odds with the normal jurisdiction. For interventions to cease, what is required in their view is a robust scheme of pastoral oversight to provide individuals and congregations alienated from The Episcopal Church with adequate space to flourish within the life of that church in the period leading up to the conclusion of the Covenant Process.

33. Third, the Presiding Bishop has reminded us that in The Episcopal Church there are those who have lost trust in the Primates and bishops of certain of our Provinces because they fear that they are all too ready to undermine or subvert the polity of The Episcopal Church. In their view, there is an urgent need to embrace the recommendations of the Windsor Report and to bring an end to all interventions.

34. Those who have intervened believe it would be inappropriate to bring an end to interventions until there is change in The Episcopal Church. Many in the House of Bishops are unlikely to commit themselves to further requests for clarity from the Primates unless they believe that actions that they perceive to undermine the polity of The Episcopal Church will be brought to an end. Through our discussions, the primates have become convinced that pastoral strategies are required to address these three urgent needs simultaneously.

35. Our discussions have drawn us into a much more detailed response than we would have thought necessary at the beginning of our meeting. But such is the imperative laid on us to seek reconciliation in the Church of Christ, that we have been emboldened to offer a number of recommendations. We have set these out in a Schedule to this statement. We offer them to the wider Communion, and in particular to the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church in the hope that they will enable us to find a way forward together for the period leading up to the conclusion of the Covenant Process. We also hope that the provisions of this pastoral scheme will mean that no further interventions will be necessary since bishops within The Episcopal Church will themselves provide the extended episcopal ministry required.

Wider Application
36. The primates recognise that such pastoral needs as those considered here are not limited to The Episcopal Church alone. Nor do such pastoral needs arise only in relation to issues of human sexuality. The primates believe that until a covenant for the Anglican Communion is secured, it may be appropriate for the Instruments of Communion to request the use of this or a similar scheme in other contexts should urgent pastoral needs arise.

37. Throughout this meeting, the primates have worked and prayed for the healing and unity of the Anglican Communion. We also pray that the Anglican Communion may be renewed in its discipleship and mission in proclaiming the Gospel. We recognise that we have been wrestling with demanding and difficult issues and we commend the results of our deliberations to the prayers of the people. We do not underestimate the difficulties and heart-searching that our proposals will cause, but we believe that commitment to the ways forward which we propose can bring healing and reconciliation across the Communion."

I read these things and it pains my heart that so much is being made of an issue which is surely in the hands of God. God loves us, as is - in our commonality and individuality, making no qualification for blessing or grace, yet we mere mortals, simply passing through this life in this world - time and again - attempt to put ourselves in the position of deciding who is sheep and who is goat - who is 'pure' and who is not, who is "worthy" and who is not.

Words from the service for Ash Wednesday, emphasis added, come easily to mind:

"Remember each and every one of you that you are dust and to dust you will return".

If we are all the same in the beginning and we all meet the same end - why are we not, then, the same in the span of our life together?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mardi Gras!

"Fat Tuesday" is upon us. Then again, for us-uns in the U S of A, fat seems to be upon us an average of 365 days a year (whether on the mind or on the hip).

This day was instituted long before Trim Spa or Metabolife or any weight reduction miracle in a pill.

This was - instead - the permissible binge before the austerity of Lent. The butter, lard, fat, grease, sugars could all be on the menu today because tomorrow... tomorrow there would be none of this and none of that. Cupboards were cleaned of any manner of indulgent, rich items and austerity took their place.

I understand the why the Church may have instituted a season - paralleling the approach of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ - during which a spirit of contrition for one's sins and offenses might be derived from by repentance, prayer or some additional tool such as fasting and self-denial. If we go to the particular service in the Book of Common Prayer for Ash Wednesday, we see an ancient invitation to this season.

When I was growing up (as a Roman Catholic - in pre-Vatican II days of meatless Fridays) it was hard to decide what to give up. My Methodist friend, Kathy Millay, would tell me with tongue in cheek that her family had sworn off chocolate covered ants for the duration of Lent, no matter how much of a sacrifice it was to them.

The very idea of sacrifice in a land of relative abundance and unbridled consumerism is a foreign notion. To offer something of value to appease or conciliate God; to surrender something valued for the sake of something having a higher claim.

In an age dedicated to self-serving interests where does sacrifice fit in? After Fat Tuesday, let us pray that we will have room somewhere - in our minds, in our hearts, in our souls or perhaps even in our waistbands - to let the Holy Spirit in to guide us in the direction from aggrandizement to gratitude.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Love the doer, not necessarily the deed done

Psalm 99:8
O Lord, our God, you answered them indeed; you were a God who forgave them, yet punished them for their evil deeds.

Parents and their kids; wives and husbands; partners; siblings; co-workers.

There's always a bit a friction that can occur when something goes amiss. People can get rubbed the wrong way. We can choose to forgive the offender or choose to set up a chain reaction of resentment and retaliation. We have the choice. Situations pop up on a daily basis which demand that a choice be made.

When reading through this line in Psalm 99 I am reminded of two things: 1)God makes the distinction between who we are and what we do (human beings are notorious for failing to make that distinction) and 2)judgement of the individual, what has been done and the consequences of the action(s) of that individual are not within my jurisdiction.

When I set myself up to punish someone for the ill they have done to me.... I become the one who is punished. If I chose to sever relations with someone, who loses something?? I do! If I chose to cherish the hurt dealt to me years ago, never letting the weight of it go - nay, even ADDING to its weight with the passing years by piling on pity, anger, spite, crushed pride - who loses? I do!

God help me in this.... that even if I am hurt by the evil done to me I will not compound that evil with hatred. Check out the 10 Commandments or the 2 "Christian" commandments- neither one states "Thou shalt hate" or "Thou shalt punish".

Our baptismal covenant calls us to be better human beings - striving to model our lives after that of Jesus Christ. And if we fall short of that goal to dust ourselves off, ask for forgiveness, and get back on track.

Punishment? Sorry, it's not in the job description.

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