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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, April 28, 2007

From the other side of the railing

This is an offering from a priest who is not currently exercising her ministry in a parish.

Having had periods of time when I was not assigned to a specific parish (as I currently am as The , I can certainly relate to her experience, of mixed emotions, the sense of being out of place and the longing for connection.

Thank you, Susan, for sharing this piece with the readers of MOLC! May Eastertide joy envelope you as you exercise your ministry in your day to day life and to whatever parish you may be called! In the love of Christ, DJ

Musings of an Out of Work Priest
April 9, 2007 Easter Monday

It is Easter Monday and normally I’d be feeling the relief and let down of another Holy Week gone by. I’d be hearing the bits of sermon that I thought worked—and those moments when I was just dismayed and embarrassed that something had gone wrong. The exhaustion of the week and the elation of the Easter proclamation would have left me by now.

But currently I am not working: having just left a parish as an interim priest for two and a half years, I found myself needing to escape home so that I would not be left with the empty feeling of not being needed by God to do what I think I do well (at least that is what I think in my good moments).

So a last minute trip was planned—Newport, RI—a place that has many memories—more than I initially remembered:

That first trip with our son as a toddler, trying to climb the indoor putting green without losing his balance and then running down the other side. It seems impossible that that visit was 28 years ago!

And there were later visits as a corporate wife doing the corporate wife 'thing'—wandering the streets alone while the "big guys" had their meetings followed by an outing on Americas’ Cup boats so that those same men could prove their worth by beating their competitors—even if those competitors all worked for the same team!

Then there were the boat shows—in rain and sun—wandering among the boats to dream a new dream of freedom (and safety) on the seas.

And God, well, somehow God was there - somewhere in the background - but little thought of in those distant days.

Years later I am off on an Easter escape, a quest, and the need to find a place—my place among the Easter people. I called three churches but only one gave the times of services so I picked that one, thinking that will help me find God and, of course, it did.

Somehow as I walked in alone, I felt self-conscious as though I didn’t belong. It is not my "place"—and I realize just how much I have missed having a place to call home. It is not that I want to claim it so much as to be part of it. As clergy, and as one who does the kind of interim work I do, somehow I have managed to keep a distance between me and somewhere I can call a spiritual home. I realize that 'my' place is really "their" place and I stay long enough to be part of them, knowing that I will move on at some point. Not having to make that long term commitment to be with a parish permanently through thick and thin, means that I don’t have to live that hard life of commitment to a place and a group of people. As an interrim, my sense of place stays rooted in family and friends and God—not a church or particular congregation.

But now I digress.

I walked into the church in Newport, knowing that I needed to be there on an Easter Day and hoping to find music and trumpets and "Jesus Christ is Risen Today."

And that is what I found.

Dropping my sadness about being alone for a few moments, I also attempted to let go of my judgmental look at the bulletin, and the clergy, and in doing so find that even my inner isolation cannot wall off the risen Jesus. It may sound trite and sentimental, but for a few moments, I smell the Easter Lilies and taste the bread—real bread I am pleased to say—and find that I can let go of having to be anything but me. It even pleases me to find that the priest presiding at the Eucharist is also an interim and may have shared, or at least been aware of those same joys and sorrows I have felt ----along with all that means.

When the service was over, I walked back to my car and heard the birds sing. Through the cold spring day and the wind blowing though my coat, I felt the sun and for a moment let go of it all.

Once again, there is the miracle of new life entering these tired bones.

Friday, April 27, 2007

RCL: 4th Sunday of Easter, Year C: Another "Good Shepherd" Sunday

This meditation - or any part thereof - may be used for sermon material. Nothing more than an attribution is necessary. DJ

John 10: 24-30

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."
Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me;
but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.
My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand.
The Father and I are one."

My natural reaction on this Sunday is to focus on the sheep. I've seen enough episodes on 'Nature' and 'Animal Planet', all the way back to 'Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (with Marlin Perkins)' to know about the nature of sheep and border collies and shepherds..... I am a walking hunk of burning trivia on the topic.

This Sunday, however, I'd like to focus on the aspect of belonging and being selected by God.

First steps first, isn't it wonderful to feel chosen? I'm not talking about the times when we are chosen by default ( didn't make it to a meeting and you are chosen in abstentia to be a committee chair).

No, I refer to the time that you are chosen to be a friend, a godparent, a spokesperson, a soulmate, a player on a team, the curate of a church, the candidate for PTA president, the teacher of the year. You - not someone next to you in a line - You are chosen to belong to something bigger.

Once that choice has been made, you have a sense of belonging - to a group, to a family, to the love of your life, to the cause you have fought for. You have been chosen, you belong, your sense of purpose is defined and underscored.

Jesus has chosen us. God has called us by name before we had a name. Through baptism we are given eternal life and become part of the family of God through Christ - we belong.

And last, but not least, Christ promises us protection and fidelity...."No one can snatch them out from my hand or the Fathers... the Father and I are one.

No matter the trial, the foe, the obstacles, the terrors within or without, we are and will stay with God.

To paraphrase a popular commercial....: "That's God's stand. Are you in good hands?"

Yes, thank you Jesus...... I am. Amen.

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

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Following in the Footsteps

Trying - in my ever so inept way - to keep up with the youth of today - what's on their minds, the dress code, the vocabulary (and it changes....often), I do my research by periodically going to places where kids collect. One of those places in my neck of the woods is: THE MALL. The local mall here is quite large.... immense to my thinking, but I remember when 4 stores, not in a line or attached wall to wall was unique. Friday night at a mall which is open until 11pm is a universe unto itself populated - in an 8 to 1 ratio - with persons under the age of 21. There is Futurama and there is the Friday night mall - each is surreal for a childless middle aged person.

I also widen my horizons by watching cable TV programs aimed at this demographic...... I should emphasize the syllable GRAPHIC. MTV, VH1, BET, MTV2, E!. Thin, beautiful, overtly sexy, rap songs with as much *bleep* as intelligable lyrics. So much glamor. So shallow, so uniform. Scantily clad women in various stages of either undress or blur. Gangsta, white gangsta. And every "star" in this money-powered galaxy has an entourage, a posse.

They are treated as celebrities as well because they 'hang with the man who is off the chain'. In fact, there are personal assistants, valets, butlers, and (to use an antiquated term) manservants who rise to their own level of recognition, moving out beyond their border as a follower - or employee- of the of the rock or hip-hop platinum seller.

I suppose we all could try that. Be drawn to the spotlight like one of many moths, to thrive only in our less than 15 minutes of fame. There are a lot of "one hit wonders" out there..... the ones that are always brought up in a phrase beginning with "...and what ever happened to..........". It is no surprize that our children bounce from one fad to the next, one 'best' friend to the next, one belief to the next, all the while swearing in the absoluteness of their choice. If these are your role models, than nothing can last forever....

No pupil is greater than the teacher Jesus said. That, for the most part of history has been true with few exceptions. What Teacher can we show our children? How can we let them see that we are pupils of that Teacher?

We as Christians have a responsibility to stay out of the limelight. We need to recall the original phrase we now quote when trying to point out incompetency, namely "The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing".

The original context was not about incompetency, but about selfless, anonymous generousity. To paraphrase the text it comes from..... don't flaunt your piety in front of others - have daily private prayer with God; if you chose a discipline of fasting in solidarity with those who have nothing - don't be a drama queen: look neat, pressed and healthy; if you are giving of yourself and your wealth and your talent, do it in silence -- and make it so regular that you are not even conscious you are doing it..... as if your right hand didn't know what your left hand was doing.

Following a fad star onto a beach there would be footprints of the star, the bodyguard, the assistant, the publicist and the posse....and all the fans. A stampede of footprints vaguely going in the same direction in somewhat zigzag formation.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus does not rake in the money or the fame or the glory or the disciples. Our baptismal vows show us to try to walk in Jesus' footprints.... so that if anyone were to look on a beach or a muddy trail they will see only one path and one set of tracks....those of Christ himself.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What in the world are MDGs?

Amid much hoopla at the National Convention in Columbus last year, something very wonderful was discussed and detailed and set before us - as a united Church - with a vision of global and local outreach.

These are called The Millenium Development Goals. Eight specific goals were targeted for our attention and action. They are as follows:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child Mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development

Other goals could certainly be added to these, particularly in our country so set in its ways of mass consumption, fossil fuel dependency and overall destruction and/or waste of natural resources.

These 8 are the ones which Convention put before us to concentrate on. We CAN put our money and muscle behind projects that will target each of these goals - as individuals, as congregations, as dioceses, as regions and as a united Episcopal Church in the United States.

To give you some idea that attention and intention is being paid to these issues, I'm proud to mention here Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, Connecticut. When I accompanied Barbara there we commented on Bulletin boards posted throughout the hallways of the parish building all the way into the side hallway into the church: they were covered with facts about poverty, infant mortality and education produced by the Sunday School. This parish was taking these goals seriously and finding ways to make contributions toward righting the wrongs and the discrepancies in the world.

Would YOU like to become involved in the effort? Will you be the spark plug that ignites your parish with a passion to focus on even ONE of these goals? If you would like assistance, suggestions, and more info on these worthy endeavors, go to and follow the directions to get to information on the MDGs. Over 180 countries are joining together to take on these tough goals. Are you up for the challenge? PITCH IN!!!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Fall INTO Grace and a Leap of Faith

Acts 9:1-20
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest
and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." He answered, "Here I am, Lord." The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight."
But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name."
But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."

So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God."


Saul, the Jew with Roman citizenship, the man who held Deacon Stephan's cloak while he was stoned to death by a mob, is holding a grudge. He wants these "followers of the Way" (not yet known as Christians) rounded up and made an example of. He isn't waiting around for someone else to do the dirty work of bringing these outlaws to justice. No. He went through his religious contacts to get written permission to round up the scoundrels. He is full of a particular kind of righteous fervor. He did not want the faith of his fathers perverted in anyway, and certainly not by someone who scoffed at the Law of Moses by associating with non-Jews and having unsupervised contact with unrelated women.

During the road trip he is stopped in his tracks by a blinding light that completely surrounds him. He falls to the ground, ducking for cover of some kind when he gets a very succinct question: Why do you persecute me? Even his traveling companions heard the voice! After finding that the question came from Jesus- he got up and followed the directions given to him. It is recorded that he had been blinded - but I also note that after that point he also seems to have been struck speechless. I am not certain about percentages in conversion or repentence or amendment of ways, although I suspect most come in a far more gradual, UNspectacular way than Saul's fall into grace, into the realization of the love of God through Christ. He was so moved that all he could do was to wrestle with his conscience, without eating or drinking, in Damascus in the home of a man named Judas.

Meanwhile, across town, Ananias - who belonged to 'the Way' - had a vision. God told him to go to Straight Street, enter Judas' house, find Saul and lay hands - hands of love and healing - on his head. You can hear him protest: "But isn't that the man who has been sent to round us up and take us to Jerusalem? He is our enemy and yours!" God simply asks Ananias to follow His directions.... and He will take care of the rest.

What a leap of faith it must have been for Ananias to go anywhere NEAR Straight Street, let alone meet Saul face to face and expose himself as a believer. Yet Ananias went above and beyond that. Ananias addressed him as "brother". Jesus asked him to do this and he was acting in faith. Paul immediately regains his sight and was baptized.

How do you respond to God's call and direction in your life? Have you had epiphanies or conversion experiences? Have you stepped out in faith... even with some trepidation? Have you had enough faith and grace to embrace an enemy with a pure heart?

This is the stuff of miracles. . . and examples of God's ever present, open invitation to go beyond our limitations and love limitlessly. Amen and Amen.

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