Saturday, October 27, 2007

Marching for Peace


Members of the Episcopal Diocese of California are gathering this morning at Grace Cathedral with Bishop Marc Andrus to process down to Civic Center where we will join hundreds of thousands in calling for an end to the war in Iraq. Thursday night Grace hosted 300 people of faith for an Inter-Religious Prayer Service for Peace in Iraq, organized by the Inter-Religious Working Group of the October 27 Coalition. Displayed on the labyrinth of Grace Cathedral were boots representing the thousands of U.S. troops killed in Iraq, the names and faces of Iraqis killed were also part of the exhibit. Let's bring an end to this war and work hard for nonviolent solutions to global challenges. Frankly, I'm tired of attending marches against this war. Before the invasion began, I attended huge marches in Washington, DC, and New York as a seminarian with numerous classmates and professors. I'm frustrated that the media and government for the most part ignore us and the growing majority of Americans who want this war brought to an end. But it is my community of faith that inspires me to be persistent.



Over at God's Politics, influential evangelical pastor Brian McLaren has written a strong piece encouraging Christians to challenge those who are beating the drums of war against Iran. Check it out and share widely.

Monday, October 22, 2007

preserving the sanctity of what???

Turns out that one of the bank rollers of an ultra-right-wing group seeking to break-up mainline Christian denominations (because of our progressive stances on same-sex unions and the ordination of women) is having some problems preserving the sanctity of his own marriage. This is sad, very sad.

Various Scaife affiliated foundations have given hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to schismatic groups like the Institute for Religion and Democracy. Perhaps the money could have been better spent on say health care for the poor or HIV/AIDS drugs and education?


Good Lord deliver us!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Good News

There are two great news videos on the broadening of the evangelical agenda in the United States over on God's Politics. Another interesting online resource is Speaking of Faith, their program on the fascinating 20th century Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, is worth checking out. My grandfather was fed by her ministry both physically and spiritually as a young man in Los Angeles during the Depression.

Last week, author Garry Wills visited Grace Cathedral for a special forum on American Christianities, you can read more about that here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

inspiring guest


This morning the clergy of Grace Cathedral were joined at our regular weekly meeting by Archbishop of Cape town The Most Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane. The Archbishop is visiting the Diocese of California this week and will be present for our annual convention. Archbishop Ndungane is a passionate leader for global justice and reconciliation, learn more about his inspiring biography and work here.

Here's a recent news story about the Archbishop of Cape town's visit.

Episcopal bishops who have sidestepped a divisive debate over women and gays should now focus on the developing world's needs, says a South African archbishop who is visiting the Bay Area.

"For most of Africa what matters is whether there is a plate of food in front of them," said Njongkonkulu Ndugane, archbishop of Cape Town and Primate of Southern Africa.

"There is abuse of children, abuse of women. They don't even know where New Hampshire is, let alone America," he said as he relaxed Tuesday in a wood-paneled chamber at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

Ndugane, 66, challenged the Episcopal Church in 2003 to accept the consecration of openly gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, and has been a champion of the rights of gays and women within the faith.


Check out the full story here.

Click here for more on the Episcopal Diocese of California's convention.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In Desperate Times, a concert for Peace

Great story on yesterday's concert for peace at the National Cathedral.

At Washington Cathedral, Pop Music, Politics And Prayers for Peace

By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 17, 2007; C01


"Thanks for coming to give peace a chance," David Crosby told the crowd of more than 2,500 at Washington National Cathedral, before he and Graham Nash launched into "Lay Me Down."

To kick off last night's Pray for Peace concert, John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington and the evening's emcee, quoted Nash: "No person has the right to take another person's life in the name of God." Churches and religions should be instruments of peace, not war, he said.

When people gather to pray for peace, "what you are praying for is an end to war," Chane said. He said it was not an antiwar event, but a moment to call on nations to lay down all arms. "War," he said, "is the ultimate declaration of human failure. What we are saying is: Enough is enough."

With white hair and dark clothes, and flanked by pulpits, Nash looked a little like a singing televangelist. "I would like to congratulate Bishop John Chane for being brave enough to do this," he told the gathering.

It was a little weird, seeing rock musicians stand under the crucifix in a cathedral where magnificent sermons have been delivered and where dead heads of state have been mourned.

"This house wasn't built for the blues," Kevin Moore, known as Keb' Mo', said during a sound check.

But the church folks did the best they could. The sound was top-notch and the walls behind the musicians were splashed with lava-lamplike lights. The atmosphere was enhanced by red- and yellow-robed Buddhist monks moving about the cathedral.

Jackson Browne and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls also performed on the raised platform in the sanctuary. Tibetan monks chanted, leaders of various faith communities spoke of peace and others prayed publicly and privately.

Before the service, Browne said he was singing in opposition to the war in Iraq and the proposed war in Iran. Many people feel the Iraq war "has been a huge mistake," he said.

"These are desperate times, calling for desperate answers," Nash said. The first step to peace, he added, is dialogue. "I'm 65 years old. . . . My time is passing." He said his activism now is on behalf of his three children.

Music can be a form of prayer and both transcend regions and religions, the performers pointed out. Keb' Mo' exhorted the crowd, in song, to "hand it over" and "get on your knees and pray."

There was a guitarist and a hand drummer. Crosby's son, James Raymond, played keyboards. Crosby and Nash sang "Jesus of Rio" and a new Nash song, a musical prayer titled "In Your Name." Then Crosby picked up a guitar and they sang the heavenly "Guinnevere."

Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), who once belonged to the Top 40 band Orleans, appeared in a dark suit and tie and fit right into the strange melange of politics, pop music and prayer. He led the congregation, with inspired guitar work and vocal help from Nash, in a song: "We are all one tribe."

Browne and Nash performed a haunting version of "Crow on the Cradle" and were joined by Crosby for "Lives in the Balance." And many of the night's entertainers gathered for the finale, "Teach Your Children."

The story behind the music: The Dalai Lama was speaking at Washington National Cathedral in 2003, when Chane looked down from the dais and recognized Nash and Crosby in the congregation. He invited them to his office after the event. A former professional musician himself, the bishop plays drums in a midlife-crisis band, the Chane Gang. Nash saw Chane's drum set in the office and the two began talking about the power of music.

As part of the celebration of the Dalai Lama receiving the Congressional Gold Medal from President Bush today in recognition of his resistance to Chinese rule, Crosby, Chane, Nash and Browne planned the concert for peace. Proceeds will benefit the Cathedral Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation and the International Campaign for Tibet.

Before the concert, Crosby was asked why they had chosen to perform in the cathedral instead of a larger venue. "This isn't about being big," he said. "This is about something very unusual -- energizing the churches to stand up for their flocks. We need churches to stand up for us, and say stop the killing."

In the grand sanctuary, Crosby appeared small. "I have a lot of trouble with organized religions," he said, but his faith has been renewed by Chane. "He's got real courage, to say war is not the answer. I feel comfortable here," Crosby said.

Singing for peace, Moore said, "is what we are supposed to do."

Music has power, like religion or speech, he said. "And with that power comes responsibility."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Local


Blogging has taken a back burner recently as I have been learning more about the Bay Area. Thanks to my new friend Griff, a seminarian and organizer for the Episcopal Diocese of California's Commission for the Environment I have been nudged to attend a number of gatherings focused on the environmental situation in San Fransisco's Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood. There are serious concerns being raised by local residents, faith leaders and environmentalists about asbestos dust in the air due to construction at a nearby shipyard. The dust is causing many health problems especially for children and the elderly. The entire San Francisco School Board recently passed a resolution calling for a temporary halt of the construction until testing of the community takes place. To read the School Board's resolution, click here. You can read more about yesterday's press conference here.

Please pray for all those in Bayview-Hunter's Point community and learn more about what many view as a serious issue of environmental racism.

Global

There are always great posts on faith and politics at the God's Politics blog. Two particularly resonated with me having recently met Stephen Zunes, an amazing professor of politics and chair of Peace & Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. Please check out Jim Wallis' piece sharing the Archbishop of Canterbury's remarks about Iraq and Iran and Brian McLaren's post on Torture. If we are going to have real change in the United States it will be because we really listened to voices urging us to pursue the way of peace.

On October 27 across the country there will be massive demonstrations for Peace. Many from the Episcopal Diocese of California will be marching alongside our bishop. On Thursday night, October 25 there will be an inter-religious prayer service for peace at Grace Cathedral. Also this month, the Washington National Cathedral on the other side of the country is hosting an exciting concert for peace which you can check out here.

Below are the details about the October 25th prayer service in San Francisco.

Salaam, Shalom, Solh, Paz, Peace
Inter-Religious Prayer Service for Peace in Iraq

Thursday, October 25, 7:00 p.m.
Grace Cathedral 1100 California St. (at Taylor)
San Francisco

Join people from all colors of the religious spectrum as we pray together for peace in Iraq. Since polls show that more than 70% of Americans want an end to this conflict, it is vitally important that this sentiment be visibly expressed. As people of faith, we will pray and we will act.

Brought to you by the Inter-Religious Working Group of the October 27 Coalition.
Co-sponsors include the Episcopal Diocese of California, American Friends Service Committee, Kehilla Community Synagogue, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Inter-Religious Witness for Peace in the Middle East, Network of Spiritual Progressives, Ecumenical Peace Institute/Clergy and Laity Concerned, Tikkun Community, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslim Voice and Global Peace Partners. Other endorsements are pending and welcome.

For more information about (or to volunteer with) the END THE WAR NOW Mobilizations in SF and 11 regional centers across the country taking place on Saturday, October 27, visit oct27.org or oct27sf.org or call Jim Haber at the number below.

and march with us...
There will be an inter-religious contingent for the march gathering at the Friends Meeting House just 2 blocks from the start of the march and even less from Civic Center BART/Muni. 65 Ninth St. between Market and Mission. Gather at 11:00 am. We'll leave for Civic Center at about 11:45. Clergy are encouraged to wear your stolls, collars, or robes. Wear comfortable shoes.

For more information about or to or to endorse the Inter-Religious Prayer Service for Peace in Iraq, contact Jim Haber at ufpj-bayarea@riseup.net, 415-828-2506 or Allan Solomonow at asolomonow@afsc.org, 415-565-0201x26.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Learn from the Elders

From "The Elders" website:

Despite all the ghastliness that is around, human beings are made for goodness. The ones who ought to be held in high regard are not the ones who are militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They are the ones who have a commitment to try and make the world a better place. We – The Elders – will endeavour to support those people and do our best for humanity. - Desmond Tutu

Out of deep concern for the challenges currently facing all of the people of our world, Nelson Mandela, Gra├ža Machel and Desmond Tutu have convened a group of leaders to contribute their wisdom, independent leadership and integrity to tackling some of the world's toughest problems.





Please check out the Associated Press story about "The Elders" visit to the Sudan. Click here to read "The Elders" arrival statement.

KABKABIYA, Sudan — Former President Carter got in a shouting match Wednesday with Sudanese security services who blocked him from a town in Darfur where he was trying to meet with refugees from the ongoing conflict.

The 83-year-old Carter walked into this highly volatile pro-Sudanese government town to meet refugees too frightened to attend a scheduled meeting at a nearby compound. He was able to make it to a school where he met with one tribal representative and was preparing to go further into the town when Sudanese security officers stopped him.

"You can't go. It's not on the program!" the local security chief, who only gave his first name as Omar, yelled at Carter, who is in Darfur as part of a delegation of respected international figures known as "The Elders."

"We're going to anyway!" an angry Carter retorted as a crowd began to gather. "You don't have the power to stop me."

U.N. officials told Carter's entourage the Sudanese state police could bar his way. Carter's traveling companions, billionaire businessman Richard Branson and Graca Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, tried to ease his frustration and his Secret Service detail urged him to get into a car and leave.

"I'll tell President Bashir about this," Carter said, referring to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Carter later agreed to a compromise by which tribal representatives would be brought to him at another location later Wednesday. But the refugee delegates never showed up.

The Darfur conflict began when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, accusing it of decades of neglect. Sudan's government is accused of retaliating by unleashing a militia of Arab nomads known as the janjaweed _ a charge it denies. More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in four years of violence.

The conflict has also affected Darfur's neighbors, Chad and Central African Republic. On Wednesday, French officials said a force of 3,000 European troops could begin deploying to those countries next month to protect refugees and other civilians caught up in the spillover violence.

One official said the operation would coincide with the start of the long-awaited deployment, expected this month, of a 26,000-member joint African Union-UN force in Darfur itself.

Tensions are running high after rebels overran an AU peacekeeping base in northern Darfur over the weekend, killing 10 in the deadliest attack on the beleaguered force since it arrived in the region three years ago.

Most of the Darfur refugees appeared too frightened to speak to Carter's team in Kabkabiya, a North Darfur town that has long been a stronghold of the pro-government janjaweed militia.

Branson said some refugees had slipped notes in his pockets. "We (are) still suffering from the war as our girls are being raped on a daily basis," read one of the notes, translated from Arabic, that Branson handed to The Associated Press.

The note said that on Sept. 26, a group of girls had been raped, and a refugee had also been shot two days ago. Branson said it had been handed over by an ethnic African man.

The visit by "The Elders," which is headed by Nobel Peace laureates Carter and Desmond Tutu, is largely a symbolic move by a host of respected figures to push all sides to make peace.

Tutu led a separate group to a refugee camp in South Darfur, where he told British Broadcasting Corp. radio that the joint AU-U.N. force was needed immediately to bolster the overwhelmed African force on the ground and help restore stability to the area.

"It's awful that AMIS (African Mission in Sudan) should be allowed to be here when it is so inadequately equipped _ I mean they couldn't evacuate their injured from the camp after the attack because they don't have military helicopters," he said, referring to the rebel attack on the AU base in northern Darfur.

The U.N. mission in Sudan deemed it too dangerous for Carter to visit the refugee camp. Instead, he flew to the World Food Program compound in Kabkabiya, where he was supposed to meet with refugees, many of whom were chased from their homes by militias and government forces.

But as the meeting was set to get under way, none of the nongovernment refugee representatives arrived, and Carter decided to walk out into the town to try to talk with them.

"We are in the security field. We're not that flexible," said the security chief, Omar, after the confrontation ended. He said Carter already breached security once by walking to the school and would not be allowed to breach security again.

"This illustrates the challenges that communities and humanitarian workers face in Darfur," said Orla Clinton, spokeswoman for the U.N. Mission in Sudan who witnessed the incident.

Carter later returned to the North Darfur capital of El Fasher and where he was planning to meet with community representatives later Wednesday.

"The Elders" delegation is trying to use their influence at a crucial time _ with peace talks in Libya and the deployment of the AU-U.N. peacekeeping force to begin later this month.

Carter said he felt the trip was proving effective. He said al-Bashir told him this week that Sudan has committed $100 million to a fund for Darfur's reconstruction and another $200 million has been pledged by Chinese diplomatic allies.

Carter said the main goal of the three-day visit to Sudan was to seek guarantees for free and fair elections throughout the country in 2009. Observes fear the elections could be postponed and warn this would imperil the fragile peace in southern Sudan and worsen the conflict in Darfur.

The 2009 vote would be the first democratic election in Sudan since al-Bashir came to power in a military and Islamist coup in 1989. Carter said al-Bashir vowed to allow the election to take place during a private meeting between the two in Khartoum.

"If the CPA fails to fulfill its commitment to free and fair elections and democracy in this country, all other efforts will be futile," Carter said, referring to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended 21 years of civil war between the government and Christian and animist rebels in the south.

___

Associated Press Writer John Leicester contributed to this report in Paris.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Today, Matt and I welcomed our friend Bernard back to San Francisco. He's found an apartment for a few months across the street from the library, as a retired professor he seems thrilled to have easy access to lots of books, old newspapers and such. After walking around the city of Francis today, I was glad to discover Steve Earle's new song "City of Immigrants." Below are the lyrics, check his new album out.



City Of Immigrants

Livin’ in a city of immigrants
I don’t need to go travelin’
Open my door and the world walks in
Livin’ in a city of immigrants
Livin’ in a city that never sleeps
My heart keepin’ time to a thousand beats
Singin’ in languages I don’t speak
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of black
City of white
City of light
City of innocents
City of sweat
City of tears
City of prayers
City of immigrants

Livin’ in a city where the dreams of men
Reach up to touch the sky and then
Tumble back down to earth again
Livin’ in a city that never quits
Livin’ in a city where the streets are paved
With good intentions and a people’s faith
In the sacred promise a statue made
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of stone
City of steel
City of wheels
Constantly spinnin’
City of bone
City of skin
City of pain
City of immigrants

All of us are immigrants
Every daughter, every son
Everyone is everyone
All of us are immigrants - everyone
Livin’ in a city of immigrants
River flows out and the sea rolls in
Washin’ away nearly all of my sins
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of black
City of white
City of light
Livin’ in a city of immigrants
City of sweat
City of tears
City of prayers
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of stone
City of steel
City of wheels
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of bone
City of skin
City of pain
City of immigrants
All of us are immigrants

Happy Birthday St. Paul's on-the-Hill!

The church where my family attended in Virginia celebrated 40 years yesterday. From Sunday School to youth group, serving as an acolyte and participating in neighborhood service projects --- St. Paul's on-the-Hill was where my family found spiritual nourishment, inspiration and support through good times and bad. Though I am now on the other side of the country, I am very grateful for having been formed in the faith by this thriving church in the Shenandoah Valley.

Small church reaps big gains

By Jessica J. Burchard
The Winchester Star

Winchester — Every seat was filled during Sunday morning’s service at St. Paul’s on-the-Hill Episcopal Church.

An estimated 120 new and old parishioners filed into the basement of the church at 1527 Senseny Road to celebrate 40 years with a festive service at the site.

Joan Inger, a member of the church’s 40th anniversary committee, said the size of the congregation gives the church an advantage.

"From the beginning, including today, we’ve always been a small church," she said during the service. "But God does good things here."

Inger added the church has raised up five priests and two nuns since it was established in 1967.

The celebratory service was led by the Rev. Hilary B. Smith, who came to the church four years ago.

At the start of the service, Smith said St. Paul’s has thrived because of its commitment to its cause.

"This church is the body of Christ, visible to the world," she said. "Churches do well when we focus on the bigger picture and the mission God has set before us."

The mission of St. Paul’s is to help people nurture their relationship with God.

Prior to coming to St. Paul’s in 2002, Smith had worked in larger churches. She attributes the intimate and accepting atmosphere of the church for its continued success.

"This is a church where people can come and be who they are," she said. "We bring out the best in one another."

Smith’s philosophy has attracted many new parishioner’s to the church.

Joan Blair, of Stephens City, has been attending St. Paul’s on and off for three years. She and her family moved to Virginia 31/2years ago from West Virginia.

"We considered a few different churches and we just felt the warmth from Hilary," she said. "My husband is actually the one who found it and he was very impressed with it."

Blair observed the service and took communion while her two children were in the Sunday school program.

"There’s usually a mix of people here," she said. "They’re very welcoming to people with children."

St. Paul’s has undergone several changes in the past few years. In 1995, it became independent from its sponsor, Christ Church.

Recently, Smith has added several more convenient service times to the church’s calendar. The weekly service schedule is 7 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 8 and 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Having more opportunities to attend church fits into modern life, Smith said.

"People are so busy. A lot of them cannot make it to Sunday services because their children have soccer practice or something," she said. "We try to give them chances to come that work with their schedules."

St. Paul’s is at 1527 Senseny Road. For more information about the church, call the church office at 540-667-8110 or visit www.spoth.org