Monthly Archives: June 2012

What if the Church Were Like the Movies?

Earlier tonight  I watched UP for the first time.  WARNING SPOILER ALERT.  During the movie the main character (the old man) meets his wife when they are children.  She shows him her most prized belonging her “Adventure Book.”  She shows him everything that is in it.  The last page she has written on says, “Thing I’m Going To Do.”  The following pages are blank.  She says she will fill them up when she gets to Paradise Falls with all the things she is going to do.  Well the couple grows old together, and never gets to Paradise Falls.  The wife dies leaving the husband alone.  Well the husband decides that he is going to take their house (with balloons tied to it so it will fly) and go to Paradise Falls.  The story progresses with lots of twist and turns, but ultimately he gets their house to Paradise Falls.  As he sits in his chair, he finds the “My Adventure Book” and goes through it one more time.  When he gets to the things to do page, he goes to close the book and notices that there is something else – something he has never seen before.  It’s their wedding picture.  The following pages were all the pictures of their life together.  At the very end there was a note that read, “Thanks for all the adventures . . . now go find a new one.”

Thanks for all the adventures . . . now go find a new one.

The Church is at a critical point.  We are holding on to our old adventure with dear life, we don’t want to let go of it.  It’s that last piece that connects us with that lost loved one.  But as the above quote goes, “go find a new one.”  We have been on an amazing journey thus far as a Church.  But, now it’s time to figure out what the next adventure is.  I don’t know what the next adventure for the Church is, I don’t know if anyone does.  What I do know is that we must as a Church continue to discern what’s next.  Maybe something we’ve tried before that didn’t work might work now.  Maybe there’s a really old model of doing Church that would be best.  Maybe it’s something we haven’t even thought of yet.  Whatever it is, it is out there.

There is one thing I can say for certain (I think).  Whatever adventure is next for the Churc

Storm over the Lake by Eularia Clarke

h, the change won’t be easy.  That’s where I think today’s Gospel says a lot to us.  The boat is about to sink.  It looks like all is lost.  But, in a way we can’t see Jesus comes and calms the waters.  Without us knowing, Jesus redeems us and brings calmness out of the chaos.  We must be confident that whatever storms come as we seek out next adventure, God will be there to guide and protect us.

We’ve got to find a new adventure. It’s not going to be easy.  But if we trust in God and follow his call, we will grow and change into who and what God is calling us to be.  When things get tough remember, as one newly released movie says, “Everything will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.

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Transitions and Saying Goodbye

So I’m taking a momentary pause from General Convention, to look at real life. Over the past month I have been in a hiring process at St. Peter’s By the Sea Episcopal Church in Narragansett RI.   This past Thursday, I was officially offered the position and accepted it. as a result of General Convention and other factors, I had already submitted my letter of resignation for my current position at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Providence, RI.  My time at St. Martin’s will come to an end next week (June 27). It is with great sadness that I’m leaving my ministry at St. Martin’s, but I’m incredibly excited inbuilt starting at St. Peter’s. As I was surfing though some blogs today I came across this post on Clergy Family Confidential. I found is words comforting and a wonderful inspiration on leaving as praying our goodbyes.

Here is an excerpt from the blog:

Leaving a congregation can feel like you’re forsaking a congregation. Even when you’re trying to be open and faithful to the call of the Spirit, feelings of anger, betrayal, and grief can abound on both sides.

I’m waiting for Sunday to come with great anticipation, sadness, joy, and many other emotions rolled into one. It will be my last Sunday at St. Martin’s and in the evening I will go to St. Peter’s for the first time for an Evensong and movie night in honor of their – I guess I should say our – patronal feast.

As I continue to reflect on my year at St. Martin’s, I am incredibly grateful for all that this position and ministry has meant for me.  The relationships built, the experiences, my colleagues, and so much more.  It has been a year of personal and professional growth, and one of the most beneficial parts of my vocational discernment.  The people of St. Martin’s will forever hold a special place in my heart.  I am forever grateful for the gift of this past year that they have given me.

Tonight I pray for transitions, for goodbyes and in gratitude for Jesus walking with us through the stormy seas.

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A Better Budget?

Yesterday the Presiding Bishop did, what is in my opinion, a great service to the Church.  She presented to the Church the Presiding Bishop’s Budget Proposal that is based in mission, service, and being the body of Christ.  It is a budget of hope, not one of fear.  While I haven’t gone through the budget line by line, I have read the Message that accompanied the budget.  From what I’ve read so far I am impressed.

By having a more serious focus on mission – via the 5 Marks of Mission – the Presiding Bishop is using the moral document as a way to call us back to the core of who we are.  She is calling us to be a mission minded people and to focus on being Christ’s presence in this broken world.

In her own words:

I believe this reflects what I have seen and experienced firsthand in my visits throughout The Episcopal Church.  those very significant signs of health and hope in congregations and dioceses across this Church are examples of powerful engagement with God’s mission.  What follows is a plan for making this Church a more effective agent of God’s redeeming love mad manifest in Jesus Christ.

Through her message to the Church, it is clear that the Presiding Bishop is stepping up in her leadership position and leading us to a renewed sense of self as the Body of Christ.  She is leading us to develop and rediscover a desire to serve others in the name of Christ.  This is a wonderful example of living into the desire for the Kingdom of God.

To read more about what others are saying about the PB’s Budget Proposal: The LeadSusan Snook, Crusty Old Dean, Scott Gunn, and Susan Russell.

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If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It – SCLM and the Daily Office


This will be my last post on the SCLM for a while. But, I can’t resist saying a few words about the proposed Daily Prayer for All Seasons.  These thoughts come from a few places: 1) as a personal who regularly prayers the Daily Office; 2) having experienced one of the forms from Daily Prayer for All Seasons; and 3) thinking that the SCLM is doing too much.  This third point is self explanatory and I’ve already written about it here.

A few weeks ago, the General Convention deputation from the Diocese of RI gathered with clergy of the diocese to talk about what would be coming to General Convention.  Our meeting started with one of the forms from the Daily Prayer for All Seasons.  We used the Wisdom (Terce) form from Ordinary Time: Creation.  At the end of the time of prayer, those gathered at my tab

le were rather unimpressed.  When it was mentioned that this is done as a way to provide a short form of prayer for folks, several member at my table retorted, “Right, because 15 minutes a day is too much for Jesus” and other such comments.  We found some of the language to be a bit hokey, and left the impression of “uh” that was “interesting.”

It seems to me that these liturgies are a combination of the Daily Devotions for Families and Individuals (BCP p. 136-140) and Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours collection.  In regards to the Daily Devotions, the explanation to Resolution A055 states, “This new resource is intended as a complement to the Daily Offices and Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families in the 1979 BCP.”  I see nothing wrong with this hybrid of the Daily Devotions and Tickle’s The Divine Hours.  My problem, is that I see no reason why these need to be an authorized liturgy of the Church.  Lots of people publish their own devotional material and prayer books.  One example that I’m looking forward to picking up is Jenifer Gamber and Sharon Ely Pearson’s work Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People.  It would be easy enough for those folks who worked on the Daily Prayers for All Seasons to find a publisher like Church Publishing or Forward Movement and put out these resources.

ImageThe Daily Office has worked fine for centuries, and in today’s technological era it is so easily accessible with this app or that app and online resources.

Every liturgy the SCLM produces does not need to be an authorized liturgy. This is a great example of that.


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Put Down the Commemoration, and Step Away from the Calendar


There are two resolutions concerning Holy Women, Holy Men that the SCLM has put forward:

A051 Continue Trial Use of Holy Women, Holy Men

A052 Identify Additional Church Calendar Commemorations

My anticipated vote for both of these resolutions: NO!

While I’m tempted to leave my comments on HWHM there, I should probably explain my feelings.  My strong feelings against this work comes from my practice of using Lesser Feasts and Fasts (LFF) while practicing the daily office.  Here are some of my issues with HWHM:

1) There are too many people on the calendar.  One of the blessings of the current incarnation of our calendar (as expressed in LFF) is that there are numerous feria days on the calendar.  Feria days are free days – days with no commemorations.  These days are important because it serves, among other things, as a reminder to all of us that there is room for us in the calendar of saints – not that we have to be on the calendar of saints.

2) There is an apparent lack of criterion in putting someone on the calendar.  It didn’t seem like we had all that many requirement to begin with, but one of them was being dead for 50 years.  Resolution A052 looks to add the First Ordination of Women in The Episcopal Church.  Are they talking about the Philadelphia 11?  The first women ordained after the approval of General Convention?  I’m not sure, the explanation fails to explain The First Ordination of Women in The Episcopal Church as it does for the other 6 additional commemorations.  Besides the length of time since the person(s) to be commemorated died, it also seems that many of the folks in HWMW are there not for living particularly exemplary lives, but for being the first at something.  Just because you’re the first doesn’t mean you should be commemorated.  One example of this I remember from 2009 is Thurgood Marshall.  My undergraduate degree is in Political Science and I focused on the courts.  I enjoyed learning about Thurgood Marshall in class, but I do not want to be at a midweek Eucharist and hear my rector preaching on him.  I think in the attempt to be inclusive, the SCLM lost track of standards by which to judge folks.  I question why we have folks who are Jewish and (I believe) Atheists but don’t recognize John Henry Newman as a Cardinal.

3) Current commemorations are moved around.  I know one colleague of mine is rather upset that the saint of his birth which has been Anskar (as Feb. 3rd is the day of his death and also the day that the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Lutherans remember him) has been move to February 4th and has been replaced on the 3rd by the Dorchester Chaplains.  With Anskar moving to the 4th, Cornelius the Centurion has been moved to Feb. 7th.  You get the picture.

4) The Process for which this is being carried out leaves us with an all or nothing choice.  In years past when folks have been added to the calendar it has been a handful each triennium.  That allows there to be time for productive conversation on each potential commemoration, without taking over the entire convention.  There is no way there can be suitable conversation on the commemorations of HWHM within the restraints of the upcoming General Convention.  While I’m sure there are wonderful people that the SCLM is trying to add, I’d rather not have them than take this entire lot.

Let me step back a moment and say, I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to celebrate the lives of these individuals.  I think it would be lovely to find a publisher to publish a book of these notable people.  With a prayer for each person and some information on them.  But that book shouldn’t alter the official calendar of the Church.

For further reading on this subject I strongly recommend that you check out Derek Olsen’s work over at haligweorc

Call me conservative and old fashioned but I’m happy sticking with my faithful copy of Lesser Feasts and Fast.

Peace and Blessings to you dear reader on this feria night.

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Thoughts on the SCLM – Hymnal Revision

As I’ve been preparing for General Convention, I’ve been slowly – and sometimes painfully – making my way through the Blue Book.  The Blue Book (which is salmon thing time around) is the report to the General Convention.  It includes the reports of the Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards of The General Convention of the Episcopal Church.  The longest report is the report of the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music – affectionately know as the SCLM. This seems to be one of the most talked about reports to the Convention.

Hymnal Revision Study

Throughout the past triennium, the SCLM has conducted a study to see if folks want a new hymnal.  Here’s the breakdown of how Congregation Members, Clergy, Music Directors, Bishops, and Seminarians feel about Hymnal revision.

The thing to note here is that the folks in the pews don’t want this.  Another assumption that folks seems to be making is that young adults want this.  WRONG!!  Robert Hendrickson has a great post over on his blog The Curate’s Desk.  I love the quote he picked out as a reference point:

“I think there is a huge assumption made that the younger generation wants guitar- and piano-based praise and worship music. …What we want to hear in a Sunday Eucharist are the classic hymns played on organ. And occasionally we want to chant. Church is the one place where our musical taste is not based upon fad, but instead links us with a much more important, more elegant tradition. If I wanted to listen to acoustic guitar and piano, I’d pick up Dave Matthews or Ben Folds. If I wanted rap, I’d listen to Lil Wayne. …For worship, I want music that connects to me a world outside of the in and out of my daily life.”

To that I say, “AMEN!”

The Resolution that accompanies this part of the SCLM report is resolution A048 Form Congregational Song Task Force.  They want to start yet another task force to establish resources, energize and empower leadership, etc.  I think this is all well and good, but I have some reservations.  Does the SCLM need another project to work on?  They already have so much going on that I think things are starting to suffer.  They are doing too much and I think it’s time to rein them in.  I have deep respect for those on the SCLM and consider several of them colleagues and friends.  But, when you take on too much things don’t get accomplished at the level we need them to be.

Sometimes I think we get too caught up in what we are doing and forget why we are doing things.  I’m all for revision and innovation, but not for the sake of revision and innovation.  Give me a solid reason, to make these changes.  At this point, I see no solid reason for hymnal revision.

You can read the entire Hymnal Revision Feasibility Study here.


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The Tavolaro Compromise

Earlier today I posted some reflections on what is being called The Gunn Rule. After my post I passed my reflections along to Susan Russell and was glad to see her respond.  She made some great points – as she says she stands firmly on the other side of the Gunn Rule.  So it go me thinking.  Is there some middle ground between the Gunn Rule and Susan Russell’s stance?  We are Anglicans after all, there has to be a via media.

So in a tongue and cheek way I’m calling this the Tavolaro Compromise.  I wonder what it would look like if every political resolution that requires General Convention to take a stance, included a resolve calling us to some sort of direct action.  For example (this is not an actual resolution) if resolution D370 calls General Convention to send a letter to the President to call for an end to hunger it should also include a resolve challenging each diocese to double the number of hours worked to end hunger in the next triennium.

I wonder what effect this model would have on what we do?  What it would mean to combine social justice advocacy and mission?  How much more powerful would our letters to global and domestic leaders be if we put our money where our mouth is and stepped and worked for the same things we are calling them to work for and do?


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The Gunn Rule

A few days ago on twitter I retweeted a post that said, “Supporting the Gunn Rule for General Convention. Political resolutions must say what we will do, not what others should do.#GC77”  Deputy Gunn (@scottagunn) is a friend and colleague of mine.  I deeply value is insights and work in The Episcopal Church.  Without too much thought, I supported what some are calling “The Gunn Rule.”  Well, another friend and colleague called me out for it.  Shortly after my post, The Rev’d Susan Russell (@revsusanrussell) retorted, “@deetavolaro re: “Gunn Rule” — Seriously? You don’t want TEC advocating for an inclusive ENDA? Or against DADT? Or for marriage equality?”  This is a somewhat long way of introducing the fact that I had some thinking to do, and my response in no way could be in a tweet.  So here it is, my thoughts on The Gunn Rule.

The Gunn Rule is: Let us tell the world what we are going to do about political problems, rather than telling the world what they should do about political problems.  I encourage you to go over to Seven Whole Days and read Scott’s comments on the political resolutions of General Convention.  Are you back? Good?

I find it rather discouraging when the General Convention passes a resolution saying something along the lines of, “Resolved, that the secretary of the Convention send a message to (The President, Congress, the Attorney General, etc.) urging them to consider (fill in the blank) about (issue xyz).”  To be totally honest, I think this is a bit of a cop-out.  We’ve sent a memo to whomever is in power and then we’ve done out bit for this issue. Some of these resolutions cause a great deal of tension and their overall effectiveness and outcome is virtually nonexistent.  Do I think we need to be taking a stand on these issue?  Of course.  Are these General Convention resolutions the best way to do it?  I don’t think so.

Let us tell the world what we are going to do about political problems, rather than telling the world what they should do about political problems. Let’s start lifting up leaders of the Church – on local levels – to step up and work for justice, freedom, and peace in real concrete ways.  Look at what Bishop Curry helped lead the Diocese of CT to do in their state.  Look at the work of Sara Miles and the people of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco. I’m sure you can think of the great work your diocese, parish, and individuals have done.  I think these are the things we should be lifting up.  Let’s craft resolutions for General Convention, to aid the Episcopal Public Policy Network to travel to Diocese and lead workshops on political advocacy.  Instead of telling others how to treat people financially, let’s work so that all lay employees are given just compensation.  What we’ve already done there is not enough.  Now parishes are hiring for 15 hours instead of more so they can avoid having to pay benefits.  Let’s work to make our parishes accessible for people regardless of ability.  General Convention did not need to write a resolution to say that hunger is unacceptable for the Diocese of RI to make feeding the hungry a priority.

As to Susan Russell’s comments about ENDA, DADT, and Marriage Equality.  Yes, I want TEC to keep advocating for these issues, but I think there are better ways for this to happen than General Convention.  Let’s support the work of organizations like Integrity and TransEpiscopal.  I rejoice when I see my clergy colleagues at the RI Statehouse in support of Marriage Equality – even more when they testify at hearings.  However, General Convention can not afford to spend its time passing resolutions on everyone’s favorite issue.  Let’s focus on doing work that will enable us to form Disciples.  Then those Disciples can go out and work for social justice and change in ways that will be far more effective than Gregory Straub sending a letting to President Obama.


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Giving this a shot


A few years ago I started a blog, but haven’t done anything with it in three+ years.  With General Convention around the corner, I’ve decided to give another go at this.  So here it is my new blog.  More to come soon!

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