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‘This Fragile Earth, Our Island Home’ and the Legacy of Howard E. Galley

Earth.space.com

This morning on Twitter I discovered that someone was trying to steal credit for the most distinctive phrase in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

It was an honest mistake and it’s since been corrected. But it was in an article by the official Episcopal News Service, and I couldn’t let it stand.

Howard E. Galley, Jr. wrote Eucharistic Prayer C late one night in 1974, upon returning to his office at the Episcopal Church Center (“815”) after leading an evening group for Church Army trainees at the General Theological Seminary in New York. I was one of his students in that yearlong training course. After graduation and a lengthy internship, we were commissioned as Evangelists with a national preaching license.

It was a busy year for Howard; a satisfying and productive year. His main job was shepherding an entirely new version of the American Prayer Book. The English version of the BCP, first published in 1549 shortly after the death of King Henry VIII, is a classic of English literature which has guided the worship and nourished the souls of Anglicans worldwide for centuries. The original Book has only two equals: the Authorized King James Version of the Bible and the collected works of William Shakespeare.

God faue the Kyng, indeed.

God faue the Kyng, indeed.

Howard Galley was up to the task.

His job title at Church headquarters was “Assistant to the Coordinator for Prayer Book Revision.” The coordinator was a diplomat, priest-scholar and liturgist named Fr. Leo Malania, whose day job was serving on the faculty of the Mercer School of Theology in the Diocese of Long Island, New York.

What this meant in practical terms was that Leo had a big clean office at “815,” where he showed up occasionally when the Standing Liturgical Commission had a meeting. As his assistant, Howard Galley did all the day-to-day work, in a smaller office piled with papers, charts, journals, magazines, correpondence, books and workbooks and notebooks.

Leo was the star; Howard wrote the script. Leo would breeze in from Long Island, shoot his scenes, and leave. By all accounts he was a great actor in this lengthy production, from roughly 1968 to 1980. It was the most important work in the Episcopal Church during the 1970s, and no one could have led it but him. He was a former assistant to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and a renowned liturgical expert with international contacts at the highest levels of scholarship in the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, Orthodoxy and other top church bodies. His was the name that ultimately carried the day.

But the actual coordinator was Howard.

So imagine how plucked I was to discover this ENS article today, attributing Howard’s finest writing to some retired bishop named Atkinson at a church in Virginia. I never heard of this guy before, but I was not surprised to see someone else credited for Howard’s seminal work.

I fired off a tweet when I saw the article, and soon was contacted by the ENS reporter, Lynette Wilson. She told me she had based her article, which is about stewardship of the Earth, on something she was told concerning the authorship by someone at that church in Virginia. Apparently this Bishop Atkinson was so taken by Howard’s phrasing of Eucharistic Prayer C and the theology embedded in it, and spoke of it so often, that in time local people started attributing the prayer to him. The bishop must have been a wonderful teacher.

But he did not write that prayer. Howard did, after one particularly good night at the National Institute for Lay Training at General Seminary, which he served as dean.

The Close at night, by the Rev. K. Jeanne Person.

The Close at night, by the Rev. K. Jeanne Person.

As one of his trainees I was present with about 10 other people, the first time Mass was celebrated a few days later using Howard’s revolutionary new prayer. When worship was done, we were in awe of what he had written and asked him lots of questions about it. All we knew beforehand was that the Rev. Bill Coulter, another NILT faculty member and the only priest, would celebrate using a new prayer; then out tumbled this fabulous new thing with so many features – including responses from the congregation – that had never been done before in Christian history.

Howard was kind of shy about it, but he told us when and how it came to be. He even attributed our good group meeting a few nights earlier as his inspiration. He’d sat in his office at “815,” looked out the window and saw a big, beautiful moon over the city. Five years earlier, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had first set foot on that moon – an epochal event in human history.

In 1969, in living rooms across America and around the world, we watched live television coverage from the moon, and everyone saw for themselves that we live on “this fragile Earth, our island home.”

Howard consecrated that moment five years later and claimed it for God.

I could say much more about that year in my life and Howard Galley’s place in it, and someday perhaps I will. Now, however, I just want to get down these basic facts. Because I don’t ever want to see again, in a publication of the Episcopal Church or anywhere else, one more false claim about the authorship of Prayer C.

I know of two other living witnesses to this account: the Rev. Anthony Guillen, Hispanic/Latino Missioner of the Episcopal Church, who like me was a Church Army trainee that night; and Patti O’Kane, the longtime partner of Howard Galley’s best friend and associate, Sr. Brooke Bushong, also of the Church Army, who later became a deacon in the Diocese of New York.

The Rev. Sr. Brooke Bushong, late of the Church Army.

The Rev. Sr. Brooke Bushong, late of the Church Army.

Much of the background here, including the misattribution of authorship, is due to the low status of lay ministers in the Episcopal Church. The Standing Liturgical Commission would never have hired Howard Galley as coordinator of Prayer Book Revision; that important post had to go to a member of the clergy – because no one who was not ordained was considered capable or legitimate. This is the “Bishops’ Church,” after all; that’s what “episcopal” means. Prestige is the sole province of clergy in this church (and in most others), with one result being collateral damage to Howard Galley’s essential contribution in compiling that revolutionary Book.

I’m not interested in sour grapes; this is just a fact of life. But I will not allow Howard’s name to be forgotten or his contributions to be trashed, especially by people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

I am apparently the Last Man Standing among the old Church Army crowd. So I have an obligation to my friend and to other lay ministers to set the record straight and preserve Howard’s legacy.

He was quite a character; by far the best teacher I’ve ever had, and that includes some really good ones, especially Sr. Brooke and Fr. Bill. The fourth member of the NILT quartet was Capt. Tom Tull, a former missionary in Alaska who was “young and dumb” in 1974. Tom came into his own years later as an AIDS activist and minister in San Francisco. We all had that in common, frankly, but that’s another story.

If Leo Malania was a movie star, Howard Galley was a headliner on Broadway. I’ve never seen a human being hold a crowd’s attention like Howard could, night after night, anywhere but a Broadway theater. He was electrifying; loving, gentle, incredibly smart, faithful down to his bones. And he was also, by age 45 or so when I first met him, the very picture of a divo.

Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger

That’s Italian for “a god.” But unlike a rock star or Broadway headliner, Howard wrote all his own material and gave a different performance every night.

That’s just what teachers do. But even the best ones aren’t enthralling every time out like he was.

We all think we know what female divas are about, in opera or the theater; lots of ego, massive self-centeredness, ordering people around. That’s the popular stereotype, but the actual goddesses of the theater – Bernadette Peters, Ethel Merman, Chita Rivera, Angela Lansbury, maybe Irina Menzel – are spellbinding.

They don’t stop the show; the audience stops the show to go nuts over them. They say Merman held the last note of “I Got Rhythm” for 32 bars without a breath; of course the audience rioted!

Merman was an Episcopalian; I wouldn't be surprised if she gave Howard lessons.

Merman was an Episcopalian; I wouldn’t be surprised if she gave Howard lessons.

But Howard was a man. I compare him to Jason Robards in Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O’Neill, which was playing at the Morosco Theatre that year, with its long stretches of monologue for the two protagonists. (Colleen Dewhurst was every bit as strong as Robards, her ex-husband; if anything she stole the show because her character starts out at a disadvantage to her drunken, eloquent, loudmouth bellower of a man.)

JasonRobardsColleenDewhurst.MoonTVmovie

Every night with Howard was like going to Broadway. There I was, a 22-year-old hick from the sticks, staring open-mouthed at this teacher who was so thrilling and demanding, vulnerable and full of faith.

(If this reminds you of anyone you know, please don’t mention it until after the webcast.)

Now I will end this, by reprinting the three comments I left on the Episcopal News Service website this morning. I’m trying to set the record straight and create a larger internet presence for my great teacher, who died in 1993. I can’t find a single photograph of Howard anywhere online, so this will have to do.

He was a great man. So let me add right now, if anyone from that era deserves a place on our liturgical calendar in future years, it won’t be Leo Malania or any of the thousands of others who contributed to prayer book revision. It will be Howard Galley, a devout Catholic who was a thorough Evangelist.++

Ceremonies

___

Comment #1 on Episcopal News Service’s website:

Howard E. Galley, Jr. of the Church Army wrote those words, not Bishop Atkinson. I was present the first time they were used to consecrate bread and wine at the Eucharist, in a classroom at General Seminary, New York, in the summer of 1974. The Rev. Bill Coulter celebrated for my Church Army training class; Capt. Galley, Sr. Brooke Bushong and Capt. Tom Tull were there along with six lay ministry students, including Anthony Guillen, who was later ordained and became Hispanic/Latino Missioner at 815. Howard told us after Mass how he came to write that prayer, late one night at 815 after one of our evening classes. He wrote it all in one sitting, then refined it with Brooke and a few other friends a few nights later at a bar in Brooklyn Heights.

He was Assistant to the Coordinator for Prayer Book Revision and General Editor of the new BCP, the day-to-day staffer who kept the wheels turning for the Standing Liturgical Commission in the runup to the General Convention of 1976, at which the Draft Prayer Book was provisionally approved for three years before winning final approval in 1979. Howard Galley wrote that prayer and no one else.

On his behalf I respectfully request a correction.

___

Comment #2:

What Bishop Atkinson must have done was to quote Howard Galley’s phrase (and perhaps celebrate Mass using it) so often at Emmanuel, Greenwood, that in time people began to think he must have written it.

Besides Fr. Guillen, I have another witness who was present during the creation of this prayer: Sr. Brooke Bushong’s partner Patti O’Kane, who still lives in Brooklyn Heights and can supply details about Howard, Brooke and others meeting for a drink a few nights after he composed the prayer. He read it to them, and they were the first persons to ever hear it; he asked for feedback and they gave him some. A few days later Fr. Bill Coulter gave it its world premiere in a little room at GTS.

___

Comment #3:

Historical footnote, for the record: Howard knew within a couple of weeks that “this fragile earth, our island home” was a hit; Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had landed on the moon only five years earlier. And Howard knew that the environmental theme also resonated quickly; the first Earth Day happened in 1970. But the thing he was proudest of in that prayer was that it’s the first in Anglican history to invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary as part of the consecration.

By far his proudest moment in the overall, decades-long process of Prayer Book revision was winning final approval for the most important provision of all: the rubric on p. 13 terming the Holy Eucharist “the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day.” For the first time since the Reformation, Sunday Mass was restored to its rightful place in Anglican worship.

This Church owes Howard Galley and everyone associated with Prayer Book revision the highest honor we can bestow. People think that what the ’79 Book did was get rid of “thees and thous,” but that was the least of it. The Commission, Bishops and Deputies gave us back our Communion with Christ, and we must never forget what they did. This Book made history because it made us Catholic again, in practice as well as thought.

So now you know.

So now you know.

Two Dream Warnings

SigningWill

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, the wise men left for their own country by another road.

— Matthew 2:12 (NRSV)

The past two evenings, in late afternoon naps, I have received warnings in my dreams of my death. The second one was five minutes ago.

In the first, I was in a hospital, about to undergo one of those death by injection treatments which hospice nurses use on some people with terminal illness. (My mother died that way at home.) They administer painkillers, supposedly at a physician’s direction. I received mine, but I talked all the way through it, including afterward, which made me want to know why I wasn’t dead yet. Then the nurse left and closed a big old heavy wooden door – to shut death in with me, I guess; to make sure I couldn’t escape. Finally I asked, “Does this mean I’m going to keel over?” She paused, then cracked open a wooden vertical slot half an inch, and answered, “Yes.”

So I climbed back onto the gurney, made the sign of the Cross quite profoundly – and woke up.

A few minutes ago, I dreamed I was riding in a car with several middle-aged women as we headed to a political meeting; something to do with a fight over development in Clifton, a Cincinnati neighborhood where I once lived. I could picture the street in the business district they were all concerned about; they were fighting this development, and about to meet with a heavyweight donor in the northeastern suburbs. Then we’d all have lunch at a restaurant, and when the drama started we were already discussing how we would pay our collective food bill; a woman we picked up along the way would get the tab, then we’d all reimburse her. We were headed up north along the interstate – maybe from I-75 to the Norwood Lateral – when we rounded a curve and plunged into deep water that was flooding the roadway. I saw it coming, but the driver plowed through it, and in seconds we were all right. Then we rounded another curve with a much deeper wall of water, deep enough that no one would ever attempt to drive through it. At the crucial moment she glanced away to her left, and the car not only plunged in, it rapidly filled with water.

No one spoke. I could tell we would drown, and I headed my nose to the roof of the car. I clawed at it, managed to rip through the (old-fashioned) cloth, filled myself with oxygen and started giving directions, “Get your noses above water, there’s a little space here.” I tried the door, we were able to clamber out (which was odd, since I was sitting in the middle, and logically the door wouldn’t have opened so easily). I made it to the dry left side of the road, the driver somehow was able to drive a few feet ahead and park on the median, and when she got out she said, “I didn’t see it coming.”

Well, I did. That’s what dreams are for.

My spiritual director Marcia recently did an experimental painting, “Wake up to your dreams. They are unopened letters from God.” She’d gotten spiritually blocked about even trying this thing that wanted to come out of her, which I accidentally discovered while we had an e-mail discussion about an earlier work of hers, a pastel drawing of a young woman, which I own and she wanted to borrow back for an upcoming gallery event. She made arrangements to pick it up on a certain day, I took it down from my wall and Windexed the glass so it would be clean for her, and took it downstairs so she wouldn’t have to wait while I retrieved it. The day came and went and she never picked it up.

A couple of weeks later I wrote to her again, asking about it. And I somehow intuited her fear, though she hadn’t mentioned it. So I encouraged her in that e-mail, as best I could in my ignorance, that whatever was going on with her she should paint through it. “Just try, even if it turns out ugly or shameful or scandalous or wrong.” I didn’t know what I was saying, and yet I wrote this with confidence to her. She is quite a spiritual director, who has shared many things with me as I have with her, and the one thing I knew was that if my advice was off-base, she’d be strong enough to ignore it.

Two weeks later she finished the painting, took a picture of it, and sent me the photo by e-mail. Here it is.

Marcia Smith-Wood, 2013: Wake up to your dreams. They are unopened letters from God."

Marcia Smith-Wood, 2013: Wake up to your dreams. They are unopened letters from God.

It’s a self-portrait, but I’m not going to discuss it as art so I don’t intrude on her privacy. It was the title that got to me; such a clear expression of her insights. I thought it might even be helpful to my Daily Office congregation, so I posted it shortly thereafter for Morning Prayer.

No one commented on it, but its message stayed with me.

I can’t say, like the driver of the car, that I didn’t see it coming. My dreams, two afternoons in a row, told me death is coming.

Maybe I have a chance to repent and radically change my ways (I’m an alcoholic, sometimes in recovery and sometimes not, and I smoke). But I’m not entirely concerned with that right now. I am not for the most part horribly frightened of death. I hope when it comes it’s not painful, but my number one concern is my spiritual response to it. My first dream, in the hospital with the old heavy door, satisfies me; what to do when our death is at hand is to make the sign of the Cross. We don’t even have to say anything, for God will know. (It’s funny that in that moment of great physical weakness, I imagined my hand traveling all the way from my forehead to my waist, then one shoulder to the other. Liturgically impeccable, a death seen only in the movies.)

Last night just before I went to bed for the last time, I had a heart-to-heart with God about this. I asked him or her to make provision for my prayer site’s succession; it will need someone to outlive me. It is too big, after 2.5 million hits and another million e-mails to subscribers, and too successful simply to die with me. We are doing too well right now, with a pending grant application for $50,000 to church headquarters in New York, and brand new live webcasts five mornings a week. The technology is very exciting; a few people are trying it. We can see each other by webcam, hear each other by VoIP, and their computer screens (iPad or phone) display what’s on my screen: the website with its liturgy, art and videos. When I hit Play on the videos, everyone sees and hears them simultaneously. It really is like being in church together, though we’re physically located throughout the country.

None of my competitors even attempts such a thing – and indeed, one basis of our grant app is that we offer live curated services twice a day. (I’m the “curator,” because the term sounds grandiose enough to impress New York.) The two or three competing sites (why anyone would compete over this work is beyond me) are simply databases, where the user clicks enough times to put together the elements they want. No art – Fr. Richard Helmer recently trumpeted that he’s now added some, nine years after my innovation – and certainly no videos.

The pride I take in my site is the making of community; this is what online church should be, not praying to a database. If we do get selected for the grant, I’ve got another trick up my sleeve to grow this community. Don’t know whether it will work, but we’re big enough to try.

We get more visitors per year than the National Cathedral in Washington. They’re going to start charging tourists $10 a head, to raise $3 million for their overhead; with 50 grand I can take care of our techno expansion, pay myself a salary – which is key to my succession plan, because another minister will want that paying job – and start up a Spanish language version in cooperation with Padré Mickey.

Best $50,000 New York will ever spend, or so I hope. I prayed to God last night, “Give me that succession and I can go in peace.”

S/he gave me a loving response this morning, enveloping me in warmth, her favorite way, because I can receive it and know it’s her. She probably waited until this morning because I was headed straight to bed after our talk.

Then to have this death-by-drowning dream a few minutes ago, well – my fingers drum on the desktop – I clearly will have to completely change my ways. That’s what “repentance” means, an up-and-down transformation. Quit the behavior, no more self-destructiveness. Booze and smoking kill. That’s actually how my mother died; she smoked until she got lung cancer, and eventually drowned in the fluid that filled her lungs. I guess the morphine shots were a blessing – though the hospice agency was really dishonest about it. Nurse-assisted homicide takes place all over the country, and though that sounds shocking, people who’ve been there all know it.

Repentance is difficult, and for most people it’s very gradual, though fundamentalists would have you believe they’re all “born again” in a flash. This 180-degree turn is something they tell each other about constantly and take pride in, though they cloak that pride in describing how wicked they once were. (We’re supposed to think they’re not anymore!) It makes them feel better about themselves. And I don’t know that it doesn’t happen, so while I gladly satirize them, I don’t judge a one of them. May it all be just as they claim.

For 99% of Episcopalians it doesn’t work that way. We seldom have the same depravities they describe, and we seldom go through such a quick turnaround. I’m 62, and I’ve been working at social justice (while smoking and drinking, quitting and going back to it) all my life. They never get to that part, so fuck ’em. They deserve Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard and Fox News.

I don’t drink 24/7/365 anymore, but I do jump on and off the wagon, and lately I’ve been off in left field for two weeks.

So I just poured out my last vodka, to make sure I don’t go through withdrawal. I’ve been tapering again, and I’m pretty sure I’m physically in the clear; withdrawal is life-threatening. (If I should die tomorrow, notify Maria L. Evans of the Diocese of Missouri at once. The site will belong to her until she makes other arrangements. This is my legal wish.) Alcohol is the more immediately dangerous substance for me, and since New York is taking its own sweet time to decide our application, maybe I’ll stay sober long enough to keep the site going awhile.

My strategy to quit smoking is a week or so away: never buy menthol cigarettes again. (Europe’s about to ban them, and they’re right.) The “regular flavor” tastes so damn nasty I won’t want to keep smoking. I’ll set a quit date, taper down and be done with this stuff. If I still can’t manage it I’ll seek every kind of medical help there is. I can’t afford cigarettes, physically, spiritually or financially. If I have to take a prescription drug instead, I’ll buy it until I find one that works.

As you have decided by now, my story does not offer immense moral uplift with a pop soundtrack; only honesty amidst struggle and dream warnings. (Masturbation doesn’t kill anybody, or I’d have been dead at 16. Apparently my fantasies will continue until five minutes before I croak.) I thank God for my dreams.

Marcia, I opened the letters.

Otherwise I’m quite content with my spiritual life. The site is going great guns, and yesterday’s big sign of the Cross ending leaves me at peace. I’m thankful for the Spirit’s embrace this morning; God hasn’t left me, no matter how much danger I put myself in. Even today’s nap had me making my way to the grass, not perishing in the water.

Otherwise, here’s hoping I can consolidate my afternoon naps and my nighttime sleeping. I’m a plenty dramatic fella, but I’d rather not go through this three afternoons in a row.++

Josh Thomas
Kentland, Indiana
owner and founder, dailyoffice.org
November 29, 2013

Last Will Cartoon

Special Post: YHWH Parts Red Sea for Gay People

Reposted from dailyoffice.org:

StonewallInn

THE LESSON
Exodus 13:21-22 (NRSV)

The LORD went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light; so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, left its place in front of the people.

THE PRAYERS

The Gay Lord’s Prayer
© 2013 Josh Thomas – All Rights Reserved

Our Lover in heaven,
your name is holy.
Your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today the bread we need.
And forgive us our many destructions,
as we forgive those who seek to destroy us.
Save us from our wrong temptations
and preserve us from violence and hate.
Yours alone are the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever.
In the Name of Jesus, let it be so.

Let us bless the Lord. Alleluia, alleluia.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.

Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.++

With this added illustration, just for Gay Spirit Diary readers:

50 years ago this month - before the Stonewall Riots, before we'd even adopted the word Gay!

Fifty years ago this month – before the Stonewall Riots, before we’d even adopted the word Gay! The male authors didn’t believe we’d ever get actual legal marriage; they were promoting commitment and long-term relationships within their underground subculture. This “Gay rights” thing you’ve heard about? It’s *always* been about love.

Excelling without Recognition

What was it like for Vincent Can Gogh?

Blooming Plum Tree, 1887

Blooming Plum Tree, 1887

The public hated his paintings. Critics abused him, gallery owners threw him out in the street.

At age 37 he killed himself. Today his paintings go for $100 million.

He’s only the most famous example of a common phenomenon, the unrecognized genius – and now, his story has become too easy for us. We pigeonhole him as a tragic figure and tell ourselves he just lived before his time, as if that’s all we need to know.

What we never say is, “If I’d seen his work back then, I’d have hated it too. He was crazy, the poor sot. No one cared when he died. I didn’t either.”

We’re as guilty of rejecting excellence now as people were back then.

Have you noticed that, when the MacArthur Foundation’s genius grants come out, you’ve never heard of any of them? Or do you have Benjamin Warf, Nancy Rabalais and David Finkel on your Friends’ list?

I don’t either. Nor Terry Plank, Junot Diaz or Claire Chase. Wouldn’t know them if they showed up on TV, which they don’t.

It’s a mystery how the MacArthur Foundation finds out about these folks. But I figure they employ specialists to scour the world looking for geniuses.

They’ve sure never knocked on my door, nor of anyone else I know. My friends do tend to excel, though; maybe not geniuses, but they’re all pretty darn good.

Clearly there’s a big gap between doing great work and being well-known. That’s surely true in every field of endeavor.

This guy is suddenly well-known:

Omar Borkan Al Gala has manufactured publicity by claiming he's too sexy for Saudi Arabia. However, he was supposedly one of four men kicked out of the country, and no one's seen the other three.

Omar Borkan Al Gala has manufactured publicity by claiming he’s too sexy for Saudi Arabia. However, he’s supposedly one of three men kicked out of the country, and no one’s seen the other two.

This guy isn’t much known, but should be:

John C. Bogle, father of index investing and founder of The Vanguard Group of mutual funds, has made more "nobodies" rich than anyone in the history of the world. That's an awful lot of grandparents. (Scott S. Hamrick)

John C. Bogle, father of index investing and founder of The Vanguard Group of mutual funds, has made more “nobodies” rich than anyone in the history of the world. That’s an awful lot of grandparents. (Scott S. Hamrick)

I’m sure you can come up with your own examples – a favorite actor or singer who never quite made it, an unknown writer whose sentences take your breath away, a social critic who’s so accurate that no one can hear her, the rabbi who liberated Buchenwald but got shunned in Jerusalem.

Some people are good at the publicity machine and some people aren’t. If Theo Van Gogh had had the internet, Vincent would have died rich at 92.

Mr. Bogle’s a good example; he’s a titan of the mutual fund industry, but Wall Street billionaires won’t even make eye contact with him. He’s onto their game. Fame doesn’t interest him, but investor education does.

For a rich guy, he doesn’t orient his life around greed, but around ethics. Which makes him a worthy subject for the Gay Spirit Diary.

He was interviewed recently for Frontline, the PBS documentary series. Turns out he doesn’t think money is God.

Here’s what prompts my musings: A little while ago I posted tomorrow’s Morning Prayer on my Daily Office site for the Eastern Hemisphere. It’s a fairly ordinary post, the kind of thing I do every day – but it’s great, if I do say so.

Sometimes a person excels quietly, just doing what they do every day, whether people notice or not. There’s a lot to be said for consistency.

This post, if you haven’t seen it yet, celebrates the Saint of the Day, a poet named Christina Rossetti; notices the death of former Congressman Bob Edgar, a Methodist minister and social action leader; features a Song of Creation written by my friend Maria L. Evans, praising God for the landscape and critters of northeast Missouri; asks for prayers for the Diocese of Nevada by showing a photo of a country church on the edge of Lake Tahoe; and ends with a hymn by Charles Wesley, sung at the Anglican cathedral of Portsmouth, which isn’t one of the prestigious cities in England.

All in all, the post is kind of ordinary and kind of brilliant. For those who get into that sort of thing, it will satisfy the soul.

I like doing that. I am happy with my life. And I’m good enough at it that my prayer sites have had 2 million visitors; I have almost a thousand members on Facebook.

These things make me a “success” on some level. They don’t make me a MacArthur genius, but I’m doing pretty good. I will die content.

Part of me knows that Vincent Van Gogh didn’t give a solitary crap whether anyone liked his stuff or not. And part of me knows that he really did.

I feel the same way, both sides of that duality. I care, and I don’t. After all, you’re reading this; thank you!

I don’t need anyone to read it but you.

On the other hand, the more the merrier, and I sure would like a few more donations from the people who are getting my fabulous prayers online. Money’s the only thing I worry about – and then I shrug, because you have to; it isn’t God.

This happened to me recently: I found out that someone read my new book, understood it and liked it. Five stars on Amazon – to go with my previous one-star review.

I’d quit looking, frankly; I don’t market my books, I just write them. I don’t know who this woman is, or how she found my book. I do know that she understood it, and that’s very gratifying. “Vincent sold a painting! Yay!”

Of course I don’t compare to him; I only compare to me, though every publisher will tell you that all writers compare to everyone else in their “genre.” Amazon keeps track of these comparisons, it’s all numerical. I’m probably # 2,000,000 today; oh well.

Encouraged, I decided to check if any of my other books have reviews I hadn’t seen. Murder at Willow Slough, my first book which sold the best of the three, has 27 reviews – but look at this list of the headlines on them:

• Thoroughly unreadable
• Beautiful Gay Man meets Straight Cop
• Josh Is THE MAN
• A thrilling read
• Interesting plot, poor writing
• Great Thriller!
• Interesting plot, but could have been better
• Contemporary classic for the Hoosier State
• Stunning
• Compelling!

Keep in mind, Mark Twain gets mixed reviews on Amazon, and Shakespeare’s often called “overrated.” No one gets universal acclaim, and if they start to, there will be a backlash. I spent enough time in the newspaper business to know that the media builds you up one day, only to tear you down the next. Reporters have space to fill; that’s their job. And the public is fickle and mostly apathetic.

So I’ve learned not to expect much, though it does seem odd that I’m so polarizing to people. I get lots of love and a fair amount of hate. For every “thoroughly unreadable,” there will be an “OMG, this writing is perfect.” This is why I go months without reading reviews.

The worst, of course, is no reviews at all. If you want reviews, you have to work the publicity machine. And that takes a value set I just don’t have. (Mindset –> value set).

I look more like John Bogle than Al Gala! Though 30 years ago I was kinda cute. Didn’t take advantage of it; didn’t believe in it.

Recognition is important; it keeps an artist like Vincent alive. But at some point a real artist has to say, “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.” Do what you do, keep at it, and maybe you’ll get recognized, and maybe you won’t.

Don’t kill yourself if you don’t.

IN CONCLUSION… I don’t really have a conclusion, except to take your comforts where you can. Be thankful for what you have, not regretful for what you don’t. However bad you’ve got it, somebody’s got it much worse; and similar clichés that are completely true. You have to be self-motivated; someday Al Gala will be admitted to Saudi Arabia without a second thought. What goes up must come down.

Make sure that what goes down, you bring back up.++

Luke loves me, whether you do or not!

Luke loves me, whether you do or not.

Becoming Jeremiah

Jeremiah in his loincloth. (artist unknown)

The prophet in his loincloth. (artist unknown)

One of the pleasures of Lent this year for me is re-viewing the prophet Jeremiah (c. 627-c. 586 B.C.), whose big theme was the destruction of ancient Judah and the Babylonian captivity. He can see it coming, so he warns about it.

Now I don’t know if you have an image of Jeremiah in your mind, but if you do it’s probably like the old man above, with a sour attitude; a male Cassandra, doomed never to be believed until it’s too late. Modern prophets of doom – global warming, anyone? – are often said to issue “jeremiads.” But the prophet’s actual writings are richer than that; here’s a snippet appointed for tomorrow’s Morning Prayer.

Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice;
who makes his neighbors work for nothing,
and does not give them their wages;
who says, “I will build myself a spacious house
with large upper rooms,”
and who cuts out windows for it,
paneling it with cedar,
and painting it with vermilion.
Are you a king
because you compete in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink
and do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
then it was well.
Is not this to know me?
says the LORD.
But your eyes and heart
are only on your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.

(Jer. 22:13-17, NRSV)

And I thought, “What a perfect description of slavery in the American South. I wonder how the slaveholders managed to ignore that?”

Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice;
who makes his neighbors work for nothing,
and does not give them their wages…
But your eyes and heart
are only on your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.

Of course, we know how slaveholders managed to ignore that; they fastened on St. Paul’s many times of telling slaves to mind their place – heedless that what Paul actually said was “We are all slaves of something; those who believe in Christ are the joyful slaves of God.”

Racists’ “fastening on St. Paul” is a lot like homophobes’ fastening on him for their proof-texts. As LGBTs we’re all too familiar with this. First they’ll hit us with Leviticus, and when that stops working, since it’s in the Old/Hebrew Testament, they’ll start quoting St. Paul.

I never bother with Bible-quote arguments against homosexuality anymore. They bore me and I’m just too old for them; same shit, different day.

Instead I focus on the prophets – not in their future-telling ability, which is really a minor part of what prophecy’s about, but in the nature of their complaints. What exactly set them off?

There are two answers really; unrighteousness, which is worshiping the wrong god (especially money); and injustice toward fellow human beings.

But your eyes and heart
are only on your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.

Those four simple lines, which are over 2500 years old, are the perfect indictment for Dick Cheney, the war in Iraq, Wall Street bankers, the new Pope, income inequality, corporate greed, the Republican Party, the NRA, the National Organization for Marriage, the Tea Party, Anglican schism – and even my next-door neighbor, the one who still flies his flag at half-staff because Barack Obama got re-elected. Or so it seems to me.

I don’t have to watch MSNBC to know what to think about the news; all I have to do is read my Bible.

The prophets were always pissed about Israel’s treatment of the poor! It was also Christ’s constant theme.

Recently my friends at the Polish Episcopal Network posted an icon that summarizes in a single image the heart of the message of Christ.

(unknown)

Give drink to the thirsty, visit those in prison; provide the dignity of clothing to those who have nothing. (artist unknown)

This Polish Network, run by my friends Jarek and Lukasz, are trying to establish a progressive Christian alternative in that very Catholic country, where the national hero Lech Walesa recently denounced Gay people again. There are a couple of new Gay and Lesbian members of the Polish Parliament, and Walesa said they should be seated “behind a wall,” not with the other members. (In response they occupied the front benches instead.) As you can imagine, it’s rough going, but the progressive network has an elderly priest who celebrates mass for them, and the backing and guidance of the American bishop in Paris, Pierre Whalon. Jarek and Lukasz say there is a real desire among younger Poles for a church that is catholic but not Roman. It isn’t feasible to found a church yet – people are scattered all over the country – but they have founded their network. Who is behind this new evangelism? A couple of Gay guys whose very humanity Walesa tries to deny.

Now here’s some news: I am making plans for a pilgrimage in a few months to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where a priest-friend, Margaret Watson, runs an Episcopal mission of nine churches. The People are desperately poor, and yet their faith is so real you can touch it.

YouthWorks volunteers helped reopen St. Philip's Episcopal Church, Dupree, South Dakota, last summer.

YouthWorks volunteers helped reopen St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Dupree, South Dakota, last summer on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Because I am that rarest of Episcopalians, a commissioned Evangelist, Margaret and I are thinking I might be able to help a little with lay ministry training. One priest can’t possibly cover nine churches; the funerals alone keep her racing around, much less regular Sunday services. Fortunately the People have a tradition of mutual lay ministry, and the Bishop and diocese support them in that.

But I won’t be going as an outside expert. I am completely ignorant of their culture and their ways. I know only one thing about them, which is that my first great mentor in the faith, the Evangelist Ervin Faulkenberry, was totally in love with the Lakota Sioux. Every couple of years he used to travel to their big annual pow-wow, called the Niobrara Convocation, where Episcopalians from all the tribes in the state gather for a weeklong reunion.

The summer before I went to seminary at 22, he took the youth groups from Lafayette and Plainfield, Indiana to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the Badlands. They helped build a church there, but I didn’t get to go; I had to work and earn tuition money. Years later his daughter Pam sent me a photo of them from August 1973; her mother Emily is in the foreground, Ervin is in the center in the blue shirt, while the kids were working like dogs and sweating like pigs.

Faulkenberry.Mission_SD_1973

Yet I do know the People to some slight degree, through him, through Margaret and her blog, and a general knowledge of Native American history. The Pine Ridge Reservation is the home of Wounded Knee. Sitting Bull was killed there in 1890; Dennis Banks of the American Indian Movement led a siege there from February to May 1973. You can read about it here. Fortunately it was over by the time the Faulkenberrys got there.

Why, 40 years later, are the People still so poor? They really have almost nothing – except alcoholism, domestic violence and suicide, diabetes, heart disease and hunger. Meanwhile South Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the country thanks to a boom in shale oil and gas. The state government is swimming in so much cash they can’t get rid of it – but they won’t pave any roads on the reservations or build a decent hospital.

Maybe you noticed that two weeks ago, Congress finally got around to passing the Violence Against Women Act, after a year’s worth of Republican objections over two new provisions: it covers LGBT victims of domestic violence now, and for the first time it provides that White men who commit domestic violence on the reservation can face justice in tribal courts.

Oh, the Republicans howled. Protecting Lesbian and Gay victims means approving same-sex relationships! And White men can’t get justice in Indian courts, Indians don’t know anything about justice under law!

But your eyes and heart
are only on your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.

The reservations exist because White men stole the Indians’ land. And nothing has changed since then. That’s why all the young people get drunk; they have no other life.

And yet they do; Margaret loves her ministry, and Ervin loved his. When I go this summer, it will be to retrace his steps, to learn a little about what the faithful remnant have to teach.

I’m scared, but I’m also looking forward to it.

Now this part is difficult for me; for reasons I don’t understand, I identify with Jeremiah and the prophets. In some very minor way I am like them. Jeremiah couldn’t help himself; God called, he answered and it was all downhill from there. He somehow had the balls to tell the people of Judah they were wrong.

They didn’t listen. For the most part we don’t either; climate change, anyone?

Rachel Jones wrote about prophets recently:

Their job isn’t to tell the future in stunning detail or stark relief. Their job is to tell us what they see, what they understand; it’s not to explain things. How few of them, sacred and secular, have really understood the profound underpinnings of what they’ve been charged to share? But even in the face of the naked acknowledgment that there is always a lack of total understanding, each prophet eventually succumbs to the compulsion to speak their piece, because they have to; even if it’s imperfect in practice, the true and right message transcends the messenger. And that makes them difficult people to know, much less to be; they are constantly being spoken through, without ever really speaking.  They are serious people, most of the time, even in moments of joy and refreshment.

Am I one of those prophets? Are my friends Leonardo and Grandmère Mimi? In a small way, yes. All of us “eventually succumb to the compulsion to speak our piece, because we have to.”

I am a disciple of Ervin Faulkenberry, who was a disciple of Martin Luther King Sr., the father of a genuine prophet.

More than that, LGBTs as a group, a community, are and have been prophets. The whole reason for saying and doing what we do is not to save ourselves, but to spare others if we can. It’s a tribe I’m proud to belong to.

But I also know this: no matter how much we draw connections between one oppressed group and another, no matter how much we can read tomorrow’s headlines in yesterday’s Bible, the in-our-lifetimes, in-this-decade success of the Gay civil rights movement has come about primarily because it’s White, male and middle-class. To really understand powerlessness and therefore overcome it, we have to go and learn from people who don’t have a thing but faith.

Liberation doesn’t trickle down, it bubbles up. Pray for me if you can, that I’ll learn something from my reservation pilgrimage. What I don’t know is a lot more than what I do.

If I can be faithful while having nothing like the Lakotas – if I can feed the hungry like they do, with two loaves and some fishes – if I can figure out how Margaret manages to serve nine churches in the middle of nowhere – then finally some wisdom may begin. I don’t have any today, but I do know where to go to find it.

When I ran photos Margaret took of the weekday lunch program at St. John’s, Eagle Butte, on my prayer site, the people scoffed, “Why’d he do that? This is just what we do.”

When they’re not finding White people dangerous, they often find us silly. And that’s the key somehow. They don’t want to go to Williston, where the oil and gas jobs are. They don’t want to join the rat race in any way. They want to stay where they are, among their own. Despite all their suffering, and it’s severe, they don’t want to suffer like we do.

Like a person who won’t touch a favorite food of yours, some people just don’t know what’s good, so there’s no helping them.

I’ll go to South Dakota as a pilgrim, and when I get back home I’ll either be better at being me, or much much worse. I’m looking forward to it.

And the conservatives I somehow attract to my prayer site, despite a steady stream of facts from the reality-based community? Let ’em how at the moon, I don’t care.++

Tim_Egan

I Hate Halloween

Preparing tomorrow’s Daily Office prayers (Oct.31) turned out to be remarkably difficult. In the morning we observe two obscure but noble Asian bishops, Paul Sasaki of Japan and Philip Tsen of China; there’s only one picture of Sasaki on the whole dang internet, and none at all of Tsen. Since I operate a blog called The Daily Office East for the Asia-Pacific region, as well as one for the Western Hemisphere, I can’t ignore these guys. China had a long history of Western missionaries trying to drum up support for Jesus Christ, while the Japanese Anglican church is unique as the first homegrown, indigenous missionary effort, supported by The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Church of England.

I know nothing about these Asian churches except what I read online, so it’s difficult to tailor a “product” for them; the blog is in English, not their native languages, and most of the traffic we get (and it isn’t much) naturally comes from Australia. I’m always on the lookout for art and photographs that depict Asian Christians, but that means relying on Google and Wikipedia in English, both of which leave a lot to be desired. At any rate I finally got Morning Prayer done for East and West (the content is almost identical, but the East is many hours ahead).

Then at night, I have to make a slight nod to secular Halloween, while the Church celebrates the Eve of All Saints (which is what All Hallows’ Eve really is). I have only one great painting of all the saints, by Fra Angelico, which I have to save for the real day on Thursday, plus a dozen pictures of All Saints churches, of which any one will do. Then I’ll run the All Saints’ Day Collect again on Sunday, when most parishes will actually observe the feast day. In My Ideal World™, Episcopalians would actually observe All Saints’ Day like it’s supposed to be done, with a big celebration this Thursday and no concession whatever to ghosties and ghouls, trick-or-treat and Texas chainsaw massacres. I hate what Halloween’s become.

Then there’s what Gay people do to it, which is the most appalling of all.

I’ve never found drag amusing. I don’t oppress the people who engage in it, but it completely leaves me cold.

Halloween turns me into a mean old man, a curmudgeon. I have “no sense of humor.” But I don’t know what’s funny about drag queens, or leathermen wearing eye shadow, or guys going naked in public, or blood-soaked skeletons on the eve of a religious holiday.

I’m not fond of the Mexican Day of the Dead, either – and I don’t think it should be observed in churches.

You can buy “Jesus Malverde,” patron saint of Mexican drug traffickers, right next to conventional Catholic statuary on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York. They’re equally popular, says The New York Times.

All Saints’ Day is one of the highest holy days of the year, according to the Book of Common Prayer, a “principal feast” which takes precedence over any other day or occasion. There are only seven such days, with Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Christmas and the Epiphany. Further, All Saints’ is so important it now has a popular “extension” the next day, called All Souls’ Day, supposedly for unrecognized saints, and more popularly for deceased friends and family, even though the word “saint” means any member of the Christian community, past or present. I’m a saint, you’re a saint, we’re all saints here. But most people don’t see it that way, they think saints are always heroic figures, so now we’ve got an extra day to remember Aunt Gertrude too.

You can tell I lack a sense of humor about this – though when I was a kid we actually did tricks along with our treats, which was great fun, especially for a “nice” little boy like me. In town we “soaped” windows, which meant buying a cheap bar of Ivory soap, then going out at night to rub it on the windows of neighbors’ cars and houses, whether we liked them or not, then running like hell so we didn’t get caught. To little boys, the most fun part was showing that mean old man on the corner what we thought of him.

Now I’m the mean old man. Country kids would knock over neighbors’ outhouses. We’d have done that too, but in town everyone had running water.

Today towns and cities designate a day and an early time frame for kids to go out, invariably with their parents, to beg for tooth-rotting treats. It can’t be nearly as much fun, but everyone’s paranoid these days about apples and Snickers bars with razor blades in them. I doubt anyone ever stuck a razor blade in a Red Delicious, but today you’d get arrested just trying to give a kid a piece of fruit instead of a mound of candy.

So, bottom line, I am old and curmudgeonly, and I’d like to observe All Saints’ Eve and Day in peace.

When I first moved back to smalltown Indiana in 2005, I eagerly bought bags of mini-Snickers and Butterfingers; no one came, leaving me with 80 little candy bars to get rid of. The next year I didn’t buy anything, so kids knocked on my door; I gave them coins instead. Now I just act like nobody’s home. I haven’t had my windows soaped once. You can’t even find a picture of it online.

The idea of a night for adults to dress up, act silly and have fun does appeal to me. But don’t do it on the eve of a holy day, it’s insulting to my religion – even though the Church chose November 1st to be All Saints’ Day deliberately to co-opt and Christianize the old Celtic/Druid festival. It turns out people are more interested in celebrating death than life, which shouldn’t surprise us at all. Now we’re stuck with it and I don’t like it.++

 

But this guy in drag was plenty funny. (Blake Edwards)

Book Review: “Holy Women, Holy Men”

Like many Episcopalians, I’ve been using Holy Women, Holy Men (2009) for about three years now. It’s a book of saints, major and minor, whose “feast days” are observed every year during the Holy Eucharist, Morning and Evening Prayer.

The saints range from the world-famous to the truly obscure from the past 2000 years of Christian history. A large percentage lived prior to the Protestant Reformation; others lived through it and after it. They come from many traditions; the Undivided Church prior to the Great Schism of 1054, which split the Church into East and West, Orthodoxy and Catholicism; Episcopalians and other Anglicans; and, for the first time, worthy Baptists, Lutherans, Moravians and others. There are even a few Jews.

Holy Women, Holy Men is an update of prior works called Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The new book’s purpose is to provide a calendar list (which saint goes on what day), along with Bible readings and a prayer known as the Collect of the Day, which mentions the saints and what they are known for; that is, why we observe them. A thumbnail biographical sketch is included on the page opposite the prayer.

HWHM, produced by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, offers a great expansion and diversification of the saints recognized by The Episcopal Church. There are many more women now, including more Americans. The list of saints is also more international than ever and goes beyond a standard collection of Dead White Europeans.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer mentioned 67 saints, but gave no liturgical directions; by 1964 the American Church added a hundred new worthies, each with lessons and a collect. Now HWHM adds another hundred or so, including 20th century Americans like Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dorchester Chaplains of World War II, Julia Chester Emery, a great laywoman, and Jonathan Daniels, a seminarian who gave his life in the civil rights movement.

In broad terms this is a successful book; it holds up less well on any given day. After three years of trial use, the Episcopal General Convention decided, based on the Commission’s own request, that it wasn’t ready for prime time, and thus its trial use was continued for three more years in a vote last month.

Some of the saints chosen are controversial; I object to a few of them, for what that’s worth. John Calvin, the theologian of hellfire and damnation, is in there, including his proclamation that all humanity is guilty of “total depravity”; so is Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” (She also popularized Thanksgiving Day and helped make it a national holiday.) John Henry Newman gets a day, despite causing all kinds of uproar when he defected from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism – and then arranged to be buried next to his longtime “friend.”

Beyond the question of including or excluding someone, which is bound to be contentious, some people raise objections to the exact phrasing of the prayers; everyone’s a critic in this democratic Church. Some commenters want to substitute other Bible readings that accompany the Eucharist.

The Commission knows its work isn’t done yet, so I give them credit for that.

However, the production of the book itself is almost shocking in its flaws; like the Bible, the Prayer Book has to be letter-perfect, and HWHM, essentially a Prayer Book supplement, is full of typos and other mistakes. Sometimes it doesn’t even spell the saint’s name the same way from one page to the next. I don’t think The Episcopal Church has ever produced a book this sloppy. (I should know, having proofread the Psalms in Authorized Services (1976), the forerunner to the current BCP.)

The worst feature is the inclusion of unrelated saints on the same day. Apparently the Commission intends for some churches to observe one person and not the other, according to local preference. We’ve never had to pick and choose before, and the logic isn’t always obvious. On August 3 there are separate services for George F. Bragg, Jr., an African-American priest and Church historian, and W.E.B. DuBois, the African-American father of sociological science who studied the Black slums of Philadelphia. Could no one figure out a way to combine these two? Which one is a Black parish (or a White one, or any other kind) supposed to choose? They combine them, of course – or leave them both out.

On August 27, we observe two great priests and missionaries to the deaf, Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle—with the latter given the slightly degrading treatment no other saint receives of being merely “with” Gallaudet. Unlike all other clergy whose days are observed, their priesthood is not mentioned in the day’s title; why not?

We have a day for “William F. Mayo, Charles F. Menninger, and Their Sons, Pioneers in Medicine,” with the years of death of the fathers. The sons aren’t named, nor are their death dates given; are they really included or not? The bio accompanying the day mentions that the Mayos were Episcopalians, but there’s no note at all on Charles Menninger’s faith; his son Karl, who comes up in the sketch but not the title, wrote an influential book, Whatever Became of Sin?, which emphasized holistic healing of body, mind and spirit – but what his old man believed, we’ll never know.

The book is great for including a lot more women than we’ve ever had, but with the simultaneous inclusion of a lot more men, the male-female imbalance hasn’t changed at all.

Beyond all this is the question of how any day can be special if every day is taken up with a saint. At dailyoffice.org, I’ve had to alter my policy on including artworks with Morning and Evening Prayer, to put the emphasis back on Jesus and the other figures of the Bible, so we don’t get caught up in observing every Aelred, Aidan, Alban, Alcuin, Alphege and Anselm that comes along.

The bios are especially problematic, along with the grandiose titles given most saints of the middle and later Church. If someone was a king, an earl or a rich man’s daughter we’re going to hear all about their wealth, prestige and stellar education; apparently the poor don’t have what it takes for sainthood according to this Commission. It’s the worst English class-consciousness I’ve ever seen in an American book. Jon Daniels gets his whole name spelled out like a baptismal certificate, when he was just a young guy in blue jeans.

For a denominaton that is no longer the Church of the Upper Class, that indeed is struggling at times for its ongoing life, the Standing Commission has no clue how to market these people as role models – the principal role of a saint. It’s as if this Commission takes all its meetings at Downton Abbey, while the rest of us carry the tea and pay for the lodgings.

I exaggerate; I know some of the Commission members, who are good people trying to do a difficult job. This book isn’t the only thing they’ve had on their plate; this year they offered, and General Convention approved, rites for same-sex blessings (which aren’t marriages, they hasten to add). There was a little arguing about it but the Convention okayed those new liturgies by a landslide, so the Commission gets kudos for that.

Pushing back final approval of this book was also the right thing to do. It isn’t finished yet, it’s kind of a mess—and we’re not used to that. Millions of people depend on what our official books say, but HWHM isn’t entirely dependable yet.

Let me also give credit to the Commission for engaging the Church and the public in the process of revising the calendar, with all its pitfalls. Anyone can comment on their blog at http://liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com – and people do. I was able to put the Commission in touch with the descendants of a new saint, Conrad Weiser of Pennsylvania, a colonial diplomat with the Native Americans of the Northeast. I’m proud of that, but find it sad that Weiser’s family, with their own website and frequent reunions, had no idea that TEC was elevating their ancestor, and that the Commission never even looked for his relatives. All it took was a Google search.

I expect better of The Episcopal Church; I expect the best human beings can do, and Holy Women, Holy Men isn’t it. Maybe it will be someday, but it isn’t now.

Howard Galley, General Editor of the Book of Common Prayer (1979), would have made sure it was before it was released, but he isn’t here anymore; I nominate him for sainthood.++

Sometimes saints get added from the ground up, not the Commission down; Thurgood Marshall, an Episcopal layman and the first Black Supreme Court justice, was recognized after his parish in Washington, D.C. began celebrating his life every year and talking up his candidacy. The same thing is now happening for Dr. Pauli Murray, a priest and civil rights leader in North Carolina. The Standing Commission’s guidelines for recognizing sainthood say to wait 50 years after a person’s death, but that didn’t stop Dr. King, Jon Daniels or Justice Marshall.