Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.

11/30/2008

Seating Sections


None of these sections exists in a typical Episcopal Church.

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11/29/2008

Keep Awake!

What is in question is not the coming of Christ,
but my own response. Am I ready?
—Thomas Merton

In tomorrow's Gospel reading, Jesus speaks of his second coming, telling his followers,
Keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.
The United Methodidts' General Board of Discipleship carry these thoughts on beginning Advent with apocalyptic writings:
The Christian Year begins at the endings. The good news of God's incarnation and reign in Jesus is only understandable as good news in that it marks the breakdown and end of the claim of every other reign. What the biblical writers knew, and we still know, is that every human reign is disordered, sinful, full of injustice and oppression. Those who hold the reins of power find ways to legitimate their way, to make it seem normal or even good. But those against or in spite of whom that power is exercised, often the silent or silenced ones (the poor, the sick, the dying, the outcast, the hungry, the persecuted, among others), know in their bodies and can carry in their psyches for generations the wounds and scars of these powers.

Advent tunes us into their voices. Advent reminds us that the good news we seek, indeed the only really good news there is, is precisely for them, and for us in their redemption. Advent lays before us starkly their usually silenced voices, the voices of prophets who speak to them from God, and the assurance that indeed the worlds that try to keep them silenced for their own benefit have only one future—utter destruction and replacement by God's reign.

As such, Advent can—if we let it—disorient us from the dominant culture's experience and expression of "Christmastime" and its thorough domestication of the wild prophet, God's own Son, Jesus, loudspeaker and embodiment of this world's end and God's reign coming upon us.
King of Peace's website has some resources for how to better use the four weeks leading up to Christmas. This season of Advent runs counter to the shopping-driven message of Christmas, to ground this time of year once again in expectation of God's presence in our lives. We have our Advent page, and an Advent Wreath service, as well as a PDF file Celebrating Advent in the Home.Finally, our archives contain the reflection Prepare for a Meaningful Christmas.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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11/28/2008

National Listening Day

Today is the first National Listening Day. It is intended to be an annual day after Thanksgiving tradition. I wrote my religion column for the Tribune & Georgian on this idea and how it is scriptural as well as just a good idea:
Try this new holiday tradition—stop and listen. Stop the busy-ness of Thanksgiving and Christmas long enough to listen to the family stories you have never heard.

The importance of this was brought home recently at a funeral. Once again I interviewed family and friends to prepare the sermon. Once again I heard the congregation respond in the reception afterwards, “I never knew.” So many times we miss the opportunity to connect with those close to us because we don’t ask.

We take our relationships for granted and connect at a surface level. We never ask how someone get into their career, or why they moved to their current home, or what growing up was like, or any number of questions that would allow us to connect at a deeper level.

Today is the first National Listening Day. The idea is to use the time when families are already gathered together, to pause to hear the stories we never take the time to tell. The stories of your parents, grandparents and, if still living, your great grandparents are part of what made you the person you are today. Stop long enough to ask the questions that will bring the stories forward and then listen to the events and people that shaped their lives.

The Bible gives us this advice to tell our stories. Again and again, we are told in scripture to tell the stories of God to our children and our children’s children. Deuteronomy 32:7 says, “Remember the days of long ago; think about the generations past. Ask your father and he will inform you. Inquire of your elders, and they will tell you.” The day of listening is a time to do just that.
The full text of the column is online here: Story Listening for the Holidays.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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  • At 11/29/2008 5:36 AM, Blogger The Peeled Potato: said…

    I have no idea where this church is, even. I am from Singapore and just want to tell you that your love, kindness and Gentleness is so apparent in the words you write. Thank you for the encouragement!

     

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11/27/2008

King of Peace Thanksgiving Video

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Thankgiving Community Meal


This morning at 7:30 a.m., we started gathering at King of Peace to finish making the last of the food for the feast. Now we are packing food for 198 people. It's the Meals on Wheels list for Kingsland and St. Marys together with some other needy folks in the area.








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3 Comments:

  • At 11/27/2008 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's a good thing that Christopher was in charge of the computer!!! :)

     
  • At 11/27/2008 11:35 AM, Blogger King of Peace said…

    Christopher was working in logistics - running Mapquest directions out for deliveries. We got a LOT of work out of the whole Wills clan, including snacks for workers.

     
  • At 11/28/2008 8:46 AM, Anonymous kelly said…

    Where there is a WILLS there is a way!

     

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11/26/2008

Works and Faith

We should so work as if we were to be saved by our works;
and so rely on Jesus Christ, as if we did no works.
Francis Asbury (1745-1816)

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11/25/2008

Breaking the Silence

Today is the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Here in America, the Justice Department tracks more than half a million reported cases of domestic abuse and we know that the actual number of incidents is much higher than those reported. The U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon writes,
Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women's lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence—yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned.
Local resource
Here in Camden County Georgia, we have the excellent resource of Camden House, which provides support by phone as well as a shelter. King of Peace has, for all of our eight years, partnered with Camden House in helping women in the shelter move back out into the community when they are ready and able. They can be reached locally at 673-7770.

Nationwide Resources
The National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women puts those who need legal aid in contact with local resources—800-903-0111, ext. 3

The Resource Center on Child Custody and Child Protection can assist with that part of the process—800-527-3223

The National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape—510-524-1582

A Prayer for Domestic Abuse
Gracious God, like a mother hen you shelter us inder your wings. Bring your truth and love into homes where domestic violence has shattered the peace. Provide sustenance for the victims and accountability for the abusers. Send wise and courageous friends who can offer alternatives, and bring your healing power into broken relationships. May your church provide a haven of safety and peace for the abused and reach out to support all who serve the needs of the abused in our communities; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
—from the book Breaking the Silence

10 Comments:

  • At 11/25/2008 10:15 AM, Anonymous Valiance Weaver said…

    Growing up in a "old" world community where even using foul languge in front of women and girls got you a firm smack or a good reprimand. Its a hard pill for me to swallow to look at the numbers. Back home when I was a kid the good men folk grouped up and would fix the situation by any means. I am not condoning that brand of accountability for the abusers to combat abuse with abuse only breeds future abuse. In these times not even our legal statues prevent, or even stop domestic violence. At times when I lived in California I wondered if the state actually protected the wrong people! My anger gets the better of me when I talk about it, and this may not be Godly, but I take from my daddy who a number of times in his life he had to kick in doors and "take out the trash" so to say. If We let it slide, if we do nothing, then we might as well be beating on these women and girls ourselves. And this goes for anybody who is being abused right now or has been in the past and not healed properly. "If you say nothing, if you stay, if you cannot break the silence because of fear, then you might as well be throwing yourself down the stairs." Where the law will fail, and your own convictions fail, God will not fail you cannot do it on your own you know where to go. For the closet case women beaters, well you better hope Jesus stays your fists and your words before somebody like me finds out. Peace

     
  • At 11/25/2008 11:07 AM, Anonymous kelly said…

    "If you say nothing, if you stay, if you cannot break the silence because of fear, then you might as well be throwing yourself down the stairs."

    Valiance, where did you get this quote? Whoever said it is blaming the victim and does not know the real fear in an abusive situation. The law only potects the victim to a certain extent. If you think about it, laws and restraining orders are only activated when they are broken; by then it can be too late for the victim.

    You are correct in saying that our legal system does little to prevent domestic violence. That's where the fear comes from and why a victim would be reluctant to leave.

     
  • At 11/25/2008 2:04 PM, Anonymous Valiance Weaver said…

    No I understand what your saying, but as one who has tried so hard to reach the people I knew who were victims and they chose to do nothing. Or the oppurtunities to break free and they chose not to take them based out of fear. What I said is merely my exasperation of that issue, it makes me hurt bad to see anybody lie to themselves and except the abuse, torment, even when people try so hard to help them. Its even worse when people know about it and do nothing. Harsh as it may sound,to me not doing anything to prevent, stop or remove the situation is just as bad as being the one doing the punching or being the punching bag. I apologize if it offends, but I have beaten up myself for years by being a Silent witness, because of said victim convincing me not to talk. So now they are wheel chair bound, and their children are wards of the state. But I apologize if the statement sounds harsh I am only human.

     
  • At 11/25/2008 2:56 PM, Anonymous kelly said…

    Valiance,

    You are not offensive or harsh at all! You are right; more people need to take a stand. But, don't beat yourself up in guilt either. Even if you did say something, unless the victim filed charges, there was nothing you could do.

    The laws do need to be changed to where they are more protective of the victims of abuse and domestic violence. The abusers tend not to get punished unless it is already too late for the victims.

    I am sorry for your friend and her family! Many prayers and blessings for them and you!

     
  • At 11/25/2008 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Marital rape, there is such a thing?

     
  • At 11/25/2008 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yes there is. You need to report it.

     
  • At 11/30/2008 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh, and that can be reported along with everything. So he may be even more upset with his wife.

    OK that works!

    You have no idea, you don't know about life in a home like this.

     
  • At 12/01/2008 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Maybe I do have an idea. I do know for sure that it will never stop unless the victim reports it and gets help.

    Don't accuse someone of having no idea of what it is like. I could be the one that got out.

     
  • At 12/01/2008 8:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My hope is that you did, for I can't.

     
  • At 12/02/2008 8:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Can't or won't? That is the question that I asked myself one morning at work. I had bruises on my face and a broken wrist and I couldn't stand one more pitiful look from another person. That was me. Pitiful. Nobody had any respect for me because I was always saying I can't. There were so many ways out offered me and I rejected them saying I can't.
    Can't was me saying won't. Won't out of fear and self pity. It was my prison that I helped create because it was easier to stay and feel pitiful with no self respect than to get out.That morning I finally saw me how everyone else did. I had no self respect. If that was true how could my kids ever respect me. How could I ever have respect from anybody? How could my kids ever learn self respect and have self esteem if they never learned it from home. Obviousely they would never learn that from a dad who hit their mom. And it was a mom with no dignity that was there example.What if he killed me? Did I want to be pitied for eternity? Where would that leave my kids? They needed me to show them the way. So we left.And it was not easy. It was a long hard struggle. It was years of scraping just to get by. But it was all worth it. My ex husband got the help he needed just so he could have visitation with his kids. I learned that I could survive and take care of myself and my kids.They now have a mom with dignity and self respect. That is a greatest gift that I could give them. Now that they have grown I see couragous young adults that treat others with respect and dignity. They have self respect and know how to work hard and never give up. And the best is they know how to love without fear.Remember that there is always a way. It is hard work but it is worth everything.

     

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11/24/2008

Ten Guidelines for the Future

The Rt. Rev. Harry Shipps, retired Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia, offers the ten guidelines for the future in the newsletter of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Savannah:
  1. The Church is a community into which all are invited.
  2. The Church is the people, not a building.
  3. Public Worship, keeping the New Covenant every Lord's Day, is a fact of life for Christians.
  4. The Episcopal Church is not a congregational church, but rather a hierarchical church.
  5. The basic "unit" of The Episcopal Church is the diocese, not a parish.
  6. Evangelism is a Biblical mandate.
  7. Tithing, 10% is Biblical and the standard teaching of The Episcopal Church.
  8. A comprehensive and united plan for the future is essential.
  9. None of us is indispensable, nor is any one parish.
  10. Be willing to do something for the first time.

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11/23/2008

Those Eyes

For today's sermon, I created a story. It begins:
Betty walked into a hospital room with a teddy bear. It wasn’t a private room, but the first bed was empty. The second bed, the one closest to the window, was surrounded by a confusing profusion of equipment, common in the cardiac unit. She stepped closer. The patient was asleep. A woman lying flat on her back, with her head slightly raised and feet elevated. It didn’t look comfortable. But the patient seemed to be in a deep asleep.

Betty didn’t want to wake the patient, but she did want her to have the bear if the woman wanted one. She looked around the hospital room, taking in the surroundings. The chair by the bed and looked emptier than usual. So often in hospital visits she saw family or friends camped out alongside the bed. Even if no one else was in the room at the time, there were usually the tell tale signs of a bedside vigil kept the night before. But this patient didn’t seem to have any such visitors.

Betty stood holding the bear feeling indecisive. The situation looked like one that could use a little more love. But what should she do? Should she let the woman rest? Should she wake her? Should she just leave the bear without a word?

Betty looked at the patient’s wrist. The ID bracelet said the woman’s name was “Concepcion Rivera Morales.” The equipment quietly beeped and whirred. A long minute passed. She prayed for guidance, and then felt sure she should say something. This woman needed a teddy bear and she needed it now.

“Concepcion, I brought you a gift,” Betty said firmly, then paused. The equipment continued with its steady beeps. The lines moved across the screen scrawling an ongoing record of the patient’s vital signs. She watched Concepcion’s eyelids. No movement.

Betty said, “If you find yourself lonely or afraid, just give him a hug.” Then she added, “teddy bears are great huggers.”

Another long pause. She didn’t seem to hear. Perhaps the patient was unconscious. Who knew if she had even heard the words? Betty placed the teddy alongside Concepcion, on the side away from the IV tubes, so that the bear was touching her arm.

From someplace deep, Concepcion felt herself struggling toward the surface. Someone had spoken her name. There was something about a hug. She had heard that too. And then something about a bear. It didn’t make sense. Concepcion fought her way ever upward.

She wasn’t sure where she was or what was happening, but then the sounds of the hospital equipment began to orient her thoughts. She could vaguely remember passing out while cleaning yet another in the endless procession of rooms at the hotel. She could recall something of the ambulance ride and then the bright lights of what must have been the emergency room; then she remembered nothing until now.

As her eyes fluttered open, Concepcion saw the teddy bear lying alongside her. She smiled and then caught a glimpse of the person who brought her the gift. Recognition dawned on Concepcion. Those eyes. She knew those eyes. She had seen them before. When was it? Her mind, dulled as it was after having lost consciousness, couldn’t make the connection. She smiled and closed her eyes again, trying to remember.

Concepcion was aware that something had happened in the room. She heard the sharp beep. The footsteps, the shouts. Something was happening, but she didn’t know what. It was those eyes she focused on. Where had she seen them?

They looked like her great-grandmother’s eyes. Those almond brown eyes that looked on her with such love. But it couldn’t be her great-grandmother. Her Nana died long ago, even before Concepcion left Puerto Rico as a young teen. Her great-grandmother had never even visited New York City. But those were somehow those were her Nana’s eyes. It made no sense, but there was no denying it either.

The room grew more distant. Concepcion felt disconnected from the activity bustling around her. She realized she was more disinterested onlooker now than the active participant. She didn’t care. She was lost in thought, trying to remember how she knew the person who brought her the teddy bear.

The room brightened. She didn’t so much hear as feel Jesus speaking her name, “Concepcion.”

“Yes,” she replied.

“I saw the recognition in your eyes, dear child,” Jesus replied, not merely in Spanish, but in the familiar tones of home, warm and comforting as hot chocolate on an icy winter’s day.

“I know you,” she said slowly…her voice quavering a bit now.

“Don’t be afraid,” again the feeling of warmth and love filled the words and touched Concepcion’s heart. She had doubted what she was experiencing was even possible. Then thinking of her husband, she wondered if she would see Javier. Her heart quickened.

“This is not the time,” was the reply to the question left unasked.

“But I’ve been so lonely since he died,” Concepcion pleaded. “The children have moved away. They have lives of their own. I am alone.” Then after a thoughtful pause, Concepcion added angrily, “Why did you abandon me? Why have you left me?”

“I have not left you. I will not leave you,” was the strong reply, leaving no room for doubt and yet Concepcion could not agree.

“No, you did leave me,” she shot back. “You have been gone. I stopped reading the Bible, when the words brought no comfort. I still go to communion, more out of habit than anything. I leave feeling so empty,” her voice trailed off at the end. There was a pause and then her words gained force as she added, “I look for you everywhere, and you are absent. I wonder if you were ever with me at all.”

“Concepcion, I was there in the heart of the woman who brought you the teddy bear. She heard me speaking to her heart, knowing she had to visit the hospital today. I was there with Maria when she found you at the hotel so soon after your heart attack. And I am there now in the doctor who is fighting to bring you back to life. I never left you. You were just so hurt after Javier’s death that you couldn’t recognize me anymore.”
The full text of the story is online here: Those Eyes.

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  • At 11/23/2008 1:18 PM, Anonymous kelly said…

    Joe, AJ, Zachary and I were completely captivated by your sermon today! Excellent story! We are happy we were there to share in the experience!!!

     

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What Happy People Do

In a recent article What Happy People Don't Do, The New York Times gives the answer: watch TV. The less TV you watch, the happier you will be conclude researchers trying to find what bahaviors are most often found in happy people.

So what is it that happy people do instead of watching the television? Dr. John Robinson, the University of Maryland sociologist who led the study, told the Times,
We looked at 8 to 10 activities that happy people engage in, and for each one, the people who did the activities more — visiting others, going to church, all those things — were more happy. TV was the one activity that showed a negative relationship. Unhappy people did it more, and happy people did it less.
There was no cause and effect relationship established to show that turning off the TV would make you happier. But the fact remains that those of us in church today are more likely to be happy than those glued all day to the Boob Tube.

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11/22/2008

Enough evidence to convict

In tomorrow's Gospel reading, Jesus tells of the last judgment:
The righteous will answer him, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'
In preaching on this passage before, I told a parable Søren Kierkegaard, an important Christian philosopher of the 19th century. He considered running in to the German Reformer Martin Luther. Kierkegaard wrote,
Assume...that Luther has risen from his grave. He has been among us, though unrecognized, for several years, has watched the life we lead, has been observant of all the others, and also of me. I assume that one day he addresses me and says, "Are you a believer? Do you have faith?" Everyone who knows me as an author will recognize that I after all am the one who might come out the best from such an examination…

“How is that,” replies Luther, “for I have not noticed anything in you, and yet I have watched your life; and you know, faith is a perturbing thing. To what effect has faith, which you say you have, perturbed you? Where have you witnessed for the truth. And where against untruth? What sacrifices have you made, what persecutions have you endured for Christianity? And at home in the family life, how has your self-sacrifice and abnegation been observable?”

My reply: “I can protest to you that I have faith.”

“Protest, protest—what sort of talk is that? With respect to having faith, no protestation is needed, if one has it (for faith is a perturbing thing which is at once observable), and no protestation is of any avail, if one does not have it.”

“Yes, but if only you will believe me, I can protest as solemnly as possible....”

“Bah, an end to this nonsense! What avails your protestation?"

“Yes, but if you would read some of my books, you will see how I describe faith, so I know therefore that I must have it.”

“I believe the fellow is mad! If it is true that you know how to describe faith, it only proves that you are a poet, and if you can do it well, it proves that you are a good poet; but this is very far from proving that you are a believer. Perhaps you can also weep in describing faith, that would prove that you are a good actor.”
In this parable of Kierkegaard’s, Luther is completely unimpressed with what the philosopher has written about faith or his protestations that he is a believer. What mattered most was rather in observing his life, could someone tell that he did have faith. Put differently, "When they drag you in to court for your faith in Jesus Christ, will there be enough evidence to convict you?"

The full text of the sermon is online here: Perturbed on Behalf of the Least of These.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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11/21/2008

The Olive Branch





The latest issue of our newsletter is online now in PDF format here: The Olive Branch and will go into the mail today.

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Believing in Whom?

Tell us straight that you do not believe in the Gospel of Christ; for you believe what you want in the Gospel and disbelieve what you want. You believe in yourself rather than in the Gospel.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430), from his Confessions

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11/20/2008

Defining Culture

Frank's photo of a church youth group's dance team in Tanzania.

As a part of an internship I did in the Anglican church in Tanzania in 1998, I was in a very helpful orientation program at St. Phillip's Seminary in Dar Es Salaam. There a professor of Swahili culture warned us that so many times people judge another culture, based on their own, without taking in to account how each culture arose to handle the needs of a given geography and climate, available foods and livestock, etc. So that Europeans saw mud-walled, thatch-roofed homes as primitive and rebuilt the same designs out of concrete block with tin roofs. The homes were sturdier, but also much hotter in the African sun.

A little humility is in order in judging another culture. One failed attempt still proves instructive. It is the film "Man and His Culture" made by Encyclopedia Britannica in 1954 (Thanks Sierra for telling me about it). The film makes some good points, but also sees European culture as complex and African culture as primitive in a way that seems to make a judgment that might is not warranted on closer inspection. I intend to show the film to an upcoming class I will teach at Valdosta State University on Religion and Culture. While dated, it does make you think, both with the parts that are agreeable and the parts that are offensive.



Anthropologists consider that the requirements for culture (language use, tool making, and conscious regulation of sex) are essential features that distinguish humans from other animals. Culture is the total of the things that make us human, or reveal humans to be different from other animals based on our abilities as toolmaker and so on.

Frank's photo of a real girl worshipped as the incarnation of a goddess in KathmanduA dictionary definition of culture is something like, "the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another."

The word "culture" comes from the Latin word cultūra whose meaning is closest to our word "cultivate." This shows an intentional aspect of culture, as something cultivated, which may fit with our use of culture as the high forms of art and music of a given people. So much of culture seems to be accident of history, geography and tastes.

Frank's photo of an Anglican Church in a on the very Muslim island of ZanzibarNo matter how religion and culture are defined it seems as if the two go hand in hand more often than not. Thai culture and Tibetan culture are both linked strongly to Buddhism, each with its own take on Buddhist art and practice. Italian culture is separate from but very tied to Roman Catholicism, as is the culture of much of Ireland. I could go on. But religion and culture develop together in the same settings. And in each of these settings, religion seeks to define and hold in check some aspects of culture, while the culture tries to push religious change.

How might the connection of religion and culture be a helpful perspective to better understand? That's what I am wondering as I work on my upcoming class. And I am working on it less than it may seem to readers of this blog. These last few days of posts were all written on Monday as I began to get out on paper my thoughts for the upcoming class.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

The photos above are ones I took on trips. The one at right in the Kumari, a real girl worshipped as a living goddess in Kathmandu, Nepal. And below it at left is a photo in an Anglican Church on the decidedly Muslim island of Zanzibar, off the coast of East Africa. The man in the photo was lamenting that his daughter married an islamic man and no longer attend the church they grew up in, where he remains the sexton (caretaker).

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  • At 11/20/2008 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Frank, Sounds like it will be a thought-provoking class!!! And here at VSU, we want our students to be critical thinkers! I would like to sit in on a future class when my teaching schedule permits. Thank you for all you do! Maris

     

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11/19/2008

Ceiling Cat, the FSM and Jedi


In my post yesterday on defining religion (for an upcoming class I'm teaching at Valdosta State University on Religion and Culture) there is the problem of parody religions. For example, there is a picture above of Ceiling Cat's Ten Commandments. These are an outgrowth of the immensely popular lolcats website which features life from a cat's perspective. Ceiling Cat is the divinity. Any definition of "religion" that tries to use scripture as a source of defining what is a religion, may have to contend with the impressive scope of the LOLcat Bible translation project nearing a complete version of the Christian Bible from a Ceiling Cat perspective. Here is the 23rd Psalm:
Ceiling Cat iz mai sheprd
(which is funni if u knowz teh joek about herdin catz LOL.)
He givz me evrithin I need.
2 He letz me sleeps in teh sunni spot
an haz liek nice waterz r ovar thar.
3 He makez mai soul happi
an maeks sure I go teh riet wai for him.
Liek thru teh cat flap insted of out teh opin windo LOL.
4 I iz in teh valli of dogz, fearin no pooch,
bcz Ceiling Cat iz besied me rubbin' mah ears,
an it maek me so kumfy.
5 He letz me sit at teh taebl
evn when peepl who duzint liek me iz watchn.
He givz me a flea baff an so much gooshy fud
it runz out of mai bowl LOL.
6 Niec things an luck wil chase me evrydai
an I wil liv in teh Ceiling Cats houz forevr.
The site also offers Proofs of Ceiling Cat which is a parody of proofs of the existence of God. See the problem.

Then there is the Flying Spaghetti Monster (pictured at the bottom of this post) which was created as a satirical protest against the Kansas State Board of Education requirement to teach intelligent design alongside biological evolution. The FSM is the deity of Pastfarianism.

Then there is the successful attempt in Britain to get as many people to answer Jedi Knight to the census question of religion. A half a million people in Britan and elsewhere have selected Jedi as their religion. A joke? To start with, but Jedi Sanctuary, an online temple dedicated to Jediism, has been accepted in to the Universal life Church, and there are at least two registered Jedi churches in the US and the Britain. Maybe a joke gone too far or someone enjoying getting lost in fiction.

Ceiling Cat, Pastfarianism and Jedi may not be bona fide religions, but they are at least cultural reactions to religion which could be a helpful part of a discussion of Religion and Culture if they get one to better define one's own ideas of what religion means. Defining religion may not open up a can of worms but it sure can (this is gonna hurt) open a can of Spaghetti Os.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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11/18/2008

Defining Religion

I have been asked to teach a Perspectives course on Religion and Culture at Valdosta State University's Kings Bay Center this coming January. Thinking about that course has me wondering about how we define religion (and culture, but that's another topic).

Define religion as anything one believes sincerely and you will include monsters under a child's bed as well as divinity. Define religion as belief in a divine being or beings and you would eliminate most Buddhists. Define religion as something on which you pin your hopes and you could include Cubs fans (pictured here praying or crying or both). But why not, if a sociologist from another planet took a look at baseball or another professional sport, the rituals and intense feelings looks like religious fervor.

Etymology, or where a word comes from, can be instructive. But there are two theories on where the word religion comes from. "To bind fast" is the meaning of religare which Lactantius said was the root of Religio, giving it a meaning of binding people and gods together. Cicero said religio comes from the word for "re-read" (relegere) in that it is a passed along tradition re-read by a new generation.

Religion was defined by Karl Marx quite famously as "the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feeling of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless curcumstance. Religion is the opiate of the people."

Looking to religion's effect on the believer rather than a society, Walter Houston Clark said, "religion can be most characteristically described as the inner experience of the individual when he sense a Beyond, especially as evidenced by the effect of this experience on his behavior when he actively attempts to harmonize his life with the Beyond."

Ian Markham also sees that religion is defined by practice as well as belief. He wrote, "Religion is a way of life (one which embraces a total world view, certain ethical demands, and certain social practices) that refuses to accept the secular view that sees human life as nothing more than complex bundles of atoms in an ultimately meaningless universe."

I like Markham's definition and yet it would seem to still leave George Reiger, the Disney Tattoo Guy the most devoted follower of the religion of Disney. As his website says, "he considers Disney, Walt and Micky his way of life, and his religion." Reiger finds meaning in the universe through Disney which is his world view, sets his ethical and social practices and so on.

Troublingly, I find that the Supreme Court's definition of obscenity ("I know it when I see it") may be the one we mostly use to define religion. In my day to day life, this isn't troubling as I think Jesus had little interest in and no patience for religion. Jesus was more interested in relationships. But then Jesus is not teaching a class on Religion and Culture this coming semester.

Any ideas on how to or how not to define religion?

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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4 Comments:

  • At 11/18/2008 10:48 AM, Anonymous kelly said…

    Oh my! Quite the undertaking! Glad its you and not me!!! Good Luck! :)

     
  • At 11/18/2008 11:31 AM, Anonymous Dancing said…

    My thought is it’s an organized system of belief, with people seeking to understand purpose, methods of spiritual things, goals and meaning. These spiritual things can be God, salvation the afterlife, purpose of life, order of the cosmos, or whatever.

    I think it’s an awesome opportunity.

    Good luck.

     
  • At 11/18/2008 11:34 AM, Anonymous Dancing said…

    It’s a class I would enjoy taking. :o)

     
  • At 11/18/2008 11:59 PM, Blogger anything but typical said…

    When we were on vacation in DC this past spring, Kenny and I had a conversation about secular religion. It began with the quote behind the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. "In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever." It made me think about that how we moved with separating the church and the state to protect the church, to claiming to do it to protect the state, to attempts by one party or another to exclude people of strong religious convictions with which we might disagree, to replacing the church with the state.

    Just a thought.

    Debbie

     

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11/17/2008

Good for Goodness Sake

Have you heard how the American Humanist Association is getting multimillion dollars worth of free advertising through its $40,000 ad campaign? The group plunkied down its money to create a series of ads on buses in Washington D.C. and those ads are getting a lot of press coverage. The basic message is,
Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake.
CNN carries the story as Group's New Christmas Message: Be good not godly and at Fox News it is 'Why Believe in a God?' Ad Campaign Launches on D.C. Buses.

Of course the answer to why believe in a god is different for me than for those who created the ads. I believe not in a god, but in God, because I have come to know God through his son Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit I have an ongoing relationship which I cannot deny. That is my experience of reality and I know the humanist are trying to respectfully disagree while encouraging like-minded atheists to make their lack of faith in a god public, in a kinder, gentler way than some angry atheists.

The basic idea of being good for goodness sake is wonderful. I know for a fact that many people don't believe in a god but live good lives—from miltantly anti-religion atheists to those who don't believe in a god but aren't angry about it, to those who as agnostics admit that they don't know. Yes, you can be a basically good person without belief in God. I know this goes against classic Calvinist teaching that says that we are morally depraved and can do no good without God. But scripture teaches that all creation was very good. Yes, humans messed up and through our own free will we created a lot of pain and suffering for ourselves and others. But we were created for goodness and I think that imprint within us comes from God. So, I agree with the Calvinists that we can't do it without God, but disagree in that I think that the Humanists were also created in God's image and God is speaking to their hearts as well even if they don't always hear it or know the source.

The common creed found across many cultures that we call the Golden Rule may be what the humanist are aiming at, treating others as you want to be treated. (see sermon on The Golden Rule for more on this). They would say you don't have to do that because a big mean God is ready to smite you upside the head if you don't. You can be good because you want to be good. I agree. I too feel that we don't have to be good out of fear of a vengeful God.

Here is where I part company with the Humanists. They think we can be good without God. I don't think we would even know what good is without God. God created us with laws written on the tablets of our hearts so that we know that murder is wrong and stealing is wrong. No, we aren't born with a detailed legal code imprinted within us, but we do know something about right and wrong even before culture begins to imprint its own take on morality. I think this comes from God. Even the Humanist ideals of what is right and wrong are, I believe, from God.

And yes, we can attempt the good without God and we can get it kinda close, sometimes better than others. But that is pretty tough to do. I also know that all of us do fall short of the mark set for us by God and that with God's help we can come closer. It is God's spirit bearing witness to our spirits that help us to see the good. Without that relationship with God that animates our moral compass, it would be easier to be diverted to greed or anger or lust. But we will the good to please the God we love who wants what is best for us and we are thus empowered further to live into God's will, which reflects the goodness which is God's nature.

That's my top-of-the-head reaction that captures something of what I see in being good for goodness sake. What's your take on this? Can we be good without God?

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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  • At 11/21/2008 8:21 AM, Blogger Valiance Weaver said…

    Its very possible indeed to be as good as you can be. Man will form organizations based on a code of order and honor. The problem where we will fall short is that this humanly goodness is and never will be constant. Social kindness and goodness done for and by a man's own desires can change based on how that person is feeling. Or lets say that said guy does good deeds in view of the people, but these good deeds he does is all a rouse to secure him a better social standing, not for genuine care for these deeds or the people. Without God, you only look at the outside of this "humanly goodness" and take it at face value. We are creatures of perception, and some very bad hombres in history have gained power by these 'humanly good' deeds. You may ask a question when one particular person in your life is being kind or does a favor for you " What does he/she want from me for this kindness?" Thats the problem, we can be good without God, but our goodness on our own time is taxed, conditional, and finite fundamentally, like a bowl of ice cream sitting in the sun. The intent of ice cream is very sweet and nice, but left exposed turns into warm sloppy syrup. But with God, kindess isnt a fasion statement, or something to do because your afraid of people not liking you. Its funny but sometimes the most Godly types of good come to going against the grain of man's structure. In ways its inhuman to be good all the time, and it is! Having God to lead us our capacity to be kind or good increases, and think about it God calls us to be good to everyone, not just members of the club, or people of social order, and when we run out of steam or feel like we are "all out of love" God will actually give us opportunities to show us we are far from being all out. So yes we can be good but how many stipulations and strings are attached to our own good? For our own ends what would being good look like the next morning?

     

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11/16/2008

Love Is Life

Love is life. All, everything that I understand,
I understand only because I love.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

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11/15/2008

A Different Take on the Talents

In tomorrow's Gospel reading, Jesus tells what is known as The Parable of the Talents, in which a master entrusts slaves with his wealth while he is away. Some use the master's money to make much more. One slave buries it in the ground afraid of his master's ire if he loses anything.

Dylan has a different and very interesting take on this passage at her lectionary blog. I have enjoyed reading her reflections from time to time and was glad to get to know her through the Ministry Innovator's meeting I attended in New Orleans recently. Dylan says in part,
This Sunday's gospel is yet another reason to get out of the habit of seeing all of Jesus' parables as allegories in which one character represents God or Jesus. That isn't what's happening here. Take a hard look at the behavior of the master: he's an absentee landlord who doesn't do any work himself, but lives off of the labor of his slaves. Take a look at the behavior this master wants of his slaves: the profit-making that the master demands would be seen in Jesus' culture would of necessity come at the expense of other more honest people; it would be seen as greedy and grasping rather than smart or virtuous. The master tells the slave whom he treats most harshly that the punishment is specifically for refusing to break God's commandment against usury (Matthew 25:27), a practice consistently condemned in both the Hebrew bible and the New Testament. And the Greek word for "talent" very specifically means a unit of money; it has no relationship whatsoever to the word for an ability, so this is NOT a parable about us being the best we can be, no matter how much our culture of achievement wants to twist it into that. There are versions of that message that can be helpful, but it just isn't what the parable is about.

So what's the message of the story, if it isn't about us using the abilities God gave us? Jesus gives it to us explicitly in verse 29: "to all who have, more will be given, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." In other words, "the rich get richer, and the destitute lose everything."

Is the behavior of the master in the parable something that God would commend, let alone imitate? Is this kind of behavior what Jesus expects of God's people? Heck no! If you've got any doubts of that, read what comes immediately after this story: read the prophesy (it isn't a parable) of the sheep and the goats, which tells us that when the Son of Man comes, judgment will not be on the basis of how much money we made, or for that matter on how religious we were or whether we said a "sinner's prayer," but rather on whether we saw that the least of our sisters and brothers in the human family, whether in or out of prison, had food, clothing, and health care. We serve Jesus himself to the extent that we do these things, and we neglect Jesus himself to the extent that we don't.

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  • At 11/15/2008 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm not so sure I agree. The gospel reading actually says that the master was going on a journey and so he summoned his servants to give instructions. That doesn't sound like an irresponsible absentee landlord. It sounds like the boss, who is usually there, is going on vacation is trusting his servants to take care of business while he is gone. That's a big difference than an absentee landlord profiting from the toil of others.

     
  • At 11/15/2008 12:07 PM, Blogger Tom Sramek, Jr. said…

    My take is going to be slightly different than Dylan's. I think that one of the barriers to giving as much money as we normally might is that we think that God is like the absentee landlord, "reaping where [he] does not sow." In other words, what's mine is mine. That is reinforced by our culture. If what is mine is really God's, that mandates an entirely different attitude towards "our" money.

     
  • At 11/17/2008 8:26 AM, Anonymous kenny said…

    Burying our gifts in the ground is equivalent to throwing it away. We may not have as much as someone else but we have to do the work God calls us to. God equips us each differently. Seeing as how we are not God and not able to give ourselves the things He can, it is our calling to use those gifts and not let our wish for some "better" gift get in the way of utilizing what we do have.

     
  • At 11/17/2008 8:34 AM, Blogger King of Peace said…

    I posted Dylan's thoughts on this parable as I respect her as one who is well-trained, thoughtful close reader of the text and I was thinking about her different take on the text. In the end, she did not persuade me. My take for Sunday is now online here: Risky Business.

     

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11/14/2008

Blowing the Dust Off The Good Book

Bread of Life
I was talking about the Book of Numbers this past weekend with my wife and daughter. That sentence sounds a little overly pious. The pastor’s family sitting around and talking about the Old Testament may fit some sort of stereotype, but you’re not sure you actually want to invite them over for dinner.

But the sentence is true. We were discussing the Book of Numbers the other night and the night before that we were talking about Leviticus and a couple of nights later we were discussing Deuteronomy. And I don’t get any credit for this. In fact, if I had gotten what I wanted, it wouldn’t have worked like this at all.
So begins today's religion column for the Tribune & Georgian on the how and why of reading the Bible for yourself. The full text of the article is online here: Twenty One Days of Love.

There are various ways to take on scripture on 15 to 20 minutes a day. The time spent is minimal. The pay off is unbelievable until you actually see it through for yourself for a year at a time. What's holding you back?

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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  • At 11/14/2008 10:04 AM, Blogger King of Peace said…

    The prayer to be used this coming Sunday has that wonderful phrase about inwardly digesting the scripture:

    Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

     
  • At 11/14/2008 4:54 PM, Anonymous NIMS said…

    I have a friend at work that has a program on her home computer that reads the passages to her. That might be a very good option for some folk.

     

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11/13/2008

Where do you come to Irenic Thoughts from?

This little map application will not collect any data on you or provide us with any information that you yourself do not place on the map.

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Stepford Priests



The church gets inundated with the sort of catalogs I trust you don't receive at home. They are full of church goods—all the stuff you need to set up your own congregation from a simple operation to a cathedral. In the catalogs, the clergy always look sent over by central casting. Of course, some priests do look like this. But the photos look stilted and a little too posed. See the two above photos from one such catalog, including the priest at right whose shadowed palm looks like he received stigmata.

I have heard priests say they wonder how those models are picked and that they not so secretly want to be a clergy model for a catalog. But no alternative to model priests ever occured to me. A catalog arrived recently with the photo below on the cover, blown up here. It looks like they slipped in a not so lively robot. I can hear the conversation in the narthex after services at this church, "Yeah, they replaced the pastor with a manikin three weeks ago...it took me this long to notice." Should I worry that I will be replaced by a microchip?

The truth is it takes people to serve in ministry. Messy, regular old people. Not always model perfect (even if some clergy could be models), but always real people. God gifts some people for ordained ministry and calls them to that service. But God gifts every person for service to others whether in or out of the church. It doesn't matter whether, from your perspective, you are model perfect or downright flawed. What matters is that Christ dwells within you and the Holy Spirit empowers you to reach out to others in love. God has given you gifts to use whether out front or behind the scenes, in church or out in the community. And for this our wounded Lord finds wounded healers—imperfect people willing to be led by the Spirit—are just perfect.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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11/12/2008

Cheesy Book Alert

The Arts & Crafts Bazaar has come and gone again. I provided my usual craft, which is to use my writing and design work in creating a book collecting sermons and essays. This year, with our tough economic times, I created the least expensive possible book, in order to make a worthwhile gift for only $5.

The result is Eyewitness Gospel a pocket-sized 144-page book of storytelling style sermons. A word of warning: The goal was to put together an inexpensive book with a certain style of writing. Most of the stories have appeared in one of my two earlier sermon collections Peace, Peace or Unfailing Love and the new one below. They are repeats for those who own the other books, which is why I refer to it as a cheesy book above. But to even things up, I offer the full interior of the book here online for free as an Adobe PDF. You may share it freely as long as you do so with attribution and without compensation: Free Eyewitness Gospel PDF. It is available at King of Peace for $5 through volume buying. By the book online it costs $8 plus shipping, which is more in line with bookstore prices for a comparable book.

I have also created a new sermon and religion column compilation called A Reason to Hope. The 338-page book is a loose collection of 65 sermons and essays put into sections on Identity, Baptism, Pilgrimage, and Hope. The book is available online and at the church for $15. If you buy online through Lulu, select Media Mail shipping which is the cheapest. This book is on order and should be available at the church in about a week.

As some who has published eight real books through publishers who place them in bookstores and promote them in ads and catalogs, I also find self-published books a bit cheesy. But I do my best to make the King of Peace published books to be as high a quality as possible. In this, thanks go to Maris Cato for once putting her green pen to work for the glory of God in editing my manuscripts from their "Frankish" text into something more closely approximating English.

All proceeds from any of the books go to the discretionary fund at King of Peace to assist the needy in our community.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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  • At 11/12/2008 6:46 AM, Anonymous kelly said…

    How can a gift from the heart ever be "cheesy"? I would call your more affordable collection "considerate"!

     
  • At 11/12/2008 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think it is GREAT that you took time to create these books because you have so much free time, well anyway ;). Having the profits to help others in need is just AWESOME!!
    Amber

     

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11/11/2008

Today in the Marcus Dickman Memorial Garden

Today as we give thanks for the service of all veterans, the flags of the branches of service flew alongside the American flag in the Marcus Dickman Memorial garden at King of Peace. The men and women of our armed forces have honored our nation by standing watch so others may rest easy. We give thanks for their self-sacrifice and the sacrifices made by their families.



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A Prayer for Veterans



We ask for blessings on all those
who have served their country in the armed forces.
We ask for healing for the veterans
who have been wounded, in body and soul,
in conflicts around the globe.

We pray especially for the young men and women,
in the thousands, who are coming home from Iraq
with injured bodies and traumatized spirits.
Bring solace to them, O Lord;
may we pray for them when they cannot pray.

Have mercy on all our veterans
from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq,
Bring peace to their hearts and peace
to the regions they fought in.

Bless all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines
who served in non-combative posts;
May their calling to service continue
in service to You

Give us all the creative vision
to see a world which, grown weary with fighting,
Moves to affirming the life of every human being
and so moves beyond war.
Hear our prayer, O King of Peace, hear our prayer.

Amen.

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11/10/2008

The Bible in One Minute



A young preacher appeared before a committee hiring a new pastor for their church. The chair of the committee asked, "Young man, do you know your Bible?"

"Yes," the young man replied, "I know my Bible."

"What part do you know best?" the chair asked.

The young preacher replied, "Well, I know it all good—the Old Testament and the New Testament."

The chairperson said, "Well, why don't you tell us a story. How about the Good Samaritan?"

The young preacher replied that would be fine with him, so he began:

"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus who went down to Jericho by night, and fell on stony ground, and the thorns choked him half to death. He said, 'What shall I do? I shall arise and go to my father's house.' And he arose and climbed into a sycamore tree."

"The next day, Solomon and his wife Gomorrah came by, and they carried him down to the ark for Moses to take care of. As he was going through the Eastern gate of the ark, he caught his hair on a limb, and he hung there for 40 days and 40 nights. And afterwards he was hungered and the ravens came and fed him."

"The next day the three wise men came and carried him down to Ninevah, and when he got there, he found Delilah sitting on the wall, and he said, "Chunk her down, boys," and they said, "How many times shall we chunk her down, 'till seven times?' And he said, "Nay, but until 70 times 7." And they chunked her down 490 times, and she burst asunder in their midst, and they picked up 12 baskets of the fragments that remained, and in the resurrection, whose wife will she be?

After he had finished, the chair of the committee turned to the other members and said, "I don't know about you, but I think we ought to call him. I know he is young, but he sure knows his Bible!"

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11/09/2008

Vigorous Theological Discussion


The risk is that someone will think this is the less than irenic side of King of Peace showing. Thankfully our Mission Vestry meetings are more productive than this.

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11/08/2008

Arts & Crafts Bazaar a Success!


Thanks to June, Sande and there large crew of volunteers, the Third Annual Arts & Crafts Bazaar was hugely success in both turnout and fundraising. Here are some of photos from the day.












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  • At 11/08/2008 8:55 PM, Blogger November In My Soul said…

    I am glad to see so many turning out to make the bazaar so hugely success.

    I'm teasing, please forgive me. For those of you who do not know the author of Irenic Thougts he is a wonderful man and priest and this bazaar is just one in a long list of ways his congregation reaches out to include the community. The church's nave/sanctuary is host to many many events.

     
  • At 11/09/2008 6:13 AM, Blogger King of Peace said…

    On reflection November, I take the point that it was not merely hugely success or even hugely successsome. Thanks to your pointing this out November as I would go so far as to say it was a full day and so hugely successful. :-)

     

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