Sep 12, 2014

Consecration Eve Tips

Here in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts everyone's all atwitter about the impending consecration of our Bishop-elect Alan Gates. Elected in April, Fr. Gates will succeed our beloved retiring bishop, Tom Shaw, who has served us faithfully for 20 years.

On Consecration Eve, things seem to be in order: Boston University's Agganis Arena has been transformed into a mega church; the Cathedral nautilus has been hand polished by cloistered monks; there have been Facebook arguments over the proper vestiture (cassock and surplice vs. cassock-alb); and I've released my Official Consecration Packing List.

During these waning hours before the big day, I thought I'd do my part and suggest a few ways to demonstrate that old DioMass spirit.

Here are a few suggestions:

Get a nautilus tattoo. The one in the picture is the one I personally went with but there are many options.

Dye your hair purple in solidarity with the new bishop. Also, it shows the rest of the diocese that you're a rabid Lent Madness fan.

Pick up a fake bishop costume and join in the holy scrum with the other 28 bishops who will lay hands upon Alan when he is made a bishop in God's One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Bring a flock of sheep to the service so the newly consecrated bishop will be able to actually use his shiny new crozier as something other than a symbolic prop.

Speaking of animals, I plan to smuggle in a specially-trained dove that will alight upon Alan's head at the exact moment of consecration. Fine, all I could find at the last minute was a pigeon but that's close enough.

Wear the biggest ring you can find so Alan doesn't feel so self-conscious about his newfound diocesan bling.

Since miters are supposed to be reminiscent of the flames coming down at Pentecost, why not just light your hair on fire?

Oh, and in case any liturgically-challenged clergy were still wondering (come on, this is the Diocese of Massachusetts after all) were wondering, THIS is the appropriate vestiture for a consecration:

Sep 11, 2014

Consecration Packing List

On Saturday, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts will gather to consecrate the Rev. Alan Gates as our new bishop. There's great excitement about this, especially at my parish since Father-soon-to-be-Bishop Gates served as our curate from 1987-1990. And, yes, I've already told him that if things don't work out, he can have his old job back.

This will only be the second consecration I've ever attended. In 1998 when our seminary dean, Mark Sisk, was elected Bishop of New York a rag-tag group of us seminarians from Seabury-Western in Evanston, Illinois, flew east for the festivities. We were thrilled to be included in the procession and it was surreal to see someone we had grown close to be made a bishop in front of over 3,000 people packed into the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Of course they stuck us in the back of the (very long) procession and by the time we got to our seats, I'm pretty sure the service was about half over.

Since there's no Episcopal institution in Boston that could possibly hold thousands of rabid church goers, the consecration will be held at Boston University's Agganis Arena. Some people think it's unfortunate we can't hold this in an actual church but as Americans we've been "worshipping" in sports arenas for generations so what's the big deal? Plus this is the closest thing we have to channeling Joel Osteen so I suggest we just sit back, relax, and pretend we're relevant enough to have a mega church.

But I digress. What I really wanted to do was be of service to the throngs attending the upcoming consecration. Thus, I've created a Consecration Packing List to make the day more meaningful for everyone involved.

1. Smart Phone. This is so obvious, I almost didn't list it. The only question is what will run out first, your battery or the communion wine.

2. Snacks. Face it, folks, this is going to take awhile. Since Dominoes likely won't deliver during the
Eucharistic Prayer, I suggest coming loaded for bear. With bear jerky and other healthy snacks.

3. Flask. Just in case there's liturgical dance.

4. Red Spray Paint. Despite all the announcements you know there will be several priests who show up wearing white stoles instead of red ones. A quick spray and the problem is taken care of.

5. Oxygen Tank. Just in case you get stuck in the nose bleed seats.

6. Drone. Since it will be hard to see the actual laying on of hands with the expected 28 bishops in attendance, your camera-equipped drone will give you the perfect bird's-eye view.

7. Communion Wafers. If they run out you can always consecrate your own and hand them out to everybody in your section. You'll be as popular as the Phillie Phanatic at Veterans Stadium (there will be a mascot at this thing, right?)

8. Bic Lighter. Just in case the Baby Boomers in charge of the liturgy dim the lights and try to turn things into a glorified Air Supply concert.

9. Extra Tickets. Yes, they are issuing (free) tickets for this extravaganza. Plan on bringing extras to scalp thereby eliminating the need for your fall stewardship campaign.

10. Gratitude. Be thankful that you're not in charge of pulling this off. Or that you were elected bishop.

If you are interested in watching the live webcast of the consecration, you can click here on Saturday starting at 10:30 am. Or you can follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #diomass (at least until our phones die).

In the meantime, please keep Bishop-elect Gates and his wife Tricia in your prayers. It's a big job with a multitude of often conflicting expectations, hopes, and dreams from the various constituencies across the diocese. Yet it's also one with great opportunity to inspire a generation of faithful Christians. May the mantle of leadership be a good fit for all involved.

Aug 28, 2014

Goodbye Kitty

In major breaking news, it was revealed today that Hello Kitty is not, as previously believed, a cat. In an attempt to clarify something that was never in doubt, the former feline's creator is quoted as saying, "Hello Kitty is not a cat. She's a cartoon character. She's a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat." Um, okay.

This radical case of feline debunking has people everywhere challenging other long-held assumptions. It has also cast a dark shadow upon the authenticity of Felix, Morris, Tom, Garfield, the Cat in the Hat, and even the internet sensation Grumpy Cat.

As we all seek to gain our bearings in this new world order, I have uncovered other disconcerting truisms of our common life.

1. God is not George Burns. Or Morgan Freeman.

2. "Lassie" is just a stage name -- not the dog's real name.

3. The Tooth Fairy can't fly. And he's really a cross-dresser named Bob.

4. Elmo is actually Grover with a red dye job and a tank of helium.

5. Dr. Seuss does not, in fact, have a medical degree.

6. Stewie on "Family Guy" is not a toddler but a talking football with legs.

7. Batman's only "super power" is prancing around in tights and a cape.

8. The Supreme Executive Committee of Lent Madness is not Bert and Ernie in disguise.

9. Spuds Mackenzie is really the Taco Bell chihuahua wearing a fat suit.

10. The Pope is not Catholic.

The moral of the story is beware of your assumptions. And don't be surprised if we learn tomorrow that Cat Woman is not, in fact, a woman but a cat.

Aug 12, 2014

Lost and Found: A $20 Odyssey

What would you do if you found $20? This isn't some existential question I've been waiting to ask a mountaintop sage. I actually did find a lone $20 bill on North Street in Hingham yesterday and I've been wondering what to do with it ever since. Granted you can't change the world with $20 nor can you enter the monetary stratosphere of the 1%. But I was curious about what I could and would do with my new-found windfall.

The first thing I did, of course, was pose the question to my friends on Facebook. I got lots of advice including but not limited to: save it, invest it, buy 20 lottery tickets, bury it, buy the family ice cream, give it to charity, give it to the church, give it to Bryna, buy pizza, and take a parishioner out to lunch.

Well, since I'm on vacation anyway, I decided to use the afternoon finding ways to spend it around town. The first thing I did was, naturally, head to Red Eye Roasters and buy myself a cup of coffee. Specifically a steaming mug of black coffee from beans grown at the Java Kayumas Estate in Indonesia. Delicious.

That left me with $17.50. After putting $1.50 into the tip jar for some of the best barristas this side of the Charles River, I was left with $16. Now, I'm not big on the whole concept of "paying it forward" since I don't really understand what it means and I'm pretty sure it's a phrase coined by Oprah, but I gave Julia behind the counter a five dollar bill and told her I'd pay for whoever came in after me.

Soon after, a guy entered the shop and was told his coffee was paid for. I think he ordered some fancy drink since there wasn't any change left over and if there was I trust it ended up in the "Instant Karma" tip jar. Fortunately, Julia didn't out me -- I wasn't doing this to be thanked and acknowledged.

Anyway that left me with $11. Not as flush as when I entered the coffee shop but still playing with house money. After doing a little writing at Redeye, I stopped by the local grocery store to pick up a small flowering plant for Bryna that set me back $6.36 with tax. Then I encountered a group of kids selling lemonade so I picked up a dixie cup full of over-sweetened pink liquid for .55 cents. I was refreshed; they were delighted.

I was down to my last $4.09. A stop at the "poor box" at church where I dropped in two bucks in accordance with the Biblical concept of the 10% tithe left me with a whopping $2.09.

Let's face it, $2.09 ain't what it used to be. But I had a final thought: I'm taking the family out for ice cream. So Bryna, Ben, Zack, and I headed down to Nona's for a quick scoop after dinner. I told them they had to stick to the "kiddie" size -- which actually isn't that small -- but, sure, get the sprinkles.

In the end? I lost $5.81. But I had a great day and it was totally worth it. The little things in life really do make a difference -- which is fortunate since that's often all we have to offer. I'm convinced that generosity begets generosity and there's no reason we must wait to stumble upon a small treasure to remember this.

Aug 9, 2014

Liturgical Sloganeering

One of the things that happens on long car rides (besides shoving food at your teenagers and occasionally checking the rear view mirror to make sure they haven't, in fact, turned into zombies by staring too long at their phones) are Jack Handy-like Deep Thoughts. This is a dangerous thing when you have a blog since they inevitably end up here and for that, dear reader, I apologize.

As Bryna was napping during our 10-hour that-should-have-really-been-seven-and-a-half-hour drive back from Maryland's Eastern Shore, I starting thinking about advertising slogans. Specifically, advertising slogans that relate to liturgy.

If you've had enough coffee and no one else to talk to for a couple of hours, this is what happens. It's also a by-product of being on vacation and not having sermons to write. Plus, the only other option was playing the license plate game. By myself.

So here are a few popular slogans that might go along with different parts of a typical Sunday morning service. If you have others that might work, please share them. And if you think this whole idea is ridiculous (it is) and don't want to participate? "Let your fingers do the walking"(Yellow Pages) and find another website.

Sunday Morning Eucharist

Opening Acclamation: "Whasssup?!" (Budweiser)

Readings: "Can you hear me now?" (Verizon Wireless)

The Gospel: "The best a man can get." (Gillette)

Sermon: "Be all you can be." (Army)

If the Sermon won't end: "It keeps going, and going, and going…" (Energizer)

The Peace: "Reach out and touch someone" (AT&T)

Collection: "What's in your wallet?" (Capital One)

Invitation: "They're magically delicious." (Lucky Charms)

Words of Institution: "It's the real thing." (Coca-Cola) and "Melts in your mouth, not in your hands." (M & Ms)

After receiving Communion: "M'm! M'm! Good." (Campbell's Soup)

Invitation: "They're magically delicious." (Lucky Charms)

During ablutions: "Good to the last drop." (Maxwell House)

Dismissal: "Just do it." (Nike)

Closing Hymn: "Oh what a feeling!" (Toyota)

Bulletin announcements: "All the news that's fit to print." (New York Times)

Bonus Round

Sacramental Anointing: "A little dab'll do ya" (Brylcream)

Good Friday: "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking." (Timex)

Ascension Day: "Fly the friendly skies." (United Airlines)

Easter: "We bring good things to life." (General Electric)

Flower Guild: "Say it with flowers." (Interfloral)

Buildings & Grounds Committee: "Ace is the place for the helpful hardware man"

Terrible Stewardship Campaign: "Expect more. Pay less." (Target)