Aug 13, 2015

In Good Faith: Drive Time

Deadlines have no respect for vacations. Thus, my monthly In Good Faith column was filed from the road.

Drive Time

It occurred to me on the ubiquitous summer vacation drive down I-95 to visit family that there is literally not a single song the whole family can agree on. Forget about genres — that’s a lost cause. But our family of four can’t even agree on one song we all like.

That’s not to say there aren’t any songs we all know. Between us we can remember all the words to the National Anthem and we’re pretty familiar with Happy Birthday.  But finding a single song at least one of us doesn’t despise is apparently impossible. 

This isn’t unusual between generations, of course. Just do a little research on the history of rock ’n roll (Ed Sullivan Show, anyone?) or watch the 1980’s classic movie Footloose starring Kevin Bacon. Every succeeding generation is convinced their music is by far superior to whatever was written before they arrived on the scene.

Here’s how it breaks down in the car: Wife — Madonna, all things ’80’s, and Top 40 (basically anything played by radio stations with “Z” or “Kiss” as the prefix, as in Z100 or Kiss 108). She’s also a big seat dancer which has the bonus effect of mortifying the boys. Eldest teenager — rap, hip hop, lots of artists with the word “Ice” in their name like Ice-T or Ice Cube (fortunately he doesn’t like Vanilla Ice). Youngest teenager — heavy metal, grunge (with a particular emphasis on Nirvana), and death metal. I’m not sure what death metal actually is but I’m sure it would be appropriate to play at church on, say, Good Friday. Then there’s me: blues, classic rock, and Gregorian chant (not necessarily in that order).

The upshot is that on long car rides I give thanks that God created headphones. Sure, I miss the conversation, but it beats the loud complaining about everyone else’s musical preferences. Until Madonna raps a heavy metal song inspired by the blues, it’s probably better this way.

The irony is that my late father was a symphony orchestra conductor. And while he was very tolerant of my teenage preference for Kiss and AC/DC, it’s not as if my family is fighting over whether to play Bach or Mahler. Arguing between Metallica, Taylor Swift, Public Enemy, and the Rolling Stones feels somehow less highbrow.

The good news in all of this is that it leads to conversation about how musical tastes are as individual as one’s personality. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to what inspires us or moves us or makes us think. To me, rap sounds like a car crash, I can’t understand the lyrics in heavy metal, and as for Top 40 I prefer my music to be played by actual instruments rather than computers. This doesn't make me right or wrong but it does contribute to who I am as a person.

So I think there’s a lesson in tolerance embedded in these long car rides. And in reality it’s not all about the headphones for us. Sometimes we go around the car and let each person pick one song. The rule is that no complaining is allowed during the song and then afterwards the person who picked it must describe what they like about it. 

Diversity comes in many forms. Some forms are just louder than others.

Jul 27, 2015

10 things we'll miss without the 2024 Boston Olympics

You may have heard that Boston has pulled its bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. While there were many reasons for this (finances, feasibility, other priorities, etc), basically the voting public heard what it would entail and tossed away the whole idea like tea into the Boston Harbor.

In a victory for democracy and/or Twitter, Bostonians decided they needed "more than a feeling" from the Boston 2024 boosters rather than simply being told, "don't look back."

Nonetheless, there are some mixed feeling about missing the opportunity to host the Games right here in Beantown. Below are ten things we won't get to see after all...

10. Watching Michael Phelps dodge swan boats and "dirty water" in his attempt to win his record-breaking 45th gold medal.

9. The under-inflated water polo balls DeflateGate controversy.

8. The USA fencing team channeling their revolutionary forebears by slicing their way past Great Britain in the medal round.

7. Bill Buckner coaching the USA croquet team -- finally, "through the wickets" is a good thing!

6. Whitey Bulger running all the betting action on boxing from his prison cell.

5. Observing supermodel Gisele Bundchen turned away from the golf event at Brookline Country Club -- the one that rejected her and Tom for membership -- then watching her blame Wes Welker via Twitter.

4. The high tech laser show at the Opening Ceremonies featuring a recurring image of former Governor Michael Dukakis in a tank.

3. Watching international tourists literally get lost on the MTA and "never return."

2. Dunkin' Donuts coffee replacing Gatorade as the athletes' drink of choice (mostly because you can't find anything else in this town).

1. Watching the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing light the Olympic flame.

Jul 20, 2015

When Liturgy Meets World

When you focus on liturgy for a significant portion of your waking hours you tend to see liturgical objects that may or may not actually be there. For example, after Serena Williams won the Wimbledon title for the 28th time or whatever I couldn't help but wonder why she was immediately handed a shiny, blinged-out church collection plate for her efforts.

Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about. You may well have other examples to share.

Baptismal Font


Bishop's Pectoral Cross


Acolyte Master/Verger


Chalice Bearer



Torch Bearer


Alto Section Leader

Altar Frontal

Collection Plate

Jul 16, 2015

Episcopal Click Bait

"Click bait." That's the term for those provocative or eye catching headlines you encounter on social media or websites that dare you NOT to click on them. Think internet version of National Inquirer headlines and you get the idea.

Usually the most interesting thing involved is the aforementioned headline that takes you to something mildly and/or mindlessly entertaining. Because when it comes to click bait it's advertiser-sponsored page views that matter, not content.

Click bait plays to our rawest human emotions -- the voyeuristic, the taking pleasure in other people's awkwardness or stupidity, the carnal. If you've ever given in and taken the bait, you know it always leaves you feeling somehow used. Yet for some reason most people feel a desperate need to...Know. What. Happened. Next. And the more you click, the more bait ends up finding its way to your computer.

So, what would Episcopal click bait look like? The term itself is an oxymoron since hopefully there's some substance behind our faith. But it's fun to think about nonetheless. And we could certainly use some more eyeballs on all things Episcopal!

This thurifer whacked the altar guild directress 
in the head during the procession.
What happened next will restore your faith in humanity...

You won't believe who lives in this abandoned 
church in New York City!

12 church hacks your priest doesn't want you to know about.

What would happen if the current Presiding Bishop 
and the Presiding Bishop-elect had a love child? 
The answer will blow your mind.

Which Anglican Bishop should be your BFF?

Lose 15 pounds in three months with these 
amazing new communion wafers!

20 signs you're going to hell.

How one chalice bearer made $$$ from 
the comfort of the church sacristy.

With this one crazy trick you can experience the spirituality 
of church without ever darkening the doors!

Jul 9, 2015

John the Baptist Head on a Silver Platter Extravaganza!

When my father was the assistant conductor of the Honolulu Symphony in the early 1970’s, he used to tell us about the wacky stagehands at the Honolulu Opera Company. They shared a stage with the orchestra and it seemed they would always create t-shirts when a new production was in the works. 

Thus, based on the opera at hand, they carried out their duties in shirts emblazoned with slogan like “To Hell with Faust” or “Get Ahead with Salome.” Who doesn’t like a bit of behind-the-scenes operatic humor?

I thought about this — especially Strauss’ Salome — as I was preparing to preach on this Sunday’s gospel passage. You see it’s Mark 6:14-29, the precise passage upon which the opera is based; the story of John the Baptist’s beheading.

It’s a violent, gruesome tale of sin, lust, guilt, rage, and revenge. In other words, perfect for an opera but you’ll likely never see a cute children’s pageant based on it. Unless it's the pageant director's last Sunday -- as an Episcopalian, a Christian, or even a human being.

As you delve into the story it’s hard not to seek some comic relief — or at least it’s hard for
me. So I came up with a few suggestions to embrace the day more fully. I mean it only comes around the lectionary once every three years so why not do it up right? Right??

1. In addition to the usual procession of acolytes and servers add in a boar's head complete with apple-stuffed-in-mouth. Liturgy aficionados will appreciate the foreshadowing. 

2. Not usually into liturgical dance at your parish? Invite all the pre-teen girls to prance around provocatively wearing chiffon during the gospel procession. That wouldn't be creepy at all.

3. Refer to all the lectors as "talking heads."

4. In the sermon, see how many beheading references you can sneak in. Phrases like "a cut above," "go ahead," "slice of life," and "chop suey" all work well.

5. While this year’s “celebration” takes place on July 12th, it’s a lot more memorable when it falls on July 14th aka Bastille Day. Why not decorate the narthex with mini, bedazzled
guillotines? You know, just for some added fun.

6. For a choir anthem, substitute Palestrina with anything from the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

7. Serve the delicacy tete de veau (fancy french term for cow brain) at coffee hour.

8. Speaking of coffee hour, make sure to put everything out on silver platters. Yes, that includes the ubiquitous Munchkins at the kids’ table.

9. At the Adult Education forum, argue about which Herod actually had John beheaded. Herod the Great? Herod Antipas? Herod Agrippa? Herod Archelaus? Herod is the king who keeps on giving!

10. Instead of frightening the poor Sunday School children by telling them about Herodias and John the Baptist, scare the bejesus out of them by reading Washington Irving's Headless Horseman.

If you follow these 10 simple steps, you too can make your John the Baptist Head on a Silver Platter Extravaganza the talk of the entire church!