May 3, 2016

The Trump Eucharist aka Trumpcharist

"The Lord be with me."
Maybe being at the annual Diocese of Massachusetts Clergy Conference inspires me. Or maybe being around a couple hundred clergy makes me start to twitch. Either way, in a burst of "inspiration," I decided to write a eucharistic prayer for Donald Trump.

Love him as America's savior or despise him as the second coming of Mussolini, The Donald is the most polarizing figure in American politics since, um, Sarah Palin? 

Anyway, take this for what it's worth: political satire. Nothing more, nothing less. And just be thankful there's no Trump Seminary to go along with Trump University.

Eucharistic Prayer A (because it's number one) 

The people remain standing. The Donald faces them and says

                      The Lord be with me.
People           And also with you.
The Donald    Lift up your small hands.
People           We lift them to the Donald.
The Donald    Let us give thanks to Trump our demigod.
People           It is right to give him votes and praise.

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Trump Almighty, Creator of The Apprentice and Trump Tower.

For you alone will make America great again; you remind us that diplomacy is for losers; and that trolling other candidates on Twitter will lead to the nomination. By your glorious campaign rhetoric you have set yourself apart from a field of uninspiring contenders.

Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Mexicans and the Chinese and with all the company of Muslims, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

The Donald and People

Holy, Holy, Holy Trump, god of might makes right,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
    Donald in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the GOP.
    Donald in the highest.

The people stand or kneel. Then The Donald continues

Holy and gracious Donald: In your infinite love for yourself you promised to make America great again, and, when we had fallen into Obama and become subject to universal healthcare, you, in your mercy, sent yourself, your only and eternal Drumph-ness, to pretend to care about our human nature, to live and die by dividing us one from another, and to reconcile us to your delegates.

You stretched out your arms upon the wall, that the Mexicans will pay for, in obedience to your will, a perfect solution for the whole world.

On the night you were not handed over to suffering and death, because death is for losers, you took Trump Steak and when you had given thanks to yourself, you sliced it, and gave it to your supporters, and said, "Take, eat: This is my Trump Steak
 which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of my brand."

After supper you took the cup of Trump Vodka and when you had given thanks, you gave
it to them, and said, "Drink this, all of you: This is my latest failed product, which is shed for you and for many of my stockholders. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of my brand."

Therefore we proclaim the mystery of Trump:

The Donald and People

Trump has run.
Trump is winning.
Trump will come to the Oval Office.

We celebrate the memorial of our election, O Donald, in this sacrifice of good taste and decorum. Recalling your past wives, failed businesses, and hateful rhetoric, we offer you no gifts -- because you're allegedly self-funding your campaign.

Sanctify them by your massive ego to be for your people the bouffant of your megalomania, the Trump branded food and drink of new and unending life in you. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this electoral cycle, and serve you in uniformity, fear-mongering, and misogyny; and at the last day bring us with all your supporters into the joy of your November victory.

All this we ask through Donald Trump: By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Republican Party all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Donald, now and for ever. AMEN.

The service continues with a self-aggrandizing group hug and the mocking of Hillary's gender.

Apr 28, 2016

In Good Faith: Searching for Clues

In my latest In Good Faith column, I explain why I am taking my place as the latest in a long line of crime-fighting clerics. 

Searching for Clues

It all started with an innocuous, tongue-in-cheek text from a friend: “I think you should help the local police solve mysteries like the vicar in Grantchester.” 

You know Grantchester, right? The popular PBS detective show set in 1950s England where an Anglican priest (played by James Norton) assists the gruff and overworked local detective in solving crimes. 

At first I thought  this was a joke but then I thought, why shouldn’t I help out the Hingham Police Department with their unsolved mysteries? Sure, my wife has accused me of being rather unobservant (how am I supposed to know what color the dining room walls are unless I’m, you know, actually in the dining room?). But I’ve binge-watched enough Law & Order to know the Miranda Rights by heart. And I’ve watched David Caruso in CSI:Miami so I’ve learned the precise moment at which to remove my sunglasses to achieve maximum dramatic effect when interrogating a suspect.

But besides all this, there’s certainly precedent for clergy aiding the cops. Besides the Rev. Sidney Chambers, the priest in Grantchester,, there’s G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, the Father Dowling mysteries, Andrew Greeley’s Father Blackie Ryan, and a parishioner recently lent me a mystery series by Julia Spencer-Fleming featuring a crime-fighting Episcopal priest named Clare Ferguson. 

I’m not sure how all these clerics find time amid their busy days to look for clues — perhaps that’s the real mystery here. Nonetheless, I’m sure I can moonlight a bit while still faithfully tending to the flock. I mean, if the detectives on Law & Order can get from Battery Park to Harlem in 30 seconds during rush hour, anything’s possible, right?

Anyway, I tweeted out my friend’s suggestion and suddenly it became a thing — thanks to Patriot Ledger writer (and Twitter follower) Lane Lambert. He loved the idea of life imitating art and suddenly an article about this new “partnership” was on the front page. Slow news day aside, Sergeant Steven Dearth of the Hingham Police Department replied that they’re always open to help. Perfect! I was in. 

Actually, I did meet with Sergeant Dearth — we had a lot of fun with this, trading photos on Twitter. Who knew the Hingham Police had a Twitter account? But more importantly, it’s helpful to remember that the police are set within the community rather than set apart from it. 

There has been a lot of negative publicity regarding law enforcement of late — much of it deserved, especially in relating to people of color. But we can’t forget that there is also a tremendous amount of good work being done out there in difficult conditions. 

Calling for justice and praising those who serve their communities faithfully are not mutually exclusive. As a person of faith, I pray for both an end to senseless violence and for greater communication and understanding. Something that begins with seeing one another as fellow children of God and recognizing that we’re all in this together.

In the meantime, if you see me walking up and down Main Street with a huge magnifying glass “looking for clues,” please do everyone a favor. Call the police.

Apr 23, 2016

Top ways to embarrass your teen on a college tour

With a junior in high school (what?!) I've had the pleasure of taking him on a couple of college tours. It's true that after awhile they all start to look the same, so can you blame me that my mind begins to wander after seeing yet another "amazing fitness center" that trumps any gym I've ever belonged to?

One of the best parts of these tours, led by the ubiquitously perky coed, is the awkward silence when she asks if there are any questions after her five-minute monologue about the intricacies of the overly complicated meal plan. Actually there's a lot of awkwardness mostly from the teenagers using their strongest powers of mental telepathy to will their parents into not uttering a single word.

Nonetheless, here are some tips for simultaneously breaking the silence and embarrassing your teenager. I mean, there have to be some perks to forking over $150,000 for four years, right?

1. Dress for Success. Black knee-high socks with shorts? Why not? Maybe you'll even start a new retro fashion trend. Or maybe dig your 1980's-era multicolored spandex running tights out of the recesses of your closet. You can show off the contours of your middle-aged legs while considering the walking tour your workout for the day. Don't forget to announce your Fitbit steps at every stop on the tour!

2. Dining In. Make sure to ask the tour guide if parents are eligible to sign up for the meal plan. Since you plan to eat with your son/daughter and friends in the dining hall at least twice a week. Clarify whether the plan truly is "all you can eat" since you will have driven five hours for dinner.

3. What's in a Name? Definitely question the name of the school mascot. "What do you mean they're called the North American Spotted Yet Fighting Owls? Don't you know that's an endangered species!?" Then stage a sit-in on the quad until the name is changed.

4. Matchmaker. Start telling the other prospective students on the tour that your son/daughter was just dumped by his/her girlfriend/boyfriend and is "quite the catch." Then list the reasons for your progeny's awesomeness starting with their kindergarten prowess in finger painting.

5. Back to School. Loudly talk about how you're also considering enrolling so you can reenact Back to School by throwing massive parties and having an affair with one of your professors.
Rodney Dangerfield's role in the 1986 movie

6. Memory Lane. When passing Fraternity Row, make sure to share, in vivid detail, all your best drunken carousing stories with the entire group. When the tour guide explains that Greek life has evolved over the years and that the collective GPA of those in fraternities and sororities is actually higher than the school average, guffaw loudly. And state your unequivocal belief that hazing builds character. Just look at you!

These are just a few tips to help make your college tours more enjoyable.

But in all seriousness, I literally don't care where Ben ends up going to school. I just want him to be happy, make a few life-long friends, find his passion, and continue to live more fully into the person God is calling him to be. And perhaps send me a t-shirt from the bookstore.

Mar 23, 2016

In Good Faith: Spring Fling

In my latest In Good Faith column, I write about fulfilling a lifelong fantasy and glimpsing a bit of resurrection in the process.
Spring Fling

It started with a throwaway Facebook post. A lament that, given what I do for a living, I 
would never get to go to spring training. I mean, the season of Lent, the busiest time of year for parish clergy, just happens to coincide with Major League Baseball’s own season of preparation. Christians may be preparing for Easter but ballplayers are preparing for Opening Day, so there are a few parallels. If you’re desperate enough.

Getting to see my beloved hometown Baltimore Orioles play in spring training has crept up my bucket list over the years. Okay, I don’t actually keep a bucket list, but if I did it would be near the top. Connecting with my inner child, combined with some warm sun after surviving another New England winter — what could be better? Alas. Maybe when I retire.

But then I got a text from my oldest childhood friend who had seen my pathetic post. “Thinking about taking dad to see a couple games next week for his birthday. You in?” After verifying that he wasn’t just mocking me by adding salt to my first world wound, I started thinking seriously about going down for a couple of days. No, I didn’t have the time. No, flying to Sarasota for two days without a Saturday night stay-over wasn’t cheap. But in the end, the answer was clear.

You see, this wasn’t just any friend taking just any father to Florida for spring training. This was my second family growing up. Yes, Ned moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, 20 years ago to start a family and a career and we rarely see each other anymore. But as with the deepest relationships, when we do get together, it’s as if no time has passed.

This wasn’t really about baseball, however. Ned’s dad is dying. It’s not imminent, but the cancer has now spread into the bones so the sand is rapidly moving through the hour glass. A man who has been a source of inspiration and support throughout my life; someone who is a living connection to my own late father; a person whose gentle humor and unconditional devotion to his family and friends have endeared him to so many over the years won’t, in fact, live forever.

And so, in-between innings, we talked about life and death, faith and family. Time stood still as the three of us laughed and cheered and talked about the things that really matter in life — the relationships that define us and shape our identity — and the sense of peace in the face of death that, even as it comes from a life well-lived, defies all understanding.

Spring training was everything I anticipated it would be. There was hope, as well as the defining sights and sounds of baseball, in the air. The crack of the bat, the warm breeze, the wafting odor of grilled hot dogs, the chatter of the ballplayers, the smack of balls hitting leather.

As people throughout the world prepare to walk through the agony of Good Friday before encountering the joy of Easter, it’s worth remembering that resurrection comes in many forms. Spring training was, for me, a resurrection experience in the midst of Lent. It was time spent with people I care for deeply, and included moments I will always cherish.
But that’s really what the Christian faith is all about — snatching life from the jaws of death; finding hope in situations that feel utterly hopeless.

Wherever you may be during this holiest time in the Christian year, and wherever you may worship, I encourage you to nurture the relationships that mean the most in your life. This begins with the God who loves you with reckless abandon and continues with those to whom you have had the privilege to walk this mortal journey. 

Life doesn’t always go into extra innings. Which means taking advantage of resurrection moments when they present themselves. Even if this means sitting in the Florida sun watching the home team win a meaningless spring training game, that means the world to you.

Mar 7, 2016

What Your Coffee Says About Your Denomination

Recently, I ran across a post that compared different coffee drinks with one's theology. I loved the concept but it a) wasn't very comprehensive and b) wasn't all that interesting. So I thought I'd take a crack at this since there are few things I love more than theology and coffee (not necessarily in that order).

While Jesus gave the disciples wine at the Last Supper, I have it on good authority that he only did so because Judas forgot to bring the coffee. Traitor! But that may just be apocryphal.

Personally, I drink my coffee like I wear my clergy shirts: black. But that's just the tip of the denominational, coffee-infused iceberg. So, I'm taking this brief break from my supreme duties over at Lent Madness to dip into this particular vat of over-caffeinated theology.

Anglicans -- Iced Coffee

Could there be any more appropriate coffee drink for God's "Frozen Chosen?" Well, perhaps tea. Anglicans drink tea. (And for fussy Anglo-Catholics, anything involving Latte Art --  which is the lace cotta of the coffee world).

Calvinists -- Espresso

Bitter, harsh, preordained.

Fundamentalists -- Coffee Beans

If you're going to take Scripture literally, even when it was not meant to be read as such, you will certainly just take the coffee bean (as God created it) and, forsaking reason, simply chew on the beans. Have fun with that.

Lutherans -- Coffee-Infused Beer

Martin Luther would surely approve of blending coffee with Oktoberfest.

Methodists -- Affogato

Espresso over vanilla ice cream is as close as you can come to the sweetness of sacramental grape juice. It may not leave your heart "strangely warmed," as John Wesley would put it, but you can always order a "light and sweet" coffee as a chaser.

Mormons -- Decaf

If your religion doesn't allow you to partake in caffeine, you end up with brown water. That's what decaf is after all.

Roman Catholics -- Italian Roast

Low quality beans, over-roasted to kill the flavor. When it's finished roasting, white smoke arises as a signal that it's "done." (Secondary option: Irish Coffee).

Pentecostalists -- Double Espresso

Drink a few of these and you, too, will begin speaking in tongues.

Prosperity Gospel -- Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino

This or whatever is the most expensive drink on the Starbucks menu. Also, it's not actually coffee -- it's dessert.

Unitarians -- Cafe au Lait

Foamy. Sweet. Feels good. Free range beans.

Whatever YOU Believe -- Black Coffee

Coffee in its most pure form. As God intended. The way we all see our own particular brand of Christianity.