Sunday, January 4, 2009

My last letter to Redeemer

This letter to the people of Redeemer marks the close of my ministry here. But I hope it does not mark the end of our commitment to the people of the Gulf Coast and to the continued rebuilding of lives and structures here. I will return to MA in February to serve Trinity Parish in Haverhill. I look forward to this new period of my life and ministry. God willing, we will be a window into God's Kingdom in that city. I will occasionally blog as I return home so stay tuned.. You just never know what waits around the corner..

To the Church of the Redeemer, Biloxi

As Christmas draws to a close and Epiphany waits for us around the corner, I am filled with wonder and appreciation for the journey which has wound through our lives these past two years. The comfort and intimacy of the story of the Nativity moves now to the revelation of Love in this God who is man and man who is God – Jesus Christ. During the Epiphany season we will watch Jesus as He is baptized, as He calls his disciples, as He struggles with His self-identity, and finally as He is revealed on the Mount of the Transfiguration as Son of God. Each encounter with disciples, prophets, peasant women, lepers, crowds of adoring fans – each of these encounters serves as an opportunity for Jesus to grow in understanding of His intimate relationship with the Father and to reflect the face of God more clearly to us.

Whether we were at Loaves and Fishes or IHN, during worship or in hospital rooms, at baptisms and at funerals, or enjoying the fellowship of volunteer cook-outs, I am aware that each of these encounters was an opportunity for us to grow in our understanding and love of God and in love for each other. Some encounters have been full of pain, some anger, many have been filled with joy and laughter, but all have been a gift from God to you and to me. These two years are a treasure that I will hold all of my life. I had no idea when I set out from Massachusetts in my sandals to come to Mississippi how welcomed I would be, how generous with your time and talent you would be, and how much I would learn about you, about me, about our work in God’s Kingdom, and about God. I will miss our day to day encounters, but you will never be far from my thoughts and my prayers. I will hold you in my heart.

I am truly a person of two homes. I am a Southerner through and through. I love the gentle breezes and the shade of oak trees weighted down by Spanish Moss. I love the smell of chicken frying and the sound of a lure as it hits the water in between the Cypress trees. I love the friendly embrace of a stranger who welcomes me into his/her home and offers me rich, hot coffee and salted pecans - simply because I knocked. I have learned to love hockey – Mississippi style. But I also love the beauty of the New England winter, the quiet of the snow falling, and the lights of the cities that are so bright I cannot see the stars in the sky. I love the flowers that burst out in frenzy as if winter might come before they can show all of their colors – and the fact that it might! I have even learned to enjoy – horror of horrors – a New England boiled dinner and of course I love the Sox.

When I first met with Bishop Bud and talked about the possibility of moving to Biloxi, I had in mind to build bridges. First and foremost was the work of being priest at Redeemer, helping our rector where I could, and being a lightning rod for renewed hope and joy after the losses of Katrina. But there was always the other side of my mission here – the support of volunteers and the work of assisting with the rebuilding of the community’s spirit shattered by the destruction. I wanted to introduce to Mississippi some Yankee ingenuity and the can-do approach to rebuilding. New Englanders desire and respect the responsibility of government to create institutions that provide for justice and equality and I wanted to talk about how we in the south might “do justice” (Micah 6) a little better. In like manner, I wanted to teach my friends in Massachusetts about the southern love of life, good food, good music, and fellowship, the attention to polite detail and social convention that respects the pride and integrity of all, the intimacy that develops when two strangers ask the “who are your people” question until they each finally find common ground and therefore a reason to foster a friendship. I see God at work in both of my homes and I hope that through our conversations, our shared work, our listening to each other, and our love of God that we have begun to build bridges between Massachusetts and Mississippi that will endure and will make us both better for having done the work.

January 11 will be my last Sunday at Redeemer as your Associate Rector. Faye has told me that I am to ask her before I make any plans for the day so I assume that there will be ample opportunity for us to say good bye and to shed tears together. I hope the next time I come to Redeemer it will be to share in the celebration of a new church building and to join you in praise and thanksgiving for the gifts that you will bring to that worship space. If God is willing and the planes are flying I will come for that glorious day.

You have endured my chanting, welcomed my ideas, encouraged me when I slipped, and taught me much about being a priest. I am truly grateful. I will hold you in my prayers each night as I hope you will hold me in yours.

Now may the Peace of God that passes all understanding keep your heart and your mind in the knowledge and the love of God and of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. May God’s holy, healing Spirit be your guide as your path changes and turns, and may the blessing of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, guard and keep you and those you love now and forever. Amen

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent 2008

The rector's sabbatical has ended and I anticipate having some time to do some things that have been on the back burner since September. Gustav seems eons ago, but the debris piles are - sadly - still on the beach. Apparently the Feds and the Staties cannot decide who should pay for the truck to haul them away and so they will sit. It has made the ants quite happy as they have ready made mounds.

The last of the FEMA parks in Harrison County shut down last week. March 1 will mark the end of federal disaster aid. No more housing, no more mental health help. And for sure part of me recognizes that much of the poverty here now is no different from the poverty in Boston or any place else. At some point each community must begin to work to better itself.

It is a strange thing though that we have not recovered in some mysterious ways. How can I describe it? Across class and race and economic status similar issues have arisen around personal recovery. Why is it taking so long? What is wrong with me? These are common questions in groups and in individual counseling. Katrina seems to have taxed us beyond what we expected it to do. The reminders just do not go away and the tears can flow easily.

This month I plan to go to NOLA and get my hands into some sheet rocking. I also hope to return to Cameron to see how that recovery is progressing. Time is a wonderful gift and I hope to use these weeks to let the sounds and images of the Gulf Coast wash over so that I will be warmed by them when I return to Massachusetts in February.

Blessed Advent,

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Beginning of the end

Losses Losses Losses. This past week Redeemer suffered one more blow. Our communion vessels were stolen right under our noses. It is a difficult pill to swallow. But for me the miraculous thing is how the parish has reminded me of our vulnerability where our material possessions are concerned but of our strength in our relationships and our care and keeping of each other. Information on the loss is accessible at .
Today I am mindful of how close it is to January and the end of my time at Redeemer and on the Gulf Coast. These two years have seemed to go by in a heartbeat. There is so much that I have done, so much that I have not done, and so much to be done. And then there is the overwhelming knowledge that it is God who has brought all of us together in this place to do this work and without whom our efforts would be fruitless.
When I arrived in Mississippi I believe that I was the only car on the road to have a snow shovel in the back. As I contemplate my return to Massachusetts, I am looking for a new one as I long ago ditched the old one. I came to Mississippi hoping to build bridges. On the one side would be the place of my birth where my heart lies with its love of the land and its open, welcoming embrace of neighbor. On the other, my new home with its proud sense of Yankee ingenuity and frugality and its sense of justice and equity for all people. I had hoped to be a vessel through which the best of both could be shared in conversation, in resources, and in coming to the Table together so that we could all benefit from each other’s graces. It is my hope that my return to Massachusetts will not mean an end to this relationship we have built together, but rather will be just the beginning of many years of partnership to come
In the coming weeks as Harold returns from sabbatical, I prepare to leave, and Redeemer prepares to enter into a new time of building and envisioning the future, I hope to have many who will share with me their insight into our two year journey. I want to sit with as many as we are able to listen, so that I might better understand my gifts and struggles as Redeemer’s priest and as your missionary and then be sent by you to pastor in a new place with energy, hope, and love. I am asking you to be my teachers, so that these bridges that we have built together will be stronger and longer lasting.
I wish that I had some news to share about our communion vessels, but I do not. One of the gifts that Redeemer has given to me is a perspective on loss. Many members came to me to assure me that Redeemer will get along without the silver because we still have our parish family. There are those bridges again.
God’s Peace be with you this week,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Just one more...

I want to add a little addendum. I wrote during the heighth of the storm that a little restaurant in The Pass was washed away. That turned out to be a terribly vicious rumor. Some in Boston who knew the place have received emails from me assuring them that when they return to the Coast they will have a place to get a cold beer and some broiled oysters. Now I can give first hand info as just yesterday I dined at Shaggy's albeit with a limited menu selection and many love bugs. Debris still covers the beaches in many places, but the Coast seems more intent on providing relief supplies to Texas than in worrying about cleaning up our own beaches. I think this is as it should be. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gustav Last

Home at last. Haven't had a shower since Sunday AM so this is going to be decidedly short! I have some roof damage and trees down - sandbags kept water out thoough. All in all no worse for the wear. Storm clouds linger, but it is quiet. No word from Christ Church BSL yet. Other churches are OK. BSL took a big hit. Waveland had 19 ft surge (Katrina was 26 there). News from NOLA is good. Although if I were the authorities I would be all over the companies that did not secure the barge and ships. That was an unnecessary risk. Thankfully no harm done. Now the talk is of a safe return to NOLA and working on how to deal with the stress and trauma of having to evacuate. There wil be some mental fatigue and depression. In fact a lot. This will be an issue for us to consider after we are all back home.

Geoffrey Lewis has put together a series of photos of Gustav. Some are his and some may be from other sources. Pretty vivid shots though. Here is the link on Youtube

I have contacted about 1/3 of the parishionrs and all are safe and sound with damage at minimum. Will continue to hear from others as the week goes on I am sure. John Byrd caught a snake which he promptly wanted to show to me. Some things just never change. We lost some limbs at the parish house but the roof held. DeMiller Hall had some leaks, but they were monir and Holy Guardian Angels will open tomorrow. Faye, Malcolm, Julie and I did a walk through this AM. The debris line is inches short of the Camille Memorial. We have quite a mess to clean up but little other damage. With Ike headed toward the Gulf I will keep the vestments at my house.

I give thanks for all of the letters, emails, and prayers.

"...As it is there are many members, yet one body...
If one member suffers, all suffer together with it:..."

My prayer today is that we will continue to be one Body in Christ and that we will stand together what ever pain, suffering, or storm might come our way. I am consciece of the peril of Hurricanes Hannah and Ike and I pray for safety for all in the path. I tell my children in Godly Play that wherever they go God gets there first and is waiting to welcome them. Thanks be the God.

Gustav 10

Just a quick note before we get busy. If you remember shaggys restaurant in pass xtian. Gone. Extènsive floodng. Môre later. We are waiting for all cleár to go home. I am praying this day "we give thanks for all the blessings of this life" I cannot thank tou enough for your love. Jane
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Monday, September 1, 2008

Gustav 9

Troubling. Rumors that shelters near biloxi are closing and putting nola folks out. (not ARC). On òther side we just helped a nola family find lodging in Jackson. Tensions are rising as the time hoes by. We have much flooding. Popps ferry is flooded as is my Street. We will spend another night in the shelter. AC is not working. i need to cleán the bathrooms Pray for cool heads and warm hearts
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