“Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
yours are the only hands with which he can do his work,
yours are the only feet with which he can go about the world,
yours are the only eyes through which his compassion
can shine forth upon a troubled world.
Christ has no body on earth now but yours.”
Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582
“Be gentle to all, and stern with yourself.” - Ibid
“Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.” - Goethe
“Iron rusts from disuse, water loses its purity from stagnation…even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.” - Leonardo da Vinci
“Help me listen and learn and let go of controlling others.” - Anon
Hunter 1: We’re lost. Shoot three shots in the air.
Hunter 2: Okay
Hunter 1: If no one comes soon, go ahead and shoot three more.
Hunter 2: I hope someone comes soon. We’re getting low on arrows.
On Thursday, July 30th, I met one of my neighbors, Michael Glenn, as he walked a dog on Woodward Drive. Michael greeted me with a cheerful “Good Morning Richard” and he asked if I minded if his dog also could greet me. Apparently the dog liked to greet people by licking them. I agreed and the dog put his paws on me and licked my upper right arm. Michael mentioned that the dog might then totally ignore me. Apparently the animal liked to greet people with much enthusiasm and then totally abandon his human acquaintances. And indeed the dog then acted as if I didn’t exist.
I quipped something to the effect that the dog’s behavior was like some people who meet, greet and then ignore people. Michael responded, “Is that a bad thing always?” I agreed that it wasn’t, thinking that indeed good fences do make good neighbors. We often do not want people to be too much in our personal business; not to get too close.
By the way, the dog’s name is Winston, and he is rather stand-offish at times in accordance with his British name, in my prejudiced view.
The name “Winston” has an Old English origin and means “joyful stone.” And I wouldn’t mind if Winston, the dog, stayed on the stony ground and refrained from licking my upper extremities. I am sure that he meant well, it is just that I had not had my breakfast yet and it was just a bit too much for this old Swedish guy. I suppose that the next thing that will happen to me is that a minister’s wife will put her hand on my shoulder and proceed to kiss me gently on the cheek. Yes, this is just rather too much. Oh dear, what would the neighbors think?
In the June 28th issue of the Bryn Athyn Post, the Pastor, Rev. Eric Carswell, gave a report of a meeting of the Pastor’s Council. He wrote: “The main focus of the discussion was on the number of individuals and families who are part of this congregation that have not been choosing to attend Sunday worship even on a monthly basis.”
Now I wonder what percentage of the congregation does attend the regular adult Sunday services in the Cathedral. I believe that less than 100 persons per week usually attend the adult service. If I say that it is 100 persons out of a congregation of about 1500, then what percentage is attending? That would be about 7%. So then approximately 93% of the congregation chooses not to attend.
Yes, I understand that some members of Bryn Athyn Church do attended Sunday services at New Church Live and Ivyland but how many can that be? I suspect that is it under 200 persons, maybe well below that number. It is clear that there is a major problem with church attendance by members of the Bryn Athyn Church.
Let this layman offer a few suggestions as to why this problem exists. Well, I know that people like to go to places where they feel the warmth of love touching them; where they feel wanted and needed. And this may be why folks don’t come to the Cathedral on Sundays. It’s just too formal, cool/cold. And often the sermon pushes folks into dreamland. I recall that when I was curator, at most adult services many or even most parishioners didn’t know when the sermon finished. As I sat at the west end of the nave controlling the sound system, week after week, at the end of the sermon, I usually saw Rev. Alfred Acton rise to his feet. This caught the attention of people who often looked up and from side to side when they realized that the sermon had ended. Yes, this is true. Indeed, some parishioners seemed to listen carefully to the sermon and knew when it had ended, but many people apparently did not. I recall the Academy teacher, Miss Wilde, who faithfully attended Sunday services and just as faithfully took a nap during the duration of the sermon. Do you recall seeing her do this?
Of course there have been skilled orators in the pulpit but some/many were quite boring. You know that they were and are. I am just stating the facts as evidenced by the fact that about 93% of the parishioners do not attend Cathedral adult services. And that fact combined with the fact that almost since day one of the founding of Bryn Athyn about 80% of parishioners don’t contribute financially to the Church, is something to bear in mind when making a judgment about our congregation. Few churches could survive under such circumstances.
Now I wonder what could be done to increase the number of people who worship at our Cathedral. What do you think? How could things be warmed up there so that people looked forward to coming to church? I will offer my two cents worth of ideas by suggesting that the minister not always go to the lectern to read passages from the Word and then go to the pulpit to preach his sermon. Maybe he could stand on the area of the floor of the chancel between the lectern and pulpit. From there he could greet the parishioners and speak to them, perhaps in a way that the disciples did long ago. This would make the minister appear more human – a person whom the congregation could relate to. Indeed he could talk to and perhaps with parishioners in a more loving and intimate way as he reads and talks about the wonderful truths in the Lord’s Word.
As I recall it was on Wednesday, July 6th, when Dorothy and I were at our favorite restaurant. At one end of the restaurant there is a long table which seats about twelve people. On this day there were a dozen elderly ladies sitting there, wearing pretty summer dresses. Most of them appeared to be in their eighties. And they were almost completely silent. I speculated that they came from a retirement home to enjoy a good meal and maybe get some social life.
Then the next day I saw a group of gentlemen and one lady sitting at the same table. I thought that they also had come from a retirement home and again they were very quiet except for two men at one end of the table who were having a conversation about clocks.
I continued to eat my lunch and again glancing at the group of men and one lady, I began to sense that I knew them. Indeed there was Jerry, Dale, Marlyn and Boyd who appeared to be taking a nap with his legs stretched out and his head slumped forward. I know that they are intelligent men with ready wits yet none of them were speaking to the men around them. Jerry looked like he wanted hit the road and get the hell out of there. Finally Tom got up and walked a few feet from the table. Apparently this encouraged others to head for the exit which they did. It was all so nightmarish to me.
Why were they so quiet? I speculated that they may have come from a long meeting, perhaps at the Academy. They had just eaten a luncheon and it was in the low nineties outside. But they sat without expressed brotherhood, the excitement of New Churchmen gathering at a social occasion. Are many parishioners bored almost to the death of any interest in the traditional ways of the Academy and of the Church?
At the restaurant that I have written about before, there are two regular patrons – a husband and wife. The man is impressive looking. He appears to be in his early 60s and has a military bearing. To protect his identity I will not describe him further.
His wife appears to be very tired. Maybe she is tired of listening to her husband who seems to be talking almost non-stop. And she seems to have an abnormal depth of patience and I believe an enduring love for her husband. As he declines from multiple sclerosis, evidenced by his aluminum crutches, she supports his mind, I believe, by faithfully listening to him and agreeing with his views.
They eat most of their lunches at this restaurant and some suppers as they sit in a booth while he describes his view of reality to his wife. (Recently I sat in an adjoining booth as he talked almost continuously.) No doubt he was compelled to be in charge and I think he does so from a fear that he is losing his control of his mobility. And she appears to support him in his endeavor to “be in charge” as he describes a reality in which he is the one who understands the way things really are.
I have learned that he frequently falls to the floor and that if his wife tries to help him get up he yells at her to stay away from him. Also I learned that on some mornings he decides to go to the shore and she must call a friend who comes to take her place where she is employed so that he can have his way and they can go to the shore.
I suppose that I really do not know what motivates him but I do see a wife’s patient love supporting her macho man as he declines.
This Roman Catholic priest lived from 1887 to 1968. Today the Catholic church regards Padre Pio as a saint who cares for those who suffer here on earth. And his presence with those whom he seeks to comfort is believed to be accompanied by the odor of flowers, especially roses.
Now this a strange experience that I will relate. Again at our favorite restaurant, several waitresses were gathered around Dorothy and I, talking about a serious subject. It was about health problems when suddenly I detected the fragrance of flowers. It sort of startled me and pleased me. And I wondered where it came from. The flowers on the table are plastic and the waitresses do not wear perfume so as not to affect allergic, sensitive diners. And no other patrons sat near us.
Then after we finished our meal, Dorothy and I went to our car to go home. And across the parking lot one of the waitresses came running toward us. She thought that Dorothy was having some problems and she gifted her with a black bracelet which, she said, would assure Dorothy of Padre Pio’s protective presence. The waitress was very sincere and just wanted to help Dorothy as best she could.
Well, I had never heard of Padre Pio before and a belief in the sanctity and power of saints is not part of my religious views.
Later when I told my experience of smelling the aroma of flowers, to the Catholic wife of the owner of the restaurant she became convinced that Padre Pio had been present in the restaurant. Her face glowed in awe and wonder at what I told her. Strange tale but true.
“Let us be of good cheer, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never come.” - Amy Lowell, 1874-1925
“It matters not how oft you kneel
In attitude so true,
Unless inside, where no man sees,
Your very soul is kneeling too.” - Mary L O’Hara
“Though I am growing old, I maintain that the best part is yet to come – the time when one may see more things more dispassionately and know oneself and others more truly, and perhaps be able to do more, and in religion rest centered in a few simple truths. I do not want to ignore the other side that one may not be able to see so well or walk so far or read so much. But there may be more peace within, more communion with God, more real light instead of distraction about many things, better relations with others, fewer mistakes.” - Benjamin Jowett
“God, give me sympathy and sense. And help me keep my courage high. God, give me calm and confidence – And please – a twinkle in my eye.” - Margaret Bailey