Wednesday, July 19, 2017

An Opportunity for a Connection

Few are sleeping, we're only about a third of the way along in our flight. This is my 7th trip and the 13th Cathedral in which  I will have been fortunate to have sung with these choirs. Each flight is similar: excited anticipation prior to take-off, then the slow settling to the close seats, the food (surprisingly tastey this trip), then the resignation to the length of the flight. More than any of that, I sense a feeling of eagerness to share with new listeners our gift: the sounds of praise and adoration to the Holy Trinity. The songs aren't new, but our singing them will be to those who hear. There is a certain eagerness for those whose live we will encounter at Exeter Cathedral to feel the words of the hymns, psalms, canticles and anthems that will be familiar to their ears, but coming from our united voices. We will walk the path of countless choristers before us and lend our voices to the aural history of that sacred space, and it will be a sound uniquely ours; that blend of these particular choristers at this particular time. There is no way to tell who will hear these holy sounds and maybe, just maybe share the joy of God's love with us as we sing. We pray that the Holy Spirit surrounds us and finds hearts to open and fill with that love. An opportunity for a connection awaits, may we find the Grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ to rise to that noble task. Thanks be to God for the challenge,  may we serve Him with our best.

Richard Giles, Cathedral Mens Choir
Cathedral Choir Tour, Exeter 

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Always Keep Learning

It's summer! No more school.....time to relax, go on vacation, watch tv, catch up on sleep. Summer is the time to chill.....right? Well, yes, summer is more of a time to relax and go on vacation, but it is also a new season of your life. What exciting adventures, ideas are out there for us to learn?

As a child, we spend years in school, passing into each new grade as we grow older. School seems to be the place to learn. But does learning really stop when you are done with high school, college, or even getting your PhD? In the most recent issue of The American Organist, the president of the American Guild of Organists, Michael Bedford, wrote an article about how education doesn't stop when summer starts. He states, "Life's lessons do not end with high school or college. Education is an ongoing process that breaks through the barriers of the formal classroom and forges its way into our everyday world." Life is our classroom, in which every day we have the chance to learn something new.

Last week at choir camp, one of the head choristers asked the choristers during morning prayer this question: "What is your goal for the day?" What a great question to ask ourselves every morning. Each day we should have the desire to learn, to set a new goal in our lives and in our work.

The great thing about learning is that you are never done. We cannot comprehend how much in life there is to know. We shouldn't just rely on what we already know. We need to continue to stretch ourselves, find news things to explore, and dig deeper into ourselves and our work. Summer can actually give us more time to learn and educate ourselves on something different. As the American philosopher, John Dewey, stated, "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." Life is an adventure. Enjoy it, embrace it and always keep learning. 

"Let the wise listen and add to their learning, 
and let the discerning get guidance."
~Proverbs 1:5

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Something New

Spring is my second favorite season. I love the cool but clean, fresh air;  the blossoming flowers and the brand-new leaves on the trees; the excitement of spending time outside; and the hope of adventure that can fill one’s heart. Spring is a time of new life, of transformation, and of different things to come.

In May, many people complete a chapter of their lives with graduation and set off on something brand new and exciting. Ten years ago, I graduated from Asbury University. As an alum, I still have strong connections to my class identity. At Asbury, you receive a class name and colors, a class hymn, and a Scripture verse that represents your class name. I am part of the Transforming Class. Our class verse is 2 Corinthians 3:18, "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 

I believe that we are always changing and growing as a person and becoming more like God's image. Life is meant to teach you about yourself and develop your gifts and talents. We are meant to grow and cultivate a relationship with God to become more like Him. We are meant to be transformed in life, not remain stationary.

Transformation should not stop when you reach a certain age or a certain level in your career. Transformation should continue every day of our lives. We all have things to learn about ourselves, about others, and about God. The danger is to stop uncovering the depths of your heart that God created. Revelation 21:5 states, “Behold, I make all things new.” God wants us to continue growing in Him and when we do that, we find out more of who we are, who He created us to be. We are transformed into who He intended us to be. We become something new.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Our Hearts Burn

     As they were slowly walking away from Jerusalem, the two friends talked about all that had happened the last few days.  A stranger came to join them and asked what they were talking about.  They shared their story of grief and disbelief with him.  Their friend had been murdered – they had thought that he would be the one to free Israel.  Now he was gone, however some women had been to the tomb and found it empty.  Nothing made sense to them.  The stranger began to unfold scripture to them as they walked on.  The friends invited him to stay with them as they went into an Inn for a meal.  As they all ate, Jesus broke bread and their eyes were opened.  He disappeared at that moment.  They thought back to the walk with him.  On remembering, they knew that there had been a burning within them that they had dismissed.  They knew then, though they did not realize it at the time.
     Since Easter day, I too have had many of these experiences.  A friend asked me the other day if I was ok – she had noticed me teary for the past few days.  She was right, I had been.  It was not out of sadness however.  I was overwhelmed with the depth and beauty of human creation and nature.  My heart had been burning for days.  I knew the presence of Jesus.

  • ·         In the story of a son lovingly giving away his deceased father’s clothing

  • ·         The story of an animal bringing a person back to what truly matters

  • ·         The life of a coal miner’s son

  • ·         Experiencing new depth in the life of someone I love but see no longer

I     I continued this practice of remembering with the children in Children’s Chapel yesterday.  We explored the story of The Walk to Emmaus.  We then got quiet to think about our week and where our heart may have been burning.  Maybe Jesus was there and we did not realize it.

  • ·         On a swing with Nana on Nana day

  • ·         Snapping turtles

  • ·         When I was sick and my mother took care of me

  • ·         The pouring rain

     Christ is alive in all of us as we strip down to the core.  All of the things that we wear to cover him up are not essential.  They cover up the resurrection appearances.  My guess is that all of you reading this have had a number of “appearances” in the last few days.  We need to be awakened to receive them.  Slow down and examine your life.  Live it intentionally and expect to be surprised continuously.  Share your stories with friends.  Like the disciples, everyone may not believe your story but trust it.  Your heart was burning within you to let you know he was there. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Preparing for Lent

We are officially one week away from Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent, a season of penitential practices and fasting. This is the 40 days we mark as Christians to take the time and space to honor Christ’s own penitential journey in the desert, where he fasted for 40 days and nights. The early Christians used the season of Lent as a time of preparation for those who were to be baptized at the Easter Vigil, or for those who were seeking to rejoin the church. This time was set aside for creating intentional discipleship through fasting, learning, and worship. As we seek to renew our own Baptismal vows (BCP 292) centered around our call to be disciples of Christ in the world, think about what practice or fast will most serve you in this quest.

Every year many of us come to Ash Wednesday wondering what we will give up or take on as our Lenten discipline. As you discern how you will enter into this season of penitence and fasting I encourage you to consider taking something on or giving something up that feeds your soul and draws you closer to the Divine presence in your life. I have collected a few online resources that can be used to guide you in your Lenten journey. Check them out, see how these might assist you or your family as you seek to use this season of penitence and fasting to ignite the light of Christ in your life.

5 Marks of Love - Society of Saint John the Evangel
“This six-week series (beginning Sunday, February 26) provides the opportunity to observe and to reflect on the ways in which the Divine Life expresses itself in and through us; individually and in our faith communities, as well as in the world around us.  Each week we will explore the Anglican Marks of Mission (Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform and Treasure) through videos, questions and exercises so we can speak more clearly and act truthfully, motivated always by hearts marked by God’s love.
The Brothers of SSJE will draw on their own monastic spirituality to help us balance action with contemplation, so that our words and deeds proceed from the deepest places of our hearts, where God dwells.  The resource encourages us to reflect on how we should live, not what we should do.”

Join here:

A Season of Prayer: 40 Days in the Desert - Forward Movement
“Exile, hospitality, and migration are recurrent themes in the Bible and throughout the history of the church. Starting on Ash Wednesday, and continuing through Lent, Forward Movement invites you to a season of prayer. Each day we will offer you a prayer from The Book of Common Prayer or a passage from the Bible. As we grapple with these issues as Christians, we invite you to make these prayers and scriptural passages part of your Lenten devotions. May they help guide your Lenten journey and help us find in Christ our Promised Land.”

Join by following Forward Movement on Facebook:

Lent Madness - The Rev. Tim Schenck & The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn

“A fun and engaging way for people to learn about the men and women comprising the Church’s Calendar of Saints. The format is straightforward: 32 saints are placed into a tournament-like single elimination bracket… The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch.” This is a great Lenten practice that involves fun, competition, and learning about the mystics who helped found many of our contemplative traditions.

Join by following Lent Madness on Facebook or on their website:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pausing to Remember in Whose Image I am Created

" Then God walked around, and God looked around
   On all the he had made.
   He looked at His sun, and he looked at his moon.
   And he looked at his little stars; 
   He looked on his world, with all of its living things, 
   And God said: I'm lonely still.

   Then God sat down- 
   On the side of the hill where he could think;
   By a deep, wide river he sat down;
   With his head in his hands, God thought and thought, 
   Till he thought: I'll make me a man!

   Up from the bed of  the river
   God scooped up the clay; 
   Any be the bank of the river
   He kneeled him down;
   And there the great God Almighty
   Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky, 
   Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night, 
   Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
   This Great God, 
   Like a mammy bending over her baby, 
   Kneeled down in the dust
   Toiling over a lump of clay
   Till he shaped it in his own image;

   The into it he blew the breath of life, 
   And man became a living soul.
   Amen. Amen."
                         - James Weldon Johnson from God's Trombones Seven Negro Sermons in Verse

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Psalm 8

Psalm 8 speaks of God's creation and, through creation, God has shone his light, his glory into the world. At Evensong this past Sunday, the Cathedral Choir sang an arrangement of Psalm 8 by Gerre Hancock. Gerre was Organist and Master of Choristers at St. Thomas Church in New York City, who passed away five years ago on January 21. He was a light to the music world and to all who knew him. Below is a link of the Cathedral Choir singing Psalm 8 for you to listen to and meditate on. May your light shine into the world.

Psalm 8 
O Lord our Governor, how excellent is thy name in all the world;
Thou that hast set thy glory above the heavens!
Out of the mouths of very babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, because of thine enemies,
That thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider thy heavens, even the work of thy fingers; 
the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained.
What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?
Thou madest him lower than the angels, to crown him with glory and worship.
Thou makest him to have dominion of the works of thy hands;
and thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.
All sheep and oxen; yea and the beasts of the field.
The fowls of the air and the fishes of the sea; and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the seas.
O Lord our Governor, how excellent is thy name in all the world!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, World without end. Amen.