Words from Cliff and Pastoral Notes

Budelli Island

I read an article in the National Geographic about a man who had lived for nearly three decades on an Italian Island. Mr. Morandi’s boat drifted ashore on this island in 1989, and he took over the island from the retiring caretaker two days after he drifted ashore. Since then, he’s lived alone on Budelli Island for almost three decades. He is so in love with the island that he wants to die on the island, be cremated, and have his ashes scattered in the wind.

(Continue Reading…) I was intrigued by some of the thoughts he shared, especially when he said “I’m sort of in prison here, but it’s a prison that I chose for myself.” It is a prison of sorts because although he is free to leave the island, the enchantment of life on the island is too much for him to leave behind — the beauty of creation, the seasonal changes, and the different things that he has to do. The rising and the setting of the sun, the dullness of winter, and the life of summer, all these are too beautiful and fulfilling to feel imprisoned by them. More than that, he actually communicates with all the beauty that surrounds him. And so although he is alone, he isn’t alone, because he is surrounded by beauty with which he can hold a conversation.

In celebration of the beauty of nature, our interdependence with nature, and our absolute responsibility to care for it, he says, “Love is an absolute consequence of beauty and vice versa. When you love a person deeply you see him or her as beautiful, but not because you see them as physically beautiful…you empathize with her, you become a part of her and she becomes a part of you. It’s the same thing with nature.” Maybe, once we also conclude that nature is as beautiful as Mr. Morandi sees it on the beautiful island of Budelli, we will not only care for it, but wouldn’t feel lonely even if we are by ourselves.

– Manny

Choir and Accompanying Parish Pilgrims Leave for London

Our Adult Choir leaves for London this Friday, July 21. We pray for safe travels for them. They will warm up at Evensong at the Church of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields on Sunday, July 23 before taking up their residence at Saint Paul’s Cathedral from July 24 through the 30th. A little pilgrim band of nine parishioners will leave Saturday evening, July 22, arriving at London Heathrow on Sunday. Please pray for safe travel for this group, as well. (Continue Reading…) Parishioners will begin their pilgrimage by worshiping at a choral Eucharist at Saint George’s Chapel sung by the Choir of Christ Church, Swindon. The pilgrimage will end at Canterbury Cathedral, where the Rector will celebrate the Eucharist for the group in a private chapel. In between, both choir and pilgrims will travel together and worship at Evensong at Saint Paul’s, where the service will be sung by our choir. Four pilgrimage stations will be attended while the choir is rehearsing in the afternoon. The pilgrims will visit Lambeth on Thursday, July 27, meeting with the Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of the Community of Saint Anselm. The choir will end its residence on the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost by singing both the choral Eucharist at Saint Paul’s Cathedral and Evensong. Then everyone will fly home on Monday. The Psalm for that day in the Prayer Book includes the verse, “My heart is so ready, O God, my heart is ready; I will sing and make melody” (57: 7). Amen!


Managing Anger

Over the past several days I have been asking myself how it is possible that one person would be so angry – angry enough to pull a gun and fatally shoot an 18-year-old girl with whom he was angling for space on a stretch of road. Not only has a beautiful life been cut short, but another beautiful life is about to be wasted. It may sound a little frivolous, because life is worth more than beating another person to a spot. But when you are so angry, an anger which may in part have been fueled by some sense of entitlement, anger becomes almost impossible to manage.

Scripture doesn’t dismiss or disparage anger. Rather, it questions the effects of any anger. Paul cautions in the Letter to the Ephesians that the sun should not go down on our anger. In other words, be angry, but be strong enough to manage and overcome that anger.

(Continue Reading…) I wonder what would have happened if either the victim or the killer had taken a step back and taken a moment to breathe. I learned that a pause, the simple act of breathing in, lowers anger and resettles us. I also learned that you don’t have to be the first or the best all the time. There are times when you have to be the last person, and there are times when being the best isn’t even possible. When our lives are not fashioned by a sense of entitlement or by the satisfaction of being the first or the best, we open ourselves up to managing our anger at others and even at ourselves. We even free ourselves up to laugh at situations and our very selves.

What is it that angers you? What makes you want to clench your fist and bang the table? What is it that makes you want to pull out your gun?

Whenever you find yourself in such a situation, I invite you to pause and take a deep breath. You may save yourself and a life.

– Manny

Where Have You Encountered God?

I asked someone last week if they had ever had an experience of God. That is a very unusual question, and when I ask it I assume it will be the first time that it has been posed. Answers usually take the form of feelings – peace, belonging; places – the ocean, a mountain view; people – a beloved family member, sometimes even the loss of a loved one; sometimes a transcendent sense of oneness (Herman Melville called it the “all” feeling). As life happens, if we pay attention, God happens too. Our life is a pilgrim way, a journey, to the heart of faith in the heart of creation. The summer is a wonderful time to make these discoveries.

(Continue Reading…) Such questing souls in the Celtic tradition were often called “peregrini.” The name derives from the Latin peregrines and carries the idea of wandering over a distance. It also gives us the term “pilgrim.” The First Letter of Peter has a wonderful verse, “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul” (1 Ptr. 2: 11 – The Message paraphrase).

Today we follow many others who have answered the question, “Where have I experienced God?” – the ones who have gone looking for God. We walk with them to places where God and the human story meet. The summer, which is a discovery time for all of us, will find a particular focus in our choir’s residency at Saint Paul’s Cathedral London, where Jeremiah Clarke was organist and composed his “Trumpet Voluntary” that accompanies many of our brides down the aisle. Parishioners will join them on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral. Young people will travel to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to find the sacred in another culture in our own country! Our journey to London, Canterbury, and Cannon Ball, ND serves the entire parish, as each one of us seeks to encounter God in the journey of our daily lives.

Here is a prayer by Jan Berry –

God of our journeying,
inviting us to travel with you,
forgive us when we cling to outworn security,
afraid to let go of what is safe and familiar.
Give us courage
to take the risk
of answering your call
into joyous adventure.


~ Cliff

Red Truck and Red Shopping Bags

There is a parishioner at Saint Paul’s who owns a red pickup truck. He makes his truck available to transport turkeys for the annual Turkey Drive. This past Saturday, he not only made his pick-up truck available, but he stood by the door of Weavers Way to solicit shoppers to support the Deanery Food Drive. He met one of his old neighbors, who I think must have been surprised to see him on Germantown Ave. giving out red shopping bags to shoppers.

We were also joined by a parent and her two children, and one of our confirmation candidates. They were initially shy about giving out bags and explaining why were we giving out the bags. The kids eventually grew into their role and took charge of the whole operation. But there was one incident that shook me to the core.

(Continue Reading…) The youngest of the kids who were with us approached an older man with a bag and politely narrated the talking points. This gentleman responded, “Well, I am not a religious person, and so I will not support a religious activity.” I could not restrain myself when I heard that. I quickly jumped in to assure the gentleman that we were only collecting the food for the hungry and the poor. To that, he responded that he was sorry and walked away.

I have thought about the encounter between this young boy and the older gentleman, and wondered what does buying food for the poor have to do with being religious. Can we consider solutions to social problems only through the eyes of religion? How disaffected can one be about religion that helping feed the hungry can be deemed to be a religious activity?

Just as I came up with so many answers to these questions, I am sure you also can come up with several answers. But in spite of our answers, one important lesson for me was that those who consider themselves religious have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of convincing to do because this man, in a way, epitomizes why our churches are often half full.

By the way, we still have some of the red bags in the narthex. All are invited to pick one up, shop for a hungry neighbor and bring the items to Saint Paul’s for delivery to the Church of the Annunciation. And when someone compliments you on the red bag, tell that person the story about the Jesus movement. – Manny