Words from Cliff and Pastoral Notes

Sunrise Over the Rio Grande

The middle of February found me in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had never been there before. The Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine/Israel Network had its Retreat at the Bosque Center of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. I left on Thursday and came back on Saturday, with meetings on peace and justice for Palestinians packed in between. If a path to peace in Israel/Palestine can be found, then we can discover peace in Philadelphia or anywhere else for that matter! I think it is that important.

(Continue Reading…) Palestinian Christians who have resided in Palestine since the time of Jesus have asked for our help. One of the ways we do this is through the Good Friday offering, which goes to the Diocese of Jerusalem and has since 1922. It carries on the ministry of Jesus through the support of healing and teaching ministries. The hungry are given food, refugees are cared for, and women empowered. All are welcomed. In Albuquerque, we met and talked about how we might foster a strong discussion of Palestinian rights at our church’s general convention two years from now.

Our retreat work allowed no time for sightseeing. Still, we were only 200 yards from the Rio Grande. So Saturday, I got up to see the sunrise over the Sandia Mountains. I enjoyed the crispness of the morning while sitting in silence. Then krr-thump. I looked in the river, and there was a beaver entering the water and swimming across. The ridge of the mountains began to glow, and before I knew it, the sun was up. In the morning’s stillness, mindful of the water, the mountains, birds and beaver, there was a sense of connection, joining in God’s creation. I have always valued the sense of belonging by fitting into the life around me.

Absalom Jones – too good at hospitality

Pam Bracey and I from the parish attended the Absalom Jones worship at the Cathedral. A wax likeness of Absalom was seated in the sanctuary (shown here with students from St. James School). Absalom Jones was born into slavery in Sussex County, Delaware on November 6, 1746. (Continue Reading…) At age 24 he married Mary Thomas and purchased her freedom. It took him another 14 years to obtain his own freedom. He and other members of the African-American community worshipped at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. As a lay preacher Absalom Jones’ commitment to hospitality increased, by a factor of ten, the number of his fellow blacks in the church! Rather than celebrate this the white congregation was unnerved. They determined to have the blacks removed to the balcony at which point Jones led his congregation out of the church. They formed St. Thomas African Episcopal Church where Jones was ordained Deacon and then Priest. He was the first black American to receive formal ordination in any denomination. Jones died in 1818. The February 13th Absalom Jones Feast Day was added to the Episcopal Church Calendar in 1973. Absalom Jones exemplifies many qualities for us today, one of which is an abundant hospitality. May we go and do likewise!


A Snowfall Quiet

There is something quieting about a snowfall. It is Shrove Tuesday and we are preparing hotcakes for a snowy evening. Tomorrow begins Lent with Ash Wednesday. There is something quieting about Lent. (Continue Reading…) We settle into our common humanity. We are formed from the dust of the ground, says the story of creation. Paul adds, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man from heaven.” The image of the man from heaven, Jesus, is quieter and steadier, with a forgiveness one can count on. Forgiveness is part of the glue that holds us together in community. It creates a safe, trustworthy space. Perhaps that is what Lent does in its quiet way.



Ashes on the Way – Feb. 10

Emmanuel, our Assistant Rector, and Rob, our Deacon, will be at the Chestnut Hill East train station for the morning commute on Ash Wednesday. Commuters who wish may receive ashes on the way. Saint Paul’s Church began its existence right there in an upper room of the Chestnut Hill East Train Station in 1855 for the purpose of building a Christian community. Now at 22 East Chestnut Hill Avenue, we are happy to return home to our beginning to offer Ashes on the Way as a sign of our mortality and penitence and God’s gracious gift of everlasting life.


When Amy and I first came to Saint Paul’s, anxiety centered around whether we would like the colors that parishioners had used to paint the first floor of the rectory. There were golds and dark green and peach. When parishioners got to the second floor, apparently they rebelled and painted all the rooms in a neutral white. (Continue Reading…) Amy and I have appreciated everyone’s hard work to make our home at Saint Paul’s so welcoming, then and now. In a way, the rectory is a metaphor for the parish. We have all worked hard to make our community a rainbow of colors, ages, and orientations. Our vision for the parish is The Peace where we all stand together in all our bright array within the peace of God. Over the years we have all worked hard to make Saint Paul’s a welcoming spiritual home for everyone.