Friday, December 10, 2010

The Asian Journals Of Bishop Dan: Part 9

It was a sad parting in Santiago. As much as I’ll be glad to be home, it was hard to say goodbye to new friends – both human and terrestrial. I’m going to miss white cranes lifting and lowering their wings slowly as they fly just a few feet above the green rice plants while water buffalo wade through the fields.

I boarded a small plan to Manila. The only thing eventful about the flight was the flight attendants’ delight that I was reading Noli Me Tangere, the first of two Philippine classic novels by the revolutionary hero, Jose Rizal. The works of Rizal and other Filipino writers were banned until the 1970’s along with patriotic Philippine folk songs, but the children all learned the words and music to “America the Beautiful.”

The adventure began when I got to Manila. Someone from the National Church Office met me at the airport and dropped me off at my hotel at 1 p.m. with the intention of picking me up later, at a time TBA, for dinner with the Prime Bishop and National Church Office staff. But the hotel said I was too early. So I left my bags and ventured forth a-foraging. I lunched at the Tree House, an open air restaurant serving barbecued chicken. As I waited in that decidedly tropical ambience, the radio played “Walking In A Winter Wonderland.” The next song was an excellent cover of the R&B classic “Just My Imagination.” Manila is by the way totally decked out for Christmas in ways I cannot begin to express. One example is along one downtown street there is a 30 foot structure that is a cross between a Christmas tree and a pagoda, with large snowflake shapes of white lights along its sides. Pertinent to my story, crèches are everywhere, absolutely everywhere, some rustic, some bedazzled.

While waiting for my room to be ready, I also stopped off for a ventoso style massage. Best massage I have ever had!!! It was a spiritual experience. I was in one mellow mood when I got back to the upscale hotel. Then they told me I had no reservation and the hotel was full. Homeless. No phone. No phone number. Nada. What to do? I needed a drink – of coffee – my drug of choice, so I went to Starbucks. A little caffeine settled my nerves. I reasoned that eventually they would have to come looking for me, maybe send the police. And the place they would start looking is the last place I had been seen – the upscale hotel. So I went back there and hung out for several hours. It was a Joseph and Mary moment – no room in the inn – but at least I wasn’t in labor. I commended myself a bit for remaining as calm as I was about the whole situation, but then I thought Joseph and Mary probably weren’t too calm. Faith isn’t always calm. It’s more about God being faithful whether we are calm or frantic. God is there with us regardless of our mood. That’s why all the crèches in Manila pertain to today.

Eventually, the mortified National Church staff showed up and took me downtown to a less upscale but more my style kind of hotel. I’m on the 9th floor over a busy downtown street with lots of honking and whistling down below. Reminds of seminary days in New York.

Hunger had become a factor and the dinner with the PB and staff was canceled due to my MIA status. I’m having breakfast with the PB instead. So I went looking for more food. I found a Korean restaurant and to my naïve surprise discovered that not only the servers but the clientele were all Koreans. The cooks however were young Filipinos. Not sure what to make of that. I ordered something I didn’t really recognize but felt daring, until I realized that there were no forks. I had not seen a single chop stick in the Philippines. They don’t use chop sticks in Santiago. But here it was all chop sticks and I have used them in years, never was proficient.

Whenever I was sure no one was looking, I speared the food. Occasionally the food landed on my sleeve and I would discreetly wipe my face and snag the food with my tongue as it went by. Little by little, by hook or by crook, I ate most of it, even the rice. The music in the Korean Restaurant – Ann Murray “Just one touch and then it happens . . . .;” Abba “Dancing Queen” just what we were listening to while driving North, also the Eagles “Hotel California” and John Denver “You Fill Up My Senses.”

So when I fly away tomorrow, what will I bring back with me? It may take awhile to answer that. Certainly a different impression of how they do church here and a lot of inspiration and ideas for how we might do church better. (This really is role reversal from the old missionary days. We can learn more from Santiago on most points. There are a couple of things we have more experience at and can share.) There is some possibility, just a faint glimmer of a possibility, of some funding from her to help us get started with an Asian ministries outreach like we started Latino ministries last year. Bishop Alex is working on it for us. We need this decidedly Christian country to support some missionary work in our not so Christian land.

I have a new Philippine vest I intend to wear with my purple clergy shirt, so Asian people in Nevada will see it and think “What is that white bishop doing wearing a Philippine vest, here in Nevada of all places?” They will ask me about it and I will tell them about Asian ministries in Nevada. I will explain the Episcopal Church and say “It isn’t just for Igarot anymore. We have thriving Ilocano congregations in Santiago where we just ordained a non-Cordilleran” – this will all make sense to them if they are Filipino – “and,” I will continue, “there are growing Tagalog congregations in Manila and we are in full communion with the Philippine Independent Church. Our priests and their priests go to the same seminary, you know.” In other words, I’m getting ready to do a better job of evangelism to Nevada’s growing Asian population.

Beyond that, there’s the spiritual thing. “Spirit” is not about emotions. It’s about connections -- connecting to each other in God through Christ.” I am more connected now. I have heard dozens of stories that are not in these journals. I have told the people of Santiago stories – stories about our diocese, stories about Nevada, my own personal stories. We have shared life and that is the essence of communion. I feel deeply blessed by my time here and I will return looking for opportunities to share the blessing from this watery world with my fellow desert dwellers. The Deans and I talked of connecting congregations to congregations, ECW’s to ECW’s, joining their diocesan education person, Andrea, to our Parish Educators Google Group. “It does not yet appear what (this) shall be but when (it) appears it will be like him (Christ.)”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Asian Journals Of Bishop Dan: Part 8

My last day in Santiago was dominated by the retreat I facilitated for the clergy and the diocesan staff. My self-review is that parts of it went quite well. The preface on post-colonial theology generated good discussion and report back in the plenary session.

I then did the theoretical presentation for my exercises on psycho-synthesis and bio-spiritual focusing. The response was mixed. Some folks were nodding and definitely engaged if not downright intrigued. Others were bored. The first exercise went ok, but just ok. The second went better and they had great one on one dialogues afterward. By the time we got to the transpersonal self guided meditation, almost everyone seemed deeply engaged. It felt profound. Then the free association of God’s children meditation went quite well and the loving kindness mediation seems worked exceptionally. It was moving when they meditated on the blessing, “May all persons in the Dioceses of Santiago and Nevada be filled with loving kindness. May they be well. May they be peaceful and at ease. May they be happy.” So once we got past the theory, which some liked even that, it went well.

The deans met with me over lunch again and we continued to plan how to build a network between our dioceses. They told me more about how the deaneries work in the Philippines. The deanery is a key unit of church life here and the deans have a substantial role – more so than in Atlanta or Nevada. They really make things happen, like youth ministry. The ECW meets for the deanery and at convention. ECW lives beyond the parish boundaries here more than in Nevada. I learned much and was prodded to do more with what I already know.

There was a wonderful farewell. The clericus gave me a large woven cloth. They also gave me the banner welcoming me to the diocese in Ilocano. There were many mutual expressions of appreciation for each other. I kept promising to return until I realized how much like Douglass MacArthur I sounded. After the retreat, two young adults, Andy Burns (a YASC engineer) and Jocelyn Ittiw (an agricultural engineer doing community development work) interviewed me. Good questions. I over answered them because I enjoyed the young people so much. I want to be them when I am reincarnated.

This has been a fantastic visit. I feel changed by it in ways I cannot describe. I regret having to leave tomorrow though I do enjoy Manila as well and look forward to meeting the Prime Bishop. I am also just exhuasted.

But I fly away laden with loving gifts -- a Philippine vest, wood carvings from Ifugao, a framed ceretificate from the dedication of St. Joseph the Worker, as well as the woven cloth and the banner they gave me today. The generosity of these good people exceeds even thier reputation.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Asian Journals Of Bishop Dan: Part 7

This was tourist day. Bishop Alex, his adult daughter, Maria, and Padi Nancy picked me up just past 8. First a definition of Padi: It means Nancy is a priest. No Padi is not derived from Padre – no etymological connection whatsoever. It is not Spanish, but Ilocano – a Filipino language from the plains area around Santiago. It is a gender neutral title for a priest. Filipinos have the most gender inclusive version of English I’ve ever encountered. They use the masculine and feminine pronouns with total disregard for the gender of the person being discussed. It’s a little confusing to an American, but quite delightful.

As I was saying, before language took me astray, three wonderful people picked me up this morning and drove me up, up, up into the mountain forests. We stopped by one church and then dropped in at another, Padi Nancy’s, St. John’s in the Wilderness, to have coffee. Then on to the Banaue rice terraces, the 8th wonder of the world. Along the mountain sides, they have constructed earthen terraces. Irrigations systems which I cannot get my mind around keep these terraces flooded with water just like rice paddies on the flat lands. So they raise rice on the mountainsides. They are huge. It is an engineering marvel. Now when do you suppose they constructed these rice terraces? The oldest ones are from about 2,000 B.C.E. They were centuries old when God spoke to Moses. And they are still in active production.

I couldn’t see all of them because there was rain and heavy fog. But the rain and fog were pretty amazing to this desert rat. The foggy mountains were mystical and mysterious. The rain was cold and made sitting on Padi Nancy’s porch drinking coffee all the cozier. On the way back down the mountain, we stopped off at the Las Vegas Café. However, there was not a buffet. By the way, I said something amiss in a previous post. I said I had stopped for lunch in Turo Turo. Well, it was actually San Jose. Turo Turo is not a place but the name for the Filipino version of fast food. It means literally point point. There is no menu, just a deep bowls of food and you point at what you want.

When we got back to Santiago, I had dinner with the 6 deans. We had a good talk about the joys and challenges of their ministries and how deaneries work in this diocese. They are a good deal more active than our deaneries or even our mission districts. They have formal structures with officers etc . And they are responsible for implementing diocesan programs.

The deans’ main interest they wanted to discuss was forming congregation to congregation partnerships between Santiago and Nevada. They are not looking for financial support. Quite the contrary, self-reliance is one of their core values. They are looking for a spiritual partnership. They want to know our people and be known by them. It’s about friendship in Christ. We are going to exchange lists of congregations with brief descriptions, then set up small committees on each side to match up congregations and give them some direction for how to start the relationship. How to continue it will be up to the congregations. They are very enthusiastic about making these relationships happen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Asian Journals of Bishop Dan: Part 6

This is the preface to the Advent Retreat for clergy and dioscesan staff I will be facilitating tomorrow:

Our advent retreat is Watching And Waiting: The Practice Of Soulful Attention.
There will be some teaching and some exercises.
The purpose is strengthening our souls’ capacity to heal and reconcile
our lives and the lives of others through curious,
compassionate, observation.

But as an American offering a retreat in the Philippines,
I need to say a little first about post-colonial theology.
I need to say this because the American role in your history has been oppressive.
Through Bishop Brent and others,
it has served to convey the gospel,
particularly the Anglican brand of the gospel,
but our colonial power distorted the gospel and in some ways,
made it harder for you to know Christ – not easier.

So I need to say a little about the need for a post-colonial theology
to overcome the obstacles we and the Spanish created for you.
I will say only a little because I know only a little.
But I need to say something because your generation’s challenge
is to work out a post-colonial theology in the Philippines.
The work has already begun.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan, for example has been at this since the early 1980’s.
But as movements in theology go, that is pretty recent.
What’s more the theology that matters most isn’t academic articles.
It’s what you do when you teach, when you preach, when you lead churches.
You develop a theology while giving pastoral care.
Most critically you develop a theology when you reflect
on the economic and community development work you are doing.
Such efforts have to grounded in faith
and linked to sharing the gospel
if they are to survive and flourish.

When you form a cooperative, process coffee, or manufacture soap,
when you help people come together to support each other,
then you ask “Where is God in this?”
You read your Bibles and ask, “What part of the salvation story
do we hear as an echo in our community development work?”
You look at the Holy Mass through new eyes and ask,
“How does this ritual express what we are doing in the community?”

You develop a theology of the cross as you address human rights issues.
You are doing post colonial theology in your liturgy
as you develop indigenous prayers and rituals.
You already have Filipino intellectuals writing post-colonial theology,
but, more importantly, you are all already theologians
doing your theology in this unique context.

What I have to say about post-colonial theology is relevant
to our Advent retreat for two reasons:
First, post-colonial theology does not yet exist as a doctrine.
Important work has begun; most of it is still emerging.
We are watching and waiting for the birth of this new theology in our time.
Christ is about to reveal himself in a new way;
so in Advent 2010 we wait for that revelation
as people in 4 B.C.E. awaited the messiah.

Second, because of who I am, because of my culture and our history,
I am unable to teach a theology that is true for the Philippines.
I can only express my personal regret and apology for the American occupation,
and I can teach spiritual practices that will help you pay attention
to your own experiences,
and pay attention to the situations arising around you,
then to tell the truth about what you see.
If you pay attention in this context and tell the truth in this context,
that will be the best theology for the 21st Century Philippines.

I understand just two things about post-colonial theology.
First, it isn’t about making Christianity politically acceptable.
It’s about telling the truth.
When we describe God as Trinity, we mean that God,
the heart of reality is a mutual loving relationship.
God is a dance and an embrace.
God is not a king or general barking orders.
God is more like a cooperative than the general of an army.

God does not dominate the world, but loves it into being.
And when the world falls away, God responds not with dominating power
whipping us into shape but with the suffering, reconciling love
manifest in Jesus Christ.
That is the gospel. It is a gospel of love and freedom.
Such a gospel cannot be imposed.
We cannot impose love and freedom.
So whenever the gospel is imposed, it is twisted.

It is twisted by colonialism but it is not made completely false.
It is a miracle and a grace that the gospel is so strong
it can survive even the twisting.
The truth of the gospel is so bright,
it shines through the clouds of colonialism.
I can see in your worship and in your service to each other
and the community that you have received the gospel very well indeed.

But the task of separating what is truly Christian
from what is just American or Spanish is essential to your mission.
The task of growing a Filipino Christianity is still a work in progress.
As you grow a unique Filipino Christianity, you are making the whole world richer.
You help us see the true faith better.
You proclaim the gospel in a new language
which we Americans may not understand but we can admire its beauty
as we admire your art.

The second and last thing I know about post-colonial theology is this:
The post-colonial world is still new.
The social structures are unsteady on their feet like a newborn lamb.
Vestiges of the old power system distort the newly emerging society.
Post-colonial theology has to speak to these realities
if it is going to have anything to say that people care about enough to hear.
That is what our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Latin America
have been doing – and getting in trouble for it
– as some of you have gotten in trouble for it.
It is the same task – to discover what the gospel says in the Philippines
about the distribution of wealth,
about political killings and violence against dissidents,
bout the rights and dignity of women and children,
about human trafficking, about care for our earth.

Before beginning our Advent retreat proper,
I want to suggest to you two subjects for reflection.
They will not give you answers to any questions.
Rather they are meant to spark your imaginations and free your thinking
to come up with your own new theological ideas.

First, I invite you to ask yourselves a “what if?” question.
We have the history that actually happened.
Christianity began in Jerusalem, then became the dominant religion in Europe.
Catholic Christianity then came to the Philippines with the Spanish.
Anglican Christianity came later with the Americans.
That’s how you got the brand of Christianity you got.
My friend Demi Prentiss, an educator in Texas, says:
Christianity began in Jerusalem as a relationship.
In Greece, Christianity became an idea.
In Rome, it became an institution.
In America, it became a business enterprise.
So that’s what you got.

But I just recently learned that Christianity spread from Jerusalem
to the East very early.
Christianity was a living wisdom tradition in China from at least as early
as the 300s until the 800s.
Christianity was first called “the Way” which sounds a lot like “the Tao.”
Christians were respected by Taoists, Confucians, and Buddhists
as fellow sages.
They were having a wonderful, rich interfaith dialogue.
All this lasted through the reign of the Khans.

It was after the Khans fell from power,
that the Ming Dynasty stamped out Christianity in China.
It had been a rather different Christianity from the evangelical version
taken there by American missionaries in the last century.
Now here is my “what if?” question.
What if the Mings had lost and Christianity had not
been crushed in 9th Century China?
Then the Philippines would almost certainly have received the gospel
from China instead of Spain and received it centuries earlier.
What would that gospel have looked like and what would it have become?

Second thing to think about:
You may well already have thought this through.
Perhaps I am saying it just so you will know that I am thinking about it too.
I am just now reading your great novelist and national hero, Jose Rizal.
But I gather his novels are quite critical of the Church.

When Rizal was asked if he intended to attack the faith, he said,
“I am aiming at the friars,
but since they were shielding themselves
behind the rites and superstitions of a certain religion,
I had to free myself from it in order to strike the enemy behind it.
Those who abused its name must bear the responsibility.”

Any post-colonial theology in the Philippines
must take Rizal’s critique of the faith seriously.
We must hear the voices of the prophets in our own countries.
But there is an irony in the life of Rizal that also deserves to be noticed
as you develop your theology.
Here was a rebel who spoke against the Church.

But he was a man, who gave his life to telling the truth,
to justice and to healing
to challenging authority and exposing hypocrisy.
For his integrity and his compassion, he was martyred.
No one has more clearly walked in the steps of Jesus;
no one has more faithfully followed Jesus’ way.
A theology for the Philippines has to take Rizal into account
– not in just one way, but in two ways --
both as a challenge and an inspiration.

-- Thanks to Fr. Joe Duggan for helping me correct substantive mistakes in the first drafts.

The Asian Journals Of Bishop Dan: Part 5

It was another festive dinner -- this time with the diocesan staff and the clergy who had gathered from around the diocese and from other dioceses – some had driven from Manila (9 hours) to get here for the ordination of the transitional deacon. These folks really show up for each other.

One retired priest, when prompted, shared a recollection from the Marcos days. He was on the government enemies list. One day someone told him the death squad would come to his house that night to kill him, so he stayed in another town. When he came back, his home had been burned. He said there were several such death threats over the years, but he figured he would die when God was ready.

Today, we ordained (yes, I got to be in on it – asked questions – hands on the head, the whole bit) Baby Auhra A. Galope as a transitional deacon. I know our context is different, but their discernment and formation process is so different from ours that it has to say something. She became an aspirant in 2002. She finished her 4-years of seminary in March, 2009. She then served as an intern lay pastor until today. I asked the bishop if there was some reason for the nearly 2 years between graduation and ordination, expecting him to explain why it had been so long. Instead, he told me there was a pressing need for her services so was on the fast track. It is normally over two years. She will now serve as a transitional deacon for two more years before being eligible for ordination to the priesthood. We are talking about a 10 year track to priesthood going at it full time.

It was a splendid service. In addition to ordaining Baby Auhra, a sparkling eyed diminutive young adult as the first non-Cordilleran clergy person to serve in this diocese, we dedicated the brand new St. Joseph’s Church. Their stained glass West window commemorates St. Joseph the Worker, showing him not with carpenter tools but plowing with a water buffalo.

We also had baptisms, confirmations, and receptions. I got to do the receiving. 11 new Episcopalians. The open air church sat 150 people. It was packed SRO plus chairs and people standing outside for a marathon liturgy in hot humid, often raining weather. The high point for me, after the ordination and the receiving, was the offertory. We sang a rousing version of Standing On The Promises while the new deacon censed the altar, the altar party, and the congregation. I have never seen incense used while Standing On The Promises was being sung. I loved it!

After the liturgy and lunch, we had a full afternoon of presentations. First, the MC invited the Senior Warden to say a few words about the construction of the new church. He took the mike and sang Victory In Jesus in mellifluous soulful tones! Asian Gospel! The last time I was so moved by a song, it was a Filipino singer at St. Luke’s, Las Vegas, singing Why Me Lord – I recall doing a blog post about it. There was of course playing gongs and dancing galore. There were more speeches and more songs.

At one point, the cutest little girl – about 6 with a missing front tooth – wearing a pink ballet outfit came over and placed a pale blue ribbon around my neck. The blue ribbon held a circle of pink ribbons enclosing white daisies. I wore it proudly the rest of the day. The children were simultaneously fascinated by me and shy with me. The afternoon was full of children and singing, dancing celebration.

You may recall I visited another brand new church yesterday, and stopped by yet another one with the paint barely dry on my way back from dedicating St. Joseph’s. The faith is on the move in the Philippines.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Asian Journals Of Bishop Dan: Part 4

Last night I had dinner with Bishop Alex Wanadag and a young engineer from New York who is here with the Young Adult Service Corps doing community development work with the diocese. We then shared a traditional Filipino breakfast this morning before joining the diocesan staff – about 18 of them – for Morning Prayer.

After the daily office, the staff told me about the things they do. There is a major push on evangelism. The Episcopal Church has traditionally been identified mostly with the Igarot tribes, but is now drawing members from other tribes as well, especially in this diocese. The other big push is on Christian formation, specifically “lay enhancement” (particularly training lay preachers and Eucharistic Visitors) and continuing education for clergy. All of the clergy come to the two clergy retreats per year. I was about to explain that our clergy cannot do that because of our vast distances. To set up my explanation I asked Bp. Alex how long it took the most distant clergy to get to the retreat. He said, “It’s about a two days’ walk.”

Next I heard from their staff members who work full time in community development. There were 6 of them. They have more people working in community development than our entire diocesan staff. Community development includes a variety of projects like: forming agricultural cooperatives, setting up micro-credit small business and agricultural lending to free farmers from usurers, building a warehouse to store agricultural products without charge to the farmers, converting a water project’s power source to solar for cost savings, working with Heifer International to provide livestock to farmers and overseeing the farmers’ passing on the offspring of their gifts to other farmers.

Community development begins with the diocesan worker living with the community for a few months to learn their needs and earn their trust. They then do Asset Based Community Development analysis: what could this community do together for economic support? The diocese then offers training – first in the values of Christian living essential to being a cooperative, then in business methods and financial responsibility, then in the enterprise itself.
The government has also tried to form these cooperatives but theirs fail while the ones established by the Episcopal Church survive. The difference is the Church builds a real community with relationships and values.

I was inspired by the enthusiasm of the whole staff about how they were overcoming poverty through creative enterprise and Christian values. Instead of offering band aid charity to the poor, they are putting people on their feet. Self-reliance is a core value they practice and teach. Their challenge is to keep the social ministry tied to evangelism so that they nourish the souls as well as the bodies of the people. It is a challenge but it is a front burner priority for the community developers. This is, by the way, closely related to what we are trying to do through PICO in Reno and Las Vegas Valley Interfaith with our community organizing efforts. It is so inspiring to see the Episcopal Church here going beyond maintaining its Sunday morning operation and going beyond hand-out charity, to make a lasting difference in people’s lives and transform the society and economy around them.

This afternoon, I visited two small open-air churches. One had a large concrete slab used for drying the members’ grain and a warehouse for storing it. The priest, Fr. Tando, also showed me their health clinic. They have no doctor so they use herbal remedies, massage, and acupuncture. They grow their own herbs and have begun a major herbal soap business. Fr. Tando is also a bee keeper and has hives there on the grounds. Poor farmers can’t sustain the church with cash so honey and soap sales go to pay the bills; and the farmers can give more since they are not paying a warehouse to store their grain. Other churches are helping farmers convert to organic farming. Some are helping their coffee farmers who have been selling raw coffee beans to big companies process the coffee for sale themselves.

Bp. Alex and I had a serious talk this morning about the human rights situation here. I don’t think it best to blog about that, but one story is public knowledge – except that I somehow missed it. Did you? On Nov. 23, 2009, there was a massacre here in Miguindanao. One political leader had warned a potential rival that if he announced his candidacy, he would be killed. So the rival sent his wife (figuring in a Muslim region women would be safe) to make the announcement accompanied by a convoy of journalists. The entire convoy of 57 people was abducted and gunned down in broad daylight. 32 of them were journalists. 42 were women. That case was unusual because of the numbers, but political killings here are frequent and usually go unpunished. Human rights violations are being addressed this week by a group of visitors from the World Council of Churches. Participating in or reporting on the political process here is not for the faint hearted.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Asian Journals Of Bishop Dan: Part 3

Sunday began for me at 4:30 a.m., up early to pack and get ready for Church. The 6:30 service was Holy Mass in the National Cathedral's side chapel. It was a service at once simple and high, as a side chapel Cathedral service should be. I believe this is my favorite form of the Eucharist. Two young men in albs assisted an old white bearded priest, who presided at the liturgy of the table facing liturgical East – which is to say the altar was against the wall. He reminded me a bit of the Rev. Canon Edward West who was this sort of priest at my beloved Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. (Here I resist the urge to go on a long tangent about Canon West.) The liturgy was close to our Rite 2 Prayer A with a few variations in the ECP BCP. I loved it! It was just so Episcopal! I miss services like this so much – no personal idiosyncrasies, no egoistic surges of “creativity,” no attempt to mix other liturgical season into Advent, no carving on the liturgy to make it acceptable to someone’s theological sensitivities – just the ritual reverently prayed by two dozen early risers, with a solid competent Advent sermon by one of the young men in an alb. There are many wonderful ways to celebrate the Eucahrist. I respect them all and enjoy most of them, but this one is my favorite.

After Mass, the old priest, who turned out to be a seminary professor, invited me to breakfast at the student café. He talked at some length though I only understood some of it, for he mumbled a bit and seemed more interested in his ideas than he was in either me or himself. He was not so much communicating as pondering aloud. I did not even learn his name, only that he was an American from Maine but had spent most of his adult life in Asia and planned to be buried here under a tombstone which will say “I lie here in protest and hope for the resurrection.” He also quoted someone – was it Ramsey? – who said “A priest is someone who stands before God holding his people in his heart.”

Then it was on the road with my driver, Wilson. Having a sidekick named Wilson keeps me feeling as if I am in the movie Cast Away and that my experience of Wilson as the son of a miner, husband of a working wife, and father of three children, one of whom is autistic, might all be my own delirious projections onto a soccer ball. If you haven’t seen the movie, just disregard this paragraph.

The drive was long and wonderful. Once out of Manila, we drove through rice paddies and sugar cane plantations – the sky sunny with a few clouds, the weather warm and humid, coastal. The cd player brought us Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton “Islands In The Stream” -- Abba, “Dance With Me” – Elton John “Daniel” (personally significant because of my brother’s death in the 70’s) – The Carpenters “I’m on the top of the world, looking down on creation . . . .” – Ann Murray – “Just one touch and then it happens. I fall in love again. . . .” Somehow you hear all that differently while driving through rice paddies.

Then it was up into the mountains, where lush tropical forests were interrupted by villages and more rice paddies – didn’t know rice grew so high up. Today I have seen my first water buffalo and my first ox carts. In fact, these may have been my first oxen. Where are the oxen in America? I know we used to have them. There were security checkpoints on the road. Wilson tells me they are looking for illegal logging and guerilla insurgents. I haven’t seen either – just water buffalo, oxen pulling carts, and the occasional goat.

We stopped for lunch at Angelina’s Eatery Ihaw Ihaw (which means the food is roasted over coals) in Turo Turo a village consisting of two, maybe three buildings. I had chunks of pork over rice. Wilson said it was a typical Philippine lunch. We ate al fresco under a thatched roof. As we left, the owners told Wilson I was the first “foreigner” who had ever eaten there. I hope I behaved well. Wilson said he would get flack from the National Church Office for taking a visiting bishop to lunch there. I’m glad he did.

As the sun was setting, we arrived in Santiago City, capital of Isabella Province – the last region to succumb to the American military in the 1920s. One of the diocesan clergy helped us find our way to the Gatian Hotel & Resort. I cannot figure out what sort of place this is. I have a simple suite in a compound that has lots of bright Christmas lights. Outside my window is a multi colored star of lights with more lights circling it in a progressive round flow of red. (Keeps me from being too homesick for the Fiesta Casino sign that flashes outside my window in Henderson. By the way I did put up last year’s Las Vegas style Christmas tree and ornaments before commencing this Asian odyssey.) Inside there are sticker signs. One is a sticker on the door to the bedroom saying “Jesus never fails” and one on the mirror says “Jesus Loves You. John 3:16” – which is not exactly what John 3:16 says, but the point is good anyway.

There is a Gideon Bible and towels so I am content. There is also an unplugged floor lamp. Remembering what happened to Thomas Merton, I plan to leave it unplugged.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Asian Journals Of Bishop Dan: Part 2

Today has involved car rides all over Manila, revealing way too much to take in, much less express. This morning I was amazed to see a salon advertising in big bold letters “skin whitening.” I had already been put off by all the Shape, Cosmopolitan, etc magazines on the stands here. They don’t seem to belong. But “skin whitening”? That troubled me. I am sure most people here would not do such a thing, but that is should be an issue is sad.

The first long ride took me to a complex of buildings and grounds that included the Cathedral, the National Church offices, St. Andrew’s Seminary, Trinity Episcopal University, an Episcopal school, a teaching hospital, the homes of various church personages including the prime bishop, and some rental property the church owns. Lunch was Filipino cuisine shared with about 8 or so staffers. We had a good talk, comparing notes on church life and discussing people we knew in common. I have come to suspect that everyone in these islands has some connection to our Fr. Jun, Teogenes Bernardez, Jr.

I then took a jaunt around the grounds with the chaplain for the university. There is a lot of Episcopal school presence in the Philippines and the faith is taught there. Each diocese has a diocesan school. They central office has a priest whose full time job is Christian Formation and Evangelism. No wonder there are about 200,000 Episcopalians here. All their churches are overflowing with children and they all have Sunday Schools. They could use more money to sustain their mission, because so many of the Episcopalians are poor. But they are spreading the gospel big time. The chapel of the seminary was excellent, lovely light – and there were many outdoor crèches made from local materials, palm fronds etc. – simple, creative, holy.

We then visited a bookstore where I picked up the classic novel by the martyr of the Philippine Revolution, Jose Rizal, revolutionary, novelist, ophthalmologist. I also got a book on Culture and History by another intellectual giant of the Philippines, Nick Joaquin; and a book of stories from the Revolution.

Leaving the bookstore I slightly pulled a quadriceps while dodging traffic. This was a cultural mistake. I did not realize that in Manila a car cannot hit you if you show it your palm; so I was trying more athletic means of self-preservation.

I then accompanied about 20 seminarians and college students to tour a new, state of the art hospital. As we drove along the road, we passed a scene that pierced me. It was an old woman with straight white hair and a weathered face, sitting on the sidewalk. Her face was turned down and to the left, twisted aside as one does to hide grief. She was crying. A little girl, maybe 9 or 10 years old, stood to her right, stroking her hair. You could see in the child’s face how inadequate she felt to the task of consoling the old woman.

Not too many blocks later, we were stuck in traffic. That happens a lot. An older woman leading an even older (as in probably her father) blind man walked between the cars with a begging cup. I rolled down the window and gave them a little money. I know that is not always the thing to do. But the old man’s blindness was compelling and the old woman with the little girl was still on my heart.

The hospital was high tech and state of the art. The staff was justly proud of it. By the way, their chaplain also knew Teogenes. But some of the seminarians were troubled that the location and the pricing of the upscale hospital made it a facility “just for the foreigners.” In fact, few Filipinos would be served there. It is for the higher rolling diplomats and corporate executives from other countries. We talked about health care systems. It sounded as if the Philippines has more extensive insurance coverage for the employed than we do – but they have more chronically unemployed.

There was a difference in the attitude both of the visitors and the hospital staff. It seems to me that most Americans rather prefer to avoid hospitals, that they are a little afraid of them, that the smell morbidity. But these students were having a great time, laughing, taking each other’s pictures, enjoying being shown how things work. The staff members who were showing off their workplace were deservedly proud of their technology. An American hospital staff would be proud too. Yet, there was a difference. I wonder if the Americans have an unspoken anxiety behind their pride, a voice in their ear reminding them “this is serious stuff.” The staff members here in Manila were more like chefs on the Food Channel showing how they do their magic. All in all, it felt more like touring the Hershey Chocolate Factory than a place of morbidity. I hope it is clear I mean something good. There was a lightness and happiness in the project of healing. There was professionalism and caring – but an element of worry had been removed. I wondered if I might be getting a glimpse of why so many of our good nurses in Nevada are from the Philippines.

At the time when the mood may have been the lightest, we passed two women in the hall, one crying inconsolably while being held by the other. We knew someone they loved had died. And we passed is silence with respect. I was not surprised that the students were respectful. I did note that, despite the fact that several of them had just finished CPE, none of them broke into the women’s grief with officious pastoral “support.” The absence of anxiety was matched by an absence of codependency – all the while, wisdom and compassion were fully present.

I talked with the seminarians about many things. But here’s an interesting one: they wondered if I would send our seminary students to their seminary, St. Andrew’s. It struck me as an excellent idea. They do program relating to economic and community development that are way ahead of what any of our seminaries do. They have good practical hands on educational opportunities. A semester here would do more to deepen and expand spiritual experience. The cost is quite low. And it would prepare seminarians to do Asian ministries and evangelism. This deserves further pondering.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Asian Journals Of Bishop Dan: Part 1

Here at last. It took a long time – longer than the 19 hour flight. I have wanted to go to Asia since 1966 when I was captivated by an episode of I Spy in which Robert Culp portrayed a Southeast Asia warlord resisting the modernization and westernization of his world. Then came my young adulthood spent immersed in Eastern religions, mostly Buddhism. So here I am, following in the footsteps of Gary Snyder, Thomas Merton, William Johnston, and so many personal heroes. The title of these blogs by the way is a tongue in cheek reference to The Asian Journals Of Thomas Merton. My posts will be less enlightening than Merton’s, but I hope that, unlike Merton, I’ll make it back alive.

The flight was uneventful except that there was so much interest in the hat case I was carrying. It has a cowboy hat and belt, my presents for Bishop Wanadag. Passengers, flight attendants, and customs agents were all curious. “What is in that?”

I arrived at 4:15 a.m. in the rain. The temporal math has me confused but I think I gained 8 hours but lost a day. It seems to be Saturday. My schedule said I was to be met by an NCO. I had images of the Sergeant from Gomer Pyle. But it turns out NCO meant National Church Office. I was met by Betsy, the secretary for the Prime Bishop, the Most Rev. Edward Pacyaya Malecdan. However, we did not find each other for awhile, so I was wandering about the cab stations pondering my fate having no one’s phone number and no working phone in my possession. I then heard my name paged and all was well.

NCO Betsy who has served 4 Prime Bishops and Wilson the driver got me to my hotel where I freshened up and had an excellent breakfast of fruit, sardines, saffron rice, eggs, and a darn good sausage.

I then checked out the TV and found too many American channels, but a lot of international news – then came across a channel that is mostly in Japanese, I think, but I saw this program in English called Tzu Chi This Week. It was all about interfaith programs doing good things, mostly in the Philippines – helping victims of fire and flood, providing medical and ophthalmological care to the poor, etc. – Buddhists and Catholics together. There was a banner across the bottom saying “Many Ethnicities One Love.” The first segment showed a group of South Africans performing traditional Zulu dances in a hospital here. The South Africans, wearing surgical masks because the patients had infectious diseases, were saying words of encouragement including something about the “Buddha spirit” – which shows they weren’t really Buddhists. Buddhists would say “Buddha nature” – not “Buddha spirit.” They were spreading hope and love, doing their best to speak the religious language of the people they were there to help.

I now have to figure out the exchange rate and sally forth in search of an ATM to get some pesos. Next on the agenda is lunch with the national church staff. I have a church service at an outrageously early hour tomorrow morning. Then Wilson and I head north toward Santiago City. My sense of geography here is extremely uncertain. But I think Santiago City may be in or near the Isabella province where there was a major typhoon in late October. It this turns out to be wrong, I’ll recant in a subsequent post.

To learn more about this church I am visiting, check out (This link inexplicably does not work. But go to the url. It is there.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why I Am Going To The Philippines

Tomorrow I will board a plane to fly 19 hours to Manila, then ride in a car 9 hours north to Santiago, a transportation hub and See City in the mountains of the northern Philippines. If you had asked me a month ago why I was going to do this, I would have said it is because the Diocese of Nevada and the Diocese of Santiago are companions, and such visits are what you do. I expect why I am actually going will be revealed to me when I get there. God works that way. We think we are doing things for our own reasons, but it turns out we are doing his mysterious will accidentally. “Direct us in all that we do to the fulfilling of your purpose.” But already I am getting a better sense of it.

I am not going to Santiago to do anything for the people there. I do have a cowboy hat to give Bp. Alexander Wanadag and I will lead an Advent retreat for the diocesan staff and the clergy of the diocese. But those are just courtesy gestures. I will participate in an ordination, help consecrate a church, and have dinner with the primate. But those are things they are doing to include me in their ecclesial life. It could all happen without me. The real reasons are deeper.

I am going to express the caring respect of Nevadans for our brothers and sisters who live the Christian life in these distant island mountains. I hope to visit the Philippines in an authentically Christian way. That is important because of colonialism. Christianity came to the Philippines as a medicine mixed with the bitter base of colonialism.

Spain imposed conversion to Christianity, and the friars ruled the people harshly for hundreds of years, actually preventing them from learning Spanish or how to read and write. It was a ruthless subjugation that brought the word of grace. Then the United States acquired the Philippines in 1898 in the Spanish-American War. But no one asked the Filipinos. We were engaged in military conquest of the Philippines until 1902, during which 200,000 Filipino civilians and 20,000 soldiers died from combat or disease. Their guerilla resistance continued on the mountain regions I will be visiting until the 1920’s.

The United States and Japan fought in and over the Philippines during World War II and the local people paid a heavy price. They participated with Americans as prisoners in the Bataan death march, and it might be said that we “destroyed (Manila) in order to save it.” Certainly the United States was a more benign ruler than Spain had been or than Japan would have been – but we have nonetheless been an imperial power like Rome to Galilee.

While all of that was happening, the Episcopal Church spread the gospel albeit in the colonial context. It started with a military chaplain to the occupation force celebrating the Eucharist in 1898. Then the Brotherhood of St. Andrew sent missionaries. In 1901, we established the Philippines as a missionary district of the Episcopal Church. (Remember we in Nevada were a missionary diocese until not so long ago.) That missionary district flourished and became the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, an independent Province of the Anglican Communion in 1990 – only about 20 years after Nevada became a full-fledged independent diocese.

I met Bishop Alex on a bus headed from Kent to London at Lambeth, 08. He knew our priest, then deacon, Teogenes Bernardez, Jr. I found Bishop Alexto be a man of great dignity and mischievous wit. We talked and I asked about the possibility of a companion diocese relationship. His first impulse was "No." He explained that their independence was important to them, and they did not want to receive the largesse of a wealthy American diocese. I said, “Then we are the companion for you, because we have nothing to give.” Thereupon a series of meetings and visits culminated in each of our dioceses adopting companionship resolutions.

I want to visit the Philippines as a friend, representing the friendship of the Diocese of Nevada. We are not oppressors and not benefactors. We are friends in Christ. I hope this will be a sharing of the gospel and a sharing in the gospel uncontaminated by colonialism. Finding the authentic faith is harder when it has been presented by a dominating power. Ask our First Nations Peoples about that. Being there on an equal footing is the all important point.

I also hope to learn something while I am there. I know I will learn a lot, but I particularly want to learn how we can strengthen Asian ministries in Nevada. For starters, I’d like to be a better bishop to the Filipino Episcopalians already in our pews.

I am also thinking of evangelism. The Asian population of Nevada is nearly twice the national average. Asians accounted for 2.9% of Nevada’s population in 1990; 4.5% in 2000; and 6 % in 2008. That is already over 156,000 people. There is presently a movement of Asian Americans from urban centers from the East and from California to the Mountain West. I am grateful for the Asian worshipers in our congregations, but I estimate about 155,900 of them are missing. We have been blessed with Asian ministries that were self-started. But we have not set out to deliberately invite Asian Americans to worship, pray, and share with us in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Frankly, I am not sure where to begin. I hope with this trip I will begin to learn.

God willing and the angels of information technology cooperating (do you suppose if the Annunciation happened today, Gabriel might just text Mary?), I’ll report in as the adventure unfolds.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christ Church Is Alive! Let Christians Sing!

The rumors on the diocesan street about Christ Church, Las Vegas are all about division and decline. All I know is what I see.

Yesterday, at Christ Church, there were close to 60 people in attendance at the 7:45 a.m. service. Granted, that does not pack such a big worship space. But it was a lot of people for 7:45 a.m. under any circumstances. They are nearly two years deep into an interim period and numbers always go down during interim periods regardless of how well loved the interim may be. So I was surprised and impressed by the early service.

I missed the Spanish Mass at 9:30 because I was socializing with the good people of CCLV in the parish hall, now served by its remodeled kitchen. I talked with a number of folks, but mostly with two young adults, one of whom I had confirmed last year, the other of whom is a 2 L at the Boyd School of Law, UNLV. Yes, there are young adults and college students at Christ Church.

At the principal service, I lost count of how many teenagers we confirmed. All I can say for sure is that it was a most impressive group – by far the largest group of confirmands I have had this year at an English speaking service. There were also 2 adult confirmands – one of whom was young adult, specifically another UNLV student. There were also four teens from the Latino congregation at St. Luke’s. Hurray for St. Luke’s too. But most of the youth were Christ Church kids. Let me add, they were strong in spirit as well as numbers. They were engaged, intelligent, and attentive when I met with them before the service. They had clearly been blessed with good Christian formation.

I don’t’ know the attendance number, but the church looked about ¾ full to me. It was a crowd! Yes, they were there for confirmations – or a lot of them were – but that counts. It was a mighty impressive turnout of engaged people who sang out and said the prayers with gusto. And another thing: they were, as they always have been, a diverse lot by any standard. There were black, white, brown, and Asian people. There were folks who looked well to do, folks who looked poor, and folks in between. This congregation looked considerably more like the city in which it resides than most Episcopal congregations.

If you are in Nevada, you have heard about the controversial new organ. In my experience, saying “controversial” and “new” about a church organ is redundant. Any new organ is controversial, and the better the organ the more controversial it is. The Christ Church organ, the largest in Nevada and certainly one of the best, is inevitably controversial. But the voluntaries before and after worship were magnificent. At the principal service, the congregation staid in place for the postlude, spell bound by the music, then broke into spontaneous applause.

“When in our music God is glorified
And adoration leaves no room for pride,
It is as though the whole creation cried
Alleluia! Alleluia!”
Hymnal, 420.

How much is that worth? How much is it worth multiplied by the long life of a tracker organ which will inspire souls for generation after generation?

Then at 5:00 Linda and I joined the Latino congregation for a Fiesta in the parish hall. It was absolutely packed. The food was delicious and the people were warm hearted. This group has been worshiping together for only 9 months but already the feel of community is emerging. Wondering how the Anglos are taking it? Several Anglos took me aside in the morning to say, “Thank you for sending us Fr. Bernardo.” Some described their own new spiritual experience and joy from worshiping with the Latino congregation. Even though they did not speak Spanish, they got it. They understood at the heart level.

Then came the evening Eucharist. I’d say the church was about 4/5 full. We baptized and celebrated children’s communions. Again I could not keep track of the initiation rites. More than in the morning. Now here’s what struck me. We were not baptizing babies. We were mostly baptizing teens and pre-teens. Latino families whose children have not been baptized long before this age have definitely been alienated from the church. We are not moving people from one church to another. We are bringing people from unchurched and estranged lives into the fold. I wish you could have seen the faces of these young people – joyful, devout, sincere. They were not going through the motions, not just doing what was expected of them at a certain age. It was ritual marking new commitment to Jesus.

This Latino congregation along with Latinos from All Saints’ and St. Luke’s are the heart of Latino support for the Las Vegas Interfaith community organizing effort. Anglo clergy from Christ Church are joining the struggle to make the Valley into a place where we know and care about each other. Of course, Christ Church continues to be the core of our urban ministries to the homeless and now to the new poor of the present recession.

They are doing all this during an interim period, during a recession, and in the aftermath of a traumatic conflict two years ago. This congregation is resilient, inspired, and inspiring. I give thanks to God for their witness.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Interfaith Relational Power For The Common Good

The Episcopal Church is involved in interfaith broad based community organizing in Reno and the Las Vegas Valley. Our efforts are really quite simple, but people have a hard time grasping it. This is such a different approach to our common life that it is like speaking a foreign language. It isn't starting with a divisive issue and gathing the people who agree to fight with the other side. Interfaith organizing believes relationships and knowledge lead to a different kind of power -- relational power to heal society instead of dominating power for win-lose controversies. It is a different way of being a people together. The statment below is how I explained our goals to a meeting of Las Vegas Valley Interfaith attended by 254 people from 72 different churches, mosques, and synagogues two weeks ago.

From what Charles Redmond has told you
of our accomplishments so far,
you can see we are here to do something new
– something different.
We are here to change things at a deeper level than usual.

Usually when we set out to do some public good, we start with an issue.
People who care about the same issue
get together, take a stand, win or lose, then go home and forget it.
Relationships have not been formed.
People have connected to causes, not each other.
The basic pattern of fragmented, broken community has not been changed.

This is different.
Instead of starting with issues, we start with people.
We are forming a network of relationships
among Las Vegas Valley people who ordinarily
would not know each other.
I have new friends here I would not have known
and my life is already the better for it.
We intentionally cross the lines of race, religion, and politics.
We are Muslims and Catholics, Methodists and Jews.
We are Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and Independents.
We are black, white, brown, and Asian.

We are knitting together this diverse community
by hearing each others’ stories.
We are learning together how our government,
our economy, and our schools work
so we can make them work better.

We have no ideology except grass roots democracy
– common people taking responsibility for our common life
– and working for our common good.
We will stand shoulder to shoulder to meet the issues of this decade,
and we will still be standing shoulder to shoulder
in the next decade when new issues arise.
Divided, we are too politically weak to make our voices heard.

But together, we can make a difference
in the foreclosure crisis, the decline of our schools,
the plight of families in which a member is undocumented.

This Organization has a broad but clear purpose
– a better life for families.
Our Valley is not yet a family friendly place.
We have children in Las Vegas growing up
-- some on the streets; some in rent-by-the-week motels
-- children without a sliver of a chance.
We are an international hub of human trafficking.
Young lives are being derailed by gangs.
Tonight, you have heard some of the stories
about how life goes wrong here
for children, youth, and the elderly.

But together we can make this Valley blossom
for all our families and all our faiths --
just as broad based community organizations have done in Phoenix,
Tucson, San Antonio, San Diego, Nasville, Charlotte, New Orleans.
Las Vegas is next.

This big job takes broad-based, long term commitment.
To be stable and strong, we have to stand on our own feet.
We have to be self-supporting and self-sustaining.
That means we need the churches, mosques, and synagogues
to sign on, to commit both time and money,
just like we expect the people in our congregations
to sign on and commit.

We all have other pressing demands on our time and our budget.
But you have heard the stories and there are countless more.
What are these lives worth to us?
What are the children, the elderly,
and ordinary families worth?
What is it worth to set our Valley free to flourish?

Churches, mosques, and synagogues cannot change this Valley
if we remain divided -- feeding a hungry person here,
speaking out on a particular issue there.
But together, we can be a formidable force for the common good –
built to last, uniting people of all races and faiths as friends.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sojourner Dream Of Grace

After giving a sermon on the spiritual journey at St. Stephen’s yesterday, I flew back to Henderson and had the most beautiful, healing dream I can remember. I was moving to Nevada. Much of the journey was on foot and I would stop in small towns along the way. The beauty of the dream was the kind and gracious way several people helped me. I feel like a new person today.

In waking life, the road was hard last year, to say the least, and the hardness has continued to weigh on me until now. My dream was a channel of grace and peace.

We are all on a path, often not of our choosing. We would prefer to stay in Abram’s home, Ur; or in Jerusalem, like the apostles who did not leap into fulfilling The Great Commission, but instead set up shop in Jerusalem until driven out by persecution. One way or another, we are all on the road, pushed out of our nest. I don’t know where the road leads. The song says it, does it not? “I know not where the road may lead . . . . (only that) I walk the King’s Highway.” But regardless of the destination, grace happens when people are kind to us at the way stations.

Perhaps that is the wisdom embedded in the spiritual practice enjoined by the law of Moses to welcome the alien and shelter the sojourner, remembering that we are sojourners ourselves. As we go about being the Church, we might do well to think less on sustaining our institutions, to think more about the literal and spiritual sojourners around us, and find ways to extend a bit of consolation.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Slightly Bitter, Mostly Sweet Big Meeting

Last night’s organizational meeting for Las Vegas Valley Interfaith was on the whole a big success. I didn’t count the number of churches, mosques, and synagogues present but it was by far the largest yet – and the diversity is increasing. The evening began with music from a great Gospel Choir singing “How Excellent Is Thy Name.” Then Dr. Aslam Abdulah chanted the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic as our invocation. Evangelical Protestants were spontaneously murmuring surprise and appreciation of that beautiful gesture. Roman Catholic Bishop Pepe was there with a pledge of $60,000 in support of our efforts. We heard moving stories from real people about real life challenges in the Valley. I gave it my best shot to explain how broad-based community organizing changes communities at a deeper level than charity or single issue advocacy. People seemed to get it. I got Amens and was interrupted by applause, which feels good anytime but especially when it’s the teaching piece of the program. We received in one night half the pledges we need for the funds we have to raise by May.

I was so proud of the turnout from our Latino/ Hispanic congregations! They may well have had the strongest turnout of any congregation of any denomination. Without them the attendance would have been disappointing. With them, it was something to celebrate. I'd call them playmakers. Fr. Hilario, Fr. Bernardo, and Dee had speaking parts done to perfection. Fr. Bernardo is going to Phoenix in the next couple of weeks to be trained as a community organizer.

I was especially pleased to see a strong turnout of lay people from both St Thomas’ and St. Luke’s along with their priests. Fr. Tim told me afterward he would be taking this mission to the St. Thomas’ vestry so they can decide how best to support Las Vegas Valley Interfaith. It is inspiring and deeply gratifying to see St. Thomas moving on from a leadership role in our recent convention to a leadership role in our most important social ministry in the southern half of the diocese. Christ Church, Las Vegas was also present, represented by three clergy and a clergy spouse.

There is much to celebrate for the mission, which I am confident will transform the character of the Las Vegas Valley in the profound way that can be accomplished only by an interracial, non-partisan, interfaith coalition. This is exciting.

Personally, I also feel rather like President Obama the day after the mid-term elections. The absence of most of our Episcopal churches, including some I had expected to be on board, is definitely a message – I’m just still sorting out what it is. Shakespeare said, “There is a tide in the affairs of men (sic) which when caught at the flood leads on to destiny.” I saw that tide last night, saw it growing deeper, wider, stronger – and saw most of our congregations missing it. I feel responsible for that but am not at all sure what to do next. Thankfully, two of my colleagues may be showing me the way.

The Rev. Candace Lansberry, District Superintendant for this district of the United Methodist Church; Fr. Bob Stoekig, pastor of Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church in Boulder City (he spoke to our deacons earlier this year); and I will be meeting soon to talk about how to introduce the same listening process within our parishes that we have used to build our interfaith organization. Perhaps that process will deepen relationships in the congregations turn the ignition for participation in our religiously pluralistic community. In the meantime, I’ll keep my hand on the plough and hold this in prayer along with our other diocesan missions, all our congregations and their leaders both lay and ordained.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Children Blessed To Be At St. Barts/ St. Bart's Blessed By Children

The children’s Sunday School at St. Bartholomew’s in Ely is my idea of important news. It isn’t overflowing like St. Mary’s, Nixon or Epiphany, Henderson – both wonderful too. But they definitely have something good going in Ely.

Of course they have had children’s Sunday School before but part of small church life is the demographic blips. Every few years, the Sunday School declines or even dies for want to children. It is as natural as the seasons. The rebirth of the Sunday School, however, does not happen so spontaneously. That takes initiative. Kim, a relatively new member of St. Bart’s, has taken the initiative.

Last Sunday, there were 4 children. Sometimes they have 5. Having no Sunday School room, they gather in a corner of the Fellowship Hall while the grownups are engrossed in the Liturgy of the Word upstairs. The kids sit on the floor for now, but Kim and Fr. Red are planning to get a rug or a carpet remnant for them to sit on. Such a thing makes a big difference. It welcomes the group into a defined space, holds them there and focuses attention – far less wandering off.

There is a board on which they have the words for their simple song – “Jesus in the morning” – one of my favorites. Then Kim converses with the children about one point from the Gospel lesson. Colored construction paper chains hang under each child’s name on the bulletin board. Every Sunday when the child attend Sunday School and learns a new lesson, they put a new link on their paper chain. The paper chains make visible their growth in spiritual intelligence. They also encourage and reward attendance, which judging by the paper chains is pretty good.

The point of this week’s Gospel lesson (Zacchaeus up the sycamore tree) was generosity. For their craft, the children created basketfuls of ghost treats. They hooded lollipops, with tissues, tied around the neck, and faces painted on the tissues with magic markers, thereby making ghosts. The kids then came upstairs to join their parents for the Liturgy of the Table. As people were leaving the nave, the children formed a receiving line giving away the ghostly lollipops to the grownups. After everyone else had left the nave, Kim gathered the children to make sure they got the connection between the Gospel lesson and their exercise of generosity in giving away the lollipops. The children also made large pin-on name tags for themselves and for the adults to wear – big help to the visiting bishop.

There are bigger, better-equipped Sunday Schools, but that isn’t an option for St. Bart’s. It may be just as well that it isn’t. As Professor Susannah Singer told us at Convention, Christian formation depends on context, context, context. I cannot imagine any Sunday School program working better in this context. They are doing what works for them – and from my conversation with the children, it is definitely working. They get it. What’s more, Kim is making the children and their activities visible to the adults, as with the ghost candy and the name tags. Children are mysteriously invisible to adults in church. The Rev. Kathy Hopner tells me she has talked with congregations who explain they do not have a Sunday School because they do not have children. She then points at children running about and says “What are those?” When the kids are the receiving line, they are harder to ignore.

Children’s ministry at St. Bart’s is not limited to the offspring of adult members. The Girl Scouts are reactivating in Ely as well, and guess where they meet? Most every Tuesday night, there’s a Girl Scout Meeting in our Fellowship Hall. That is an outreach ministry to the community and a soft evangelism in that it keeps us on the radar screen of Ely’s awareness.

But it isn’t all for children at St. Bart’s. They are soon revving up the new course using the Marcus Borg video on an Adult Faith, facilitated by MDIT (Ministry Developer In Training) Norma Engberg. The course used a workbook to structure people’s reflections on what they have seen and heard. This same program is being used at St. Martin’s, Pahrump and is, I think, available for Church Publishing Co. They are an alert, thinking congregation at St. Bart’s. I just did a sermon there that most preachers would not dare try – too theologically sophisticated. But the folks at St. Bart’s got it right off. Our people are plenty smart enough to deal with challenging material. They want to be challenged because that’s where the growth happens. I am very pleased that St. Bart’s, along with St. Martin’s, is undertaking this study.

Then there are softer spoken kinds of formation going on too. I noticed this year’s poster for Episcopal Relief and Development on a bulletin board too – a visible reminder of the world’s need and the Episcopal Church’s response. That too is soul shaping, consciousness raising, awareness instilling symbolism. I would be so glad to see that poser up in all our churches. Thank God and the people of St. Bart’s for remembering.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Windmill Ridge Reverie: I Shall Not Wear Purple

When I am an old man I shall not wear purple. I shall retire to the Pahranagat Valley and dwell not too far from the lake. I shall not wear purple – but dark brown and burnt orange – except in summer, robin’s egg blue. If they will have me, I may for a time ride circuit to churches which may not now exist and some that do, until my vocation fades and my absences are the greater blessings.

And I shall be obsequious to the Sharps, the Whipples, and all the valley thanes. I will develop a Druidic devotion to a tree, perhaps three, remembering the oaks of Mamre and hoping for a visit. I shall tend them gratuitously, officiously, and like a kind woman, they will tolerate my attention.

Eventually I will be buried beneath the thick mat of fallen reeds along the lake shore. Strong young people will cover me with a cairn of stones they have wheel barrowed from the nearby hills, forgiving me my incorrigible devotion to the Church and its arcane beliefs because they know I meant no harm. When the cairn has sunk into the soft and sodden decay of reeds, my faults and failings will be forgotten even by myself. This is not a sad reverie I indulge here on Windmill Ridge, but hope for a personal peace on earth and with the earth, that I may find joy in heaven.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Live From Las Vegas V: The Bishop's Address

We have had a remarkable year in Nevada.
Some congregations are growing in attendance.
Hispanic Ministries has taken off like a rocket.
Education, formation, and outreach programs are on the rise.
Most of our congregations are either living in harmony
or managing their conflicts creatively.
Despite the economy, we are getting along just fine financially.
There is much to celebrate.

All of us have a part to play in making the church work.
I want to thank each and every one of you for your part.
But I want to say a special word about vestries.
I want to thank our vestry members specially
because we have not always treated you very well.
Neither diocesan leaders nor the average person in the pew
know much about what vestries actually do.
But, at the highest echelons of diocesan governance,
odd fantasies about vestries sometimes arise.

We sometimes imagine that our vestries are running amok
in flagrant violation of the canons if not the 10 Commandments.
Meanwhile folks in the pews imagine that their vestries
are acting without a sliver of sense,
spending money like Louisiana fraternity boys
on a weekend in Vegas
This habit of blaming of vestries for all that goes wrong
or even for the inevitable struggles of being the church
is self-defeating.
Eventually, the best and the brightest among us
will figure out its more fun to sit in the pews throwing rotten fruit
than to sit up front with the vestry ducking.
Besides which, it just isn’t true.

The vestries I have met these past 3 years have been
conscientious, faithful, servants of God and God’s people.
Vestries are the backbone of our church.
So the best thing we can do for God’s mission
and each other would be to cut the blame
and give our vestries some trust and support.

We can do that if we make two simple attitude adjustments.
The first is in how we understand our problems and our challenges.
The truth is all our problems come down to one.
Whether it manifests as needing more money to maintain an old building
or someone to teach the Sunday School,
these are just symptoms of our one basic problem.
It is a problem with /our doors//.

I do not mean we need to paint them red.
That is my friend Andy Weeks – not me.
I don’t care if your doors are chartreuse.
The problem is that there are too many people outside our doors
who need to be inside them.
The core problem – the key challenge – is just that simple.
We have the people on the wrong side of the doors.

But what shall we do about it?
That leads to the 2nd attitude adjustment.
Back before Las Vegas was the entertainment capital of the world,
we were in another business.
What was it? The name of the street we are on tells us.
Rancho. The Las Vegas Rancho.
We were a ranch. That is our tradition.
And we know something about ranching.
Not much because we are now lounge singers and black jack dealers.
But we have watched Bonanza.
Is there anyone here who has never watched Bonanza?

So we know something about ranching.
We know the situation where we go out in the morning
and find the horses have gotten out of the coral.
What shall we do?

There are two basic approaches.
One is from CSI – Las Vegas.
We hang around the corral, dusting it for prints
and gathering DNA samples,
trying to figure out who left the game open.

The other approach comes from Bonanza.
We go out and round up the horses.

So I urge you all in this coming year, when troubles or challenges arise,
do these two things:
First, remember it’s really about the doors.
Second, ask yourselves, “What would Ben Cartwright do?”

But all that leads to a deeper question:
Why would anyone want to come inside our doors?
What do we have to offer?
There is plenty of good food at the restaurants,
fellowship on a bowling team, and the Comedy channel
is more entertaining than a liturgy.
What have we got to offer?

There is a difference between a fun time and a good life.
There is a difference between random misery
and suffering endured for a greater good.
There is a difference between a pleasant mood and joyful spirit.
But our culture is in danger of forgetting these differences
which are as fundamental
as the difference between right and wrong.

During World War II , the Jewish psychoanalyst Victor Frankl
was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp.
He watched a lot of people die.
He also watched a lot of people survive.
He became intrigued by the difference.
Eventually he figured out what made some people
more resilient than others.

He saw that people who found a larger meaning
in their experience could endure suffering
while people who suffered without insight into a deeper meaning
withered and died.
Meaning is the key to enduring bad times,
and it makes just as big a difference
for how we experience good times.

Happiness in a random world of chaos
is just a lucky break,
a brief distraction from the grind.
But happiness in a meaningful world is a gift from God,
and a promise of our ultimate well-being.

Faith is the heart-felt belief that our experiences all add up to something,
that our lives matter,
that our joys, our sorrows, our loves, and loathings matter.
Faith is trusting that there is a meaning and order to reality
that gives our lives purpose and a value.
We may not know exactly what the answer is
but we live out of our conviction that there is an answer.

Christian faith makes a striking claim about the meaning of life.
It isn’t an abstract principle.
Some of you remember that in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
someone asked the universe’s most powerful computer
the answer to life’s mystery.
Who remembers the answer? The answer was 42.

Well for Christians the answer is not a number.
It isn’t an abstract principle or an idea.
At the heart of reality, something personal throbs
-- something feels, aspires, cares, hopes.
The universe is born from and sustained by
something that is more like a person than a principle.

So it was natural that this foundational personal reality
should reveal itself to human kind as a human being
– as Jesus of Nazareth
who “share(d) our human nature, who live(d) and die(d) as one of us.”
To be a Christian is to know Jesus,
and when we wonder what it’s all about, what it’s all for,
to think of him.

.We live in a changing, challenging time
– a time when environmental and social conundrums
threaten to overwhelm us.
Living in such a time demands spiritual intelligence.
“Spiritual intelligence” isn’t stuffy intellectualism.
It isn’t talking in special language no one understands.
Spiritual intelligence is knowing our story
so that we can know our Savior.
It’s seeing the connection between what we do
at our job each day and the moral order in Holy Scripture,
the connection between Gospel truth and social action
in our neighborhood and the wider world
It’s experiencing the connection between our emotional ups and downs
and the disciplined practice of prayer.

The 21st Century demands wisdom, spiritual intelligence.
But that is in short supply today.
Someone said, “We have mastered the simple secret of the atom,
but we have forgotten the Sermon on the Mount.”
College students ask their professors, “Who came first Jesus or Moses?”
I am not making this up. It happens.
At jewelry stores, a customer asks to see a cross.
The sales clerk says,
“Do you want a plain cross or the kind with the little man on it?”
These are true stories.

Just as schools and colleges are the guardians and bearers
of secular knowledge,
the Church is the guardian and the bearer of spiritual wisdom.
We do not have a monopoly on wisdom.
But our truth is the core without which the adages
of even the best life coaches, counselors, and 12 step sponsors
do not hold together.

Let me say this straight and without apology.
Brothers and sisters, there are thousands of people
in this state who need Jesus.
There are thousands of people who are dying
for want of Jesus.
Their happiness is not joy but distraction.
Their sorrow is not sacrifice but despair.
Their lives wither because their roots have found no water.

What are we doing about it?
Someone said, “The world comes to us looking for Christ
and we give them the Church.”
When people come to us spiritually hungry
it will not do to regard them as potential supporters
for our religious club – as church workers or pledge units.
We need to feed them gospel.
We need to show them Jesus.
Jesus said,
“When I am lifted up . . . I shall draw all people to myself.”
It’s time for us to lift him up.

But we can’t show people a Christ we do not know
and know well.
We have to know our story which begins with his story
We have to know what he did and what he said.
But that is not enough.
To understand Jesus we have to know
the psalms he prayed, the laws he obeyed,
the proverbs he lived by, the prophets who inspired him.
We have to know how the mystics have experienced him
the theologians have explained him,
and the saints have shown him to the world.
We need to eat, breathe, sleep, and sweat Jesus.
That means we have understand his connection
to our experience at home, at work, at the ballot box,
and the football stadium.
We need to take our passions into prayer,
to see God’s hand in the blessings of our lives,
to see our work, our family, and our friendships
as part and parcel of God’s mission.

That’s what Christian formation is about.
But in a recent Pew Survey on Americans’ knowledge of religion,
atheists scored almost twice as well as mainline Protestants.
How are we going to proclaim Christ to people
who know more about him than we do?

I love the stories of young people who see physical suffering
and study medicine so they can do something about it!
Look at the spiritual suffering around us
– the addiction, despair, and moral callousness –
look at that suffering and ask,
what if you could learn something to alleviate it?
What if you could learn the words of life and share them?

Our mission is not to preserve an institution.
It isn’t to keep doors open and pay utility bills.
The truth is we don’t even have a mission.
As Episcopal evangelist Wayne Schwab says,
God has a mission and we get to be part of it.
God’s mission is to save people from despair.
It’s to share the gospel of eternal life.

We have been doing new projects.
We have done some teaching.
We have started some new ministries
that have brought more people to Christ
than we have done in a long, long time.
We can celebrate that.

We are planning more new projects.
We can add up the numbers. We can quantify results.
We can write reports for the church office in New York.
But the meaning of what we do is Jesus.
If we aren’t connecting people to Jesus
we should go home and turn the church over
to somebody who will.
We are here to plant Jesus in the hearts of children,
to give the drunkard Jesus instead of liquor,
and the money hungry business person Jesus
instead of a portfolio.

The prayer for the mission of the church says,
O God . . . remember the multitudes
who have been created in your image
but have not known//
the redeeming work of our Savior Jesus Christ;
and grant that, by the prayers and labors of your holy Church,
they may be brought to know// and worship you
as you have been revealed in your Son.”

This is what we are here to do for each other
and what we equip each other to do for the people
outside our doors.
We know and worship God,
our foundation, our source and our destiny,
our purpose and our delight,
as God is revealed in the face
of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Live From Las Vegas IV: Go In Peace

A lot of peole who have been at Convention do not stay for Sunday -- quite understandably. The business is done. Those from afar often need to get home. Those from anear worship at their own churches. So there is a kind of intimacy among those who are left, and a comfort in knowing that the work is done and the issues are resolved one way or the other. So it was this morning.

We had the final meeting. Fortunately, things had gone as planned. There were no more run-off elections, budgets, or other matters. Rose Kawai delivered a box of stoles from Bp Alexander Wangadag of the Diocese of Santiago, our companion diocese in the Philippines. We had courtesy resolutions affirming our friends who had made the convention happen.

Worship was like an All Star Game. All sorts of people offered lovely gifts. The readers, the musicians, the acolytes, etc. came from diverse parishes to do a holy thing in a casino ballroom.
However, like an All Star Team, they were not used to playing together on an strange field with unfamiliar leadership. There were some glitches that I felt bad about. I hope no one felt that their gifts were unappreciated or taken for granted. They were all lovely -- the music of the Todos Los Santos, Holy Child, and Convention Choirs supported the readings by Aja, Melvin, and Deacon Mike. Our worship inlcuded some chaos, but God was glorified in the midst of it.

Then I enjoyed a working lunch with our Deans. Despite their meeting all year on line and their working ? It feels like at least a week. I had expected the Deans to be patient in a bedraggled way. Instead, they were eager to to share their experience of ministy and discuss how we can do more together in the future.

So it's done for another year. I feel tired and blessed.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Live From Las Vegas III: Bishop Bugsy

The business is done: COM restructured; budget passed; elections conducted and appointments ratified; the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation adopted. But the big events were the Formation Fair which got an enthusiastic response from a diocese that proved hungrier for formation than I had expected. Then there were the Special Mission Group meetings which produced lots of engergy and ideas. I met with the most diverse group of wardens you could imagine -- each great in a unique way. I was delighted that they wanted to meet again next year and to find a way to keep in touch. So we will set up a Google Group for them just like we are doing for Parish Educators. Then I learned the Parish Communicators want the same thing. Amazing. I love seeing people come together. I feel like an ecclesiastical Yentl.

Of course, our keynoter, Dr. Susanna Singer of the Church Diviniity School of the Pacific was great and she seemed to think well of us in return. She did far more than any keynoter I've ever seen -- meeting with and facilitating small groups, fiellding questions, and leading a plenary session.

Tonight at the banquet, we honored office manager Barbara Lewis on the occasons of her retirement and her 80th birthday. Faith and Visual Arts presented awards to our top artists. Then we saw a display of remarkable folkdances from the mountains of the Northern Philippines performed by the people of St. Luke's, Las Vegas. Never ever saw anything like this at a diocesan convention. What a place! What a people!

I may feel like Yentl but that was not my image. Having worn a green hard had that said "2 million green energy jobs now" yesterday, I thought I'd go conservative today with a black fedora I bought last year at the Veneitian. But people said it was a mob hat and now they are calling me Bishop Bugsy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Live From Las Vegas II: Galilee, St. Jude's, and Splashing Children

This morning seems years ago. So much has gone down at Santa Fe Station. Good prayer services morning and evening. A tribute to Sr. Faith, an upbeat presentation by UNR students about Vocare. Reports on the Frensdorff School, Camp Galillee's resurgence, new evangelism training and resources, our partnership in Haiti, and more. Tonight we heard Mildred Springer's compelling personal account of the watershed General Convention in 03 and a plug for the Book of Occasional Servcies and Holy Women, Holy Men -- our new book of saints.

The high points of the day were the report from St. Jude's Ranch where we are restoring a parntership in mission to abused and neglected children -- a partnership unnecesarily interrupted by theological differences in years past -- and the report on Latino/Hispanic ministries particularly as it is touching the lives of families, youth, and children. It was a true blessing to have Fr. Anthony Guillen with us from Latino/ Hispanic Ministries of The Episcopal Church and to see the grace, positively visible grace, in the slide show of our own people presented by Fr. Bernardo and Delores. The best pics showed the children spashing in the fountain at Christ Church, Las Vegas.

Tomorrow, God willing and a quorum arriving, we will slog through the business of elections, canons, and one resolution; but the main theme tomorrow will be Christian formation. The Rev. Dr. Susanna Singer, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, will deliver the keynote address and faciliate large and small group discussions. Should be a good day.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Live From Las Vegas I: A Latino Kick-Off To Convention

The Diocese of Nevada Convention kicked off tonight with a Fiesta reception at Todos Los Santos. I have been to a lot of opening receptions for church conventions -- but never anything remotely like this. Think of words like packed, loud, joyful, celebratory, festive. There was a large mariachi band, the kind that normally gets paid $400 per hour, playing for us for over 2 hours, just out of piety and personal affection.

Fr. Bernardo and his incomparable wife, Delores, outdid themselves. The feast was Mexcican, Ecuadoran, Honduran, Salvadoran. I spoke with Fr. Leslie who, God and the Standing Committee willing, will be our next Latino priest. I saw Fr. Hilario who serves at St. Luke's now, and with the new grant from The Episcopal Church, will begin model Latino/ Hispanic ministries at St. Matthew's and St. Thomas in the near future. I met his charming, sophisticated diplomat wife, Ruth, who has recently come here from El Salvador and is eager to begin work in Christain formation.

But the most fun was watching Episcopalians from around the diocese who have heard of what is happening here but had not seen it. There were Chuck and Hallie of Carson City dancing to the Latin beat. I saw amazed delight on many a fellow Anglo face. Veteran Nevada Episcopalians said this was the biggest and best kick-off for Convention ever.

A simple point: What we Anglo Anglicans call Latino/ Hispanic ministry sometimes looks a whole lot like Anglo ministry done by our Latino/ Hispanic brothers and sisters. We were all blessed tonight.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why I Love Nye County

I rarely drive through Nye County without buying one or more of the local newspapers. There are at least 2: The Pahrump Valley Times and the Pahrump Mirror ("Nye County's only independent newspaper" -- not sure what that means but I sense that relations between these two journalistic centers may not be the best.)

Today's Pahrump Valley Times' lead story was about a huge bust of a burglary ring -- over 3 dozen people arrested in one week!!! (The jail didn't have room for them and had to cut most of them loose on thier own recognizance, to the chagrin of the sheriff.) Who knew there was that much to steal in Pahrump? One of the ring leaders seems to have brought down the wrath of the law on his fellow alleged burglars by allegedly holding up the Kingdom Gentlemen's Club which is the town's strip club in a castle -- I thought it might be something more colorful but that was not stated in this artilce. Another article in the same edition referred to the owner of the Kingdom GC as "the owner of a brothel." Could be a separate enterprise. But if the burglars have started holding up brothels, things have just gotten out of hand. The owner of the Kingdom GC, according to the Pahrump Valley News, is also the publisher of the rival Parhump Mirror and has been convicted of bribing a former county commissioner -- but this is the rival newspaper talking. I know nothing about it myself.

The law was on a roll. In some complicated and indirect way, the massive burglary busts came from leads garnered in the discovery of a "massive marijuana grow opertation" allegedly owned and operated by a single family in two houses. The dad and sons are on the run while mom is either in jail or out on bail.

If that were not enough, U S Ecology (Now doesn't that sound like an innocent green name? They operate a hazardous waste site.) has been accused of 18 EPA violations and fined $497,492. That would cause me a financial inconvenience. U S Eclology denies any misconduct.

There is a controversial move afoot for the city to buy the Kindom Gentlemen's Club. Maybe they could buy U S Ecology while they are at it. Or U S Ecology could take over the canabis farm to raise money for the fine. But would anyone buy pot from a hazardous waste collector?

The political news featured stump speeches given by candidates at the Artemsia Community Center. The content of the speeches was largely ignored becasue of the more colorful Q&A session which sounded a bit like last year's health care town hall meetings. The paper had a big picture of a local lawyer asking a candidate challenging questions while she (the lawyer) wore a sidearm. The story related that at least one other cross examiner from the audience was also packing heat. I do not know why they attend political meetings armed, but I surmise there is a reason.

At a recent meeting, the county commissioners refused to watch a 3 minute dvd a citizen wanted to show them so they could see the flooding in her neighborhood. Bad move pastorally.

Of course there was happier news. The "annual grape stomp" has been expanded to a 2 day event. A crew of firefighters visited Charleston Elementary School. But the big good news is popping at the other end of the county in Tonopah. Great Basin College is planning to open a campus there. The Town Board is considering buying the Belvada (a disused bank) for its new convention center. Solar engery is about the double the population.

I never drive through Nye County without discovering lots of action. I always listen to Richard Eloyan's Ballad of the Nye Country Drifter and imagine bandits hiding around the occasional curves of Hwy 95 as I race through intermittently observing the speed limit. It's a happening place. If Clark County were this colorful Fr. Sherm's Las Vegas Review Journal would not be reduced to covering national and international news we don't really care about.

Disclaimer: I know nothing about the facts of any of this. Nothing. I am just saying what I read in the papers. Nor do I have the least malice toward any of these people. I do not know them. I did read the list of the recently arrested and was pleased not to find the names of anyone from St. Martin's in the Desert. They are too busy providing wholesome fun for the town's teens and knitting prayer shawls. They have no time to grow pot, burgle shady enterprises, or even intimidate political candidates with hostile questions and guns.