Thursday, 30 November 2006

Mother's Union in York

How exciting it was to go to a Mother's Union Provincial Service in York! We boarded a bus from Manchester at about 8 AM to get there in time for the 11.00 service. When we arrived the cathedral was FULL of ladies! Ladies everywhere - and a few men! The service was wonderful; it was lovely to hear the cathedral full of womens' voices. Bp Nigel from Manchester preached; there were lots of prayers. Our diocese was represented... And it was a very windy day!

Then we had a lovely lunch. I strolled around a bit - first taking time in the cathedral, it's shop, and then just a quick look around the town (buying cake at Betty's) then back on the bus. It was soon dark and rained most of the way home. I'm very glad to be welcomed by the women here in Gorton who made sure I could attend - and it's a great way to get acquainted with the North here.
MU is not quite the same in the US, but I'll definitely want to make sure we (TEC) stays connected to the work of MU throughout the world in supporting women. And I'll probably become a member before we leave.

Sunday, 19 November 2006

SERMON: Sunday 19 November 2006

In England they designate the four Sundays before Advent, rather than continuing on through the Pentecost (or here the Trinity) season. This has a personal story from JD's history which he graciously allowed me to share. AND it seemed to go over well because several men told me they had similar experiences and this had "helped" them or at least resonated with them.

19 November 2006
Second Sunday before Advent
Emmanuel Church -- Gorton-Abbey Hey Team

Daniel 12: 1 – 3 ; Psalm 16
Mark 13: 1-8 “eschatological discourse introduction”
Next week – Christ the King gospel = John
2 weeks – Advent 1 gospel = Luke 21:25 – 36

It’s pretty clear we’re on the way toward Christmas, isn’t it? You can see and hear it in the shops, the adverts on the TV, and in the beautiful lights all around us. It seems that from everywhere we’re being told to “get ready” and “book now” for Christmas. And it’s not on the high street, it’s right here around us -- just yesterday, I took my mum to three church Christmas Fairs: at St James, in Abbey Hey, and at the Fairfield Moravian Settlement.

Sundays in Church are getting ready for Christmas too. In our tradition, we’re in the Season called the “Weeks Before Advent”. It’s our own time for getting ready for Christmas during Sunday worship. One of those ways we do that is by looking to the stories in the Bible that talk about the end of time – as in the gospel we just read.

It’s kind of odd isn’t it, that as we know that the baby Jesus is coming – sort of a wonderful beginning to the world -- that we’re talking about the end of things. Let’s look closer at what we have.

In our story, Jesus is talking with his disciples about the end of the political and religious ways of Israel. They were all at the Jewish Temple – a HUGE structure – like their church, their city hall, and their market all built together in one large area. The foundations were built with stones as big as 30 feet long, and deep, and piled high.

Someone remarks how big they are and Jesus quickly says that nothing will be left, that all the stones will be pulled down and the place destroyed. What he is saying is as if all the concentrated power of the city centre would be leveled; not just unused factories or old tenements for regeneration, but the most important council buildings, shops, and churches cleared out.

Now Jesus has already told them that he will be come into power after the old religion and politics are gone.

Of course, then a few of the disciples ask Jesus when this will happen and what signs there will be when all this is going to take place.

Jesus tells them what to expect.

What he talks about is not a nice picture. There will be deception, and wars (nation fighting against nation), horrible weather (earthquakes and famines), beatings and challenges by the authorities. And probably the worst thing he says is that people will betray their own family members and children turn against their parents. People who are followers of Jesus will basically have a very difficult time – they will be hated.

And this is supposed to get us ready for Christmas? I’m honestly not quite how these stories fit when we want to hear about the birth of a beautiful, sweet baby.

But what makes me even more confused is that the things Jesus describes as being signs of the end seem to be what going on all around us right now.

I definitely do not mean to say that we ARE in the end times.

I just mean that we’re acting out like what Jesus describes. There is plenty of deception in our governments and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is global warming around us and famine in Africa. We see people behaving badly in our neighborhoods – not just against strangers but indeed in their own families.

Maybe WE are having troubles in our own families.

This gospel immediately reminded me of a story that my husband/JD told me from when he was a teenager. Apparently he didn’t speak to his father - in their own house - for six months. For six months they went through their daily lives, were around the house, had meals together and yet would not talk to one another. They were each too stubborn to give in and apologize.

Eventually his mother asked Joe to take the first step – and he did. One of them had to make a change and it was JD, even though he didn’t feel like it at the time because he believed he was correct, he did apologize … and he and his father started speaking again.

JD’s childhood story is not an example of the end of the world as we know it.
But it may remind us of our own situations.

You or I may have conflicts in our own families; maybe there are people at work or in the neighborhood that you don’t get along with.
Perhaps there are good reasons: especially if someone has wronged you.

Whether it is because of our personal situations or from the news of the world around us, we may feel like this is the end of time.
And while I can’t say precisely that it’s not the end because we’ll never know,
I CAN say we do not need to act these ways. We need to act differently.

What we should take from today’s gospel and other Bible stories like this is not fear of the world around us.
What we should take today is that while the birth of Jesus is just weeks away,
it’s a reminder that we need to act the way that Jesus the adult taught us – to love and forgive.

We need to take care of our planet.
We need to be part of our governments and make our communities better.
We need to be loving toward our families, friends, and co-workers even IF we have been wronged and are not at fault.

Love the world around us and forgive one another.

This time of year, when it’s time to prepare for Christmas, we do need to prepare - but it’s more than buying presents, decorating our homes, and preparing meals. We need to prepare for Christmas by acting in ways that make things better for the world, in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, and workplace.

Jesus’ words about what awful things that can happen should not make us afraid. These words can remind us to take a moment from all of our busy-ness.
We can ask ourselves how we are helping to work toward the good of the world; we can ask if we’re doing the right thing to the people who are close to us.

These are the kind of preparations we should be making at this time. So look around in these next few weeks as the lights get brighter and the Christmas music gets louder … let those things remind you that the birth of Jesus is coming and that that birth means we NEED always to look at the way we are living.

Sunday, 29 October 2006

SERMON: 29 October 2006

This was the LAST sermon preached in this church ... wow! I was still new to the Team, but they asked me to preach because I had less "history" with the closing of the church than the others. The church "needed" to close because there weren't enough people to serve on its volunteer Parish Church Council "PCC" (like TEC's vestry) to literally keep the doors open AND it needed about 300,000 pounds of work done to its roof and building to keep it safe and dry. There were probably about 25 people on a "good" Sunday in a church that seated up to 200. A beautiful 1900's building, but no way they could really support it. Which was sad, because earlier, a plan in the area to share it jointly with the local Methodist church had not gone ahead. There are just so few people going to church here in Manchester - especially the working class in inner city areas - that churches just can't continue to be open. The building will continue to sit there for who knows how long.

29 October 2006
Last Sunday after Trinity (Proper 25)

TEAM Worship : Gorton Abbey Hey Team @ St George’s Church
With Baptism : Abigail Olham (sp?)

Mark 10: 46 – end : Blind Bartimaeus

On Thursday night many of us were here for the “Celebration of St. George’s” as we gathered to remember the life and acknowledge the closing of this sacred place. That night it was fitting that we were focused ONLY on St George’s and this particular building, people, and ministry within here – and appropriate at that time that many of us were sad and mourning what feels like the loss of “church”. I understand sense of loss - because in my short time here, the faithful people of St George’s have been very kind to me and my partner.
However, with the church full of people who wanted to say thanks and farewell to the parish life HERE, we were not saying goodbye to church – and difficult as it was, we were only saying goodbye to this specific place.

Today, we’ve come together as a team in liturgy with a baptism to focus on the wider church – the whole of Christianity – a church greater than St. George’s or the Team, indeed greater than the denominations of which we are all a part. Not dismissing any sorrow, I’d like to suggest that perhaps today we re-frame and readjust our focus.

We’re here as followers of Jesus Christ. And even with our many various practices and differences, that I believe is the common life we share. Our prayer book, Common Worship, tells us that baptism is a joyful moment when WE rejoice in what God has done for us in Christ. We are connected to God and one another by making promises and declaring our faith in Jesus Christ.

Like Sarah [team vicar], I have spent time in Africa. I spent a summer Tanzania in 2000, living with very poor subsistence farmers without running water or consistent electricity in their homes. It is a hugely difficult life they live.

And when I was called to preach, I wondered what I could say to them; I wondered where I could find a similarity between us.

It’s been somewhat the same coming here to Abbey Hey & Gorton. Our lives in England and America are indeed different ... It does feel like, as someone told me, “we’re two countries divided by a common language.” And I’m definitely a newcomer here to some of the ways of the English Anglican church even though I’m an American Anglican.

Again, what can I say? where are our similarities?

Well – thanks to God, I’m able to connect with you the same as I did with the people of Tanzania :: Through our most basic connection -- as Christians – as people of Christ! And, it’s the experience of baptism that all of us from our incredibly different places share.

Most of us haven’t met baby Abigail or her family before today. Yet, after this morning, we’ll be connected to her as sisters and brothers in Christ. I find that each baptism of a child deeply moves me because it is such a sign of new life (which I guess is fitting for one of the last services here at St George’s.)

With Abigail today we are all called to new relationship with God, one another, and our own church lives.
Being here today gives each one of us a new beginning and celebrating her baptism reminds us of our roots.

It’s fitting to think of roots. On Thursday, the Gospel and Sarah’s sermon were about vineyards. As she spoke I was caught up by the image of how the vines are trained to be connected to one another. In my mind I could see the vines stretching out toward one another, intertwined and linked, twisting over and around one another for strength and stability.

It’s the same for us today. We are connected, intertwined and linked through baptism. The life of St George’s will not be lost – the memories and stories will be carried in our hearts and minds; the things of St George’s will not be discarded – they’ll remain in faithful use. Most importantly the people of St George’s will not be forgotten – you’ll be joining in churches of the Team and Deanery … grafting on with other vines producing again.

I see us stretching out to one another, constantly connected and part of the Body of Christ as we continue to share our lives and communion.

It’s the water of baptism that makes it happen. In a few minutes, Sarah will pray and bless the water that is “to sustain, refresh, and cleanse all life.” This holy water sustains us. We know that water that can rejuvenate us after work and refresh us after rest. The water of baptism is what gives the energy we need for strength and growth. This is not just for the people moving out of St George’s – today’s baptism is a time for each one of us to look again at our commitments.

Through our baptism we’re part of two things at once - the big picture: Christ and the world, and the local: our own relationship with Jesus.

It’s that relationship with Jesus that we have in our Gospel story. The blind man Bartimaeus is sitting by the road. He could have been very sad, definitely feeling lost and alone for in these times people like the blind were just “put” near the outskirts of towns along the road to beg. Along comes Jesus, but WHO tries to stop Bartimaeus from calling for Jesus? It was the people in the crowd who scolded him and told him to keep quiet. But Jesus heard him. And, as Bartimaeus wanted, Jesus heals him. Then Bartimaeus doesn’t go back into the city or along with the crowd. Rather he follows Jesus along the road.

I think we are often part of the crowd. In our own churches we sometimes miss the fact that we want to be with Jesus and that he is journey that we follow. Being in our own little groups, we can forget his larger message of love, healing and transformation.

Baptism gives us the chance to renew our connection with our bigger story. Just as traveling and visiting other places, meeting new people opens our eyes to a broader view of the world than our own neighborhood.

Abigail is a lucky baby! After today she is part of the worldwide Body of Christ – joining millions of Christians, some of whom happen to be Anglicans and Methodists. She’s also part of her local neighborhood church and the (new) Gorton-Abbey Hey team where all of us now know her name. She’s got a lot of people praying for her – promising to support her … not only her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, but generations of Christians before her – generations twisted, connected, and supporting one another just like vines in the vineyard of God.

And I’d say we’re all lucky too! We’re part of that vineyard too – connected to one another no matter in which specific place we worship. But that doesn’t mean these next few weeks, months will be easy for the people who have named St George as their home. I call on all of us – in the name of our connection through Christ – to remember them and pray for them just as we’ll pray for Abigail and all people of faith on this day and the days to come.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

SERMON: 17 September 2006

This is the FIRST sermon I preached in England! We arrived on Sunday 10 September and the very next Sunday I was presiding and preaching in Gorton. I knew I had to begin to introduce myself into the community - which was good. I like to connect my or any other person's story to the Gospel is one of my favorite ways of preaching.
The sad thing is that this church was officially closed about six weeks after this service - they had known it was coming, and I knew there were some pastoral issues that I hoped to begin to address a bit here as well.
The world is ALSO a very small place : on this Sunday, one of the parishioners from my church in Brookline MA was visiting Manchester because he grew up here - in fact, he'd been to this church in Gorton on several occasions because he has family in the area - that was amazing ... of all the two or three places in the world, ours connected here.

Sunday 17 September 2006

14th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 19)
St George’s (Gorton Abbey Hey Team)

Mark 8:27 – end

“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

I find today’s gospel fitting for my first sermon here in Abbey Hey and Gorton because the theme is about getting to know who Jesus is. More appropriately, I suppose it’s really about Jesus knowing who we THINK he is.

But in keeping with my first Sunday here, I want to tell you a little about whom I am, who I think/ believe that Jesus is, and then ask you to consider the question for yourselves.

I’m Stefani Schatz, I’m an Episcopal – Anglican priest and a new member of the Gorton and Abbey Hey Team Ministry. My official title is Associate Minister, I’ll be non-stipendary – and because of that I’ll be ministering part time – sharing my time (after the closing of St George’s) between St Philip’s, St James, and Emmanuel. I’m living in the St James Rectory on Wellington Street with my partner/husband JD who will be also be a priest come this January. JD is the reason we’re here in England, he’s just starting a PhD at the University of Manchester in Theology and we’ll be here for three years during his research.

If you ask me where I’m from (which is what the shop people tend to do when we’re out in the market and city centre) I’ll say California. I was raised in a beautiful city on the ocean called Santa Barbara. Yes, just like you’ve heard or visited : Lots of palm trees and a lovely beach. My parents are divorced, but my mother still lives there; my dad lives in Tennessee (in the South). I have a younger sister who lives with her husband and 2 year old twin boys in New York City.

I probably had pretty much of an ideal childhood for the US. My family certainly wasn’t rich, but we had everything we needed. And I grew up in a Christian-centered home, although I wasn’t Episcopal at the time – we went to church as a family pretty much every week. My father had studied for the ministry himself in a non-denominational church. For him Jesus was the person telling and showing us that we are to help other people who are less fortunate in life. He instilled that in me and I find my deepest belief about who Jesus is, is that he is our example of how to treat other people as we live.

I went through all my education, including college in California. For a time, like many people in the US – I’m not sure about here – I was away from the church. We use the phrase “spiritual but not religious” … During those years of my life, I’d say the spirituality that I developed was one of deep gratefulness to the amazing God of Creation. I learned to be thankful for all that I have because it was given to me, undeserved, from a loving God.

There is a Bible text that goes : “to whom much is given, much is expected”. As I grew into my early adulthood, out of this sense of being grateful, I felt a call from God to “give back”. I entered church life again by coming the Episcopal/Anglican Church and was active in my mid-twenties (including being a church warden) and about five years later began to explore moving into the priesthood.

In the late 1990’s I entered seminary in Boston, Massachusetts. By moving across the US for Master of Divinity program, where I knew absolutely no one, I encountered an experience of Jesus that I describe as his hospitality. Jesus for me is also the person who loves all and every kind of child, woman or man. I know this is not easy, because perhaps like you, I am comfortable and enjoy being with the people I know best – but with Jesus’ openness to people very different from me is how I try to act.

After seminary, I returned to California – this time to the much larger setting of Los Angeles. It was my time of curacy – like Sean’s – at a very large church. With those people, we practiced the kindness of Jesus in the simple acts of loving of one another. In the way that each family shares both the fun and the challenges of living together, I saw everyday examples of a healing touch or word, and experienced the power of crying, laughing and praying together in good times and bad.

Change is a word that I often use to describe my life recently. After Joe and I were married in 2003 in California, we moved to Boston for his own theological studies. I worked at a church there with children and young people. ((In fact, one of parishioners from that church has family here in Manchester and is visiting us today.))

So this is how I find myself with you … trying to answer the question of who do I say that Jesus is. Hopefully you’ve understood that I say Jesus is an inspiring model of how to live our lives – especially in terms of how we treat one another; how we’re to share and care for all God’s people; how we’re to be open to welcome each other even when that’s difficult; and how being together is so important to not only our Christianity but also our basic humanity.

You may not agree with that. You may not say that’s who Jesus is for you. That’s OK. That’s perfectly OK because we don’t have to agree on exactly whom we say Jesus is. We hear in the gospel that there was a range of ideas about how his apostles and disciples understood him.

What IS important is that we each think about this question of who we say Jesus is. We must look at what Jesus is saying to each of us, how his life makes an impact on ours. That’s the personal spiritual “work” that each of us needs to take time for.

I’m known in Boston for giving something practical at the end of a sermon. Here’s this week’s: IF ever throughout the week you take a quiet moment, or in passing you think about me or the past Sunday or St George’s, then ask yourself the question: Who do I say Jesus is? What are a few of the qualities that he represents for you? Is he a friend, an example, a comforter, a challenger, or mighty king?

And we really shouldn’t stop with our own narrow individual views. Out of our own experience we need to share our answers with others. That may be difficult – it’s not exactly what we say in passing instead of “lovely weather isn’t it?”, but maybe as we get to know one another you’ll at least share with me who YOU think Jesus is.

As St George’s enters this time of transition from being one church to being a part of many and you each go on to another congregation, it matters who you say Jesus is! Your response to that question is what makes a different group of Christians stronger. All our understandings of Jesus are made “better” whenever we bring them together – not to make only one answer but to make a fuller answer. And we’re strengthened in our sharing of those answers just as we are when we receive communion together as we’ll do in a few minutes.

Finally, let me say Thank you for listening to me say who I believe Jesus to be. I’m grateful to be among you, and hope for the privilege of learning who you say Jesus is along our way together.


Sunday, 10 September 2006

Not an English Rose but an English Cold


I spent almost all of the day “in bed” trying to feel better from a little bit of a cold that’s been bugging me since about Tuesday. I slept in, then just hung out in our one comfy chair doing needlepoint and reading – and napping in bed for some of the afternoon. All while drinking orange juice and taking EmergenC. It’s not a lot of fun to be sick in a place other than your real home, but this is becoming our home so I’ve got to get better here this time.

Later - Our first dinner at our new home : AS ABOVE

Watching the very British : “Last Night of the Proms” on the TV, they’re also doing something with fireworks live at Heaton Park here which they say is the largest municipal park in Europe. Seems very prideful for the parts – Scotland, Ireland, England when their people play or sing – sort of like 4th of July. Something to be appreciated that we don’t quite get in our huge country – the sense of community : although I notice that most of the faces are quite white and there are lots of non-white people around.

Everyone smokes and I was wondering if the govt does anything to try to get people to stop smoking ? The packages have huge letters saying “Smoking Kills” and there is lots of non-smoking places to eat in restaurants, but what about on TV. Finally saw a commercial for not smoking, not a PSA but an advert for a patch.

It still feels sort of like we’re camping : we’re sleeping in a bed on the floor very near the crazy pads for the carpet; we boil water bec we haven’t turned on the gas boiler yet – they come for maintenance on next Tuesday. We haven’t washed clothes yet – JD’s getting close to the end of his clean clothes… But everyday we get more and more settled.

Saturday, 9 September 2006

TGIFF - thank god is first friday

Waiting for the appliances
The afternoon with Sarah and +Stephen. I know work with the Gorton & Abbey Hey Team Ministry as an Associate Minister – there are 3 churches : St Philip’s, St James’, and Emmanuel. As they say almost anything I need to ask what it is, and then write it down in my notes. They’re being very patient with me. And after the bishop left, Sarah and I went through our "diaries" (what they call calendar) and it felt very much just like any “staff meeting” at home, the calendar does rule the church person’s life I guess. I’ll be presiding at St George’s Abbey Hey and we’ll go through things on Tuesday. I continue to really like Sarah … and the leprechaun well …we’ll see how things go.

Sarah & Phil invited us to go out shopping at ASDA – the huge store associated with WalMart here. Sort of just like home, but I’d never shopped at WalMart. It was very near the City soccer team’s stadium (which holds appx 45,000)

Friday, 8 September 2006

Thursday - cleaning curry explosion

Sunny day – and they say sunny thru all the weekend – hooray!!
Got our TV yesterday so I woke up on time to watch morning TV – something very weird about when shows begin and end - it’s not on the hour! Maybe bec there’s no commercials, which is great, but they have lot of odd starting times. When there are regular programs on, JD and I think we understand about 1/3 of all the sentences … that they should have subtitles for us even in English.

Spent the day dedicated to cleaning! Cleaning the kitchen mostly; there was mostly clean cupboards, but not on the outsides – everything had lots of grime around the pulls. The whole cupboard set is not wood, so it all cleans easily but needed a lot of elbow grease. Every few inches there were little spots of yellow, so I think there must have been a curry “explosion” at some point. There was also a sort of scum on all the tiles – as if they hadn’t been really cleaned so they shone. It’s funny bec there’s tons of cleaning supplies in the grocery stores and the pound (dollar) stores – which are on every corner.

Today I got all matching plastic things like tubs, broom and ??, trash cans, etc. Spending a pound ($2 US) doesn’t seem like a lot; but some people seem to be trying to make their money go pretty far at the little store – and you can’t believe people could keep needing all the plastic tubs and bins, etc that are stored outside each shop. Now the kitchen is clean for the delivery of the appliances tomorrow – and it feels really good to do something other than shopping or buying things : focusing on what we have (this place) rather than what we’re missing (everything in it)

JD did a great job on getting up all the carpet tack strips on the stairs. We’ll clean up the hardwood, maybe sand and paint it an even color. JD also got the gas and electric changed over to our names. We also had a visit from the electric company who sent a man to change out the meter – both the electric and gas meters are located in a little cabinet in the front hallway and at some points you call in our own meter readings to get the bill accurately accounted.

Our new transportation adventure : getting off the Picadilly-bound bus at Brunswick Street and walking the 2 or so-blocks to the University. It was just about 6 minutes; much faster than last night when we tried to get there a long block early. Then we walked Oxford Road instead of waiting for the bus to our other “favorite” restaurant for Curry in Rusholme. We continue to get around pretty well!

More bus adventures – we decided to take home from the city centre the 205 bus which stops directly in front of our house! Not bad except by the time we were looking to come home after dinner it was almost an hour wait at Picadilly Square: about 10 other buses for 192 (wherever that is, it’s pretty popular) and many 200’s for Hyde Road also coming.

Thursday, 7 September 2006


The phone works !! We found it to be turned on about 6 PM or so and immediately called the States – to NYC where Iva is visiting H&E and the quality was just as if we were calling next door ! Amazing and really great – and I think only about 12 cents a minute; not bad.

Back to the Comet Shopping Center – on the #7 bus out there : it was the end of school and hordes of kids in their black pants or skirts, black jacket, which shirt and varieties of black plaid ties all of the place – it was an Abbey Hey school and a large one. Some of them got on our bus and weren’t disruptive at all.

Got the TV, DVD player, microwave and hot pot at Comet

Wednesday, 6 September 2006


Just as promised, Shaun picked us and our huge luggage up at 9:45 AM to take it to the house, then the weekday 10:30 AM Eucharist at St James. At the house, the diocesan property “man” Geoff had the gardeners clearing the yard, a project which hadn’t been undertaken since the beginning of the year : lots of long grass – you couldn’t even see the driveway and other paths, and there were overgrown shrubs all along the perimeter.

Then over to St James for the Eucharist. We hadn’t been to the church when we visited before, only met some of the people at their coffee hour, which they hold in the fellowship hall/ commty centre of the Methodists. St James is an “ecumenical project” with the Methodist Church and one of their ministers, Sue, presides once a month.

The 10:30 AM service

Quick standing up lunch from the market while waiting for the bed to be delivered.

Got a phone line ordered – our first utility! The BT system is pretty simple compared to the States – only choosing between 3 packages with a discount for “friends and family” of 25%; AND they’ll do a blocking thing for telemarketers on the line – hooray. Sarah said they are doing more of the automated kind who want to leave a message; but we’ll deal with that later.

Bank Account – The Cooperative Bank : it’s odd how you can’t be “connected” from anything financially in the US – there’s pretty much no way to get money to England unless you want to wait 6 weeks unless you take out cash from the ATM then put it into our new account : no way to transfer from the account, or deposit a check, or anything. Then, to make sure we’re not money laundering they need proof of address from a utility or something which of course we don’t have yet !

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

First Monday

We awoke with our To Do list – bed #1! If we didn’t have the bed by Tuesday morning we couldn’t sleep in our new place and would have one more night in the hotel. Before we were going to get the bus back to the large

Our first visit to the Gorton Market – JD says it feels just like the Bronx. We ate some “pies” while sitting on a planter. It’s pretty small inside – about 10 – 15 little stalls with most of them being either meats or bakery. There’s lots of good sliced meats, cheeses, a fish place and fresh poultry seller. JD is really happy to be able to shop close to home in a place that reminds him of Arthur Avenue (the Bronx) and will be able to get lots of good nibbles for both breakfast and lunch everyday – he’s already planning that. There’s even a pet food shop! Outside there are open air places where it seems different people will be selling each day. And one great thing: a second hand (used) furniture store – I’ll definitely be back for that – hoping to find some good buys on “antique” furniture. Food makes JD happy and furniture makes me happy!

Internet CafĂ© – and Manuel (from London)while waiting for the fax to go through, his quote : “it’s much better for people of color (not his words exactly) now than it would have been a few years ago in Gorton” “There’s been more opening up and that’s good.”

Mobile phone – long lines at the store; Impossible to do the phone without the bank account – but haven’t got the bank account. JD said it would be so much more helpful for there to be a flow chart with the steps you need to take first : IE you need a bank account before the mobile phone, or the land line before the bank account; then the utilities – or whatever! It’s just felt like a bit of spinning wheels which it wouldn’t back home.

They’re very addicted to their phones; you can see everyone walking with one in their hand if they’re not one one – most people aren’t too loud on the public transport, but they are on the phone.

We made our way to the Manchester Cathedral at about 4:45 and saw that there was Evening Prayer at 5:30. It felt good to just sit for a while. The cathedral has a long history from the 12th century. One of the things I noticed was that ABC William Temple had been bishop of Manchester before he moved “up” to Lambeth.

Finally, dinner at our “favorite” – from last trip – Italian restaurant at the top of Oxford Road.

Sunday, 3 September 2006

We're in Manchester - Sunday

We're HERE!
we arrived fine, not quite as tired as we thought.  Passport control asked for a few documents to verify Joe's student status and then we were IN!  So simple in Manchester compared to Heathrow.  While we were standing at one of the "booths", I overheard a couple next to us who were saying very similar things as we were: she was a PhD student too, according to her passport, coming from the US too!  Studying visual anthropology; we'll  have to look for them at the orientation events. 

By the time we walked out of passport control, then through the "nothing to declare" , our luggage - all 4 huge bags - were right there!  Our newly-applied Episcopal Church shields definitely helped us identify the large black bags.  It was all much easier and navigable than Heathrow ... and now it's done!

The taxi driver could fit everything in his big black car and was quite happy to talk with us about his own version of important things in Manc : the home of Karl Marx and Engels; and an early suffragette here; and in Gorton - the largest automobile mart in England. 

The Holiday Inn Express was WONderful !  We arrived in time for a quick bite of buffet breakfast (croissants, yogurt, tea - of course) and then hit the bed, actually 2 beds.  We had booked for 2 twin beds and then put them together.  The room was big enough for the luggage (just barely) and a nice window opening onto nearby Debdale Park's small pond.  Hot water for a shower after a 2 hour nap felt just fabulous.

Then we were off to be good ole Americans - consuming Americans that is!  My colleague RevS and her husband took us to lunch at a local pub and then shopping at Comet!  Comet is like Besty Buy with all appliances and electronics you could want.  We needed a bunch!  We'd done some research on line from home so when we saw them in person we were pretty quick to decide.  In about 20 minutes we got cooker (or stove - electric cooktop and oven in one unit), a frost free FridgeFreezer (there is a range of small fridges and small freezers not combined that you could get, as well as non-frost free -yikes!) and the most important - washer and dryer!  We had been warned that it was not possible to receive next-day delivery in England and that was true - we'll have to wait til Friday for the cooker and fridge and then until next Sunday for the washer& dryer.  At least we got started shopping on Sunday.  One good thing, since most of the appliances are smaller (and therefore more energy efficient) than we'd get in the States, they're actually not that expensive even with the exchange rate of almost 2:1.  We still need a TV and DVD player, microwave, and electric teakettle.  

Getting the bed and mobile phone (what they call a cell) are still on the ToDo list, but we're off to a good start while at least not being too tired.

We forced ourselves to stay awake thru a dinner at a bad "chain pub" near to the hotel and then watched a show called "Songs of Praise" which is just like televised hymn-singing from around the country.  Glorious!  Great church, happy people, something more uplifting than 60 minutes on Sunday nights.  

Then at about 11 we got to sleep for real and it felt great - at least until about 5 AM when we both woke up - instead of forcing sleep, we turned on TV for about an hour and then fell back to sleep until 9 AM and had about 15 minutes to got to breakfast buffet again! 

Day 1 finished!  What will the next bring??  

Sunday, 6 August 2006

SERMON: Sat/Sun August 5&6, 2006

This is very nearly my last Sunday in Brookline. Their worship schedule included a Celtic service on Saturdays at 5 pm (which I really enjoyed) as well as two services on Sunday morning. In the sweltering heat of Boston during July and August, I also enjoyed the 8 AM service (even me! not a morning person) because there was the slightest bit of relief from the heat which built up through the day (the Sat 5 PM was actually oppressive sometimes). The building of All Saints always felt open, welcoming and I loved being there even on my own in the early morning (provided the boiler was working in the winter) opening up for the early service.
At All Saints, I developed a bit of a reputation for my "practical" sermons which often included references to the real daily lives of the people. This was different from my colleagues who were more "spiritual" or "social justice-y". As the Director of Religious Ed for Children, Youth, and Families, I felt this was an important part of my job: to be understood by my "constituents".

To see this beautiful church, and active parish go to All Saints, Brookline.

All Saints Parish, Brookline

Saturday / Sunday, August 5/6, 2006

Exodus 34: 29 -35
2 Peter 1 : 13-21
Luke 9:28 – 36 Transfiguration – (would be Pentecost 9B)

Here’s a question for you : Who knows WHY it is Moses and Elijah who are the two talking with Jesus in our Gospel story??

Hmm.. One very helpful hint is to think back to last week’s first lesson: the story from the second book of Kings – the story of Elijah and Elisha. Remember how near the end, Elijah is “ascended into a whirlwind into heaven”? That was the sign that Elisha would be given the double share of his father Elijah’s prophetic spirit.

That’s why Elijah is in our story today : he was whisked up into heaven without really dying.

So what about Moses? I actually thought that Moses had ALSO been taken up into heaven without dying. But to check that out I read through all the books in the Bible that Moses is a part of – Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and finally in Deuteronomy Chapter 34, Moses actually dies. BUT before that, as we’ve heard in today’s lesson, when Moses is up on Mount Sinai, the Lord speaks with him. We’re to understand that Moses has seen God face-to-face.

THAT’s why Moses is in our Gospel story with Jesus, and Peter and John and James.

Both of them have had been pretty close to the God.

And in that closeness we know that Moses had a conversation and we can probably assume Elijah did too.

So that’s my take on the Transfiguration this year – that through conversation that we experience the transforming power of God.

Often interpretations or sermons about Transfiguration are about the brilliant blinding light transforming the state of the Jesus’ body. Or much is made about the way that Peter wants to hold on to the amazing situation by building the three dwellings as if to keep the awesome power of the moment for themselves fixed in that place. When I first started to prepare for today, I wanted us to explore the elements of risk in transfiguration and transformation – looking at some of the ways in which each of us faces the risk of change.

But in the last few days, I read a short piece by a priest named Sam Portaro that talked about the Transfiguration. He suggested the idea of a conversation that must have happened between Jesus and Moses and Elijah. In his writing, he suggests that both of these historic figures – men who’s life’s story Jesus would have known and studied – had a conversation with Jesus about the future of his life. Their conversation would have been inspired directly by God since they’d seen God face-to-face and brought God’s word to Jesus.

For Portaro, it is the weight and import of that conversation that leaves Jesus not only changed, and glowing in dazzling white. It gives Jesus a new understanding of what is to come in his ministry and a changed way into which he leads the next short while. Therefore, the Transfiguration is not about the physical or exterior transformation that Jesus makes (although there is manifestation of that change) but the Transfiguration is about what has changed – what has been transformed INSIDE of Jesus.

Pretty cool.
Pretty cool that a conversation could have the power to make someone LOOK physically different on the outside.
Can you imagine that ?
Do you think that could actually happen ?

Well, if you watch any of television’s makeover shows you know that it can happen. Sort of at least! It happens in reverse – that when women (predominantly) -- through clothes, hair and makeup restyling – begin to look better on the outside, they think better of and believe more in themselves on the inside.

The MORE powerful thing about our Gospel is that it’s not anything that is done, but what is said that makes the change to the inner world! And then it’s seen by those in the outer world.

I don’t think that’s quite been created by reality TV yet!!

But, seriously, how can we enter this Biblical text with it’s example of the transformation of conversation?

I honestly think that a direct word from God is exactly what many of us desire in our hearts…

Don’t we yearn to be “told” by God what to do?
To “hear” clearly what choice or choices God would want us to make?

I’m talking about the really deep questions :: It might be about question about love; or in making a choice in career or retirement; about whether or not to make a move; maybe about the best way to approach someone before or after a conflict.

When faced with a difficult situation or decision, I know I’d surely be happy if two women from my past sat down with me and said “Stefani, here is exactly what God wants you to do.”

Ordained people usually speak, from the pulpit, about being “called” to this or to that. That’s pretty much a direct back-and-forth dialogue with God.

Here at All Saints we’re almost professional with our discernment committees for people exploring that call from God.

That’s all fine. I’m talking about something a little different. I’m talking about serious questions but definitely not limited to work “with” God or the church. I mean the more ordinary things that we WOULD talk about with a friend or two.

Could we make those conversations feel like we were talking with people who had seen the face of God?

You know I think we could! I definitely think we can!! Each one of us can …

I know there’s been some discussion around the parish about perhaps setting up short term discernment committees – discernment specifically NOT for ordination purposes. I’ll even single out someone whom I know has some of this ministry both in her heart and with practical ability to say I really hope it comes to fruition soon here!!

So, as my very last practical “advice” at the end of a sermon, here’s what I suggest YOU might want to do:

First, Trust that it could happen

Select people
Think about one or two you believe has a deep spiritual life or moving toward that kind of maturity. Look for someone around you who maybe has had at least a glimpse of God.
Maybe someone who has the LIGHT around them …

This is probably not a priest! Maybe a person who is deeply committed to a run once day because she sees it as her prayer time or a person who has a compassion for others that very few people sees.

In Celtic terms this person or persons would be your Anam Cara or Soul Friend. I want you to take a moment and think about which person could be in a God-conversation with you … In my mind I keep thinking of the books Tuesdays with Morrie or the Five People You’ll Meet in Heaven. VERY ordinary people being able to do this extra-ordinary thing of helping have a conversation with God.

Ask to spend time together and share your question or concern

Remember –God will be present and listen for the Spirit to prompt questions in your hearts rather than words. But do talk – allow the power of the conversation itself be transformative ...

Imagine what could happen

Then, expect to be Transformed! Watch out for your own Transfiguration!!

There may be amazing consequences … and remember, that just like Jesus experienced, even in the deepest and darkest moments, God is there with you.