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??