Grace was 2 years old the first time she saw a large body of water. It was the North Sea of the Netherlands in the summer of 2003, and she could not believe her eyes. Squealing with delight as we got closer and closer to where the water touched the sand, she let go of my hand and began toddling around in circles, waving her hands and arms. “Big wawa! Big wawa!” she exclaimed, her unbridled joy and excitement mingling with the energy of the wind and the waves.

As I remember this moment in time, of my daughter’s first encounter with “big water”, other, quite different images, recently seared on all our minds, surface.  Men and women wading in chest-high water. Families towing mattresses with whatever belongings they managed to salvage, sitting atop. Shell-shocked individuals, huddled together in the back of a truck. The asphalt and painted lines of an interstate barely visible amidst a sea of water.  Someone cradling a soaked dog in his arms. Men, women, children, pets, all in search of dry land, firm footing and shelter, someplace simply to stand in safety.

I spoke with a man earlier this week, who was living in New Orleans with his wife and children in August 2005 when Katrina hit. They now live here in Baltimore. These images, for him and his family, are not just mere images of devastation, heartbreak and human suffering, taking place some 1200 miles away. They are living memories of his own devastation, suffering and heartbreak. His eyes conveyed what words could not.

“But you know,” he said, and he looked me straight in the eye. “Of course you know this, in your line of work,” he added. “People helping one another, supporting one another, reaching out, coming together. People saving each other. That was powerful.” He paused. “That was something, too.”

In her sermon last weekend on her experience at the Episcopal Youth Event held in Oklahoma City this past July, our youth preacher Grace Gary reflected on how difficult having faith in God can be. “It’s particularly difficult without ‘physical proof’ … but I can see God through people ….”

This moment in time, and moment by moment, may we be the people that God created us to be.


“Nah, not interested…I’ll just watch it on the evening news.”

That was my reaction when asked if I was going to join other Redeemer staff in the courtyard to catch a glimpse of the solar eclipse on Monday afternoon. “Oh come on, you really should not miss this” they cajoled. So my desire to be a ‘team player’ consequently superseded my indifference towards the event!  I joined the others who had brought a collage of pinholes in papers, homemade contraptions using cereal boxes and ultimately even a pair of official safety glasses. The clouds cleared at that point which provided an unblemished view of the eclipse. Our collective reaction was one of childlike delight and awe. Experiencing this solar event in real time touched a deep place in our humanity or as the Celtics might observe, it was an example of a “thin place”. On a personal basis, I was surprised and delighted that it was more than a meteorological event. I was curious to read more about the spiritual roots that portrayed such a unique occurrence. I share the following reflections from a variety of authors:

“The metaphorical significance of a solar eclipse-the temporary darkening of illumination-can invite deep, meaningful reflection on the rich dance of dark and light in our ordinary lives. We all go through times when the light is eclipsed by the darkness of uncertainty, unknowing, or loss. Rather than resisting those times, we can be curious about them and look more closely at what they have to teach us and how they might help us grow. The eclipse is a powerful spiritual teacher because it reminds us that these shifts are natural and cyclical-the darkness may arrive for a time, but then the light returns.”

“This kind of event also reminds us of the other spectacular and ‘sacred’ (worthy of honor and respect) nature of the planet we inhabit. It puts our human place within the cosmos in clearer perspective, reminding us that we are part of a much larger world that is not dependent upon our human activity. It evokes spiritual experiences of awe, wonder, and humility, even when we understand scientifically what is occurring.”

The astronomer Samuel Langley (1834-1906) wrote that a total solar eclipse is a spectacle ‘One of which, though the man of science may prosaically state the facts, perhaps only the poet could render the impression.”

 “There are times when many of us experience what we might call a spiritual eclipse. Something gets in the way and we struggle to see the light of Christ we know is always there. During those times, it can be easy to be fooled into reacting to the darkness of our circumstances, like the animals getting ready for the night during the solar eclipse. Our faith in Jesus calls us to live differently, beyond our senses.”

Finally, I wish to call your attention to a Letter to the Editor, published in The Baltimore Sun on Monday from Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, a friend to The Church of the Redeemer:

“Finding light in dark hours”

Today, the country will experience the shadow of darkness cutting a swath over the heart of this nation. We will see it coming, it will swallow the light and it will linger. But it will not last. It will not reign. The darkness itself will ultimately be eclipsed. At this trying time for our country, let us use this moment of light’s ascendance to celebrate in solidarity the defeat of darkness and the reign of goodness by wearing things braded; in our hair, clothing, jewelry, belts, and bracelets. Anchored by strands of yellow-the color of the sun-interlaced with all colors of the spectrum to proclaim that we stand together, beautiful, strong, interwoven, whenever darkness threatens to extinguish the light.”

I am curious…..what was your reaction to experiencing the eclipse. If you missed this one, the next is in 2024! Shall we meet in the courtyard?


PS: Next time you see me, ask to see my braid hanging on my key chain around my neck!


Dear Folks,

My father was an idealistic husband and seminarian in the 1960’s, reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer and marching in Memphis.  Our apartment living room, where my brother and I made forts with the sofa cushions during the day, was the frequent scene of late night strategy meetings and bull sessions for my dad and his classmates.  Some of them were trained in non-violent civil disobedience at the Highlander Folk School, down the road in Monteagle.  Most of them had young families.  All of them were expected to represent a denomination that defined the Establishment and blessed many social conventions.

We lived in the Jim Crow south, and according to my dad, the Episcopal Church in too many places represented the world as it had always been, instead of how it someday could be.  Racism was a given.  Black people and poor people and Jews and women were expected to know their place.  Injustices might be preached about on Sundays, but real change was slow and threatening throughout most weeks.  By 1968, preserving the status quo had become toxic for my father, and it ultimately overwhelmed him.  He left the church that year and had trouble finding meaningful work for the rest of his life.

I thought about my dad this weekend when Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville and as marchers raised flags intended to intimidate the very people that my father and his classmates sought to support.  He’d be sad and angry and confused, I imagine.  Have we made any real progress, he’d wonder.  I believe the United States has changed for the better in the last 50 years—thank goodness the laws on the books are more just—but hatred and fear still rule too many hearts.  Bigotry continues to pervert our nation’s ideals.  Wherever it is spoken or acted upon, racism still warps us.  And where is the voice of the church?

It speaks when people of faith rise in the face of any notion of racial supremacy and offer this courageous truth: prejudice is a crutch, violence is a sin, and every human being of any color, caste, or creed is a beloved child of God.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love—not height, nor depth, not powers nor demons—so surely we cannot stand by or withdraw our love when groups or individuals are made to feel less than because of the way God has made them.  Each of us is broken, for certain, but we cannot follow the voices of our lesser selves or make peace with any form of hatred, whether it lives within us or outside of us.  Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, yes?  What happened in Virginia last week could have happened around the corner.

My dad lost his faith, but he taught me what I know about faithfulness.  Baltimore needs what our minds and hands and hearts can give.



This past Monday I returned to Redeemer after a 10 week sabbatical. The first thought I want to share is my profound gratitude to David and the Vestry for the opportunity to have experienced this time away. Often when someone is offered the privilege of a sabbatical there is an expectation that it will be purposeful; that it should have a specific goal of study or travel. That focus was not what I needed. David could not have been more understanding of my aim ‘to be’ and not ‘to do’. I did not want a ‘sabbatical checklist’ of things to accomplish. Frankly I am normally a task oriented person anyway and I thought it might be healthy to let that component be put on hold. As I now reenter the life of Redeemer, I do so having discovered what ‘rest’ can mean on a holistic level….but more about that in a minute.

I also want to thank both David and Cristina for picking up the liturgical and pastoral needs of the parish in my absence. We are truly a team at all times, but when one clergy is absent there is obviously an impact on the others. So I offer a sincere expression of gratitude for their extra ministry and am so excited that our team will be fully re-staffed in a couple of weeks.

As I look back on the 10 weeks, I offer a “postcard collage” of activity:

  • Bill and I spent a week in western North Carolina where I was the visiting clergy at All Saints Chapel in Linville, NC; one my favorite sacred spaces. We have done this for the last 5 years so it was very restorative. Golf and great food are some of the perks that come with the invitation!
  • I had 3 trips to our cottage in the Northern Neck of Virginia which is my sanctuary in terms of hibernating. On one of the visits I was involved with the funeral of an old friend. It was held in the Historic Christ Church, built in 1735, outside Kilmarnock VA. Not only was it a privilege to participate in my friend’s service, but to do so in such an historic sacred space was incredibly moving spiritually.
  • Bill and I went to Manchester VT for a long weekend where I performed an outdoor wedding for the son of friends of ours. What a beautiful area that is….and there was also golf involved. Bill loves it when golf is connected to my ministry!
  • We spent a long weekend in Easton with old friends. Bill was a guest in a golf tournament.
  • Another long weekend was in Bethany Beach with Bill’s brother and sister in law…again more golf! Do you notice a theme emerging here?
  • And in between the travels was quiet time at home…oh yes, almost forgot, I performed a bilingual ceremony of The Blessing of a Civil Ceremony: French and English. I hope I blessed the couple. My French is more than outdated (not sure there was ever a time it was updated!) so I used Google to translate the service. I just hope when I pronounced they were man and wife in the eyes of the church I didn’t inadvertently pronounce they were pig farmer and pole dancer in the eyes of the devil….ah well.

Now, what about the deeper nature of my sabbatical? What was that experience for me? As the weeks wore on, I discovered what I have come to call ‘the sacrament of rest’.  It took a while to untether myself from the need to accomplish. It took a while to give myself permission ‘to be’. It took me awhile to ascribe value to silence and solitude. Gradually I experienced an awareness of the meaning of true rest. I am talking about the word in a holistic and organic way; an experience that resides in your soul. John Lubbock in his book, The Use of Life wrote: “Rest is not idleness. To lie sometimes on the green grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”  I now understand that concept as he described. Rest incorporates a more mindful pattern in our daily living. While sleep is a part of rest, there is much more. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar observed “Activity and rest are two vital aspects of life. To find a balance in them is a skill in itself. Wisdom is knowing when to have rest, when to have activity, and how much of each to have. Finding them in each other-activity in rest and rest in activity-is the ultimate freedom.” My prayer is that I will incorporate that wisdom in my ministry/life going forward. Author Mark Buchanan invites us as Christians: Unless and until we rest in God, we will never risk for God.” That is a motivational mantra for me as I reenter the daily routine of parish life.

And so that is enough about me. I want to close on a personal note about you. A component of sabbaticals is the understanding that the person ‘disconnects’ with the parish during that time. You and I knew that was part of our covenant. Yet what I found to be the biggest challenge emotionally and spiritually was holding to that covenant in the midst of the many pastoral situations that happened. I want you to know that my ‘silence’ while deliberate, was at the same time agonizing.   This community is unconditionally loving towards one another. When one of us is hurting, we all are. So, perhaps that is the best blessing upon my return….we can hug one another. I missed you.


Dear Folks,

With iced tea sweating beside her and shades drawn to block the sun, my grandmother didn’t move much on Arkansas August afternoons.  “It’s too hot to get up,” she would say if someone knocked on the door in the heat of the day.  She seemed genuinely shocked by their industry.  “What could anyone be doing out now,” she’d ask from her kitchen chair, dispatching me or a cousin to greet them.  I appreciated her responsiveness to the weather and the season.  The same woman who filled September through June with running a household, chairing civic groups, gardening, and working part-time for the church—accomplished while hobbling on a wooden crutch she used for over 65 years—slowed way down in the summer.

There was still plenty to do, and she got up earlier and stayed up later to take advantage of any welcome breeze.  But she also read more and kept a journal, adjusted her diet, and loosened her wardrobe.  What better blessing than to move without hurry?

Even the needs of our city call us in a different way right now.  Last evening in Darley Park, 150 citizens gathered to pray about violence and asked Mayor Pugh to respond with a comprehensive plan of action, and then after the cameras were turned off, we walked slowly from house to house, and listened to neighbors’ concerns.  Our conversations were quiet, punctuated by spaces left empty.  “I’m worried about the shooting,” said a woman named Angel, “but I think more about there being nothing good for my teenage sons to do and trying to get myself off alcohol.”  She asked us to pray for her health, and said she drew strength from our time together.  “I didn’t know anyone cared,” she said as we hugged.  It felt important to linger.

There’s a gift in these dog days, if we let them open up in their particular way.  Here’s an August offering from poet Naomi Shihab Nye:

Spun silk of mercy, long-limbed afternoon,
sun urging purple blossoms from baked stems.
What better blessing than to move without hurry
under trees? Lugging a bucket to the rose that became a twining
house by now, roof and walls of vine—
you could live inside this rose.
Pouring a slow stream around the
ancient pineapple crowned with spiky fruit,
I thought we would feel old by the year 2000.
Walt Disney thought cars would fly…

My neighbor says anything we plant
in September takes hold.
She’s lining pots of little grasses by her walk.

I want to know the root goes deep
on all that came before,
you could lay a soaker hose across your whole life and know
there was something under layers of packed summer earth
and dry blown grass to moisten.

Soak your roots deeply right now… take a long walk in a part of town you don’t know, pick up a book you’ve thought about reading for years, start a conversation with some unlikely neighbor and let yourself linger through spaces left empty, stare into the distance, rest.  We’ll have much to plant in September, and God willing, the seeds will take hold.


P.S. Many thanks to the 20+ parishioners who attended the Darley Park gathering yesterday afternoon.  We will have a follow-up discussion on Sunday, August 27 following the 10:00 a.m. service.