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my fickle bass [sic] attractions

Dylanplaysbass_1Well, it's true that I was deeply attracted to the MusicMan Stingray bass with the extra pickup that I played yesterday. We had a meaningful connection, but it was destined to be a fleeting one.

Here I am playing my new bass -- a Fender Precision Bass Lyte. I found it to be every bit as playable as the Stingray, and with pretty good sound; one was available used locally for what seemed a fair price (MUCH lower than for the Stingray), and I couldn't justify trying to come up with the extra dosh for a more expensive instrument when I'm not sure even whether I'll have folks around me to form a band once I'm done at EDS.

So I took the plunge and bought the bass. Now (I hope) my EDS colleagues and I can do a truly righteous version of "Take Me To the River." I wonder what my bass's name should be?

January 31, 2007 in Music | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

unrequited love

BassOh, I am a fool.

I should have learned my lesson in my youth, when I was perfectly happy with the idea of getting a half-decent Yahama acoustic guitar, and then a well-meaning Young Life youth group leader asked if I wanted to play his much, much better guitar.

I fell in love.

And that guitar has made me happy for many years. Why did I look elsewhere? I mean, why, other than that my seminary (like so many other places I've been) has more than enough talented instrumentalists for a band, save for a bass player? And that I've always thought bass was kind of cool and fun, and that I've for years had an irrational attachment to Tina Weymouth?

I've been shopping for cheap used basses, which is reasonable enough. Then I had the reasonable idea that I should go to a good music store and play a bunch of basses so I had a better idea of what I liked and would be looking for.

And there it was: the MusicMan bass with the extra pickup. I have no idea why: I could hardly play the Fender Jazz bass that I thought I'd be looking for a cheap knockoff of, but it felt like the MusicMan sang in my hands. I decided a five-string bass might be nice, given that my hands (with pretty decent reach for a girl -- I'm sorry to say that femininity does often make for smaller hands than many men have) aren't as big as Adam Clayton's.

Well, trust me to decide that I suck at playing all basses except one costing over a thousand dollars.

I think it's back to the plan of doing bass lines on a MIDI keyboard -- being able to get that would be a stroke of luck in in itself.

I did buy a couple of slides for my guitar, though; I'm working on a cantor-and-congregation arrangement for psalms of exile in which the congregational refrain is based on "Motherless Chil'."

January 30, 2007 in Music | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

welcoming materials that are actually welcoming


This sign (via Creating Passionate Users, a blog of which I'm a huge fan) from the Sydney Botanic Gardens would be a wonderful model for welcoming materials for congregations, wouldn't it? What if we looked at such materials -- signs outdoors, brochures in the narthex, welcome messages in the bulletins, and even (or especially!) rubrics in the order of service not as "Keep Out!" signs marking off what people ought NOT to do, but as warm invitations to experience and enjoy God's presence in the community?

January 30, 2007 in Churchiness | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


A lot of people are talking about Donnie Davies, whose video for a song he calls "The Bible Says" (although the chorus of it consists pretty much of "God hates fags/ and if you're a fag / he hates you too"). I first saw it via Salon.com's "Video Dog" column, but I see that now StandFirm has picked it up as well, with some mostly solid advice for Davies' career.

I'll add to what StandFirm has said by cautioning them that when they advise him, "under no circumstances give up your day job," they neglect to note that if this guy is telling the truth, his day job is that HE'S A YOUTH MINISTER. That I believe he ought to quit, pending his receiving intensive psychotherapy at length (and, of course, the biblical education that StandFirm advocates for him as well).

I'd also like to note this bit of wisdom from Davies' page of information on "C.H.O.P.S." ("Changing Homosexuals into Ordinary People") program, which he's offering to the world so that people like me can become more like him:

"Oscar Wilde, my hero, was a reformed homosexual. He went to prison for his sins. Once he was alone with his thouhgts, in jail, he saw the errors of his ways and repented. He died as a Christian. While I'm not advocating jailing all Homosexuals, I do think it would benefit them greatly. It would be for their own good. When a person is forced to think they will generally be able to see their problems and solve them by themselves."

Yes, he's serious. He really thinks that Oscar Wilde is a "Reformed Homosexual," as his "ministry's" (or is that "record label's" -- he calls it both) homepage makes clear.

God made us all and loves us all, even though some of us manage to get really, really messed up.

January 24, 2007 in Churchiness, Music, Silliness | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

ask the squirrel

Are life's questions weighing heavily on you?

Do you need clear answers to today's problems?

Ask EZ, the Answer Squirrel!

... And then stop by WonderCafé, for which this spot was created.

Brilliant, no? I wish The Episcopal Church did this kind of promotion -- inexpensive and with a sense of humor. Heck, I wish The Episcopal Church invited a bunch of us who have done "viral marketing" to get together (online, even) and brainstorm resources we could generate for Episcobloggers and others to use to start conversations and spark thought. Such a brainstorm could have impact far beyond what its low budget requirements would suggest to people used to models like traditional television advertising.

Hat tip to Steve at Biblische Ausbildung.

January 24, 2007 in Churchiness | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

state of the union

Is it just me, or is it ASTONISHING that the State of the Union address closed with a generic "God bless," and not even a "God bless America"?

Under a different president, I might have taken this to be a statement against nationalism: "God bless God's children," or "God bless the world with justice and peace."

I can't believe that was the intent here.

It's a head-scratcher.

January 23, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

a friend in the blogosphere

In August, I had a brief chat about the wonders of Typepad with one of my new neighbors who was thinking of starting a blog. Start one she did, and it's well worth checking out. B.K. Hipsher's "In My Lifetime" -- an important voice from someone as insightful as she is sensible, and who's deeply passionate about God's Good News.

January 23, 2007 in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

idle b-day trivia

There are at least two famous Anglicans with whom I share a birthday.

I'm pleased to say that I share my birthday with Li Tim-Oi, the first woman ordained as priest in the Anglican Communion.

I also share a birthday with character actor Ann B. Davis, best known for playing "Alice" in The Brady Bunch.

Among non-Anglicans, I understand that I share birthdays with Søren Kirkegaard and with Karl Marx.

Perhaps for some people one or more of these points will explain a lot about my career. I take it with vast quantities of salt, but it's kind of fun.

January 22, 2007 in Just for Fun | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

coq au vin, episode III: the return of the lard croutons

When last we met our coq au vin, its sauteed mushrooms, browned pearl onions, and lard croutons (AKA salt pork, cubed and cooked until crispy and golden brown) were in a Tupperware container in my fridge, which also held my 9.5 quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, in which the seasoned, floured, and browned chicken thigh meat was soaking in two bottles of pinot noir, along with a carrot, a celery stalk, an onion, and a nice dose of garlic.

Two days later (it only needed to marinade overnight, but we wanted for various reasons to postpone coq au vin night, and I figured that additional time to marinade would probably improve the dish), the Dutch oven went into a 325-degree oven for a little over two hours, at which point I scooped out the chicken from the mix, turned the oven down to warm, and put the chicken back in the oven in a covered stainless steel pan. The liquid from the gigantic Dutch oven was then strained into a small Dutch oven to make the sauce, which required reducing and thickening it. It seemed a little too salty to me, so I also added some more wine.

Fifteen minutes before dinner, I put some pasta (we elected to go with whole wheat rotini rather than the traditional egg noodles -- I wanted something a little more robust) on to cook, and I added the mushroom/pearl onion/lard crouton mix to the now-reduced sauce. Four minutes before dinner, I put some frozen organic green beans in the microwave to steam (after going to as much effort as I did on the coq au vin, I was feeling not atypically lazy about the vegetable). At dinner time, the pasta went to the center of our plates, ringed with the green beans. Chicken rested on the pasta, and I ladled the sauce over it and garnished each plate with some fresh thyme.

The result was, I think, delicious. I wouldn't want to make coq au vin every day. I think it would go much more quickly the second time through, and I think that it's a good company dish in that most of the culinary heavy lifting gets done at least a day ahead of time; as long as you're home at least three hours before company arrives for dinner (something that's not at all a problem for a seminarian on winter break, though most of my friends could only do that for a Saturday evening gathering), there's not much that's difficult to do on the day you're going to eat the coq au vin. On the other hand, cubing salt pork is rather unpleasant, in my opinion. It's dense to cut through, and then it sticks pretty tenaciously to the knife. It's also got gritty salt throughout, which gets in the numerous tiny and shallow cuts that any chef is likely to have and not normally notice. I think the dish would be easier to do, though probably not as tasty, with slab bacon, and I think I might experiment with other moves that would make the dish easier to make. As with stews generally, it's that wonderful combination of tasty, comforting, satisfying, and (since it actually requires tougher chicken) relatively cheap to make. If I come up with a recipe that manages to compress prep time (and refrigerator space required -- that's always at a premium in our house), I'll post it.

January 19, 2007 in Cooking | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

the church's wholeness and my agenda

In the past, when I've been asked why church unity, and therefore inter-Anglican and ecumenical dialogue, are important, the first words out of my mouth are usually a summary of Paul's ecclesiology of the church as one Body of Christ with many members of distinct gifts and vocations cooperating to further God's mission in the world.

That's an honest answer, as well as a natural one for someone dissertating on St. Paul to make. Still, I haven't in past conversations done justice, I think, to something that's a more personal motivation for me.

I have a high view of the church. I was just skimming an evangelical critique of Emergent Village in which the writer (Brett Kunkle) expressed dismay and perhaps even shock that a Christian leader (Doug Paggitt, in this case, in his book Re-imagining Spiritual Formation) would suggest that the bible is authoritative because the church has found and continues to find it so, when in Kunkle's view, "Our communities do not confer authority upon the Bible. The Bible is authoritative because of the kind of book it is," that "kind of book" being, in Kunkle's view, "the very word of God" -- a single genre populated by a grand total of one volume.

I have intellectual objections to that kind of argument, to be sure -- like what on earth it could mean for the bible to be "the very word of God" if no community had ever experienced it as such. How could the words of the bible have meaning if no one read or understood it? I suppose that arguments along the lines of what I'm saying here are very unlikely to be taken up by someone to whom "postmodern" is almost a synonym for being heretical, godless, and/or having no ethical standards whatsoever.

I also have a more intuitive and, for me anyway, more important objection to what Kunkle is saying: I don't think it demeans the authority of scripture in the least to say that it's an authority derived from the authority of the gathered church of God because I have a very high view of the Church. By that I don't mean that I believe that whenever Christians gather in council they do what is both right and loving; I've read too much history and been burned too many times personally to think any such thing. What I mean is that God works through human beings, and particularly through human beings gathered in community, and therefore that we who call ourselves Christians ought both to strive to live into that language of church as "the Body of Christ" -- a metaphor we hear so often as to be too often jaded rather than jolted by it -- and to have faith that as we seek to do that, God will work within and among us to make it real, to empower us to be Christ's presence and to do Jesus' work in the world.

And therefore I'd argue that saying that our scriptures are authoritative because the Church has found and continues to find them so is a very high view of scripture if we have a very high view of the Church. But after a bit of head-scratching as to why Kunkle seems to find this patently objectionable, even offensive, or practically heretical, I found myself saying, "well, I guess that's why I'm more Anglo-Catholic than evangelical."

At the same time, though, some of my sensibilities are decidedly evangelical. I believe that Jesus gathered communities specifically by calling upon individuals to decide for themselves, as individuals, to follow him. That kind of call to women and men to make such decisions for themselves was in some ways even more counter-cultural in first-century Palestine than it is in the 21st-century United States. The cultures in which Jesus taught and healed were profoundly patriarchal, and more explicitly so than ours. Patriarchy isn't the rule of all men over all women, but of some men (patriarchs) over everyone. When Jesus said, "follow me," he didn't add, "... if that's acceptable to your father, of course"; he said, "follow me and let the dead bury the dead."

That call could and often did mean abandoning family, as the canonical gospels show Jesus saying explicitly in a number of ways. It was profoundly counter-cultural to call upon men and women to make such a decision, received by some as Good News and others as unparalleled chutzpah or even (in suggesting that GOD acts this way) blasphemy. So, in my view, it's not crazy or awful to speak today of a "personal decision to follow Jesus." I would dare say that while it's silly and unhelpful to insist on that particular language no matter how meaningless it is within a particular cultural context, inviting persons to make a personal decision is a necessary part of what we sometimes call "evangelism."

The emphasis in my understanding of the Good News on individuals needing to make personal decisions is, I think, decidedly evangelical. Where I think many (but by no means all) evangelicals are misguided is in speaking of "a personal decision for Christ" as not necessarily involving more than saying a particular prayer or kind of prayer and in speaking of that decision as something we do only once. I do it all the time. Just about every time I spend money or don't spend it and every time I have a conversation with someone, I am deciding whether and how to follow Jesus. I love a track ("Mercy") that U2 recorded and has yet to release officially, that ends with the lyrics, "I'm alive / Baby I'm born again -- and again, and again, and again and again and again." Yes, when we use and never critique the lens of Western individualism, language of "a personal decision" and being "born again" can take us in unhelpful directions -- for example, to a political passivity ("it's all gonna burn") that aids oppressors and ignores the oppressed. We should never mistake individual piety for the fullness of discipleship, but I think that the "personal decision" language is sometimes and even often helpful.

So I have profound sympathies with both Anglo-Catholic and evangelical concerns, though I often suspect that to evangelicals I seem more Anglo-Catholic and to Anglo-Catholics I seem far too evangelical. Either way, I feel most at home in communities and traditions that include both. When evangelicals or Anglo-Catholics leaving The Episcopal Church, I feel a personal sense of loss; I find myself thinking, "crap -- there goes someone I wanted to learn more from," as well as "drat -- it's going to be much harder for us to accomplish things in God's mission without that person." Even strictly in terms of my own agenda in church politics, I lose out when people leave The Episcopal Church -- I'm losing an ally in advocating for biblical literacy, or for beautiful and excellent liturgy, or for justice for the poor, or for other things, and most likely in multiple categories. I guess that's what happens when you're a charismatic Anglo-Catholic evangelical progressive. And I know that for personal as well as theological reasons, I'd like it to happen less often.

January 19, 2007 in Churchiness | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack