President George H. W. Bush, Episcopalian

 
As an Episcopalian, I’m proud that the state funeral for President George H. W. Bush is being held today in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The National Cathedral is the Episcopal cathedral of the Diocese of Washington, and is often considered the nation’s cathedral because many important national events such as this funeral are held in its magnificent space.
 
You can find the bulletin for the service here. Notice that the celebrant is the Most Rev. Michael Curry, our Presiding Bishop, and the service is taken directly from the Book of Common Prayer. In other words, this is the exact same service every Episcopalian is entitled to. It says a lot to me that all people, from Presidents to ordinary people, are viewed the same in the eyes of the church and receive the same dignified words of the Prayer Book. I notice that the final hymn is “Eternal Father, strong to save.”
 
President Bush was a faithful lifelong Episcopalian and a member of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, TX, where he will be remembered in a funeral service tomorrow. May he rest in peace.
 
Bill
 

Advent drawing series

This Advent I would like to share my ink and watercolor drawings for Advent. They’re based on the scripture readings and Collects for the four Sundays of Advent and other ideas related to the theme of Advent.

Advent day 1

Shootings at Tree of Life Synagogue

I am grieving, as we all are, for the victims of the shootings at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania last Saturday. Once again we hear of a radicalized person targeting people of faith in a sacred space.

Once again shock waves of grief and fear are going through the nation as we process the horror of the scene. I am especially fearful for my two nephews who have been raised in the Jewish faith. I wonder, will they suffer harm from members of hate groups?

Today’s lesson from Morning Prayer includes Luke 11:34, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness.”

The shooter appears to be a person who was radicalized by his immersion in hate groups on the internet. The internet harbors some very dark places where evil spreads like a virus. Loners like this shooter enter an echo chamber of lies, conspiracy theories, and hatred.

We must find a way to prevent a tiny minority of hate-filled people to magnify their message through social media. And our nation’s leaders must model responsible language and behavior.

We are all praying for the victims of the shooting and for their families and friends. May God gather them under the shadow of his wings.

Bill

Remembering 9/11

Today is the seventh anniversary of that horrible day, September 11. Every year this day comes up like a bad dream that we just can’t shake off. We’re still not sure how to deal with it as a country.

Many people remind us that we must “never forget.” As if we could forget the terrible shock of learning that airplanes had been turned into flying bombs, and towers into raging infernos. On that day we were shocked into awareness that we had been attacked as a country by enemy combatants.

Other people say, “Why should we continue to stew in our anger and bitterness? It’s time to memorialize the day like other past tragedies and move on. There are more pressing concerns today.”

It seems to me that the grief from September 11 is still too raw for us to let it go. September 11 changed us and things haven’t been the same since. Perhaps the best we can do is remember the dead as Poet Billy Collins did in his poem, “The Names.”

The Names by Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A fine rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.

Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.

In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name —
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.

Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.

I say the syllables as I turn a corner —
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O’Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.

Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening — weakening light, the last swallows.

A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds —
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.

Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.

Alphabet of names in green rows in a field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart