Thursday, May 26, 2011

Walkabout for Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop Candidates -- Collington

On Wednesday, May 25th, I attended a walkabout at Collington. The focus of this walkabout was specifically on concerns for seniors and retirees.

The afternoon session began with the question about how the candidates would minister to diversity.

John Harmon spoke first. He expressed the thought that diversity should be more than mere tolerance. There is a need to communicate well. People must live together, not just visit.

Mariann Budde spoke next. She first became really aware of how different people could be when her second son was born. They were -- and are -- very different from one another. She noted that living in tension makes us sicker. We need to embrace our different communities and live into the fullness of our uniqueness.

Jane Gould spoke next. She feels called to be bishop because of diversity. She recognizes she serves a very diverse church. Young people meet elders in her very diverse parish. In her parish there is a need for communications across generations and racial differences. They also have partnerships with other, different congregations.

Ronald Abrams spoke next. He has done congregational work in a black church. He personally loves diversity in all its ways. It must be nurtured. He would create a bishop's lunch to bring together groups of clergy and a wardens' dinner to bring together groups of lay leadership.

Samuel Candler addressed us next. He mentioned that he grew up in a small church where diversity was the rule. The more diverse the church, the more you learn about God. He quoted Mother Teresa when she was asked by a young person what they could do, Mother Terese replied "Smile at the people you live with."

The audience now asked questions. The first was about gays being elected to high positions.

Samuel Candler said he supported same sex unions but also supported the world wide community -- which has members who do not.

Jane Gould spoke next. She signed the vote for Gene Robinson. She noted she served in a diverse community with varying views on this issue. She noted that one church leader in Africa had six wives but was still welcomed into the church. We must struggle with this issue every day.

John Harmon answered next. No one's gift should be denied. We need to connect with those who have different views.

Ronald Abrams spoke next. He was personally mentored ans supported by all kinds of clergy. Our broad and wide commitment to Christ is what brings us together. What we have together is greater than what we have apart.
One questioner asked about the breakdown of respect for divergent points of views.

John Harmon has met with most congregations in this diocese. He noted we must act on the views of the majority, but respect those who differ.

Samuel Candler commented that the antidote to bad behavior is to model right behavior.

Ronald Abrams cited examples of people working together.

Jane Gould observed that we must take moral positions in the larger community while respecting differences. She observed that government and political leaders have lost the sensibility that we have more in common than in difference.

Marian Budde said that is one reason why she wants the church to grow. We can help set the tone.

Financial matters were also the subject of one question. Budde said it was necessary to rebuild some congregations. Gould said that people give to what is most transformative in their lives. Candler said much the same thing. Harmon said people give to enterprises that reach the larger generation. Abrams said people must give out to the community and that is is important to bring out all parts of the community. Budde said it is important to listen to our elders because they have learned much. Harmon noted that it is important to listen to all groups. Candler said this his church had started a retirement home for seniors on low fixed incomes. He added that elders have wisdom. Gould noted that we need to help our elders. Addressing structural problems in our society is important.

I almost certainly missed some things. I will observe, again, that the candidates responded in similar ways to the variety of communities that they met. That, I will add, is quite expected and good. A candidate for bishop should be open and honest with all.

Once again, I did put some photos up on Flickr. You can find them as Bishop Walkabout, Collington.

I hope these notes and photos help people.

There is a good chance I will write my thoughts on this blog in the next few days -- perhaps a week or so. I will comment that all five candidates seem to be personally good people with sharp, open minds. I do expect that those who oppose women in priesthood would be happy to have the two women candidates as members, even lay leaders. I can't be sure of that, though.

Walkabout for Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop Candidates -- Washington Episcopal School

I also attended the walkabout on Tuesday evening, May 24th, for the bishop candidates. this one was held at the Washington Episcopal School. This school seems quite interesting. It runs from kindergarten through 8th grade. Some parents started this school because they thought that the existing offerings -- especially public -- left much to be desired. I did have a pleasant, albeit brief, chat with one man who was on the school's faculty.

Once again, the meeting began with the five candidates being asked one question. The question was "What experiences have you had that equip you to be Bishop of Washington?"

John Harmon was the first to answer. He made some key points:

  • He is completely the product of Episcopalian education.
  • He has good leadership skills.
  • He has a great love of people and God.
  • He has helped address the HIV problem as a leader of over 100 clergy with concerns.
  • He has done significant fund raising.

Samuel Candler was the second respondent. Among his points were:

  • He is a product of small towns.
  • He has led two major churches in the past 17 years.
  • He is attuned to both the conservative and liberal versions of Christianity.
  • He has met challenges by taking risks.
  • He praised his family. He learned much from listening to his mother.
  • He commented that we can be a great church for the entire Anglican communion.

Jane Gould spoke next. She made the points that:

  • She grew up in the DC area and attended college in California.
  • People have described her as a smart jock.
  • She is fed by diversity.
  • She brings people together in communities and encourages their gifts.

Mariann Budde was the fourth speaker. Points she made included:

  • There are many ways of being Christian. The Episcopal Church is particularly good at that.
  • She came of age as a young volunteer helping the poor.
  • She has led her current parish for 18 years, leading them to serve others.
  • Words are not enough. There must be actions as well.
  • She loves the Episcopal Church.

Ronald Abrams was the final speaker. He made some strong points:

  • He is a product of the Episcopal Church.
  • He grew up in a multicultural environment in New York.
  • When he was 15 his 20 year old brother died of Hodgkin's. The community helped in so many ways that it led him to commit his life to the church.
  • He has served in a variety of communities ranging from the Hamptons to Fayetteville to a military community.

We then moved to breakout rooms to question the candidates individually. One difference this evening from St. Mary's was that the groups were larger and more equally divided.

The first candidate in my room was Samuel Candler. He made a number of points in answer to various questions. Among them were:

  • We must have the support of the community in reaching out to the larger church.
  • One the topic of same sex unions he favors them greatly. He added, though, that you did not have to agree with him to be a part of the community.
  • Listening to people is important.
  • A bishop should learn one distinctive thing about each parish.
  • The number of parishes is dropping. We need to reverse that trend.
  • In response to a question about resolving conflict, he mentioned that in 2003 he gave a speech at our general convention favoring same sex unions. When he got home, he engaged his parish with an open, engaging conversation. His parish has 6000 members.
  • Regarding college ministries he said that the diocese should not duplicate college ministries of parishes but support said ministries.
  • I asked him to tell a good joke. I found his response funny. I suspect, though, that the people running the session did not completely appreciate what I did because, when I held my hand up to do the same for other candidates, I was politely ignored.

The next candidate we interviewed was Mariann Budde. Among her points were:

  • She endorses the report made about Washington National Cathedral.
  • Her parish was failing when she arrived. Her predecessor and lay leaders began its revival. She continued that work. It is important to not define yourself by what you don't have, but by what you do. Her current parish has become a "big sister" to parishes currently struggling.
  • It is important for the bishop to learn the strengths of various parishes.
  • When asked about personal strengths, she mentioned her high energy, a great love of the complexity of humans and a lack of fear of other faiths.
  • She sees a sea change happening in the episcopate. The church is at a critical juncture. Parishes need attention. this is a collective era of renewal.
  • Raising the profile of the church is important. Most people had no idea about what the Episcopal Church stood for or did. Her diocese began to address this problem by putting up billboards.

Ronald Abrams was the next speaker. He mentioned several important things, including:

  • New technologies are important and can help, but one on one approach is best.
  • He has seen breakdowns in communications.
  • You can't get communion through TV.
  • He supports same sex unions.
  • It is important to be collegial in working with staff. Trust must be built. It can't be done through micromanagement. His door is always open.
  • When someone in his current congregation has a loss, the church community steps forward together to help.

John Harmon was the next candidate to appear. He spoke to similar concerns. He noted that, while he supported same sex unions, it was necessary to work with all, whether they agreed or not.

Jane Gould was the last to speak. She did mention briefly that some deacons had unhealthy work life balances.

You will note that I did not do much note taking for the last two candidates. It was not because of a lack of interest or unwillingness to report. It was, in good part, because the questions the candidates were asked were very similar to the questions asked at St. Mary's with similar responses. In short,I got tired of note taking.

I did do some photographs of this event. You can find them on Flickr as Bishop Walkabout, Washington Episcopal School.

I hope people find this report and the photographs helpful.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Walkabout for Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop Candidates -- St. Mary's

For any readers of this blog who are not familiar with my commitment to the Episcopal Church, let me begin with a few comments. I am what is called a "cradle Episcopalian." My family has been Episcopalian or Anglican for centuries. Culturally the church has influenced me all my life and has helped make me a better person. It also provides a place where I can turn for all kinds of interactions, advice, etc. I truly appreciate the fact that we limit authority in democratic ways -- especially in the United States. That is very important to me because for the past few decades we've seen an assault on democratic freedoms in the United States that troubles me greatly. In the Episcopal Church we do have some rather intense controversies at present -- but even antagonists seem to get along better in the church than antagonists do in the larger world.

I attended the walkabout session for the new Episcopal Diocese of Washington at St. Mary's on Monday evening. All five candidates were there along with enough people to fill St. Mary's nave. I arrived around 6:30 PM, in time to catch the end of the reception in another room. The session began with the five candidates addressing one question. The question was "How might you seek to improve the life of the diocese?"

Marianne Budde was the first to respond. She expressed the thoughts that:

  • The World and God need us to be as strong as possible.
  • Health and vitality of churches is important so that other things can be done.
  • Clergy and lay wellness is important. Some have left leadership positions because of health.
  • Vision is important. The episcopate must nurture it.
  • We must share and expand joy.

Samuel Candler was the next to speak. He also spoke about health. Among his thoughts were:

  • We should pay attention to healthy congregations.
  • We should use healthy churches as models we can learn from.
  • Communication is important.
  • Healthy dioceses need healthy parishes, leaders and communities.
  • One thing he has seen help is weekly Bible study.

The next speaker was Ronald Abrams. His first main point was that we have sometimes lost people because of issues with various relationships. He favors clergy luncheons, among other things, to build relationships.

John Harmon was the next to speak. He currently serves in this diocese. One important point he made was that we need to work out in the community to make the community healthier. He also notes that Washington has all that is needed for healthy communities

The final speaker was Jane Gould. She is currently a chaplain at MIT. I will try to not let that influence my views too much. In that role she has brought together Episcopalian faculty, staff and students to help them work and live together better. She has also reached out to members of other faiths as well.

After these necessarily brief introductory speeches, we broke up into several groups. I was lucky enough to be assigned to a breakout room with a small number of people. In our room it was easy to ask questions of the candidates. Some members of our group made a point of asking one identical question of each of the candidates. I, as you might expect, varied my question from one candidate to another.

The first candidate in my room was Jane Gould. Among the points I managed to note were:

  • It is necessary to see what relationships are life giving.
  • When queried about politics, she observed:

    • She respected politicians.
    • She understood how politics worked.
    • She has stories about real people to help others understand politics.

  • Magic is necessary to construct strong communities. People need to sacrifice at times.
  • It is necessary for dioceses to have multiple income streams.
  • For work with youth at risk, secular funding is available.
  • She briefly mentioned the Technology Forum. She noted that:

    • The people there engaged in talk about people.
    • The tech crowd that she knew was more thoughtful and had a deeper faith commitment.

  • The Walker School was important.

The second candidate to come to our room was Samuel Candler. Among his points were:

  • He has worked with politicians in South Carolina and Georgia where he now is.
  • Views in the Episcopal Church are more comprehensive than any one position.
  • Our identity as a church must go beyond any one position.
  • We need to keep young people involved. Open weekly sessions would help this.
  • We need to give. People give to places where they have had a transformative experience.
  • The church should speak up for the working class.
  • Priests need to build on community.
  • Bishops need to understand parishes and priests.

The third candidate was Mariann Budde. Among her points were:

  • She is involved in politics.
  • Lay leaders should be built up.
  • Minnesota has money problems. It is necessary to meet that challenge.
  • The church needs to reach out to young people on their own terms.
  • People should be proud of their churches.

The fourth candidate was Ron Abrams. Among his points were:

  • The primary responsibility of the bishop is to be pastor to the clergy and laity.
  • He sees the need to strengthen parishes.
  • A "Theology Pub" is one way he reached out to people.
  • We need to engage the youth in ministry.
  • We need to get people to coniser a vocation in church.

The fifth and final candidate was John Harmon of our diocese. Among his points were:

  • Clergy must called to the position.
  • There are no incompetent clergy -- just mismatched clergy and churches.
  • It is important to know what people bring to their churches.
  • Among other things, he is chaplain to the National Science Foundation
  • He will invite political leaders to support the mission of the church.
  • He has worked with the City Council on education.
  • Congregations should be mission minded.
  • Churches need to be actively involved in their communities.
  • Democratic style leadership is important.
  • Social media is important, but we must be faithful.
    It is more important to be faithful than right.

That pretty much concludes what I heard Monday evening. I may follow up with some reactions of my own in a later post. I am writing these blog items to let people know what was discussed at the walkabout meetings. Generally, I will say I am glad these people are involved in the Episcopal Church. I hope even those who disagree with some of their positions as well as the fact that two of them are women will still see the candidates more positively than not. I will note that, when I was growing up in New Jersey, women were welcomed into church leadership, just not as clergy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

An Interesting Weekend

This weekend has been quite interesting.

Friday evening was taken up by the Philosophical Society of Washington Joseph Henry lecture. The speaker, one Debra Elmegreen of Vassar College and President of the American Astronomical Society, discussed the astronomical decadal survey. It was a most interesting evening.

Saturday's big event was the Metro Washington Mensa's Leadership Development Workshop. I was surprised to discover from Loren Kropat that Roberts' Rules of Order dated to only the end of the 19th Century, when an engineer by the name of Roberts who made a career of the Army (winding up with Brigadier General rank) wrote the rules to help people run meetings. The original book has expanded more than 10 fold in the past century plus.

Sunday was taken up with three events. The day began with Banner Sunday at St. Mark's. I will put in a link to photos later. Lunch time at St. Mark's was given to a terrific celebration of Jan Hoffman's 90th birthday. She does not seem anywhere near 90. We are all happy to have her as a member. I will put in a link to the photos when they are organized as well.

The last event of the day was the Metro Washington Mensa monthly New Members Open House. Donna Campbell hosted a wonderful event that brought together several friends. At one point I offered myself up for adoption to Donna. Hey, I am an orphan.

More later when I am not so busy.

Monday looks like the start of an interesting political week.

Friday, May 20, 2011

DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous, May 19, 2011

Thursday evening I attended the fourth DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER) at the Keck Center of the National Academies. I've attended three of the events so far. It's now not only on my calendar for the third Thursday of the month, I have also put the event on the Metro Washington Mensa calendar as a recurring event. I also plan on publicizing this event in other fora where people know me.

When I arrived shortly before 6 PM I was given a name badge, a program and a survey to fill out. Since there were few people around, I took some time to view the exhibition of pieces that connect art and science on display in the halls around the meeting room. The show is quite intriguing. I recommend that people in the DC area make the attempt to see this exhibit. While the Keck Center is normally open only during regular business hours, it is possible to see the show while attending DASER.

The session began with people from the audience who are doing something that brings together science and art in some way. One couple mentioned an interest in astronomy in art. I introduced myself to them at the networking event after the more formal part of the meeting. Mangala Sharma of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Thomas Statler OF NSF are both astronomers and are married to each other. I did mention my Flickr site with the art I think they will find interesting. They were friendly and also know Zoltan Levy whom I met through the Bowie-Crofton Camera Club.

JD Talasek, Director of Cultural Programs, began by showing X rays and art. It was interesting seeing how this technology -- little more than a century old -- has impacted art and vice versa.

The first panel speaker, Harry Abramson of Direct Dimensions, described his company's main business of developing computer models of various technologies. NASA is one big customer. Interaction with artists has definitely affected the company. The different ways that artists approach reality provides a stimulating contrast to engineering views. He spoke at some length about Leonardo's Horse. That sculpture was, apparently, done by the Renaissance great Leonardo da Vinci and copied later by others. Direct Dimension's computer models showed both the similarities (great) and differences among the various sculptures.

The next speaker, Zeev Rosensweig, a chemistry professor, began his comments by noting that the creativity of artists and scientists is similar in many ways. Both groups approach complex systems in interesting ways. The groups, though, will use different words and phrases for the same phenomena.

The next speaker, Michael Chorost, is a science writer. After he became deaf, had hearing restored via a computer implant. He thinks that this is the future of humanity. He has written a book titled "World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet." The book advances the thesis that the Internet will reshape how humanity not only communicates but also works and lives together. He has noted, though, that people are less able to be intimate with one another currently. We are also less able to work with each other.

The final presenter, one Randall Parker, joined with the deaf since birth actor Robin Shannon in a joint effort showing how the two men could communicate and interact with each other. This presentation made me wish I had brought my camera. This presentation was, to me, very visual.

One questioner, Sheila Macdonald, is a lobbyist the Population Strategies Group, who's read Kurzweil's "the Coming Singularity" with some interest. She has seen things get worse in the past 40 years on Capitol Hill. People today are increasingly divided and hostile to one another. Moderation has been abandoned.

All in all it was an interesting evening. I am looking forward to future DASERs. I hope I can interest other people that I know in attending same.

The TV Show Sherlock Holmes

Yesterday when I was reading the obituary section of the Washington Post, I made an interesting discovery. I am a bit of a fan of the British show Sherlock Holmes. Here in the DC area one may watch said show on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) station WETA on Thursday evenings at 8 PM. Yesterday the Post reported on the death of Edward Hardwicke, son of Cedric Hardwicke and Helena Pickard. He played Dr. Watson on the show for a number of years. I did not realize the show dated to the 1980s and 1990s. Jeremy Brett, who played Holmes, died in 1995.

This shows that, while I know a good bit about England, I have some interesting blind spots, even about things that attract my attention quite favorably.

You can see the Post obituary on the web.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

England and Me

I've done a good bit of thinking lately about the British Isles -- home to my ancestors on both sides of my family. One of the reasons why I am doing this is a silly Facebook test I took a few months ago. It claimed I would be living in the UK in 5 years time.

Another, more serious, reason is a blog I discovered soon after the Tucson killings involving Gabrielle Giffords back in January. After sending an e-mail to my English cousins Harry and Anita Lawton, I simply Googled "Tucson killings England." I was looking to see how people in England reported on this tragedy and what reactions they had. One blog I did discover this way was Arden Forester's. He describes himself as conservative with a slight libertarian touch. One of the things that really stood out about his blog is his criticism of "covert corporatism." He is quite critical of the corporate elites that take too large salaries for their work and harm the larger community by doing things like Cadbury did -- closing down a profitable factory in England in order to shift production to a factory where they could get higher profits. I've seen the same thing done too often in too many places. The end result of this kind of behavior is weaker communities and, surprisingly, business problems down the road that weaken the businesses that do such things. For example, when a business such as GE fires thousands of engineers in the 1980s, young people in college will turn away from engineering careers in very large numbers, as they did for many years and now seem to be doing again. Who wants to do a large amount of difficult work for no reward? Then there is the Harvard Business School which sent its best graduates to one firm which it wrote up glowingly in its publications. What was the firm? Enron.

I don't know how well Arden Forester and I would get along in we lived a few blocks apart in the same town and ran into each other at a local pub, but my perception of people in England is that even people who disagree strongly about some things still are friendly in others. That's something that has changed for the worse in the U.S., alas, in recent decades. My Eisenhower Republican parents said of Democrats that they were fine people with whom they had some disagreements. Their friends who were Democrats said the same sort of thing about their Republican friends.

There are other reasons why I am increasingly interested in England. I was surprised to find out a few months ago that there is more equality in the UK these days than in the U.S. Our elites have been very busy concentrating more and more wealth and power in their hands. There are less quantifiable things. Via PBS I have been able to see over the decades a good bit of British TV. It's how I discovered Doctor Who back in the 1970s. These days I manage to see things like Sherlock Holmes -- even a newer version -- and Hercule Poirot. I find those shows much more interesting that American crime dramas. One of the shows that started turning me against American crime shows was Kojak back in the 1970s. Kojak was little better than a criminal with a badge. Even some people in the real New York City Police Department said that. Now, of course, I can catch many British shows via BBC America on cable.

I have enjoyed my trips to England over the years. I get to meet friendly relatives. They even once took me to see an English football match. When a radio reporter started talking to one of my cousins, he said to him that he should talk to me. I managed to give a friendly American's reaction to an important match.

I've been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A group is trying to get something similar started here in DC. I still remember catching "Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens" back in 1995. There were some very serious shows as well.

I've also been more than a bit involved in the Hash House Harriers. I discovered this group because a T shirt I saw while running the Marine Corps Marathon back in 1996 amused me. Imagine seeing a T shirt saying "White House Hash House Harriers -- The Drinking Club with a Running Problem" while you and the other runner are at mile 17. It was only after I joined in 1998 that I found out about its British roots and sometimes British sense of humor. (Or should I write "humour?")

Being a life long Episcopalian might also have something to do with my inclinations as well. While our church is currently going through a period of some conflict, we are still managing to do alright. We are also starting to address our challenges and will become stronger and better for it. I see some very interesting possibilities for healthy growth in Diocese of Washington, DC. People in my church are also starting to pay attention to some of the demands on people in general that are quite unreasonable. Working 100 hours/week is not dedication. It is a formula for burnout.

That's enough for now. I most likely will return to this topic in the future.