Reading Week

Next week Seabury celebrates a Reading Week, in which our usual piety and erudition continue, but at a more relaxed pace. No classes, only two services a day, and fewer meetings (an all-day faculty meeting, but hey — you can’t expect to go much more than two months without an all-day faculty meeting). This break comes at a vital time; with half a chance, I can keep up with this term’s obligations, plan ahead for next term, and get a little reading done toward my writing and lecturing obligations.

Even if none of that happens — apart from the all-day faculty meeting, which will happen no matter what — it’ll be a rest. A much-needed rest.

I Thank You

When Florent and the interview team were visiting with me, one of the topics we covered involved what it’s like for a priest to participate in online life. Florent’s question set me to reflecting about “e-Parish” ventures of one sort or another. The projects I’ve read about seem all to have involved replicating, in various ways, the notion of a “parish.”

But that premise relies on the kinds of geographical, physical relationships that online interaction renders supplementary (rather than essential). If something like congregating is going to happen online, it’s not going to happen because someone stakes out a virtual chapel, a virtual coffee hour, a virtual parish membership roll. That picks up the impaired aspects of the physical-world congregation, and makes them the definitive norm for digital congregation. That picks up the stick at the wrong end.

Contrariwise, I’ve found that something much closer to a “congregation” or (in a limited sense) “parish” arises freely in situations where people want to communicate with somebody on a basis that regards their theological identity. Think of the Real Live Preacher’s weblog; that (it seems to me) reflects something much closer to the full sense of “online congregation” than a posited “St. Somebody’s Cyber-Parish.”

And, to bring this around, I’ve found a very parish-like community of people who have offered their time and attention and thoughtfulness to the matters about which I’ written here. Only a small proportion of the people who come to this site profess an active Christian faith; that’s not a problem to my claim, though, because part of my point is that the who’s-in-and-who’s-out game doesn’t have the same compulsory urgency. Over the years, I’ve emailed and chatted and blogged with people about life and death, marriage and divorce, sex and loneliness, God and Jesus and Torah and gods and no-god. I’ve talked to you on the phone, theologized and interceded and just meandered. Sometimes we get together, which is a special treat. I’ve prayed for people who asked me to, and for some who didn’t ask (sorry if I give offense here), and in all these things I’ve felt a keen awareness of our connections to one another — even when I haven’t known your offline name. Sometimes people have checked back in to register a sense of how this connected with their faith, or lack thereof — but that’s entirely beside the point (not to them and me, I mean, but to the notion of “how we are together”). At the heart of what we do together lies the extent to which our connections, yours to me and mine to you, affect us, our hearts and dispositions and actions; those connections don’t reduce in any true way to a simple “in” or “out,” “parish” or “other kind of community” dichotomy. It’s more complicated than that.

That’s different from “being a parish,” you may say — and that’s just my point. It’s an online way of congregating; it makes sense of how we gather and disperse online, and it fits. People who congregate around here accept me as a priest, even if they’re not sure what to make of that. I’m a priest for them, and they’re friends to me — and we make a pretty snazzy congregation, as far as I’m concerned. Better than that ol’ cyber-parish any day, so there!

Still Recouping

I’m working out from underneath my five-day absence from Evanston and my sudden return thereto. I’ve actually gotten a couple of necessary errands done, and met my classes, and had appointments, and so on. Tonight, as soon as I finished my plate of Pippa’s Extreme Red Sauce (and some tube-shaped pasta, not penne), I dashed out to the western subrbs, to St. John’s, Mount Prospect, for an Adult Ed evening discussion. The whole building looked dark, though, and I had a very bad feeling about things. I had traded emails with the rector just this afternoon, and it says right here in my calendar. . . “St. Hilary’s, Prospect Heights.” Oh.

I’d have been fine getting to St. Hilary’s — it is, after all, only one town over from Mt. Prospect — but the road I was taking wove in and out of the edge of Prospect Heights, so when I saw the sing that said I was entering Wheeling, I doubled back. . . then I doubled back again, and discovered that if I stayed northbound a little further than the sign for Wheeling, I’d be back in Prospect Heights. Eventually, finally, I pulled into the church parking lot.

We talked for an hour and a half about biblical interpretation, allegory, and the Temptation in the Wilderness. They were patient and appreciative; I was relieved to roll home and sink down into bed. In just a few minutes I’ll be drifting off to sleep.

Catching Up

I don’t have a particularly good excuse — a time zone change of only two hours, and a day less busy than some — but I’m entirely exhausted. I had meant to post some photos to flickr, and to clear some backed-up email, but I can’t do it.



Home Away From Home

Originally uploaded by AKMA.

I’m back safely, with the kids, without my Valentine — but we had a great weekend together, and sometimes when we looked at the signs around us, it seemed as though we had never been away. . . .

Recap and Return

It’s been a busy weekend, with limited net access, but with lovely times with Margaret and Juliet and John. The wedding-blessing went beautifully; Margaret wrangled some relatives to be a server and an usher, and Juliet and John could think of no reason that their wedding could not be blessed, and everyone could hear me. There was a threat of rain, which would have dampened both flesh and spirit, but the greater climatic threat turned out to be a persistent gusty wind — especially problematic since the communion vessels were light.

Vigilance and piety prevailed over the brute force of nature, and Juliet and John are married in the sight of God as well as of the State of New Jersey. I’ve added the wedding sermon in the “Extended” part of this entry.

Yesterday we spent the morning at the beach, where I did my best to avoid ruining my library pallor while Margaret toasted herself. I did step out into the light to swim around with my goggles on — it was like snorkeling lite, or like a National Geographic video special for the easily terrified. I swam along with a school of fish that looked about as exotic as haddock. In fact, haddock look positively ferocious compared to these innocuous marine travelers. It was a treat, though, to see through the clear water, to swim around with little fishies, and then scamper back to shore to curl up in the shade with a copy of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble. I grudgingly agree, by the way, that Butler ought to write more gracefully; unless I misunderstand her by a long margin, she could have made her points in much more vivid, clear prose.

An Anglican family who had come to the wedding wanted very much for me to bless their home, so Margaret and Juliet and I wandered over to give them a blessing. Their son was particularly concerned that we bless the space under his bed, so I was liberal with the holy water for his sake.

Today we leave for home; Margaret and I separate in Miami, and I’m scheduled arrive home in Chicago at about eleven o’clock (getting back to Evanston around midnight). I’ll be trading marital companionship and tropical leisure for full-time workand broadband access. Hmmmmm. . . .
Continue reading “Recap and Return”


Wedding in five hours.

Sermon done.

House-blessing service compiled and printed (just in case — it’s a long story).

The spambots have been busy, haven’t they?

Miss you. Back soon.

Thin Linking

My Safari window is getting clogged up with pages I wanted to comment on and link to, but which I haven’t found time actually to write about. Some people solve this my putting d.elici.o.u.s links in a sidebar, but I haven’t girded my loins to figure that one out yet. I need to clear the decks, though, so let me point you to:

Adina Levin’s entry on friendship, conversation, communication, “social signals,” and online interaction — a very intriguing contribution to three or four discussions I benefit from.

Scott Matthews and Patrick Ross’s discussions toward a middle way in intellectual property publication, distribution, and remuneration. I’m resistant, not out of my determinedly piratical temperament, but from the sense that Scott’s proposal still owes more to perpetuating obsolescent economic customs than to maximizinng the efficiencies and possibilities of new technologies. But I haven’t taken time to think these over fully, so don8’t mind me.

Shelley’s fantastic overview and exploration of tags, tagging, memes, folksonomies, and how to exploit them. Speaking as someone whose name is already, in effect, a tag, I need to keep listening closely to her.

And in answer to her closing wish, she’s only one good tutorial away. . . .

Dial-Up Interval

If you’ve left a comment, or are looking for constant-updating excitement, or whatever, please be patient. I’m depending on the bandwidth of, well, not “strangers” but people whom I’ve only just met. It’s slow and sporadic here, so I won’t be as available as usual.


Well, it was a long twenty-four hours of travel, but we have arrived safely for Juliet’s wedding. On the plane flight out, however — and this slightly modifies the adverb “safely” — Margaret turned and asked me, “So, how’s the sermon?”

I had been so determinedly focused on grading the stack of papers on my desk before I took off that I had entirely forgotten that I should prepare a homily. So for the time being, I’m thinking evangelical nuptial thoughts, and reminding myself that it’s unkind to preach more than a couple of minutes at this sort of occasion.