Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Acts of purposeful kindness

It's been 12 days since Mom died. She won't be buried up north until weekend after next, with a graveside ceremony. It seems like too long a time to wait for the comfort of a service.

Father M came to the rescue, with a great touch of kindness. He called me last week and suggested a memorial service at the church, with my church family and friends around me.

I was covering a city council meeting when the call came in. I cried all the way home. This was such a kind, thoughtful thing to do. There's no one at church who ever even met my mother. Nevertheless, we'll have a service.

It will make me feel much better. I'll have a safe place to mourn, and the communion of saints to surround my mother -- and me -- in a service that's meaningful to me. I'll be fortified to make the trip for the other service, where I'll have the chance to see some family and friends I haven't seen in a very long time.

Strange things

This happened the morning my mother died. I was in the kitchen, making coffee, a little after 7 a.m. I heard the words come out of my mouth, "It's time to go now, Mom."

I was horrified. I didn't know what made me say that. It wasn't up to me to decide when Mom's time had come. I prayed, and told God I was sorry; I know such things are in his hands.

A couple of hours later I got the call mom had died, a little after 6 a.m. That was Central time -- it would have been a little after 7 a.m. Eastern time, here.

There are more things in heaven and earth than our philosophies have dreamed of, and the veil can be very thin, indeed.

When I got the word, I already had a measure of comfort, because it was affirmed to me: God is in charge, and Mom is with him. I could release her to the safety of his hands.

This comfort remains with me.


What an incredibly beautiful service. Everything was perfect -- the music, Father M's homily, the reception. I was overwhelmed by the love of Christ surrounding me.

The altar, ready for the service, with flowers and a photo of Mom Father M. enlarged for the display. I love the old chapel at the church (dating from the 1890's), with its stained-glass image of Jesus the shepherd, carrying a lamb close to his heart.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Trying to buy a bishop

Something stinks in the Diocese of Central Florida, and it isn't just the fish.

A couple of priests reported from a clergy meeting Sept. 10.

One said,"The information is shocking to many of us. The short summary is that an effort has been made to 'buy out' the Bishop or give him a 'golden parachute' to retire in an attempt to take the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church. The information we have from our meeting last week is that five of the Anglican Communion Network Bishops are preparing to take their dioceses out of the Episcopal Church after October 1, 2007. The other five Anglican Communion Network Bishops (including Bishop Howe) are not leaving. Bishop Howe has also said that he has no plans to retire.

Another priest reported the bishop didn't come to the Sept. 10 meeting of priests who want to stay Episcopal, held at the diocesan retreat center, so priests could speak freely, but he will be present at future meetings with this group.

Canon Ernest Bennett was at the meeting, and made a presentation. He had consulted with Bishop Howe on his talk before the meeting.

Canon Bennett referred to "those who see things differently" as "the

"He went into some detail about how we need to speak respectfully," the report stated.

It went on:

"15-22 Rectors and Vestries in the Diocese have talked in one way or
another about leaving the Episcopal Church (ECUSA). 17 Central Florida Anglican Communion Network (ACN) parishes are thinking of leaving ECUSA on October 1. The Bishop is now being told that there is no firm date to leave, which is technically true. When asked if they will leave, the answer is, 'Not Yet.' Canon Bennett indicated that this is like one spouse saying to another, "I will not divorce you yet.'"

"The Chancellor (Butch) [Wooten] has said that congregations cannot leave, that
clergy and parishioners can leave."

"An overall strategy of 'The Twenty' has been to always deal at the highest level possible first. The justification given is that this strategy would spare parishioners in the pew from making hard choices to leave. They could simply be told by the "higher level" that their church was re-aligning. They sought and succeeded in controlling the Diocesan Board and the Standing Committee. There has been an attempt to join with other ACN Dioceses in separating from ECUSA. 'The Twenty' were very disappointed that the Bishop would not do this. There was an effort to change the Constitution of the Diocese to eliminate the 'accession clause.' the clause that states that the Diocese accedes to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church."

"The Bishop ruled this out of order."

"There has been an attempt to move out of the Episcopal Church as a 'block.' This proposal was for 'The Twenty' to pay a block amount of money so that all the departing parishes would exit with their property at the same time. The Bishop has said that he will not negotiate with any 'block' but is ready to negotiate with any individual in good faith."

"A group of four persons, including members of the Standing Committee, approached the Bishop to ask him to retire. They offered to pay off his mortgage ($335,000) plus give him the difference between his salary and retirement income if he had served until age 72. The Bishop was born 11/4/42; he is 65 years old. (His yearly compensation according to the Journal of the 2007 Convention is $131,700)."

"The Bishop refused this 'golden parachute' or 'buy-out' for two reasons: (1) He
wants to be there for those who are staying in ECUSA and (2) He wants to be there for those who are leaving ECUSA."

"There have been efforts to get vestries to act on behalf on congregations (rather than congregational meetings) to remove congregations from ECUSA. The Canons of the church Title I.17.8 prevent this, as does Florida state law which states that when you cease to be a member of an organization, you cannot act on behalf of that

"What is the role of the National Episcopal Church? ECUSA has said that it will not intervene in a diocese unless a Diocese refuses to enter into good faith negotiations or unless the diocese attempts to transfer property to another part of the Anglican Communion."

"Plans are already underway in some congregations to lay the groundwork to leave. In at least one instance money that has been pledged in a particular congregation is being channeled into a separate corporation and current expenses are being paid from Memorial and other accounts."

"Canon Bennett stated that Vestry members have been asked by the rector
to resign for not going along with this plan."

"Bishop Howe is sad right now, but is completely committed to those who remain in the Episcopal Church. He has no immediate plans to retire, but the option is tempting given the health of his wife. If he were to announce his retirement it will be orderly, announced at Convention with a future election of a Coadjutor Bishop who would serve under Bishop Howe for a time."

"'The Twenty' asked Bishop Howe to fire Canon Bennett. Bishop Howe does not plan to do so.The Diocese is not preparing a budget yet for 2008 as there is great uncertainty and the likelihood that several parishes may leave reducing diocesan assessments. They know that there will be a financial impact, but it is not yet predictable."

"Canon Bennett urged the clergy present to think about elections in the upcoming Diocesan Convention particularly the ones involving the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Board."

"Canon Bennett and Bishop Howe are in complete agreement, but have come
to this from different perspectives."

"There may be a need for retired clergy to help the diocese by serving,
perhaps without pay, in situations where priests will be needed."

Episcopalians were asked to keep Bishop Howe and Canon Bennett in their prayers, and send them both notes of encouragement.

I will keep them in my prayers, and I thank God the bishop and canon will remain in the church.

As for the diversion of funds within a parish, that certainly seems a violation of trust.

I would say more on the topic, but I have to go now.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Musings on death on a rainy Sunday afternoon

My mother is back in the hospital, and likely won't come out this time. I'm not trying to go see her. It's too far, and I don't have the money for gas, motel bills, etc.to go sit a death watch that could last days or weeks. She's where brother and his family live, and they should be there. Mom isn't really there now.

I'll go pay my respects when she's buried next to my dad.

I went to see her at the nursing home for a last goodbye, after she broke her hip. She was already fragile, and I figured she would go downhill rapidly. When I went in, she didn't know who I was until I told her. She forgot who I was several times during my visit, which I'm sure she completely forgot as soon as I was out the door. But I told her I love her, and her spirit remembers that.

The last couple of months, her mind has been completely gone.

I started dreaming about her a week before I got a call about the latest hospitalization, and I'm sure her spirit has left, too. She was letting me know that. It's just the remains of her body in that hospital bed.

This is a joyous occasion for my mother. She had always hated the idea of being helpless in any way. It was a blessing when she didn't realize anymore she was in a nursing home.

I've been meditating and praying. It's been a good, rainy afternoon, the kind of rain that washes away tears and pain.

Go in peace, Mom. Your creator will heal all your wounds and infirmities, and lift you up as on eagle's wings.

UPDATE 9-10-07

Mom's nurse said Mom is having difficulty breathing, even with a breathing mask, and her blood pressure is low. The nurse called Mom's condition "guarded," rather than "critical," which I take to mean they are not sure how long she will last.

UPDATE 9-13-07

Mom died around 6 o'clock or so this morning. I'm relieved for her; I know she is where she wants to be. Her mind is restored and she's out of that weak shell.

I've been shedding some tears, but I already did much of my grieving after the last visit with her. The warmth and caring of my friends, including all of you, are making this time so much easier than it would be. My love and thanks to you all.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

He's giving me hysterics

Hysterical laughing fits, that is. You have to go over to Clumber's and take a gander at his funnies.

If the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion dissolve, at least we'll go down laughing.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A visitor to my back yard

Good God almighty. I walked into my back yard this morning to find this critter sitting in her web, hanging from a tree.

I'm not usually nervous around spiders, but when they're big and tough looking, and displaying colors and patterns (often associated with poisonous creatures), I get a bit nervous. I took this photo of the arachnid and used it to compare to some online spider id information, and it's apparently a female orb spinner -- not poisonous. They enjoy crunching on grass hoppers and other insects.

This spider's body is a good inch long, and from leg-tip to leg-tip, probably three inches or so.

If anybody who better knows spiders recognizes it as something different, let me know. I'll leave it in peace in the meantime. There are lots of spiders in Florida, but only a few are poisonous.

I had a little house spider living in my bathroom cupboard for a good while. He found a little space between the cabinet and the wall, and would emerge from it now and then, to peek at me. I started to kill him when I first saw him, but he seemed like, well, such a friendly little spider, I figured we could co-exist, and he could feast on any ants or gnats or other pesty insects that found their way in.

Jack the Brat cat became aware of him. I'm not sure if Jack got him (probably) or if he died of natural causes, but I found his little spider corpse curled up on the bathroom floor last week. I said a few words over him as I picked him up with a piece of tissue paper.

All these little creatures have their place in the world.

Except fleas, ticks and roaches. And leeches. They're evil perversions of nature.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Trying to make a difference

The thing about working for a small-town paper is the chance to maybe make a difference -- even though the pay is lousy (hence my part-time job) and the benefits nearly nil.

I believe it's part of my calling. God might put me in some other post in the future, but this is what I'm supposed to be doing now.

Of course, I don't inject that into my stories, but I can say it here, and not care if I sound like a religious nut.

Protecting the environment is part of my concern - we are trustees of the Earth, not
its masters. We're charged with protecting and conserving this beautiful, fragile orb that floats through space.

The LandLord is not pleased with what we're doing to his planet.

I've watched a developer trying to put a huge marina into the heart of an aquatic preserve on the river, upstream from Blue Spring State Park, a manatee habitat area.

About two weeks ago, I heard divers were complaining about the water quality at Blue Spring, and investigated.

I got mad, after taking a look at cloudy, sickly-green looking water.

Part of the clouding came from limestone particles in the water, from the collapse of an underground cavern in the spring system. While such collapses occur spontaneously, I think they're occurring more often because of wells pumping water out of the aquifer - the river of water that runs beneath the earth and limestone in Florida. It's the source of our drinking water, and the source of the water that bubbles up from the boil at Blue Spring.

Combine a year of low rainfall with all the wells, municipal and private, drawing water out of the aquifer, and some of these caverns that are normally filled with water dry out. They become weaker without the water to help hold their walls in place. Then, after a heavy rainfall, more water washes into them, and walls collapse from the impact.

Cloudiness caused from dissolved limestone in the water was starting to improve when I went out there. It was up to around 15 feet, when a week before, it was only 7-8 feet.

Problems from algae remain, though, and the park manager is concerned about the spring's health.

This is my photo taken at Blue Spring run 11 days ago.

This is the run as shown on a state Web site. Manatees swim through crystal-clear water.

Blue Spring sits at the low point of a big basin that takes in surrounding towns and unincorporated but developed areas. Water can wash directly into the river and run area of the spring as runoff after rain; it can percolate down into the aquifer and into the spring, or it can run into sinkholes for a pretty direct route into the aquifer. This runoff is filled with nitrates, because people like to fertilze their lawns. Fertilzers contain high levels of nutrients to fertilize grass. Those nutrients also feed algae.

[Of course, after fertilizing the lawn, people want to water it, pulling more water from those underground caverns.]

Septic systems also contain a lot of nitrates, and bacteria, too. Last summer, the spring was closed twice due to unacceptable levels of f coli and enterococcus bacteria.

We have an ailing spring and manatee preserve. It's suffering from development we've already done. Now we have developers who want to build huge projects on either side of it - the developer I mentioned before, who's fighting the state's denial of the project because of environmental concerns, and another developer who wants to build a huge resort complex with more docks on the other side of the spring.

I've reported forced resignations of environmentally-friendly county planners and written about the flap between a county manager and environmentalists who charge he is too developer-friendly. I've been in the uncomfortable situation of being the only one to report on what's been going on. A political columnist for one of the other papers has written a column on it, thank goodness.

Agencies charged with protecting the environment often compromise with bargaining developers. I'm going to be watching and telling what they do.

What's going on would be enough to make a true saint angry.

We can't just blame it all on developers and officials. We have to change our ways - all of us - as consumers, as protectors of the environment and as watchdogs of our public officials.