Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Baseball, Crawdads, and Ministy in NW Nevada

It all began with car trouble at the airport, but we made it to Camp Galilee where I found the greatest team of camp counsellors I have ever met. Business guru Jim Collins says the first step toward success is to get the right people on the bus, and that's what Stuart Campbell has done at Galilee. I made it back to Galilee several days later -- I am there now -- to find over 40 early elementary kids having a fine time. Camp registration is up 15% this year. Stop. Read that again. 15%. Remember the economy which is hurting camps all over the country this year. But Galilee is up 15%!

A lot happened in between these two Galilee visits. There was ordaining Victoria Riley to the priesthood in a jam packed St. Peter's, Carson City. St. Peter's is in some respects our strongest parish. Fr. Jeff has done heroic work there for a long time, and it is bearing fruit with the ordination of an excellent new priest in a vibrant, theologically engaged congregation. And you should have heard the call of Isaiah (Isaiah 6) chanted first in Hebrew then in Enlgish by Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer. Great service followed by blow out recetion. I'll be back there for two more ordinations in July.

The next morning we were at Holy Trinity, Fallon, a leader in Total Ministy and a parish with a strong commitment to social justice ministries. They have taken the Magnetic Church workshop to heart and put up a great new sign that will do a better job of evangelim. Holy Trinity renovated its offices last year. This year they are coming to terms with the needs of the parish hall, a lovely old building which may need to be replaced due to stuctural problems. They will have to sort out the best way to move forward, but they are undaunted. There is no doubt they will move forward.

Then it was on to St. Alban's, Yerrington, a faithful congregation that is keeping the fires burning until we find the resources to help them flourish again. Yerrington is a happening town. They just need some residential clergy leadership to get the evangelism train on the track.

Then it was back to Reno to watch Fr. Kirk Woodliff throw out the first pitch and to hear the combined choirs of the Reno-Sparks are Episcopal Church sing the National Anthem. Kirk threw a strike, just clipping the lower outside (to a rightie) corner; and the choir nailed the anthem. Over 200 Episcopalians clad in red cheered the Reno Aces on to a 1 run victory.

Along the way, there have been a passel of individual meetings about diverse things. More of that today. But first here I am checking in with you and writing away on sermons for the coming weekend. I am off duty at camp. The boys have specifically asked me not to bless the crawdads. Last year I blessed them and they were mysteriously liberated by the next morning.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bishop's Culinary Guide To Urban Nevada

2nd and 3rd Century Gnosticism taught that the creation was the fall. Material reality is bad; hence, food and all sensual delights are to be rejected in favor of more spiritual endeavors. St. Irenaeus of Lyons was the great defender of orthodox faith, insisting on the goodness of God's creation, the sanctity of human life taken on bodily by Our Lord, and the holiness intrinsic in ordinary experience.

Gnosticism is all the rage again. Cf. Elaine Pagels and the Nag Hammadi enthusiasts. Perhaps we need a theologian like Irenaeus to defend the orthodox faith again. We don't have one, but we have something better -- the Wild River Grill in Reno. Specifically, their seared scallops appetizer is by far the best thing I have ever tasted. To eat just one of those scallops is ot know that creation was a splendid idea.

But one cannot eat such a delicacy on a regular basis. For day to day sustenance, there is Tropical Smoothie in Las Vegas, tucked discreetly into the shoppoing center on the corner of Pecos and Russell. A number of life boosters are afforded there. My personal favorite: the buffalo chicken wrap. Warning: it is spicy! Your mouth will know something has been there long after it has gone. But at least of an ex-Texan fond of heat in food, this sandwich is delicious and perfectly balanced by a barely ripe banana on the side.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sacramento-Reno Whirl Wind

What a whirl wind the end of last week was! Two days of battle in Sacramento warding off movements for "centralization, standardization, and a higher professionalization" of the Church. Arrrgh! I don't know whether I am into critical theory (Habermas, et al), a more charismatic sense of the church, or maybe I am just a curmudgeon. But I believe the whole church, right down to the loose change counting and light bulb changing, has to be a human, relational Lake Wobegon kind of organism -- not a corporate system of FAX's and forms.

Things were much better, but considerably busier, when I got to Reno: 6 meetings, 4 worship services, and a 4-hour workshop, plus a dinner with some church folks one night and a dinner with the new confirmands the next.

It is so very good to see Trinity on track these days. The spirit of the congregation is warm and upbeat. They are a center of hope and energy. I met parish nurses to help with our new Desert Angels ministry, a development person to help us find ways to fund diocesan mission, and someone who is actually learning about stewardship -- our Achilles' heel.

My time at Trinity left me encouraged, uplifted, and inspired. Along the way we confirmed and received a batch of new members, mostly young adults. There were about 7, a nice number, but the main thing wasn't the number. It was that they had genuinely bonded with each other and truly grasped what the Episcopal Church is about. Rev. Stefani is clearly gifted at building community. That is what we need. I am grateful beyond words for her ministry at Trinity. And the children's service, crafted by the Rev. Kathy Hopner, was the best of all -- lots of kids worshiping joyfully alongside their young parents. The church in Reno is just beginning. That is how the church should be -- always just beginning.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Love In Tonopah

The triangular scaffolding with a pulley at the top and a bucket hanging from a rope looped over the pulley is a “head frame.” I learned the name from Minnie who is 89. She knows such things because she has spent all her 89 good years in Tonopah. Her father was a miner because he loved mining. Her husband was a miner and he loved it too. They both died of silicosis. Perhaps we all die of love – either the want of it or from the spending of our lives in love. And Minnie’s story is a love story.

Tony was a 26 year old in Saginaw, Michigan doing a little of this, then a little of that, until he got a letter from his father. Tony’s dad was mining in Tonopah, having a great time. He thought Tony should give it a try. So he did. He packed up and moved to Tonopah where he rented a little cabin next to a dairy. One day the farmer asked Tony to help him deliver the milk. That’s how it happened that when 16 year old Minnie answered the door early one morning in 1937, she met and fell in instant love with the new milkman.

Not long afterward, Tony and Minnie eloped to Hawthorne, where they were secretly married, then returned to life as usual in Tonopah. Months later, Minnie fessed up to her mother who by the way was from the old country in Eastern Europe. It did not set well, but eventually everyone came around and became a happy family. Minnie has 4 adult children all of whom live in Tonopah. Following the example her Capulet style wedding, 3 of her classmates eloped to Hawthorne that year.

The last time I blogged about Tonopah, I was quoting David Kranes’ Life On The Moon. But this time, the story that seems more in point is Marjorie Brown’s Lady In Boomtown, a true life memoir and another love story. Marjorie was a starry eyed 18 year old in 1903 when young lawyer Hugh Brown proposed and asked her to follow him from San Francisco to Tonopah where he would handle the legalities attendant to all that brand new gold and silver. Love takes certain heroism. Minnie and Marjorie had it.

So as you have surmised, last Sunday was my visit to St. Mark’s, Tonopah, a small but boldly resilient congregation. After breakfast at Tonopah Station, where none of the young folks knew what a head frame was, we headed over to church for a worship. Afterward, we had Sam’s barbeque ribs, Bonnie’s new recipe for beans, and a lot of good conversation. Then a self-guided tour of the Mining Park, and we were on our way back down 95.

A couple of footnotes: The Pahrump Mirror, Nye County’s only independent newspaper, reports that The Shady Lady, one of our long established rural brothels, is going co-ed. Yes, men are to join the oldest profession out there in the desert. The headline was “Shady Lady To Offer Rooster Services.” The picture under the headline was of 7 ladies mostly in somewhat slinky evening wear, some black, one red. Despite the implication, however, they were neither the Shady Ladies nor prospective customers. They were the contestants for Ms. Senior Golden Years 2009.

On our way to Tonopah, we stopped off in Beatty to get a closer look at a colorful gathering. It was the Sour Dough Saloon’s Annual Pig Roast. Quite a crowd had gathered for the outside repast with live music. Most were in classic western attire including some Senior Golden Ladies in dance hall girl dresses worthy of the Long Branch. Bikers were also well represented. I have not made it to Beatty Days yet. That is the end of October. But Beatty is also quite a place. Wish we had a church there.

I have heard I-95 described as a boring drive. Whoever finds 95 boring must be driving with their eyes shut. It is one amazing manifestation after another.

Oh yes, Goldfield, population 289 is growing at the rate of 10% per year. The roadside jewelry dealer swears if it hits 500, he’s out of there.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Holy Spirit Gets Hate Mail For Pentecost

The Church of the Holy Spirit in Bullhead City is a lovely small congregation in a town that is largely a retirement community. The congregation is primarily senior citizens. They are not the sort to march for liberal causes.

But just before Pentcost, they recieved a handwritten note threatening to burn their church because we are a gay inclusive denomination. I am not sure whether I am speechless at the absurdity of evil or whether the response to this sensless venom is too obvious.

One think I hope it will clarify for us as a diocese and a denomination is that we are in fact a family. What we do affects each other. That's why we must support each other, consider each other, and appreciate each other.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Catholicity & Apostolicity In Las Vegas

Most people in Las Vegas are new here and don’t know how long they are going to say. But there is a special breed of veteran Vegasites. They have been here for decades and measure their seniority by how close to downtown they can name a street that was still unpaved when they moved here. 30, 40, or 50 years ago is current events back East, but in Nevada, that’s history – especially in a place that has changed so much so fast as Las Vegas. Watching half a century of history unfold anywhere has to lend some perspective. But watching the cultural seismic shift that has rocked Las Vegas – population c. 200 around the year 1905 – means nothing surprises this bunch. Yes, the veteran Vegasites are their own special breed of urban sage.

So why am I going on about this rare breed of Western savant? Because the Saturday evening Eucharist at All Saints is heavily populated with Veteran Vegasites. (I don’t know if they would like this title. “Vegas” to a “local” does not mean the City of Las Vegas. It means “the Strip” about which the “locals” are ambivalent. When a local means Las Vegas, we say “Las Vegas.”) In any event, it was my privilege last Saturday to worship with the VV’s of All Saints – a wise and clever crowd with a good sense of humor.

Then next morning, the 8:00 a.m. Eucharist was not the norm. It had about 50 people belting out hymns accompanied by Fr. Bede on the organ. Afterward, Linda and I joined the rowdy back row crowd for their weekly breakfast at the Sunshine Café down the street. The early Sunday service was a bit more ethnically mixed than the Saturday group.

Then came the energetic larger service (c. 140 people – note: put the past 3 services together and we have well surpassed the 1905 population of the whole city) where we baptized one adult and two little girls. This group was more ethnically mixed than the congregation at 8:00.

You might expect things to slow down in the summer afternoon. But quite the opposite. The congregation of Todos Los Santos brought in another 190 people. We confirmed 20 youth and celebrated first communion for numerous children dressed in white, carrying candles, rosaries, and other holy objects. They politely endured my massacre of their language at the Mass. The music was lively to say the least. The congregation worshiped with the most joyful exuberance I have seen in quite some time.

But wait there’s more. In the late afternoon, the Holy Child Filipino congregation – 30 of them -- gathered for a charismatic style service with a praise band you wouldn’t believe – piano, drums, two guitars, tambourines, and brilliant vocalists. Lay leadership was front and center for this service. And afterward, we enjoyed a delicious repast of Filipino cuisine.

Now you may assume things were over, and for me they were. I am not as young as I used to be. At this point, I was just plumb worshiped out and went home. But no it wasn’t over at All Saints. The next Spanish Language Mass was about to begin at 6:00 p.m. while I loaded up my vestments and other ecclesiastical paraphernalia and “homeward trod my weary way.” But it was one amazing day!

The church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The catholicity (universality) depends on diversity. That’s what All Saints does in this diocese. Thanks be to God. The apostolicity depends on our faithfulness to the apostolic mission of sharing Christ’s love with the world. That is what All Saints is doing by reaching out to newcomers in Las Vegas while keeping faith with those who have sustained this church so long.