A Bishop, a Rabbi and an Imam Walked Into a Room a Few Miles from Ground Zero…

I just came from the Episcopal Cathedral in Newark, where I helped the Web Goddess record for posterity an interfaith service marking the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.  There were solemn remembrances, of course, but also proclamations of faith and hope for the future.  There was even laughter, as there should be whenever human beings of whatever faith come together in community.

I was in the balcony videotaping the entire service.  In her role as Director of Communications and Technology for the Diocese of Newark, the Web Goddess will find a variety of uses for parts of the footage (pixelage?).  Her boss, the Right Reverend Mark Beckwith, Bishop of Newark, was one of three speakers, the others being a rabbi and an imam who serve with Bishop Beckwith on an interfaith coalition.

I was too busy fiddling with the video camera to take notes on the reflections of the three clerics, all of which were grounded in the knowledge that Christians, Jews and Muslims all worship the same God.  Newark Mayor Cory Booker attended and made brief remarks, and the Star-Ledger sent a reporter, a photographer and a videographer.  [The video by Nyier Abdou was particularly well done. For A.T.I.N. groupies, there’s a quick glimpse of the Web Goddess at the left at 0:24, and of me with a video camera on a tripod in the balcony at 1:04, and at 2:47.]

To me, perhaps the most moving part of the service came near the very beginning. The muezzin from a major mosque in Irvington walked to the lectern in this Episcopal church and chanted the Muslim call to worship, a hauntingly beautiful recital I had never heard in person before.

The service bulletin thoughtfully provided an English translation of the call to prayer, which begins and ends with “Allahu Akbar.”  Tragically, that phrase is associated in my mind with the hatred and anger of too many terrorist attacks. It was a blessing on this day to hear in those words an affirmation of our common humanity.

(Mr. Sabir Salaam of Masjid Waarith ud Deen in Irvington chants the Muslim call to prayer at Trinity & St. Philips Cathedral in Newark.  Photo by the Web Goddess, of course.)

Hope Burns a Bit Brighter for a Positive Ending in Libya

Today is my birthday (never mind what year), I’m off from work, and the entire Northeast seaboard is preparing for Hurricane Irene.  (The Web Goddess snapped a picture this morning of the huge line of people at the local Home Depot, waiting for delivery of an undetermined number of portable generators, expected to arrive at an undetermined time.)  So what’s on my mind on this Kirk-and-Irene-themed day?

Libya, of course. Specifically, whether President Obama deserves any credit for what tentatively seems to be shaping up as a reasonably OK outcome in the war against Muammar Gadhafi.

E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post thinks he does, and snipes at those who are less enthusiastic: “It’s remarkable how reluctant Obama’s opponents are to acknowledge that despite all the predictions that his policy of limited engagement could never work, it actually did.”

Not so fast.  Assuming Gadhafi actually goes down, Obama’s policy may have “worked” in the narrow sense of deposing the tyrant — although that was not our stated goal. (As George Will aptly said, “In Libya, mission creep began before the mission did,” and remember that Obama pledged to turn over leadership of the effort “in a matter of days, not weeks.”)  It remains to be seen whether America’s intervention will succeed in the category that should trump all others: advancing America’s interests.

Max Boot, not an Obama fan, finds the appropriate level of nuance:

With Muammar Qaddafi​’s downfall imminent, does Barack Obama​ stand vindicated? To a certain extent, yes. Obama showed courage in intervening to prevent Qaddafi from retaking Benghazi and slaughtering its inhabitants. If he had not acted, it is doubtful Britain and France would have done so, and Qaddafi would have been in power for years to come. …

[However] …

[N]ews accounts from Tripoli describe a state of chaos and a power vacuum that could bode ill for Libya’s future. The immediate post-Qaddafi period will be an acid test of whether the administration and its allies did enough planning and preparation to avoid a prolonged insurgency of the kind that has plagued both Afghanistan and Iraq. …

[I]f the Libyans fail to get their act together, and their nation becomes a failed state, make no mistake: For all the talk about how Libyans must determine their own future, a share of the blame for a negative outcome will come to rest in Washington, London and Paris. Having provided the support that enabled the rebels to prevail, the NATO powers, and the U.S. most of all, can hardly wash its hands of the country. The wisdom of Obama’s decision to intervene still rests in the balance.

Just so.  There’s plenty to criticize in Obama’s intervention in Libya — starting with the fact that he sought permission from the UN and from the despots of the Arab League, but not from the U.S. Congress.  (President Bush, on the other hand, launched the war in Iraq with broad bipartisan support in Congress.)  However, now that our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president has entered a third war, I’m certainly rooting for a positive outcome.  As Victor Davis Hanson said, “the only thing worse than starting a stupid war is losing it.”

I continue to be astonished that Obama entered this war in the first place.  And while “stupid war” may be a bit harsh, I think on balance we should not have gotten involved.  As I wrote in March:

I’m obviously not opposed in principle to the use of military force by the United States.  I’ve never stopped supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But we can’t fix every problem everywhere, we’re stretched financially and militarily now, and I think the Libyan intervention was probably a mistake.

But now that we’ve done it, I hope it’s successful. I don’t root for any American president to fail, especially not in his role as commander-in-chief.  “Success” would mean Gadhafi goes quickly and gets replaced by a new tribe that’s at least marginally more democratic, and the U.S. gets disentangled in “weeks, not months,” to use a more realistic version of Obama’s timeline.  It could happen that way, but I’m not optimistic.

The hope for the timeline now has slipped still further, to “months, not years” — but I’m at least slightly more optimistic about the eventual outcome.

Enough on the Debt Ceiling, Let’s Talk Bicycles

Once or twice each mile on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, the bike path crosses a road.  Nothing too intimidating, but some of them are busyish two-lane county highways.  The drivers see a sign that says “Bike Xing,” but they don’t see a Stop or Yield sign.  The bikers have the Stop sign.

But I was struck by how the drivers routinely would pull to a stop and wave the bicycles through the intersection.  Routinely as in every. single. time.  Finally near the end of the 19-mile ride I saw a driver buzz through the intersection as I approached — he would have had to slam on his brakes to stop.  The driver behind him stopped.

On reflection, I have mixed feelings about this.  Part of me is grateful to the gentle souls who took a moment out of their day to defer to a more-vulnerable bicycle.  But from a public safety standpoint, the person who has the legal right of way generally should exercise the right of way.  It’s safer that way because it’s what people expect.

By the end of the ride, we fully expected every driver to defer to us, and we started to get sloppy.  While breezing through one intersection, a bus driver who had stopped for us yelled out, “you have a Stop sign, you know.”  A good thing to remember for the person who has more at stake.

It was a beautiful day for a ride, sunny, breezy, highs in the 70s.  It’s actually a bit cold for water activities, but we’re enjoying the weather.

Cranky political commentary will resume soon enough.  For this afternoon, there’s ribeye, shrimp and corn on the cob for the grill.  I’m on vacation with a beautiful blonde who just spontaneously felt moved to tell me how much she loves me.  Life is good.

(Photo by the Web Goddess, of course)

 

On Gay Marriage, NY vs. NJ, and the Maplewood Bubble

Larry and I have exercised our right to be married for many years. (Our wives are named Cathy and Nina.) Our gay and lesbian friends deserve the same right.

My friend Mary Mann at Maplewood Patch has resurrected a photo the Web Goddess took of me and another St. George’s parishioner demonstrating for equality at the Statehouse in late 2009.  She used the photo with a story in advance of this afternoon’s first Maplewood Pride picnic, which suddenly became in part a celebration of New York’s historic decision yesterday to allow same-sex marriages.

The Web Goddess and I put on our marriage equality T-shirts and took our beach chairs to the park to enjoy the beautiful day, the music, and the company of gay and straight friends.

At an early break in the music,  the mayor took  the microphone to recognize the event on behalf of the Township Committee.  One of the organizers led the crowd in a cheer for the New York legislature, and shouted, “New Jersey is next!”

Designed by the Web Goddess. Click on the shirt to order it at no markup from Cafe Press.

A wonderful sentiment, but unfortunately untrue.  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whom I admire and otherwise support on almost every issue, vowed before his election to veto any bill legalizing same-sex marriage.  On that basis alone, I voted for the Democratic incumbent.  Since the New Jersey legislature was unable to pass a marriage equality law in the waning days of the Corzine administration, there is no realistic chance of same-sex marriage in New Jersey as long as Christie is governor.  This will be a gut-check issue for me if Christie runs for re-election.  Some days it’s not easy being a socially liberal Republican.

As Ronald Reagan may once have said,The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.”  Christie’s brand of fiscal conservatism addresses an urgent need in a state which, when he became governor, was facing an $11 billion deficit on a $30 billion budget.  As Christie put it, “New Jersey is a failed experiment.”

Pew Research Center, March 2011

Martin Luther King said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  Pew Research has found that support for gay marriage is growing inexorably, and there’s no reason to believe anything will reverse the trend.  As a happily married straight man, it’s easy for me to be patient.  Many of my gay friends are understandably less serene.

The fact that I can accurately refer to “many of my gay friends” reflects what one of those friends, a former church warden, once described as “the bubble we live in.”  Compared to the state and to society as a whole, gay people are over-represented in Maplewood (in the judgment-free, statistical sense of that term).  Within Maplewood, gay people are over-represented at St. George’s Episcopal Church, where the Web Goddess and I have both served as elected members of the Vestry.

The large majority of members of the parish are straight, but gay and lesbian couples are always in evidence. Many of the leadership positions of the parish are filled by gay people, including the senior of the two Wardens and four of the nine other Vestry members.  The Rev. Bernie Poppe is gay, although he consistently focuses on being the Rector of a diverse parish, rather than “a gay priest.”

Such an environment makes it easy to be comfortable with the existence of people whose orientation differs from my own. I see gay people kneeling in prayer, raising their children, bringing food to the church picnic.  They obey the laws, they pay taxes, they complain about paying taxes (I’m looking at you, Tom).  Children who grow up in that environment will almost certainly be gay-friendly citizens as long as they live.

Same-sex marriage is a basic civil rights issue, and the only acceptable outcome is full marriage equality.  With every passing year America will bend further in that direction.  Faster, please.

Karen Armstrong Preaches Compassion in Morristown

Karen Armstrong (Photo by the Web Goddess)

I tried to bait the famous author into a partisan screed, but she was having none of it.

“America is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now our Nobel Peace Prize winning president is taking us into war in Libya.  I’d be interested to hear your take on how some of the things you’ve talked about relate to the wider geopolitical scene,” I said to Karen Armstrong, author of more than two dozen books, most recently Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.

She spoke tonight before a crowd of 500 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown.  It was the initial offering in the John Shelby Spong Lectureship, named after the uber-liberal former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.  (The event was financially supported by the diocese, where the Web Goddess is Director of Communications and Technology, but she bears no responsibility for what I write here.)

“I’m sorry about these wars, is all I can say” Armstrong said. “After 9/11 there was such an outpouring of support for America, there were demonstrations in Tehran… Unfortunately, these wars have further radicalized people.”  All true enough.

Armstrong said all the world’s major religious traditions call for us to have compassion for others, although that does not mean that the religions are all the same.  The Golden Rule, which Christians know as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” was formulated independently many times, starting with Confucius, 500 years before Christ.

Armstrong struck a number of humorous notes, telling of repeated cab rides in London where the cabbie, upon hearing that she was a religion writer, declared that religion is responsible for all the wars in world history.  She described something as a “pie in the eye” notion, showing again that America and Britain are two nations separated by a common language.

I’ve not read any of her books, but I’m looking forward to her latest, 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life, with its deliberate overtones of Alcoholics Anonymous.  (The Web Goddess stood on line to get it autographed by the author.)  “We’re addicted to our prejudices,” Armstrong said.

In addition to her book, Armstrong is plugging the Charter for Compassion, ” which grew out of a $100,000 TED prize she won in 2008.  The charter is “a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national difference. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world.”

“I don’t have much hope of politicians,” she said.  I led a modest burst of applause when she described how the most fervent and effective backers of the Charter are businessmen.

If I can get the *#$*&$ voice recorder software to work, I’ll post more comments from Armstrong’s talk this weekend.  In the meantime, if you buy her books through my Amazon widget, I supposedly get a tiny piece of the action :)

There Are a Billion Muslims — We Better Make Friends With Some of Them

Father Butler (Montclair Times photo)

The Web Goddess is an Episcopal communicator, and posted last week on the Facebook page of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark about the grief a priest has been catching in Montclair, some 20 minutes north of our own beloved parish in Maplewood:

The Rev. Andrew Butler of Montclair’s progressive St. John’s Episcopal Church has been receiving hate mail, calling him a “damn fool” and saying that he has made a “mockery out of Christianity,” because he decided to hold an interfaith worship service for both Muslims and Christians. …

The service at the church, at 55 Montclair Ave., began with a call to prayer. Verses from the Quran and the Bible were read, led by the church’s rector, the Rev. Andrew Butler, and Abdul-Alim Mubarak-Rowe, assistant imam at Masjid Waritj ud Deen in Irvington, and journalist Anisa Mehdi.

“We have interfaith couples in our church, so the whole notion of being married to someone of a different faith is not new for a lot of folks here, so it really wasn’t that much of a stretch for our parish,” Butler said.

But some people don’t see it that way – including, apparently, some men of the cloth.

One of the emails came from a retired Orthodox priest who wrote: “To read selected bits from the Koran, in a so-called Christian Church service, is apostasy. What a fool you are to believe that Christianity and Islam worship the same God … You are the sort of priest that has made a mockery out of Christianity, one that is unable to stand up for the faith … Let me give you a bit of advice, son, the entire meaning and purpose of life is to attain heaven. If you believe that this sort of compromise is going to bring you or your congregation closer to heaven you’re a damn fool. Chip it in stone.”

Butler said many of the people who wrote to him called themselves “concerned Christians.”

Set aside the arrogance of presuming to know who is and is not going to heaven.  Set aside theological issues of all sorts.  The complainers have chosen a particularly short-sighted way of manifesting their religiousity and their revulsion of Islam.

America is at war with a global enemy motivated by Islam — but if Islam itself is the enemy, we’re all in trouble.  Father Butler should be commended, not attacked, for working to build bridges between Muslims and Christians.

Avid readers of All That Is Necessary — if such people exist outside my family — may at this point be saying “Wait a minute, Petersen: how do you square this post with your repeated objections to the Ground Zero mosque?”

The Ground Zero mosque — which is two blocks from Ground Zero and is much more than just a mosque — thankfully seems to be stalled for financial reasons.  If you look at some of the links in the previous paragraph, you’ll see I’ve argued that the site proposed for a $100 million, 13-story Islamic trophy building is a deliberate provocation.  My go-to guy for Muslim moderation, M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has my back.

Father Butler’s interfaith service is exactly the opposite — a deliberate effort to find common ground between the world’s two largest religions, or at least to increase their comfort level with each other.  I wish I had been there.

Preparations for Easter at St. George’s

Much thanks to Maplewood Patch editor Mary Mann for taking the visual images from St. George’s Palm Sunday observance and turning it into a spritely and thorough announcement of the upcoming Easter services.

Cranky political commentary will resume here soon.  In the meantime, may Holy Week and Easter be a time of reflection and renewal for you and yours.

(Video by Kirk Petersen, photos by the Web Goddess.)

What Part of “Don’t Bury the Lead” Don’t You Understand?

Wikipedia Upload

Click image to embiggen

Do you ever wonder why people sometimes tend to do the exact opposite of what they should do?

For example, when leaving a voicemail message, many people will speed up while giving the all-important phone number — at the precise time when they should slow down.

So someone says “nineseventhreefiveohfiveonetwoonetwo” as fast as they can, and you have to listen to the message twice, or even three times, to capture the number.  What they should say is “nine seven three”… [pause] “five oh five”… [pause] “one two, one two”.

(No, it’s not my real phone number.  What, do you think I’m nuts?)

Now let’s look at the “help” page above from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.  (If you can’t see the graphic because you’re using an RSS reader, thank you for subscribing to my RSS feed. Now click through to the site already!)  My simple goal this afternoon was to upload a photo to help personalize the few lines of text I wrote for my Wikipedia user page.  It’s the same photo you see on this blog in the column to the right. (You did click through to the blog, right, RSS feeders?)

Wikipedia uses a proprietary coding language to invoke HTML commands so that users don’t have to learn HTML.  The Web Goddess, a self-taught guru who knows HTML cold, finds it confusing and not intuitive.  But the real problem is the poor design of the “help” pages.

The page above pops up from a simple “Upload file” link in the left navigation of the Wikipedia toolbox.  So far so good.  But… how do you actually upload a picture?

Click to embiggen

If you embiggen the second graphic, you’ll see that the page starts out by telling you how to do everything you might possibly want to do, except for the single most likely thing.

Do I want to look at six different help pages first?  Not if I don’t have to.  Do I want to put my face on Wikimedia Commons, so anyone can use the photo free for any purpose?  No, especially since my Wikipedia log-in doesn’t seem to work there, and I’d have to create a new account.

Finally, the fourteenth link on the page, in the third highlighted section, has the magic words “go directly to the upload form.”  So why couldn’t they have said that 10 minutes ago?

What does all this have to do with good people doing nothing in the face of evil?  No clue.  Tune in again later.

A Brief History of Presidential Betrayal, Through the Prism of Andrew Sulllivan

Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan

If Obama has lost Andrew Sullivan, has he lost the Left, the Right or the Center?

For reasons that will become clear, I’ve been watching off and on to see what might happen when Obama does something that Sullivan perceives as a betrayal. The time may have come with Obama’s shocking decision to intervene in Libya.

Sullivan, who once wrote a book called The Conservative Soul from an insider’s perspective, felt the sting of betrayal from George W. Bush in 2004 and began a well-chronicled move to the Left, slashing and burning his way through conservative friends and supporters as he went.  By the time of Barack “Hope and Change” Obama’s election and presidency, Sullivan’s incessantly repeated exhortations toknow hopecarried echoes of Dan Rather’s “courage” from an earlier era.

I described Obama’s rush to war in Libya as “astonishing” and “bizarre,” and Sullivan apparently has similar feelings.  (One difference is that I’m actually hopeful that it might work out OK, whereas Sullivan appears more pessimistic.)  Sullivan has taken to referring to his onetime idol as King Barack I, and he’s raised the specter of impeachment.  Here’s a sample post from last week, with emphasis added:

I’m still absorbing this news and don’t want to vent immediately, because there is still part of me that simply cannot believe that president Obama has already ordered covert action in Libya on one side in a civil war, and is now actively discussing whether to arm that side in another chaotic Muslim country, committing the United States to yet another war against yet another tyranny simply because we can.

It’s so surreal, so discordant with what the president has told the American people, so fantastically contrary to everything he campaigned on, that I will simply wait for more confirmation than this before commenting further. I simply cannot believe it. I know the president is not against all wars – just dumb ones. But could any war be dumber than this – in a place with no potential for civil society, wrecked by totalitarianism, riven by tribalism, in defense of rebels we do not know and who are clearly insufficient to the task?

By all means keep the no-fly zone to protect unarmed civilians from brute military force. But that must be the total sum of the commitment.

Love him or hate him (and I’ve leaned in both directions), Andrew Sullivan is a towering figure in the development of blogging as a vital form of communication.  His pioneering “Daily Dish,” with its barely readable white and beige text on a dark-blue background, provided thoughtful commentary on a daily basis for years before the potty-mouthed Wonkette came along to become, briefly, the best-known name in blogging.

I started following Sullivan so long ago, his blog is in the “Conservatives” folder of my bookmarks.  This was back when James Taranto — one of many bloggers who now cannot stand the man — used to refer to Sullivan as his “favorite gay, Catholic Tory.”  I got the Web Goddess interested in Sullivan’s writing, and then we sprang for $20 (I think that’s what it was) to get his short-lived weekly email with the inside story behind the Daily Dish.

Sullivan, former editor of the New Republic , backed Bush in the 2000 election and was a strong supporter of the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003.  He started to sour on Bush because of the mismanagement of the war, and in 2004 was openly flirting with the idea of endorsing the  Democratic nominee — even if it were John Kerry, whom he despised — over Bush.  That deal was sealed on February 24, 2004, when Bush, after calculating that he had more to gain among evangelicals than he had to lose among the few gay people inclined to support him, endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment.

The FMA went well beyond declaring that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” (That’s still Obama’s official position, btw.)  The FMA also would have eviscerated civil unions and domestic partnerships, which are a squeamish society’s well-meaning effort to provide legal protection to gay couples.  Here’s the text of the amendment:

Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

(The amendment failed to advance in either the House or the Senate, falling far short of the two-thirds majorities required.)

I remember being struck that day by how anguished Sullivan was over Bush’s announcement.  I remember Jonah Goldberg, who at the time was largely sympathetic to Sullivan, describing Sullivan’s reaction as a “cri de coeur” (which I had to look up).  But I couldn’t remember what Sullivan himself had said that day, so I went back looking for it.  His actual post doesn’t seem as raw and livid as I remembered, but you can see the sense of betrayal.  Excerpts:

WAR IS DECLARED: The president launched a war today against the civil rights of gay citizens and their families. And just as importantly, he launched a war to defile the most sacred document in the land.  … Those of us who supported this president in 2000, who have backed him whole-heartedly during the war, who have endured scorn from our peers as a result, who trusted that this president was indeed a uniter rather than a divider, now know the truth.

NO MORE PROFOUND AN ATTACK: This president wants our families denied civil protection and civil acknowledgment. He wants us stigmatized not just by a law, not just by his inability even to call us by name, not by his minions on the religious right. He wants us stigmatized in the very founding document of America. There can be no more profound attack on a minority in the United States – or on the promise of freedom that America represents. That very tactic is so shocking in its prejudice, so clear in its intent, so extreme in its implications that it leaves people of good will little lee-way. This president has now made the Republican party an emblem of exclusion and division and intolerance.

Sullivan’s blogging home has bounced from his own domain to Time to The Atlantic, and as of today he is settling in to new quarters at Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast.  He’s a gifted writer who gets carried away with his passions. Somehow I don’t think his animus toward Obama will ever quite reach the level it did with Bush.

They Looked at a Hillside and Envisioned a Church

Tom Savoth and Cheryl Notari, Wardens of St. George's

Outgoing Senior Warden Tom Savoth shares a quiet moment today before the service with his fellow Warden at St. George's Episcopal Church, Cheryl Notari. Note the aura of gravitas descending on Cheryl as she prepares to become the Senior Warden.

Nearly nine decades ago some citizens of Maplewood, New Jersey came together in a spirit of faith and community to begin planning a major new Episcopal church on a wooded hillside off of Ridgewood Road.  The parish traces its roots back to just after the Civil War, but the cornerstone for the current building was laid in 1925.

Generations of Maplewoodians have enjoyed fellowship and sanctuary in the years that followed.  The Web Goddess and I were married there in 2000, shortly after we became members, and we held our reception in the then-decrepit Parish Hall.  Ten years later we stood up in the middle of a Sunday service to renew our vows in front of God and a community that has sustained us through some very difficult times.

During that decade, the Web Goddess earned her moniker by teaching herself HTML, then building and launching the St. George’s website.  She has lovingly maintained the site ever since, through two major redesigns, while honing her skills as a photographer.  Virtually single-handedly she has built stgeorges-maplewood.org into what almost certainly is the largest website in the 108-parish Episcopal Diocese of Newark.  The website marks its 10th anniversary this month, and if there is a larger, more robust, more professional church website built strictly on a volunteer basis anywhere in the country, I want to see it.

Her online evangelism quickly led to an elected position as a member of the parish Vestry.  When she stepped down because of term limits six years later, I stepped up.  I’m now entering my fourth year as head of the Property Committee, a role that keeps me busy caring for an aging physical plant.  Along the way we’ve both become full-time, professional Episcopalians — she as Director of Communications and Technology for the Diocese of Newark, and me as Parish Administrator of Grace Episcopal Church in Madison.

Valyrie Laedlein, elected today as Junior Warden

My role as Property Poobah at St. George’s is what led to these musings, as today was our Annual Parish Meeting, a time of transition for several very dear friends.  Tom Savoth stepped down as Senior Warden after seven years of Vestry service, including four years as Warden.  Joining Cheryl Notari as Warden is the newly elected Valyrie Laedlein, and they’ll work closely with the Rev. Bernie Poppe, who is only the seventh Rector in the church’s 106 years as a full-fledged parish of the Diocese of Newark.  The Rector and Wardens oversee a small, mostly part-time staff and a legion of volunteers, some of whom have been attending services there for five decades or more. St. George’s is fortunate to have leaders of the quality of Bernie, Cheryl, Valyrie and Tom, and the Web Goddess and I are blessed to be able to call them friends.

The Rev. Bernie Poppe, Rector of St. George's

Our beautiful building is feeling its age, and I had the dubious honor today of telling the parish that I’ve spent $13,000 of their pledge money in the past five weeks making emergency repairs to the heating system.  We’re not done — fortunately the temperature outside is in the 50s today, because while the church itself was overheated, there was no heat in the Parish Hall.

The meeting marked the start of a parish-wide conversation about the heating system that will continue for many months, and much work will be done by many people.  There’s time enough for that, and time for this blog to resume its normal fare of cranky political commentary.  But once in a while I use this forum for a more personal message.  Just for today I want to pause long enough to give thanks for a group of good Christian people in the 1920s, who looked at a wooded hillside and envisioned a church.

Photos by Kirk Petersen (with a cellphone!) and the Web Goddess.