Monday, December 24, 2012

A Love Song to the World - A Reflection for Christmas 2012

Dear friends in Christ,

“It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.”

On a night over two thousand years ago, angels bent near the earth and shepherds heard their song.  It was a song whose words were so desperately needed, and whose melody soothed the souls of the deeply troubled.  It was a time, much like any other time:  there was conflict; there were wars and rumours of wars; the poor went unfed and the rich sat in lofty places; there were broken hearts and broken spirits.  But a song broke through it all and announced that into the lives of a people who had suffered long, with woe and strife, with sin and sadness, was coming a Saviour who would bring peace.  That message was desperately needed then, and it is no less desperately needed today. 

The words of that beloved hymn, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, penned by Unitarian minister Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876) remind us that the message of the angels is not simply a message that was sung in distant times to long-forgotten shepherds, it is a message that angels still sing to us today.  The angel strain has continued to roll amidst “two thousand years of wrong.”  It is still sung, Sears contends, but “man, at war with man, hears not, the love song which they bring.”  Yet, if we hush the noise, we may still “hear the angels sing.” 

So in these days which are “hastening on” we would do well do listen, for if we do, we shall surely yet hear that love song about which Sears wrote.  It is a love song sung by angels proclaiming the birth of Jesus Christ.  In fact, Jesus IS God’s love song for a broken and hurting world.  Jesus IS God’s love song to his weary and worn-out children.  Jesus IS God’s love song for you and for me.  It is Jesus that the angels proclaim in song and sacred melody.  Let us open our eyes to see them “touch their harps of gold,” let us open our ears to “hear the blessed angels sing,” and let us open our hearts to the one about whom they sing, that “the whole world might give back the song, which now the angels sing.”

A blessed Christmastime to each of you and your families,

The Rev. Daniel F. Graves

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reading the Gospel of Luke - Introduction

We have just begun a new liturgical year.  As Anglicans, it has always been our tradition to draw our Sunday readings from a lectionary (i.e., a prescribed calendar of readings).  In modern times, many mainline denominations have adopted the Revised Common Lectionary, and ecumenical lectionary, and as such, if you attend an Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, United or Presbyterian church, we will all be using the same readings (with minor variations) on any given Sunday.  Our shared lectionary consists of a three year cycle in which we try to read most of Scripture.  During each of the three years we focus on one of three synoptic gospels (synopsis = "viewed together" i.e, the three gospels that share signficant verbal agreement, Matthew, Mark & Luke).  In year A, we read through Matthew; in year B, Mark (with bits of John scattered around); and in year C, Luke.  We are currently in Year C, and in our parish we will be meeting twelve times over the next twelve months to study particular aspects of St. Luke's gospel.  The question on our minds will be "what would we miss if we didn't have Luke's gospel?"  We shall also be searching out what particular themes Luke considers important to his telling of the story of Jesus, and most importantly, what is the "good news" according to Luke?

I will be posting on this site, from time-to-time, some background material and personal reflections on what I think is important in the study of St. Luke.  Please feel free to comment, respond and engage.  In session one, we will be looking at the introduction to the gospel and infancy narrative/nativity story (essential chapters one and two). 

In order to kick things off, I want to make a few general comments about The Gospel of Luke. These thoughts are not original to me; rather, they are culled from my own ongoing reading of Luke and much secondary literature.

Luke is widely considered to have been written in the last decade of the first century A.D.(as he has knowledge of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in A.D. 70). Like the rest of the New Testament, the original language of the book is Greek and Luke’s Greek is more elevated that what we find in many of the other New Testament documents. The Gospel is actually the first part of a two-volume series, the second installment being the Acts of the Apostles (Part one, the Gospel, tell us the story of Jesus, while part two, Acts, tell us the story of the Early Church). We may be inclined to ask, who was “Luke?” He may have been the “Luke the Physician” that we learn about from Acts and also from Paul, but this is disputed. It was not uncommon for writers to write under a respected pseudonym in those days. In any event, it is not likely that the author was an eyewitness of Jesus (although he may have had access to some eyewitness material). Where, then, did he get his material? It seems clear to most scholars that Luke used Mark’s Gospel as a source as we find much direct "lifiting" and reworking of  Mark's material. Luke also shares with Matthew a considerable amount of material, often verbatim with subtle changes, that is not found in Mark. Thus, it is concluded that and Matthew may have drawn on a now lost source, which scholars call “Q” (from the German quelle – meaning “source”) which is postulated to be a “sayings” collection based on the kind of shared material found in Matthew and Luke. However, a small group of scholars (and I am more and more inclined to agree with them) argue that Luke used both Mark and Matthew as sources, thus eliminating the need to postulate a “lost gospel” theory. (For a good review of these scholarly arguments visit Mark Goodacre’s Case Against Q website. I do also commend his excellent podcasts – more on these in future installments).

Key Themes in the Gospel of Luke:

The following is a list several key themes and concepts that are widely accepted as major aspects of the Lucan Narrative. The list (a summary of: Joseph Fitzmyer S.J., The Gospel According to Luke I-X, Anchor Bible 28, New York: Doubleday, 1982– p. 145), is not comprehensive but provides a useful starting point for us. As you read through the Gospel of Luke, consider some of these themes and the questions they raise.

1. The Lukan kerygma (Greek for “proclamation,” and by this we mean proclamation both by and about Jesus) in Luke/Acts takes a particular form. See if you can recognize the unique nature of Luke’s proclamation by and about Jesus. Hint: consider to whom the words of Jesus are directed and what the Early Church’s preaching about Jesus does to upset the world order.

2. Luke draws on his source material (Mark’s Gospel, and other possible sources, either a lost“sayings of Jesus” source, or directly from Matthew’s Gospel) in a way that advances the particular themes of his own narrative. As we examine key passages, use a tool called a “Gospel Parallel” or simply compare parallel passages in Mark and Matthew to see how Luke handles the same episode. What does Luke’s unique handling of the episode tell us about the story of Jesus he wishes to communicate?

3. Geography is crucial to theological message – throughout the Gospel the narrative moves geographically toward Jerusalem, whereas in Acts it moves outward from Jerusalem to Rome (to the “ends of the earth”). Consider what this geographical movement says about the proclamation of the Gospel, from Luke’s perspective.

4. Christ in History – Luke roots the “Christ-event” in history as a means to illustrate the inauguration of a new era of human history. What is the meaning of the new era coming into being? How does it relate to the previous era? How does Luke establish the “Christ-event” in time and space?

5. Christology (the understanding and interpretation of Jesus AS Messiah) – Luke invests particular meaning in the titles he uses for Jesus, especially with respect to salvation history. What are some of Luke’s titles for Jesus? What do these titles say about the meaning of Jesus for Luke?

6. Role of the Holy Spirit – Luke has a very unique role for the Holy Spirit in Luke/Acts, especially with respect to conversion and baptism. Pay special attention to references of to the Holy Spirit throughout Luke and Acts. Consider the role of the Spirit as a "character" in the narrative.
7. Eschatology (concern for the end-times) – As Luke’s Gospel was written toward the end of the first century, he has to deal with what scholars call “the delay of the parousia” (parousia = the second coming/return of Christ). Observe what Luke does and does not say about the end-times, in comparison with the other gospels.
There is much to think about here as we begin our journey into St. Luke. These are but a few of the key themes in his story of Jesus; we could (and in the installments ahead, will) add many more themes and strands. At this point, it might be easy to feel overwhelmed at all of these things to consider. In the months ahead we will walk through some interesting passages in the Gospel and I will draw your attention to recurring themes, patterns and ideas. The above themes are mentioned only to provide you with a bit of a guide of what to watch for as you read through the text. So as you read, think of things like the role of geography in the story; the role of the Holy Spirit; talk about the end times (and the delay of the end times); the titles applied to Jesus; and think of comparing familiar passages in Luke to parallels in Mark and Matthew and see how Luke tells the story a little differently. Each of these things will prompt questions about “why did Luke tell it this way?” I believe that as we journey together, examining some of these questions in Luke's Gospel and their possible answers, a portrait of Jesus will emerge that can still enliven our faith today.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

People Look East! - A Reflection for Advent, 2012

“People look east, the time is near!”

The season of Advent (from the Latin, adventus, literally, “coming”), is one of preparation.  However, in recent years we have become obsessed with the concept of “waiting” during Advent.  While “waiting” does form a part of the Advent narrative, we should not lose sight of the richness of the Advent season as a season of preparing for the Lord’s coming.  During Advent we concentrate on the Lord’s coming in two different ways: his coming as a child in Bethlehem many years ago (ritually re-enacted in our Christmas liturgies); and his end-times coming when God’s kingdom shall finally “come on earth, as it is in heaven.”  Thus, our Advent Scripture readings look forward both to Jesus’ birth and to his return – the inauguration of the new order and its completion.  It is not a time to sit quietly and wait, but it is a time to prepare. 
Perhaps I am not so concerned as others about the frenzy of activity and preparation that comes at this time of year.  The old collect that fell on the Sunday before Advent (now used in early September), which begins “Stir up the wills, O Lord, of your faithful people…” was a call to action.  These words were the cue for many to begin “stirring up” the Christmas pudding.  This is more than just a “cute” take on a meaningful collect.  At a deeper level, all the excitement and preparation for the family gatherings and banquets that take place during this time of year are our way of saying that we are participating in the preparation of banquet to end all banquets – the one we shall enjoy when our Lord finally returns.  Amidst all of this activity and preparation is joy, and with that joy, comes excitement and anticipation.  So sing your carols, I say.  Stir up your puddings.  Gather with family and friends and celebrate.  Make haste. Prepare.  Just do not forget the Good News for which we are preparing.  Do not forget our Lord.  Forget not to celebrate our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the alpha and omega, the first and the last, the one who was, and is, and is to come.

A blessed Advent to all.

Fr. Dan

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Grandfather's Portrait: A Reflection for Remembrance Day

The Portrait of my Grandfather, Frank Rason
Sketeched during the Second World War
at the Astoria Club in Amasterdam by
W. Sealtiel, 44 Paramaribost
On my wall hangs a portrait, sketched in charcoal and coloured pencil.  It is a portrait of my maternal grandfather, Francis James Rason (1923-1997).  During the war he was stationed in Belgium, the Netherlands and in England (the latter being where he met my grandmother).  In the 1940s, while in Amsterdam, he had his portrait done, twice in fact.  I first learned of this portrait when I was a teenager and began to ask my grandmother about our family history. She began to show me old photographs, particularly photographs of her family back in England, photographs of her parents and grandparents, some of which have now come into my possession.  Then she told me she wanted to show me something special that she thought I’d find interesting.  She reached into her closet and pulled out a cardboard paper towel roll.  Out of the roll she slipped two original sketches, very similar to each other, of a man in profile, in military uniform. His slim features were elegant and fine and he had a forward hairline that was combed skyward. “Do you know who this is?” She asked.  I was not sure. “It’s your Grampy,” she said. Grampy, my grandfather, had had since gone bald and while he remained a very good-looking man, aging had reshaped some of those finer features of his youth. My grandmother told me that he had the picture done while he was in Amsterdam, taking great pride in telling me that it was done in the Astoria Club.  She carefully read the name of the artist to me, “W. Sealtiel,” as if it should have meant something, and told me that he had two pictures done, one for her and one for his mother.  There was no love lost between my grandmother and her mother-in-law, and clearly my grandfather’s mother’s drawing never made it to her.  My grandmother asked me to have some colour copies made and that she would share with other family members.  Being charged with this sacred task and the care of these valued artefacts, I did as told and returned them to her.  The originals were dutifully rolled back in their cardboard roll and remained hidden away until she died in 2001.

Frank Rason in the late 1980s
After my grandmother’s death, my mother found the two original portraits, still in their roll where they had lived with a few sparing exposures for nearly sixty years.  My mother framed one of them and it hangs on her wall to this day.  She trusted the other original into my care and I had it framed and matted and now I enjoy looking at it on a daily basis.  When I look at the portrait I like to imagine what the world must have been like for them – a young man who lied about his age to serve his country; his nineteen-year-old bride who was sent to Canada to live with in-laws she didn’t know; and the unknown future they chose to travel into together. 

There is one other thing that has always stirred within my imagination about this picture, though, and that is the signature and inscription placed by the artist:

“This picture was drawn
in the
Astoria – Club
Amsterdam Holland
W. Sealtiel
44 Paramaribost

 Who was W. Sealtiel?  And what were the circumstances under which this portrait was executed?  In my mind’s eye, I have always imagined a young man, perhaps a gifted teenager, eking about a living for himself, perhaps for his aging mother or orphaned siblings, by drawing portraits of soldiers for them to send home.  I often wondered what became of this “W. Sealtiel,” and if he were still alive, or if his family still lived in Amsterdam.  I wondered how many other portraits of soldiers by “W. Sealtiel” existed, hanging on the walls of soldiers’ children and grandchildren, or remained rolled up in cardboard rolls in the cupboards of aging war brides.

 One day, as I had few spare moments, and at the instigation of my best friend, Darryl, I decided to do an internet search for “W. Sealtiel,” something that surely would not have yielded a result when the portrait first came into my possession.  Darryl suggested that maybe, just maybe, I might learn something of this mysterious artist. Perhaps, just perhaps, he was an illustrious character with a colourful story.  To be honest, while I thought I might find some shred of information on the artist, and perhaps even another portrait or two of some long-forgotten soldiers sketched by W. Sealtiel on eBay, I did not expect much.  Within minutes of searching I had found another sketch, of a woman, available through a Dutch art dealer, and after digging a bit deeper, I found a biographical sketch of the man himself in a periodical dedicated to family history research on the “Shealtiel” name.   

Walter Sealtiel was a secular German Jew, born in 1890. His family were of the upper class set in Berlin, but Walter saw the writing on the wall and in 1935 decided to make haste and leave Germany.  Being able to speak fluent Dutch, he fled to Amsterdam where he tried to blend in to life there.  But even in blending in he maintained something of a profile!  He was a performer of sorts.  He had mastered the art of pick-pocketing as entertainment. Apparently he was even styled by the Amsterdam press as “the king of the pickpockets!”  He traveled to England, France and even New York to perform his “magic,” not limiting himself to pickpocketing alone, he apparently practised telekenisis and read minds, as well! An interview exists from the early 1930s, now translated into English, in which Sealtiel explains how he became a pick-pocket and shares a secret or two of how the magic is done.  At some point he earned his living working for the Bijenkorf Warehouse (one of the great Dutch department stores that still exists) working as a portrait artist.   I have yet to discover a connection with the Astoria Club, though.  Perhaps he happened to be there by chance when the portrait of my grandfather was done, or perhaps he was engaged by the club to do such work. During the later years of the war he was sent to a work camp, which broke him physically. After the war he returned to Amsterdam, to his wife and their residence there.  And where was it that they lived?  44 Paramariboststraat.  This is the address on my grandfather’s portrait.  If I had any doubts that the Walter Sealtiel about which I was learning was the same as the W. Sealtiel who sketched my grandfather’s portrait, these were now laid to rest. 

 There may be another connection, though. It is said that after the war broke out, Sealtiel’s son Hans actually joined the Canadian Army and fought in the battle of the Ardennes. Was Walter Sealtiel more than a simple portrait artist who crossed paths with my grandfather? Or were they actually known to each other?  Did my grandfather serve with his son? Would this have been how they met? What is even more intriguing is that after a time, the son, Hans Sealtiel began spying on behalf of the Canadian military because he spoke fluent German without an accent. 

 This discovery, made in a few short minutes by a small amount of internet research, was more than I could have ever imagined.  Walter Sealtiel was clearly a remarkable man!  The portrait is one of my most valued possessions and anchors me to my own family history, but now with the knowledge of the artist and his family, I also feel anchored in a special way to the world of this remarkable man who was a stage magician, portrait painter, prisoner-of-war, and father of a spy!

 Walter Sealtiel died in 1948, a man broken by his incarceration.  It is said that his son resented the fact that he had never revealed to him that they were Jews.  It is hard to judge the motives of the men of another age.  Even with this freshly-discovered story as a new insight into the story behind this portrait, it seems such a distant time.  It remains hard to understand a young Canadian who lies about his age to serve his country; it is unfathomable to me that a young bride should leave her family, to come to a new country, sight unseen, while her husband is still fighting in Europe; and it is just as hard to imagine what it would have been like to have been Walter Sealtiel, hiding his ethnicity, fleeing is homeland, and sketching portraits and performing magic to make a living during those war-torn years.  We dare not judge; but oh how wonderful it is to let our imaginations sketch portraits of their nearly-forgotten lives.

Information for this piece was gleaned from “A Family Shattered by Persecution,” by Vibeke Sealtiel Olsen in The Shealtiel Gazette: The International Journal of the Family Network (Vol. IV, no III, May 2000): 20-22. In the same issue, the above-mentioned interview with Walter Sealtiel is also to be found on page 25, entitled, “How I became a Pickpocket.”

Saturday, November 3, 2012

On Christmas Carols in November

On Christmas Carols in November
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves

Why are people so angry about Christmas carols in November?  Word has gone around the internet that Shoppers’ Drug Mart has decided, in response to customer feedback, to nix playing Christmas carols this month.  How sad.  To my way of thinking, there’s nothing quite like Christmas carols in November. As I write this, Athena is practicing carols on her flute.  On Monday, we begin choir practice for our December 16th “Festival of Lessons and Carols,” and oh how I love to hear them played and sung.  There is nothing quite so soul-stirring as the strains of music extolling the birth of our Saviour. 

 It seems as if we in the liturgical tradition have become hostages to the liturgical year.  Even as I am writing these words there are doubtless many liturgical fundamentalists out there bemoaning the fact that Christmas carols are now being played and sung in malls, stores, and perhaps even over the radio.  They will lament the fact that carols will stop on December 26th, when the great Twelve Days are only just underway. They will scoff at their brothers and sisters who are members of non-liturgical churches that will sing carols during Advent, when they should be offering Advent hymns.  And no doubt, they will deride me for calling them out for what they are, fundamentalists.

To be sure, I think we should have a healthy offering of Advent hymns during the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, hymns that underscore the theme of waiting, of the coming of the Kingdom, of the Blessed Virgin, and John the Baptist who cried out in the wilderness “Prepare ye the Way of the Lord!”  It is true that we do not know how to wait very well anymore.  It is true that we need to embrace a discipline of waiting from time-to-time. It is true that we ought to take some time to let those Advent themes wash over us.  It is true that we ought to enter into the narrative of the liturgical year as a way of participating in the sacred drama.  But, the words of that favourite carol are true as well: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”

The Lord is come!  The great truth of our faith is that Jesus IS here already.  What we act out in our liturgical cycle is a drama that allows us to enter into the story and feel the contours of a reality, however, the liturgical cycle is not the reality itself; that God is with us in Jesus Christ, is the reality.  God is with us now. He has entered into our lives, into our world, into our hearts.  This is not something that has yet to happen; it is for us our reality.  When we forget that Jesus is here, that the “Lord is come,” we lose our grasp on reality.  If I must give up that reality in favour of the liturgical drama that is intended to help us see it, well, you can keep the liturgical drama, I will choose to sing “the Lord is come!” 

None of this is to say that we should abandon Advent and all it means and all it points to.  I’m all in favour of the drama of the liturgical year.  I love it.  I embrace it.  I seek to offer a liturgical cycle in my parish that draws the worshiper into the unfolding sacred mystery, into the story of our redemption.  But let’s not get all psycho when a Christmas carol slips through here and there.  And for goodness’ sake, let’s celebrate the fact that songs extolling the birth in time of the timeless Son of God are still heard in the public sphere. Let’s celebrate that we have the freedom to hear and sing our songs of faith.  Let’s celebrate that maybe, just maybe, someone out there will hear the words, “O Holy Child of Bethlehem be born in us today” and Jesus will be real to them and change their life forever.  I, for one, am pleased to hear, whether it be in December, or November, or any day of the year, that “the Lord is come.” 
c. 2012, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

Friday, September 28, 2012

Living in Hope - A Reflection for Harvest Thanksgiving 2012

Thankfulness and gratitude can, at times, be hard things to aspire to.  We may wish to be thankful in all things, we may long to show gratitude for the blessings we have received, but thankfulness and gratitude may be beyond our reach or slip from our grasp. Sometimes we think that if only we change our mindset and think more positively we will be able to stir ourselves out of disappointment and pain and into thankfulness and gratitude. There is no shortage of positive-thought peddlers who would tell us that positive thinking will change the way we feel and think, and that it will even our health.  Perhaps there is kernel of truth in what they sell, but why is it that in spite of our best efforts we cannot be thankful? Why is it that in spite of all our positive thinking we find the rug pulled out beneath us and realize that we are less than thankful for the trials into which we tumble?

Trials are inevitable.  There is not a single one amongst us who will not know or experience significant, and even tragic, disappointment at some point in our lives.  Positive thinking only masks our pain and disillusionment.  Counter-intuitively, it seems to me that honesty about our disappointments is at the heart of living a life of thankfulness and gratitude.  It is not that we need to be thankful about such things.   Instead,  let us simply be honest that we are less than immortal, that we are indeed vulnerable, fragile people, that we can be hurt, and yes, we will in turn hurt others. If we are honest about such things we will realize that they can exert an extraordinary power over us that mere “positive thinking” cannot overcome.

But recognizing the power that disappointment, pain, and brokenness have over us does not mean that in the end we allow them to shape the story of our lives.  It does not mean that our narrative is to be controlled by the things that would destroy us.  It does mean that we need to understand that under our own power we are tempted by the illusion that we can be victorious over such things.  How many people have I loved, have you loved, that are stricken by cancer or some ravaging disease?  How many have lost jobs, relationships, peace of mind, and been told by some well-meaning soul to “cheer up” or “be positive.”  It’s not so easy is it?

Last fall I visited my friend Susan who was dying of cancer.  She was in much pain.  Her husband had just retired. There was much sadness that all their plans for a retirement together were about to evaporate. Susan told me she was keeping a journal.  I asked her what she was writing about.  She told me, “hope.”  As it came closer to her final days and she was in palliative care, I noticed that the word “hope” had been pasted on her door.  Susan had embraced something much bigger than herself.  Or rather, it had embraced her.

Hope is not simply positive thinking.  It is not mere optimism.  Hope does not have its origins or foundations in the human heart, but rather, in the heart of God.  Because of her hope in Christ, Susan did not have to deny her anguish, regret, or pain. She did not have to deny the reality about what was going to happen to her.  In the midst of these things, in facing these things with brutal honesty, she held fast to the one who made her, redeemed her, and at last called her home.  Hope is not something we muster up, but something God has for each of us and pours into our hearts in our weakness.  Hope is the undying, eternal reality that God loves us.  Hope is the truth that God seeks for us to be reconciled with each other, with his creation, and ultimately, with himself.  Hope is the longing that God has for us and by his gracious gift, it becomes our longing for him.  And thus, hope triumphs over the narratives of brokenness, of sinfulness, of pain, of disappointment and disillusionment. These stories, as painful as they are, will never be the last word for us, because God has the last word, and his word is Hope.   I find much to be grateful for in this truth, and I am thankful to my friend Susan for reminding me of this.

Wherever you are this Harvest Thanksgiving, and whatever challenges you, my prayer is that you will know hope of God in Christ Jesus and that his story of hope for you becomes the story that shapes your life.
c. 2012, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thanksgiving for our Ecumenical Ministerial

One of the things I treasure greatly about ministry here in Bradford is our ecumenical ministerial.  For those who are unacquainted with lingo, an ecumenical ministerial is typically a gathering or association of clergy from the various denominations in a given community.  We typically gather once a month for lunch, discussion, planning and prayer.  We uphold each other in the challenges we each face in our respective ministries and encourage each other in the various initiatives we undertake.  We work together as much as possible in the community on projects in which we can find common ground. 

Over the years, I have heard horror stories concerning various ministerial associations.  In many cases, one group of similarly-minded clergy (the evangelicals, the catholics, or the liberals) try to take over the group, and others are left feeling marginalized.  Sometimes it seems that the tragic history of a fragmented world-wide Church is lived out on the local scale.  I am happy to say, though, that I have been blessed to have been part of two excellent ministerial associations in my ministry, both here in Bradford and during my time in Thornhill.  In both places there is deep conviction that we are serving the same Lord and that there is much that we can do together, in spite of the difference of opinion that we might have with respect to minor (and some major!) ways in which we understand the gospel. 

I think that one of the key factors in this is a level of trust.  I may not always agree with my fellow clerics on how they interpret various aspects of the gospel, but I trust and believe that they are acting faithfully out of their conviction that Jesus is Lord and that God is working in Christ to bring about the redemption of the world.  And I would venture to say that while some of them surely scratch their heads at my Anglian idiosyncrasies, I do think that they trust that I am working from the same starting place as they are, Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. 

Fear and lack of trust come from lack of understanding.  As I write this there is once again growing turmoil between the Middle East and the West.  People are dying because we fail to understand the cultural narratives in which “the other” lives.  Those who are rising up against the West cannot understand why we would not just lock up the man who made a film insulting the Prophet and throw away the key.  We in the West have trouble fathoming the extraordinary and violent response to such a marginal, poorly-made film that nobody is actually viewing.  We fail to understand because our cultural, political, and religious differences run so deep that it may be next to impossible to find common ground.  I pray that this is not so, but it is a difficult and complicated task that requires time, cooperation, and intentionality – all of which seem to be in very short supply on the world stage, of late.

This is why I think we have cause to give thanks here in Bradford for the fact that those of us who are Christians can claim a common ground in Christ.  Even with the huge issues that divide us (the ordination of women, blessing of same-gender unions, varied understandings of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist), we can come together, pray together, work together, serve together and minister together.  I count my ministerial colleagues as amongst my dearest friends.  I am encouraged by them and inspired by their faith.  I don’t always agree with every aspect of how their faith is articulated or in every aspect of how they live it out, but we share something much more important, and that is the Good News of the Gospel and the faith of Jesus Christ.  What binds us is stronger than what separates us, and to this end, even though we sometimes find ourselves at odds and find that we cannot walk together on certain issues, we strive for the greatest degree of unity possible and demonstrate love and charity when we are at odds.  I think that this is something we can offer to a broken and hurting world.  I believe that this is a gift that the Church can bring to society.  In small and large communities across this country and around the world, churches can demonstrate in their communities what it means to share a common faith, live a common life, and journey together in love and charity in the midst of difference.  After all, our Lord is the lord of reconciliation and restoration.  As this Thanksgiving feast approaches this is what I choose to give thanks for this year.
C. 2012, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Canadian Churchman's Round-up: A Compendium of Thoughtful Anglican Blogs, Issue #2

Every once in a while, the Canadian Churchman like to offer a “round up” of some of the interesting Anglican blogs and posts that out there in the blogosphere. I am not really interested in blogs that simply post snippets of news items or in blogs that are vehemently idealistically driven (from either the conservative or liberal perspectives).  What the Churchman enjoys reading are blogs that put some effort into theological reflection and seek to edify their readers.  It seems like these thoughtful Anglican blogs are often neglected, or buried under the weight of the sheer multitude of polemical religious bloggers.  Recent months have seen some very thoughtful posts indeed.  Here are a few of the Churchman’s recent favourites:

Faithful readers of this blog will know that the Churchman’s good friend, the Vicar of Wakefield, always writes in a thoughtful, reasoned and irenic way, which would make their shared hero Richard Hooker proud.  When the news hit this week that an ancient manuscript had been discovered which revealed that apparently Jesus had a wife that we have never heard of, the Vicar was quick into the fray to explain some things.  Even if the manuscript were even from the second century (and it is likely later), this does not necessarily mean that it is proof that Jesus was married.  The good Vicar uses the opportunity, though, to talk a bit about the role of women in the church over the years.

Over at Andrew's Version, the Warden of Trinity College, Melbourne reflects on the household code of Ephesians (which recently came up on the lectionary) with a thoughtful reflection on how that passage must be contextualized.  He also briefly considers the rather odd theology of submission that has been emerging in the Diocese of Sydney with respect to the marriage liturgy.

I should also draw your attention to "The Community," which is described as "a place for Canadian Anglicans to get together and talk about the Church."  It is a minstry of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, and features several theme-specific blogs.  Fr. Matthew Griffin blogs on the liturgy, and he recently interviewed the Vicar of Wakefield about his experiences of liturgy in both the Canadian and American churches (in several parts! Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).  He as also has an interview with your favourite Canadian Churchman about the healing ministry.

The always thoughtful Laurel Massé struggles with the recent "Pussy Riot sacrilege" and the riots that have resulted over the release of an anti-Muslim film. She ably grapples with themes of religious offense, freedom of speech, and deliberate provaocation, and does so through the lens of the biblical term "skandalon."

A thoughtful series on the Nicene Creed is unfolding at Interrupting the Silence.  The articles are characterized by a balance of historical context, theological reflection and practical application.  What I like best, though, is that study questions are provided to encourage the reader to deeper reflection. They would also serve as a helpful resource for clergy or lay leaders leading sessions on the Creed. To date, four parts have been published (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) with the latest entitled "Five Things We Believe About God."

"New Song to the Lord" is a collection of original lyrics by the Rev. Mark Kinghan set to traditional hymn tunes and metres.  Most of the hymns are seasonal and lectionary-based.  The most recent hymn is for the Feast of St. Mary, based on the Magnficat.  Those planning contemporary-language evening prayer services might consider using this version of the Mag!

One of our great Canadian liturgists, the Rev. Dr. Richard Leggett, faithfully posts his sermons most Sundays and has also provided some wonderful seasonal ordos for the Daily Office.  His Liturgy Pacific blog is always highly recommended both for his edifying sermons and his wise liturgical counsel!

This short compendium of thoughful Anglican blogs should keep you reading for a little while!  Please let me know about the blogs that you come across and I will be happy to included them in future editions of the "Round-Up." 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Restoring a Reed Organ - Part 6 - Removing the Action from the Case

Having had a first look at what the upper and lower action look like in the case, we decided to remove it entirely:

The action rests on these two brackets, one of which (the treble side) has been shimmed at some point.

We carefully lifted it out and placed it on the floor:

We were now able to get a first look at the exhauster bellows, valves and straps.

Three of the four original leather exhauster valves are missing, and the fourth has been replaced by that denim/canvas material that covers the main reservoir.  It is now clear why we couldn't get any sound out of the organ!  I depressed the reservoir while it was on the floor and tried to play the keyboard (a real trick) and was finally able to get some sound, although the reservoir only stayed depressed for mere seconds.

Now, here is a look at the inside of the case with the action removed.  That's Dad looking in...

There are two signatures chalked on:  "Fred" & "Casey", or maybe it was "Fred Casey."  Also note the strange little symbol (seen in the last post) which looks like some kind of stylized "R".  Note sure what it might mean.

We decided that we didn't want to just leave the action on the floor, so we needed to construct some kind of frame for it so that we could work on it.

The legs of Mom's old dining room table came in handy!

More to come!

Restoring a Reed Organ - Part V: Beginning the Disassmebly

It's time to take the back of the case off and get a better look inside:

As we began to look inside, we were very pleased to see no immediate evidence of mice.  Certainly there were some webs and a bit of evidence of a few other insects.  Much of the felt in many places has given way to the moths, but things look very good... just dirty.

Removing the lower part of the back of the case we can see the back of the reservoir and note that the hinges are on the outside of the resevoir (some reed organs have hinges inside). 

The safety/spill valve has been permanently covered over with a block of plywood, attached with screws (and as we later learned, glue).  Perhaps someone thought sealing this up might have been the solution to a leaky bellows.

Taking a look at the back board of the reservoir, we can see that the bellows have have been re-covered. The top covering looks like the original rubberized cloth (with some heat damage, probably from the previous removal of the rest of the cloth).  Along the sides is a "newer" cloth, which does not appear to be rubberized, but is rather almost like a canvas or denim.  Certainly note original.  You can see LOTS (!) of tacks affixing the cloth.  Not regulation procedure according to Jim Tyler!

Did you see the interesting chalked mark on the case in upper left picture?  More on that in a future post!  As we look above at the upper action, we found an interesting marking on the back of the keyboard frame:

Let's flip it over and get a better look:

It says "B.M. Woodman, Feb 19th, 1876"
So, we have a date for the organ, which fall into the range I postulated in an earlier post.  Still no serial number, though. 

Here's a photo that we took later of the action board, after we removed it, and we noticed that Woodman had signed it there, as well.

Next:  Taking the action out of the case.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Restoring a Reed Organ - Part 4: An Overview of the Instrument

As mentioned in a previous post, when the organ was at Jan and Bill's place, I only had my old Blackberry with me and the picture quality was not great.  Now that we have the organ in Dad's workshop, we decided to take some photos with his Nikon camera.  Now, one thing you should know is that photography is not amongst the Churchman's greatest gifts. At any rate, the should give you an idea of what the organ looks like and some of its interesting, and quite lovely features.

Here is a view of the keyboard with the keyboard cover opened.  It is quite a nice presentation.

Here are a few close up shots.  You will note that the instrument is a C-C instrument with 61 keys. Many keyboards are F-F.  The front of a few of the keys are missing and all the white keys are quite yelloed and dirty. The black keys are in quite good shape, though.  No splits or breaks on them.  A few are a bit scratched, but generally look quite good.

Here are the stop faces on the bass side and then the treble side.  You can see that a few are missing and a few of the faces have fallen off and are lost.  A couple are loose and have been placed back on and I am not sure if they are in the right place or not.  The treble stop next to the Vox Humana is missing and has a "plug" in that hole.  The Vox Human stop is stationary and is worked by two smaller on/off pistons on either side.

Here's a close up of each of the medallions:

A closer look at the Mason & Hamlin
& Mason & Risch & Newcombe stencils

Now, moving to the lower half of the organ, we can see the two knee levers.
The grand organ is on the bass side and the swell is on the treble side.

One of the two inserts is in place.

The carpet on the pedals is badly worn.  I'm not too worried since it looks like it came straight from Grandma's living room anyway.

And now, a bit of a look as some of the lovely features of the case.

Here is a view of the side carvings and candle stands:

On the front "legs" (they're not really legs but I'm not sure what to call them) on each side is this little geometric, sheild-like ornamentation, which is quite a contrast with the more florid side carvings, I think.

The cover lock is also quite ornate... anyone have a key that would fit this?

Let's take a look at the back:

It's a bit rough looking, with a very different finish?  Is it a different wood, or has the front and top been previously refinished?  You can see an oppening for the sub-bass reeds about half-way down.  It had a cover (sitting on top of the organ) that was split down the centre and needs repairing. Some close ups of that opening, below, with a view of the sub-bass reeds.

Opening the top of the case, we see that there is some significan damage around the hinges.  In fact, the original rectangular hinges are gone and replaced with something you might use on your backyard gate.  You can see the indentation and screw holes from the original hinge. It is much the same with the hinge on the other end.

Looking inside you can see some damage to the finish where water or something has been spilled (we found evidence of this all down the interior, and into the action, keys and even bellows - as we shall see in a future post).

A number is visible on the interior of the case:

Not enough digits for a serial number... probably the case number.

On the interior of the side of the case (bass side) is this cabinet patent label.  This does not give us a precise date for the organ, but it establishes it is post-1870, but we already knew that as one of the medallions is an 1873 medallion.

A Look at the Vox Human vane.  It is dusty and quite brittle.  Cracked and torn in a couple of places.

A closer look at the vane - It appears to be original.

From another angle; catching a view of the sub-bass box (still have to learn all the technical terms), and a bit of the stop action.  It is looking sideways  from the treble side to the bass side.

This is the back of the stop board.  All the stop mechanism seem to function, although several are disconnected from the stop knobs. 

Someone has conveniently numbered them all and they appear to be in the right order. "7" is completely disconnected with the cloth washer missing, but "8" is in working order, but needing a thorough cleaning!

A view inside of the front treble corner.  I should say we have found no evidence of mice so far, but lots of evidence of spiders and other little bugs.  The red cloth is the back of the grill .  I'm not sure if it is original or not. It is not a very nice material and quite faded.

 Another number, this one on the top of the action board.

 Here we are back outside again.  The base is a bit loose and will require some fixing.

Next time:  Let's get the back off this thing and take a look at the bellows!