Monday, March 24, 2008

Anglican Journal: Streamlined vestments

The story of my vestments has made the Anglican Journal website. Here's the article:
A priest from the diocese of Rupert’s Land who uses a wheelchair is now finding it easier to move around in robes custom-made for him by a concerned parishioner.

Gail Forrest, a member of the altar guild of St. Mary Magdalene parish, created special vestments for her parish rector, Rev. Preston Parsons, after seeing how his chasubles often got caught under the wheels of his chair. The stoles and chasubles that Mr. Parsons had inherited as a new priest were “much too bulky and awkward.”

Ms. Forrest, who learned how to sew in her youth, designed a special pattern she called an angel-wing cape and made four different sets of chasubles for Mr. Parsons, including a purple one for Lent.

Mr. Parsons was delighted with his parishioner’s act of kindness. “They (old robes) got caught in my wheels, dragged on the floor, and slipped all over the place,” he said. That is no longer a concern with his new chasubles that have non-slip linings.
An important but missing piece to the story is that these vestments, and the goodwill behind them, has been an answer to prayer. As soon as it became clear that priesthood was in my future, I began the (vain?) prayer that the parish that called me into ministry would support my ministry in very particular ways, and one of them was custom eucharistic vestments. My prayer was that specific, and answered without me asking anyone but God! Gail literally began measuring me before I was sure what she was measuring me for.

Thanks be to God, and to Gail for her beautiful work.

There are more pictures here. Missing are purple and red, recently finished, and completing the set. Hopefully pictures will go up soon.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Daddy Put In Bye-Bye Box

ITHACA, NY—After weeks of being sleepy all the time and never finishing his din-din at night, area daddy Howard Lewis was put in a bye-bye box early Monday morning so that he could go on a vacation with the birds and clouds in the sky.

Daddy, who was tall and strong and liked going to the hospital to play with their fun machines, was put in the bye-bye box at a big, white house where everyone had a party for him even though it wasn't his birthday. According to family sources, Daddy, 36, can't play Chutes and Ladders tonight, but he loved Ryan and his little sister, Rebecca, very, very much, and nothing is ever going to change that.

In Ryan's depiction, Daddy gets to play with Ryan's teddy bear, Porky, while in his cool underground box.

"I love my daddy. He's the best," said Ryan Lewis, 5, after watching the box get dropped inside a cool underground fort full of dirt and sand. "I'm going to be the big boy of the house until he gets back. And I have to take care of Rebecca now, even if she doesn't share her toys with me."

Some satire from the Onion, though it's more touching and sad than funny. I wonder if they posted it at the end of Holy Week on purpose.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Being a Priest in Public

I still feel pretty green when it comes to being a priest, but at least one part of this vocation has settled a little. I've blogged about wearing clericals before, and about how unsure I've been about when to wear them and when not to wear them. At this point I'm pretty settled in a routine of wearing clericals whenever I am formally in persona ecclesiae - whenever I am personally representing the church. In the liturgy, for sure, under my alb and chasuble; during pastoral care visits; at most church meetings. It turns out that I'm in clericals just about every day, except my day off, or if working from home.

Being in personal ecclesiae, it turns out, gives opportunity for some extremely varied reactions, and this came to a sharp point two nights ago. I was at a public event for the upcoming work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an opportunity for us to listen to the stories of the survivors of the residential school experience. I wore clericals, thinking that even if they might have hurtful associations for some, truthfulness and honesty is what this day is about. And I am a cleric in a church that has some responsibility for some shattered lives.

The public perception of "the church" was bundled up for me in two vastly different interactions. One man, who I've never met nor laid eyes on before, came directly up to me, smiling broadly, then shaking my hand vigorously, only to go on along his business. (He was white.) When Archbishop Fred Hiltz was speaking, another woman began yelling "Liars! Bullshit! Bullshit! I'll never forgive no priest! They're all liars!" She walked towards my furiously, giving my shoulder a good knock as she went by. (She was aboriginal.)*

Being in this kind of representative role for the church at this time - in persona ecclesiae - is not simply to be honoured and respected, as it once was. It also means bearing the burden of the sins of the church in very personal ways. And it is, whether I choose it to be this way or not, part of the vocation of personal representation of the church.

*Surely things are more complex than this, as there are many aboriginal Christians who are happy with the church, and also many white people who are very unhappy. But that this happened this way, at this particular event, is no coincidence.

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Garfield minus Garfield

There's something poignant, and very true, about these altered comic strips:

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb.

For example:

Check it out.

(Thanks Elliot)


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dear Religious Leader

I just got a piece of mail today from Petro-Canada, addressed to me, Preston Parsons, Religious Leader.

If I join their SuperPass program, they will enter me in a draw for a free trip to Las Vegas.

"Buy our gas, dear Religious Leader, and we'll send you to Sin City. Sincerely, Petro-Canada."

I wish I could make this stuff up.


Monday, March 03, 2008


I'm back from Toronto, and an excellent conference.

The three best quotes from three great days:

"There was a woman who fell down a well and became a Christian. But that hardly makes a good strategy for evangelism."
- George Lings in conversation

“I think people are fed up with consumer approaches, even though they’re addicted to them. But if we cast the evangel in terms of benefits, we’re setting people up for disappointment. We’re telling them lies.”

“This is not the way our Scriptures are written. This is not the way Jesus came among us. It’s not the way Paul preached. Where do we get all this stuff? We have a textbook. We have these Scriptures and most of the time they’re saying, ‘You’re going the wrong way. Turn around. The culture is poisoning.’”

“Do we realize how almost exactly the Baal culture of Canaan is reproduced in American church culture? Baal religion is about what makes you feel good. Baal worship is a total immersion in what I can get out of it. And of course, it was incredibly successful. The Baal priests could gather crowds that outnumbered followers of Yahweh 20 to 1. There was sex, there was excitement, there was music, there was ecstasy, there was dance: ‘We got girls over here, friends. We got statues, girls, and festivals.’ This was great stuff.”

“And what did the Hebrews have to offer in response? The Word.”
- Eugene Peterson, quoted in a presentation by Joe Manafo, church planter and documentary film-maker

"May you roll a long time, your shoulders never wear out, and your arms never get tired!"
- the man with a long grey beard on Bloor Street, blessing me as I headed for coffee

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