Aiding and abetting…

We are sinful not only because we have eaten of the Tree of Knowledge,
but also because we have not yet eaten of the Tree of Life.
The state in which we are is sinful, irrespective of guilt.

Franz Kafka


(a helter-skelter feeding frenzy in the surf / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

Our dear favorite ‘across the pond’ rouge Anglican bishop is at it again…
showcasing the egregious acts of The Chruch, not being the Church.

And how might the Church not be the Church you ask…

Well the good Bishop is explaining such through various means…
such as taking part in interviews, writing a plethora of posts as well as contributing to
various printed articles.

Below is the most recent pitch from an interview with the BBC…

The Right Reverend Dr. Gavin Ashenden, former chaplain to the Queen,
has criticised the Cathedral for making a “mockery” of God.

“Instead of allowing a Cathedral to act as a bridge between people and God’s presence,
instead it obscures it by offering to entertain and divert people,”

Next, in a recent article, as well as posting, the good bishop offers the following as a
lead-in to such observations…

Three Anglican cathedrals have set out to increase both their appeal to the public and
to get more people into the building.

One has chosen a gin festival, another has built a mini-golf course over the flagstones
where pilgrims have knelt in prayer since the 7th century, and one has built a helter-skelter
at the heart of the building.

So for those of us on this side of the pond who simply think of the Beatles or Charles Manson
when we hear or read the words ‘helter-skelter’…a helter-skelter is actually an amusement ride.

And yes you’ve read correctly…
three churches, Cathedrals for that matter,
(Cathedrals being churches that are homes to a bishop),
have literally placed an amusement ride inside the sanctuary,
while another has put in a putt-putt green down its center aisle and
still, another is offering a gin festival…
think Oktoberfest with gin rather than beer, inside of a church.

And so Bishop Ashenden makes a very hard and painfully truthful observation about
the collective Chruch…

In every generation, the Church faces a live or die challenge.
Convert or be converted.

He goes on…
Act as an agency for people to encounter the Living God and be forgiven,
turned and transformed;
or fit into the unforgiving contours of a society that is driven by other forces,
other appetites, and smear over their agenda a patina of spirituality that confers a thin
covering of political and cultural legitimacy.

Yet Bishop Ashenden, however, does not sugarcoat those darker days in the Church’s history…
because the Chruch is not spotless nor free of her own egregious actions…

“There have been moments in history when the church’s failure has been tragically treacherous.
The blessing of guns destined to kill Christian German cousins a hundred years ago in the name
of the Christ who challenged his followers to meet evil with good and turn the other
cheek still burns in the recent memory.

The unquestioning presiding over the hanging, drawing, and quartering of elderly Catholic priests
guilty of nothing more than baptizing the faithful into the Church that carried the Gospels
to these islands and celebrating discreet house masses presented as acts of national,
political treason still casts a pall of shame across our collective historical memory”.

He then explains why things that are so seemingly simple and silly as a liquor festival,
mini golf greens and amusement rides residing in the sanctuaries of a church is, in reality,
an affront, as well as a mockery, to all that is Holy…

When Jesus went to the cross to bear the sins of humanity he faced not only murder,
but mockery.
The soldiers had fun at his expense, before they killed him.

Both guns and scaffolds have been the instrumentation of murder, but mockery
is no more acceptable just because it is not murder.
The trouble with the helter-skelter and the pitch and putt is that to anyone
with a sense of what Rudolf Otto called ‘the Holy” they constitute an offence
of some gravity.

The good Bishop explains that we are surrounded by a world full of distractions.
Everything is now vying, very loudly, for our attention.
We are consumed and have allowed that ‘still small Voice’ to be drained
from our being…

However, it was always the Chruch, our refuge, which afforded us the necessary quietude
and stillness in order to reconnect and to truly hear and feel that Voice while being
allowed to fall at the feet of that very Voice both in our need and in our joy.

We live in a culture addicted to distraction and pleasure-seeking.
The dynamics of this are potent antidotes to experiencing the presence of God.
They are everywhere.
We experience a saturation of stimulation and distraction in everyday life.
It is almost if the pace and pleasure of life set out to make reflection and prayer impossible.

The one place one might be free of this could be, ought to be a cathedral.

But for such a place, steeped in mystery and marvel to buy in[to] sensory pleasure and distraction
is to poison the very medicine it offers the human soul.
It cracks the exquisite mirror it holds up before the presence of God; it drowns out the still,
small voice, that Elijah encountered and adored.

And thus the dear Bishop reminds us that we are currently witnessing our own rapid
loss to what is in actuality our innate need for the Sacred.
As the very place where the Sacred could and should be found is in reality,
aiding and abetting in that very loss…

Please read and hear the good Bishop’s words in the following links…

Convert or be converted – the challenge for Anglican cathedrals today.

Golf, ego and awe. An interview with Gavin Ashenden on BBC radio about cathedrals and pitch and putt. What ARE they for?

Be my refuge

“Where does your security lie? Is God your refuge, your hiding place,
your stronghold, your shepherd, your counselor, your friend, your redeemer,
your saviour, your guide? If He is, you don’t need to search any further for security.”

Elisabeth Elliot

“Let all your thoughts be with the Most High, and direct your humble prayers unceasingly to Christ.
If you cannot contemplate high and heavenly things, take refuge in the Passion of Christ,
and love to dwell within His Sacred Wounds.
For if you devoutly seek the Wounds of Jesus and the precious marks of His Passion,
you will find great strength in all troubles.”

Thomas à Kempis

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(view behind Ross Castle, Killarney National Park, Co Kerry, Ireland, Julie Cook/ 2015)

In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed.

In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
Incline Your ear to me and save me.

Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come;
You have given commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,
Out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man,
For You are my hope;

O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth.
By You I have been sustained from my birth;
You are He who took me from my mother’s womb;
My praise is continually of You.

I have become a marvel to many,
For You are my strong refuge.

My mouth is filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all day long.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
Do not forsake me when my strength fails.

Psalm 71:1-9

What are we to do?

“Make up your mind,” Moab says. “Render a decision. Make your shadow like night – at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees.”
Isaiah 16:3

DSC02486
(a morning glory found deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)

Both Lucy Lipiner and Gerda Weissmann Klein have a tale to tell. . .

Each woman weaves a story steeped in the sweet innocence of childhood which is suddenly and unimaginably lost in the midst of unspeakable horrors. . .yet thankfully theirs is a tale of eventual survival and of small yet victorious triumphs.

There are a few differences between these two woman of which create two very individual stories. . .
Differences such as their age and the fact that they were each born in different small towns.
Yet it is to the similarities between them that inextricably binds them together for all of eternity.
I am pretty certain that these woman do not personally know one another nor have they ever met, but I somehow think that in many ways they have known one another very well for a very long time as they have both survived the unimaginable stemming from the same wicked source. . .

Each woman was born in Poland and each woman was born into a Jewish family.
Whoever would have imagined that those two seemingly insignificant factors would mark these women for the rest of their lives by placing them in the valley of the shadow of Death. Had they been born say, in America or Canada, or England, their stories would certainly have been less then memorable. Lives lived as mostly anyone else’s.
But because they were born in a country lying in the path of a very hungry and vicious animal, tragedy was to be their lot.

I have finished reading Lucy’s tale and have now begun Gerda’s equally gripping story.
As I waited in the dentist office yesterday, reading until I was called back, I had tears flooding my eyes as I read the story of an individual family, like my own family or anyone’s family, being ripped apart as they stood by helpless to prevent the rupture.

Despite the fact that these two lady’s stories took place over 70 years ago, I have been struck by the similarities of the worldwide current plights now littering our news.

Each was a young girl when The War broke out–when Germany marched forth seizing Poland as its own.
Each girl came from a prominent family within their respective towns. They were loved, nurtured and happy living their lives as innocent children.

I think it is Lucy’s story that I have found to be most relevant to any story I might read in today’s paper—that of any number of families fleeing Syria or Egypt or Turkey or Somalia or Tunisia, or Eritrea, etc.— each seeking refuge from the unspeakable horrors of the upheaval of what was an average life.

Lucy’s family was on the run for almost 10 years. Starting when she was 6 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939– they became just another statistic of families in the throng of the displaced as they sought refuge in the Soviet Union and later Tajikistan then briefly back to Poland and ironically to Germany and eventually to the US.
There was death, violence, sexual abuse, grave hunger, incapacitating illness, loss, sorrow, separation and near madness.

They had been a family like any other family–they had a nice home, nice clothes, nice jewelry. They went to Temple. They enjoyed their extended family. They attended school. They had jobs. They played music as they lived, loved and laughed—-

Suddenly life took a turn beyond their control and they lost everything–they became hunted, like animals. They were reduced to wearing clothes turned to rags as there was no longer choice. They lost weight. They were hungry. They were infested with bugs, inside and out. They ate rotten trash and drank fetid water to quell an endless hunger. They were dirty, they smelled. They were sick both physically, spiritually and mentally.
They were shells of human beings.

Miraculously the family remained intact but it came at a tremendous cost to each member of the family. They survived in part due the kindness of those strangers and individuals encountered along the long and arduous journey who were willing to offer aid, shelter and comfort, as meager as it was. . .to dirty and seemingly unsavory subhuman individuals who were considered enemies of every state simply for being Jewish.

Yesterday’s news ran a story about the discovery of a lorry, or tractor trailer, abandoned on a road in Austria containing at least 70 dead bodies of migrants, or refugees, who were on what they thought to be a journey to freedom.

Today there was the story of another capsized ship losing possibly 500 individuals–men, women and children drowning while on their way to freedom.

There have been the stories of the Chunnel being overrun and shut down, day after day, by the thousands of migrants in Calais seeking asylum and freedom.

There was the story of an arson attack on a migrant shelter in Germany, as Angela Merkel was booed by those Germans not wanting to see Germany overrun by the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking safe haven.

It is said that the current influx of migrants from both Africa and the Middle East is the largest exodus of people since World War II.

A humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.

The worry– how will the small European Nations absorb the millions of people running away from tyranny, abuse and horror. . .how will they be able to provide for all of these “other” people as they continue providing for their own. . .?

These refugees are different–culturally, religiously and ethnically.

Later I read a story about the marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The story told the tale of how one group of New Orleans citizens did not want the “other” New Orleans citizens, those who were the evacuees coming from the more disadvantaged areas, to cross the bridge bringing them into the more affluent neighborhoods.

These citizens were afraid of being overrun with what was thought to be unsavory individuals bringing with them drugs, crime and violence—those citizens coming from the areas which were known to be rife with such—
And I suppose some of those feelings may have been justified after we heard the stories of the rapes and murders taking place within the Superdome when it was opened to those evacuating the lower 9th ward.

Is it fear that keeps us weary, holding our arms outward not as arms offering a welcoming embrace but rather as arms pushing away and repelling those who come seeking aid and assistance?

How can we take on an endless sea of people in need–economically absorbing the astronomical costs for healthcare, housing, education, employment and assimilation?

What of the hidden terrorists among the masses?

Are we not told to be hospitable and welcoming–offering sustenance and aid to our fellow human beings who are in desperate need?

Would we not want someone to do the same for us?

One country closes its borders.

Is that fair to the other surrounding countries?

How do we feed them all?

Where will they stay?

What of those who are criminals?

What of the illness and disease they bring with them?

What of the myriad of language barriers?

What will happen to our own way of life when it yields to the incoming masses?

Do we lose ourselves, our identity, while giving of ourselves to the “other?”

I don’t know the answers to these hard questions and I don’t think the rest of the world knows the answers either–
yet I simply keep hearing these words. . .

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40

Lusia’s Long Journey Home
A young Girls’ Memoir of Surviving the Holocaust
by Lucy Lipiner

A Memoir
All But My Life
by Gerda Weissmann Klein