Homeward Bound, Kyle Albertson and the St. Luke’s United Methodist Church Virtual Chancel Choir

Something unbelievably beautiful from the St. Luke’s Sunday morning service: Homeward Bound.

St. Luke’s is doing some remarkable things with technology to reach their congregation during the days of pandemic distancing. Click the link and you will hear a most amazing voice, an outstanding choir, and a beautiful arrangement of Homeward Bound. (This is not the Simon and Garfunkel song.) And the solo part by Kyle Albertson is very moving. And, yes, he is a member of St. Luke’s who sings opera professionally.

He’s pretty good. He has done cover at the Met for a guy named Bryn Terfel.

In the quiet misty morning
When the moon has gone to bed
When the sparrows stop their singing
And the sky is clear and red
When the summer’s ceased its gleaming
When the corn is past its prime
When adventure’s lost its meaning
I’ll be homeward bound in time

Bind me not to the pasture
Chain me not to the plow
Set me free to find my calling
And I’ll return to you somehow

If you find it’s me you’re missing
If you’re hoping I’ll return
To your thoughts I’ll soon be listening
In the road I’ll stop and turn
Then the wind will set me racing
As my journey nears its end
And the path I’ll be retracing
As I’m homeward bound again

Bind me not to the pasture
Chain me not to the plow
Set me free to find my calling
And I’ll return to you somehow
Bind me not to the pasture
Chain me not to the plow
Set me free to find my calling
And I’ll return to you somehow

In the quiet misty morning
When the moon has gone to bed
When the sparrows stop their singing
And the sky is clear and red
When the summer’s ceased its gleaming
When the corn is past its prime
When adventure’s lost its meaning
I’ll be homeward bound in time

Lockdown Days 128-131: Venturing Out – Just a Little

Those “coronavirus walks” are a thing of the past. The heat-humidity index has regularly pushed up to 106 and even higher in the afternoons. Without the neighborhood walks, there can be no more chance meetings with old friends, no more handovers of delicious tomatoes from a neighbor’s backyard garden.

Notwithstanding the heat, I cannot resist a chance to shoot a few pictures when occasions present themselves. Friday morning, I looked out the window and saw that a neighbor had one of those celebration signs in the front yard. I went out to see what the occasion was and it turned out to be for their 50th anniversary. When I heard voices outside later, I gathered up the camera with the wide angle lens and sped out to see if I could get a picture of them.

It was a low exposure risk with a high payout in terms of a chance to help them celebrate their big day. We visited (from a proper distance) and I learned that their kids had arranged for the sign – a nice alternative to the kind of super-spreader parties that usually accompany the 50th.

I had received a call a few weeks ago to see if I could take a few photos for the drive-by kickoff for the virtual Vacation Bible School compassion camp. There will be some Zoom meetings and each child received a yard sign and an activity kit for the price of a donation to the local food pantry.

We were all checked in properly with a brief personal health and exposure quiz and temperature check and then we were given matching red masks and t-shirts with the “Be Loved, Be Kind, Be You” camp motto. Each team got a bottle of hand sanitizer and all the equipment for their stations.

God knows (really) that we need to teach children about compassion and generosity while those principalities and powers (aka DJT) glorify selfishness with daily tweets that are followed by millions.

And, in case anyone wanted to make fun of a kid for signing up for compassion camp, we had this bouncer assigned to deliver a Wesleyan quadrilateral to his mid-section. He wasn’t taking any guff off anybody.

So, there you have it friends. It was my nineteenth weekend in lockdown and it was a blast. What isn’t there to love about celebrating an anniversary with a neighbor and taking pictures for a Compassion Camp for kids?

Compassion Camp has to be an improvement over the vacation Bible school I attended when I was a kid. There were so many things they tried to teach me. But there was only one truly unforgettable experience and that was the “goat milk and unleavened bread” simulation they required us to force down one time before we could enjoy punch and cookies. It was to help us understand something we read from the Old Testament. It must have had something to do with goat milk and unleavened bread.

Buttermilk and graham crackers, I now know, are nothing like goat’s milk or unleavened bread. Although the crackers are clearly unleavened, they are nothing like bread of any kind. And crumbled up in buttermilk, they seemed designed to set off an eight-year-old’s gag reflex. And we sang “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus.” A man who could turn water into wine would never have done that to a child. That’s not what he meant by suffer.

There is just too much time for memories when you have been locked in for so long.

Also Lost in the Pandemic – Group Hugs

If you have ever been in a group that needed to give someone a group hug, you know that there is nothing else that will do. And if you have ever been that person who needed a group hug, you also know there can be no substitute.

Here you see a group of Methodist teenagers in December, 2017, after they received news that their youth director was moving from Chapelwood 1 to Chapelwood 2 up the road in Houston. The hug was their spontaneous, genuine, and deeply felt gift. The photographer barely had time to point the camera.

This is not something that can ever happen in a Zoom meeting.

And that, my friends, is all our loss.

The Way We Were – the Things We Took for Granted

As I paged through some of my Flickr albums today, I began to take note of the things I had recorded in photos that seemed so common and unimportant at the the time but which, now, we miss utterly. I will share some of these over the next few days and maybe you can think of how your own life has changed since the middle of March, 2020.

It is Sunday and, once again, Chapelwood has delivered a service online as a way of reaching out to those who are not yet brave enough to venture out even for the limited in-person service they have offered for the last few weeks. But there are things you miss about the live service.

Being in the same room with a couple of hundred singing, praying, preaching Methodists offers an atmosphere – maybe more accurately an emanation – comprising the combined exhalations of the people in the room. On first noticing it, you think that maybe you are smelling your own breath. But none of the mingled scents match up with last night’s dinner or the morning breakfast. You have not had a garlic bagel. No onions, cilantro, spicy border dishes or chewing gum. It isn’t exactly halitosis, nor is it particularly unpleasant. But it is perhaps a little more intimate than you expect in a worship service.

But, on the other hand, maybe the shared breath is indicative of the very foundation of our lives and the need we have reaching out and establishing the intensity and depth of our community. It is the same breath we read that God breathed into the dust of the ground to create life.

It may seem musty, stale, unpleasant – even unhealthy – until it is gone. But you find, that for now, the virus has the upper hand and we must stand back. Methodist breath carries droplets that, in a crowded sanctuary, carry the threat of coronavirus. It is an intimacy that you miss when it is taken away.

There is still the yearning to reach out the hand of fellowship to your sisters and brothers in that experience of oneness under the rule of one who taught us to live simply, to live in community, to love, and to share.

My fellow United Methodists reach out the hand of fellowship to one another for one of the last times for the foreseeable future on December 22, 2019. We didn’t know how much that closeness would be missed in coming months. That touch and those mingled breaths strengthened all of us to live our lives more simply and morecourageously.

Day 105: A Lesson in Handling Bad News – the Inspiration of La Lydia

I glanced again today at a letter I received a few weeks ago from Dr. Socorro de Anda, president of the Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso. I had made a small donation to the Institute a few years ago in honor of one of their graduates who had served a summer internship at Chapelwood. The young woman had gone on to study at Wiley College in East Texas and came to us from Wiley. At Lydia Patterson she had daily crossed the international bridge to come in from her home in Ciudad Juarez to study in the U.S.

The Institute is supported by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. It was established in 1913 as a mission of the Methodist women in El Paso to serve children from across their border, many of whom had no local schools to attend. The project is now, as the letterhead points out, into its “Second 100 Years” and serving the cross-cultural friendships that strengthen all of us. Judging by the young woman they sent to spend the summer with us at Chapelwood, I became a very big fan of the Institute and its work.

Dr. de Anda’s letter was seeking support for the Institute but it was notable to me that no development officer had called on me since I made that one gift three years ago. Hers was the first contact I received from the Institute beyond the gracious thank you I received when I made the gift. Needless to say, I appreciated that they did not fill my mailbox with so many requests that I would wonder how many more I would receive before they had spent my entire gift on postage hoping I would send another.

My Post-Pandemic To-Do List for America

For the last few days I have been musing about the things that clearly need to be repaired as soon as the pandemic subsides, Congress re-assembles and DJT is an unpleasant chapter in our history. I started this list on April 28 and I will continue until I run out of ideas. The list may seem like a partisan list of Democratic Party objectives. It is not. I think everyone may have learned something about America, our national purposes, and the way we are governed. I plan to delve into many areas of our social and religious lives.

I invite your reading and comments. Trolling is not helpful. Please don’t do that.