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.

Remembering Father Williams

Father Charles Williams (1989-1994) had a keen interest not only in setting the intellectual tone of the parish but also in enhancing its artistic environment. The emphasis on the arts was most appropriate, for the parish served as a place of rehearsal, performance, and research for fine arts students, especially from TWU, for many years. Father Williams encouraged the remodeling of the altar area. After his death, the parish published a book of his sermons. Though known for his intellectualism and quiet nature, Father Williams also provided a good laugh. After telling the children at a Blessing of the Animals ceremony that pets did not go to heaven, he was petitioned by the children to reconsider. By that point, he had acquired a much-loved dog and deemed that pets did, indeed, go to heaven.

From the history of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church (Denton, Texas) posted on the church’s web site: https://stbarnabasdenton.org/about-us/history/
Father Charles Thomas Williams served as Rector at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church from 1989 until his death at the age of fifty in 1994. He was my friend in college and best man at my wedding.

The parishioners at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Denton, Texas, must have thought it rude for a tourist to show up just before the morning service Sunday (February 23) as the congregation gathered for worship. My wife and I were just starting our trip back to Lake Jackson after spending Saturday watching our granddaughter compete in a gymnastics meet. We had discussed the possibility of looking up the church in Denton where my college roommate and our best man had served as rector until his death in 1994.

I was was pretty sure I would not enjoy being among strangers, most of whom would be too young to know my friend and none of whom, certainly, would know the Charles Thomas Williams I knew in college at the University of Houston. Moreover, I didn’t want our presence to be disruptive of the worship environment.

“But there may be a memorial of some kind and we could at least look around the outer grounds,” my wife argued. I acceded and she parked the car while I strapped my monster camera around my neck, slapped on my big Stetson crushable, and did my best to look like anything but a person hoping to be drawn into conversation with an Episcopalian in a worshipful mood.

Continue reading “Remembering Father Williams”

Angry, Depressed and Getting Older while Trump Wrecks Our Democracy? Try This . . . .

Today is my birthday. I have been fortunate to accompany aging with a way of staying in touch with young people. It has been a nice way to temper my anger and disappointment about the current state of American politics with a little hope for the future. I would prefer to be able to do this with regular discussions with grandchildren the way it was done when the generations were less geographically mobile.

My grandchildren, all of them, now live over a thousand — some of them two thousand — miles from us. Their periodic visits offer only limited opportunity to have the kind of conversations that would allow me to explore the world from their vantage point.

If I were to sit here in the evenings getting only the news from Washington and other parts of the deteriorating world, I would be constantly moving between depression and anger. How did our generation let this happen?

We allowed the democratic process to be manipulated in such a way that a person with no knowledge or appreciation of how our government works wound up in its most powerful position. He is objectively racist in his core, selfish and self-centered to a nauseating degree, unlearned in the basic literature of democratic enlightenment, and incompetent in the skills of governing. All that has been well covered in the news for anyone who is willing to dig a little and read beyond the superficialities of cable TV, social media, and the National Enquirer.

Continue reading “Angry, Depressed and Getting Older while Trump Wrecks Our Democracy? Try This . . . .”

There’s a Fire in the Attic . . .

A month ago I sat in front of the television the better part of the day and watched as the roof and spire of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris were ravaged by fire. The entire structure, the beautiful windows, and the immense organ whose notes have been measured to reverberate for a full six seconds at the midrange of the scale — all of it was at risk of destruction.

The shock was immediate as the world looked on. As I watched the fire progress, there was among the people of France and around the world a growing sense of foreboding and sorrow as it appeared that it could all be lost. The cathedral represents one of the spiritual and cultural centers of western civilization. It is irreplaceable.

I feel that way every day as I watch Donald Trump go about his work attempting to destroy American democracy. In fact, the cathedral is an apt metaphor for our constitutional democracy. Continue reading “There’s a Fire in the Attic . . .”

I Meet the Patron Saint of Accountants: A Visit from St. Matt

If you procrastinated like I did, then you will be spending your weekend thinking about taxes and tax returns. There could not be a better time to have a visit from the patron saint of accountants. This is long. And you may find it boring. Accounting, after all. In any case, it’s purely fictional and any resemblance the characters may have to persons living or dead (or both – the saint, presumably) is purely coincidental.  

THE FINANCE COMMITTEE WRESTLES WITH SPENDING ON BIG TICKET ITEMS

Theology is thought to be a arcane subject by the religious and the non-religious alike. Church people think of it as “overthinking” the simple love of God and the easier and more beautiful intellectual demands of worship. The non-religious are, of course, mystified by miracles, prayer, and how church people reconcile the Trinity with the monotheism that is clearly commanded in the Decalogue.

But if theology is difficult, accounting is even more of a mystery for most United Methodists. I have been treasurer, finance chair, or volunteer amateur internal auditor for the better part of the last fifteen years in a United Methodist Church inhabited by men and women with excellent educations and careers in science, engineering and academics. I assure you most of them will explain the Trinity, reconcile evolution with the Book of Genesis, or enjoy a discussion of substitutionary atonement with you before they will tell you the functional difference between a balance sheet and an income and expense report. And while it may be fully expected that most members would not be able to go into much detail on such a thing as depreciation, you would think they would quickly grasp the meaning of the idea that income should ordinarily exceed expenses in a healthy organization. Alas, red ink is often taken only as a sign that we need to pray harder.

At our most recent meeting we spent the better part of an hour discussing whether we should pay for a $15,000 air conditioning condenser unit for the sanctuary from the operating budget or from our “rainy day fund,” which no one seemed to understand the reason for its creation and why it had been so named in the first place. Borrowing was not one of the options considered since we have been fortunate in being able to save up a little money over the last few years.

So it occurred to me after that meeting, where we agreed on a budget to propose to our church council, that maybe I could wrap some accounting ideas up in the more familiar spiritual language of theology. Red ink could be sin, for example. That would be easy enough and since we could all agree that it should be avoided, it wouldn’t need a lot of discussion. After all, this is deeply Republican country.

But what about the more difficult ideas like capitalization and depreciation of equipment? Too formidable to even consider after such a long meeting, I thought. Tomorrow. I will think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day. For now, some welcome rest.

 

I FALL INTO A DREAM; I MEET THE PATRON SAINT OF ACCOUNTANTS

But, alas, as I fell off to sleep that night, a gentleman appeared to me in a dream. In my dream I was at Chapelwood’s altar all alone and praying about my difficulty getting fellow Methodists to understand basic accounting concepts. Few things have ever brought me to my knees like this problem. Continue reading “I Meet the Patron Saint of Accountants: A Visit from St. Matt”