Archive for May, 2017

Homeless in Murray Hill–I

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

I have been thinking a lot about the increasing numbers of beggars and homeless persons on the streets of our neighborhood, especially in the area between Murray Hill and Penn Station. I saw someone the other day on 37th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue who was actually sleeping on a foldout bed!

There are so many issues here. I recognize that many of the beggars travel in from other areas because there are so many tourists here who will help them; I’m skeptical about the neediness of some of them and the veracity of their signs, since they appear young and in good health. I have noticed how many of the people sleeping on the street are also in their twenties or thirties and appear able-bodied.

Even so, there are many older people who are mentally troubled or obviously disoriented. And it’s hard to say that anyone who is sitting on the sidewalk begging to spending the night there is to be envied.

The problem is getting much worse in our neighborhood. I plan to preach on this topic on June 11 and reflect further on this troubling issue. —J. Douglas Ousley


Life Itself

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

The newest Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch is the first Episcopalian justice in some time (Justice Stephen Breyer’s daughter Chloe is an Episcopal priest in Manhattan). I have no particular comments on his previous judicial opinions, but I think that his book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia warrants notice by Gorsuch’s fellow Episcopalians.

Gorsuch warns of the slippery slope along which assisted suicide slides into homicide and then murder. If you think that’s extremist, consider that in the Netherlands (the country where euthanasia has been legal the longest), an elderly woman suffering from dementia was held down by her family until a doctor could administer enough drugs to kill her. Also in Holland, a young woman in her twenties was given permission to euthanize herself because she was suffering the traumas of earlier sexual abuse. A new study in Canada advises that the national health care system there could save millions of dollars if people were allowed to kill themselves.

I don’t deny that assisted suicide and mercy killing are complicated issues. I often say that if I become senile or disabled, I want to be put on an ice floe, like the Eskimos. But, still, for Christians, life is a gift of God. Since the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, we should be very careful before we do some of the taking. —J. Douglas Ousley


Battleship Crew

Monday, May 1st, 2017

The Church Times of London often carries stories of “church planting”–the establishing of new congregations, often in existing churches whose congregations have dwindled.

Critics of these efforts say they merely draw people from other congregations who like the enthusiastic style of worship. One planter, the Rev. Dr. Tim Matthew responded: “I’ve always tried to maintain a very high bar on existing Christians joining. We say here that we’re a battleship not a cruise ship–we don’t take passengers–so it you’re on view, you’re on the crew, and there’s a job for you to do.”

Now Dr. Matthew would probably admit seekers who weren’t church members as “passengers” on the ship of the Church because these folks need time to figure out what it means to be a committed Christian. But I think the image is appropriate for long-time parishioners. They shouldn’t just see themselves as along for the ride, looking to get spiritual comforts without giving anything back. The parish isn’t a cruise ship, it’s a battleship–fighting the good fight for Christ. —J. Douglas Ousley