Anger Issues

August 19th, 2019

A fine sermon yesterday from our Associate Rector reminded us that Jesus was angry a lot. He wasn’t content with injustice, and hypocrisy and avoidable suffering.

This fact reminds us, too, that anger can be a good thing when it prods us to act and try to correct wrongs and help people.

This kind of righteous indignation might be termed, “social anger.” But “personal anger” directed at people we know or encounter may not be so valuable. Indeed, it can be toxic. As Jesus observed, anger can be the equivalent of murder!

The Rev. Adrian Dannhauser mentioned in her sermon that studies indicate people get “mildly or moderately” angry as often as several times a day. Using social media with its likes and dislikes is no doubt a modern factor in encouraging people to get mad.

In any case–while we are right to fight for justice–on a personal level, it’s much better for our souls to stay cool. —J. Douglas Ousley


Summertime, Summertime

August 12th, 2019

Recently, I have been working on an upcoming sermon dealing with Christ’s views of the Sabbath.

Traditionally in Judaism, the seventh day of the week (Saturday) was a day of rest. There was some debate, however, about the rules governing how strictly the Sabbath was to be observed. Jesus bent these rules himself, healing the sick and disabled on the Sabbath. As he famously observed, “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

But while that is certainly the right perspective, it’s worth noting that because the Sabbath was a gift of God to human beings, we can expect observance of the tradition to be valuable. This is especially true in our modern society, as Sundays become increasingly commercialized and they seem more and more like the other six days of the week.

Today, we need to make an effort to get moments of rest and re-creation. As summer winds down, now may be a good time to plan our own personal sabbaths. After all, the Sabbath was made for us. —J. Douglas Ousley

 


No Sympathy for the Devil

August 5th, 2019

Last week, I was extremely fortunate to be given tickets to the performance of the Rolling Stones in the Meadowlands. For someone like me who is of their generation, there is no better rock and roll band on the planet–and no greater performer than Mick Jagger.

It was interesting for me to recall, as I watched the four old men play their countless hits, how menacing the Stones were when they first appeared in the 1960’s. With their “sympathy for the Devil,” they seemed to threaten the very foundations of civil society. Now they seem almost warm and fuzzy.

The Devil however, as Scripture reminds us, remains alive and active. As demonstrated in the horrendous mass shootings of the past week, the Demonic in the form of young white males is very much with us. God help us all.–J. Douglas Ousley


Waxing and Waning

July 29th, 2019

In both the Episcopal Church and the Church of England, there has been much concern about decline in membership. The Episcopal Church has lost half its members since the 1950’s, despite a growing U.S. population. A recent survey in England indicated only 1% of persons aged 16-24 attend church.

But church attendance waxes and wanes through the ages. I have been reading in the journal, Anglican and Episcopal History about a period in Maryland before the American Revolution when atheism was rampant and even churchgoers doubted that God could in any way intervene in his creation. Needless to say, there was little discussion of “spirituality” and other topics that are so popular in the church today.

One could point to other signs of hope in our contemporary church. The newer, younger clergy, for example, are much more committed to traditional Christian beliefs and a personal God than the generation of the 1960’s.

It doesn’t pay to be too pessimistic. —J. Douglas Ousley


Decriminalization of Prostitution in New York State

July 26th, 2019

This post is from the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser and me:

Earlier this week on Tuesday, July 23, Incarnation hosted an educational forum on Bill A.8230/S.6419, which was introduced last month by Assembly Member Richard Gottfried and Senator Julia Salazar. The bill seeks to fully decriminalize prostitution in New York State.

We had a panel of experts who spoke in favor of the bill’s provision to decriminalize people who are in prostitution and against the bill’s other provisions to decriminalize sex buyers, facilitators of the sale of sex (i.e., pimps), and brothel keepers.

We anticipated and welcomed a large crowd made up of people with varying viewpoints on the issue. Handouts included a detailed legal analysis of the bill.  Audience Q&A included reading aloud written questions from both supporters and opponents of the bill.

Prior to the event, we were alerted to a planned protest by DecrimNY outside our forum. We shared this information with the 17th Precinct, and they arranged for two plain clothes officers to be present in the sanctuary.  From what we understand, a peaceful protest gathered outside during the event, and the 17th Precinct responded in a calm manner and in a way they deemed fit, including calling in additional officers.

When some of the protesters came inside near the end of the event, a panelist and survivor leader was speaking. The protesters were asked to comply with our written policy given to attendees that no protests or disruptive behavior would be permitted inside the church. Those who did not comply were escorted out.

While those who responded to the protest inside the church acted responsibly, we are deeply saddened that it came to this.  The issue of decriminalizing prostitution is an emotional one that involves people who have suffered greatly in many ways. We understand that conversation ensued outside, and that members of the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking — the event sponsor — ministered to some of the protesters.

The Episcopal Church respects the dignity of every human being, is LGBTQ affirming, and seeks to serve the most vulnerable in accordance with the command of Jesus. We are grateful that there is common ground between activists both for and against the bill — decriminalizing those in prostitution — and pray for a way forward that reduces victimization in the sex trade and holds those that do harm accountable. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Joys of Camping

July 22nd, 2019

Summer camp. Just the phrase seems old-fashioned. Living in tents. Splashing in the water. Singing by the campfire. Sunday in the chapel.

That’s life at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT–a camp founded by the Church of the Incarnation in 1886. No cell phones or computers, just fresh air fun pretty much like a century ago.

And yet the camp remains incredibly popular, with two overnight camps and two day camps running simultaneously and accommodating hundred of children. Spots at the teen-age camp, where the kids cook all their own meals, are filled by March.

I was just in Ivoryton for a Board of Directors meeting and I marveled at the success of the place. The oldest church camp in the country–what a great ministry of our church.–J. Douglas Ousley


Irreplaceable

July 15th, 2019

One of the unhappy things about parish life is losing people–the worst, of course, being losing church members through death.

Church officers are interchangeable; a vestry member or a rector retires and their successors can end up being more effective leaders than the ones they replaced.

But church members are unique and therefore are, strictly speaking, irreplaceable. New members arrive and occupy the pews, but they will never bring exactly the same qualities as those held by the departed persons.

Each one of us is a child of God. God sees us as we are, warts and all. May we appreciate this profound truth about our faith, and may we appreciate the unique personhood of our fellow children of God. —J. Douglas Ousley


A Hot Summer Ahead

July 9th, 2019

A year or so ago, the former Altman’s Department Store across from the church began an extensive exterior restoration. As part of the work, the bottom floor of the building is covered in netting. Homeless people now climb into a space behind the netting to bed down and in many cases to live. Others take advantage of the sidewalk covering and sleep on the sidewalk. A little town has sprung up.

The obvious question to ask is, why doesn’t the city do something to help these people so they aren’t forced into what the English call, “sleeping rough?” And the answer to that question is that the city isn’t very good at helping the poor.

Last night, a local television station did an investigative segment on seven of the city’s “cooling centers,” where poor people including the homeless can go for relief during hot weather. It turned out that four of the centers have no air conditioning. Moreover, they haven’t had air conditioning for weeks and they have similar problems every summer. Yet the whole purpose of these institutions is to present a comfortable environment in hot weather.

I recognize that the tolerance we have toward the homeless is in some ways admirable. They are allowed the freedom of the streets. We can be proud of our tolerance and our social freedom. But less proud of the consequences. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Best Kind of Publicity

July 1st, 2019

When it comes to religion, it’s hard to think of anything new. Christianity has been around for two thousand years; almost every form of ministry has been tried at one time or another.

But Incarnation’s Associate Rector has beaten the odds. She has invented a new form of ministry that just became the subject of a post on the Religious News Service. Once a week for half an hour, the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser stands on the church steps and offers blessings to passers-by. She always has people coming up to her for advice and prayer.

Besides being innovative, this takes guts! I have subbed for Adrian a few times when she was on vacation and I can attest that you are vulnerable to all kinds of stares and comments.

But Adrian has done this for four years, and she deserves all the credit she gets. What a great way to show the love of God to the world. —J. Douglas Ousley


Pride Universe

June 24th, 2019

As everyone in New York City knows, the annual Gay Pride March takes place this coming Sunday, at the end of what has been called, Pride Month.

The Episcopal Church has been on the winning side of this issue for quite a while, and we might be tempted to ask why Episcopalians and LGBT people need to bother to march in this day and age. They have virtually all the rights of straight people. Isn’t the battle over?

But we need to remember that homosexual behavior is still against the law in many, many countries throughout the world–and it is often proscribed in the name of religion. Even in this country, the largest Christian body, the Roman Catholic Church terms gay sex sinful.

Unfortunately, there is still much to march for. —J. Douglas Ousley