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


Sometimes It Pays to Get Together

June 18th, 2019

I’m not a big fan of clergy gatherings. I usually manage to avoid them.

But since I am reaching mandatory retirement age at the end of this year, I thought a time of reflection would be useful. So I responded to a generous offer from the Church Pension Fund to meet for a week with 27 other clergy and 8 faculty members at an idyllic conference center in Richmond, Virginia.

While most of the clergy at this “CREDO” conference (“credo” is Latin for, “I believe”) were from the South or the Midwest, we seem to share the same joys and face the same challenges in our work. I was impressed by how bright and engaged my colleagues are. The small group sessions were particularly helpful.

The Episcopal Church may be struggling with attendance and other issues, but, to me, the future of its leadership looks bright. —J. Douglas Ousley


Expecting to Dance

June 10th, 2019

As I mentioned in my sermon yesterday, there are many churches, particularly in Africa, where Anglicans come to worship on Sunday expecting to dance.

This is not the case in most American Episcopal parishes. Yet that doesn’t mean that our faith has to be, in the old phrase, “high and dry.” We can still look for an emotional element in our religion; in fact, we need to find such an element. We need at least on some occasions to feel the Spirit within us.

These experiences can range from enjoyment of a favorite hymn to a walk on a sunny day to a dinner out with friends. In the season of Pentecost, we can be grateful that the Holy Spirit is always reaching out to us. In that Spirit, we can, as the Twelve Step movement says, let go and let God. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Bell Tolls

June 3rd, 2019

Yesterday, I officiated at a memorial service at Yale as part of my class’s 50th reunion.

During the service, I read the name of every classmate who had died in the past five years. After the name was read, a bell was sounded and people present could offer remarks and remembrances of the deceased.

While it was a somber occasion, the mood was uplifted by humorous reminiscences of our college years. Yet the service couldn’t help being serious. As our class secretary remarked to me, eventually the bell will toll for each of us.

And that reminder of our mortality is also a reminder that religion is still needed by people–however secular they think they can be. Church bells are a sign that this life is not the end. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept.–J. Douglas Ousley


Prayer List

May 28th, 2019

Incarnation maintains a list of names of persons to pray for; we ask God to heal them of physical, mental, or other problems.

There are always twenty or thirty names on the list. Some names are removed when the persons feel better; others are removed when the persons die. Some people with chronic conditions are on the list for years; others only for a week or two.

While the majority of persons whom we pray for are not parishioners but relatives or friends of parishioners, we all feel a relationship with the names we hear. They make our prayers personal; we are reminded that our faith has a tangible effect in the world we live in. We sometimes silently add names of persons known to us in need of healing.

Whatever the affliction, prayer comforts. As Jesus said, by our faith, we are healed.–J. Douglas Ousley

 


Leadership in the Church of England

May 20th, 2019

I’m just back from a week in London and, as usual, I had many conversations with church people there.

And also, as usual, I heard many comments on the present Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London. Both leaders are relatively new in their positions. Both had secular careers before being ordained later in life. Both have Evangelical backgrounds.

And it must also be said that neither the Archbishop nor the Bishop come off in person as particularly attractive or exciting. Bureaucratic might be more accurate.

They don’t seem to have come up with stimulating new programs that would be likely to inspire the church. Nor have they impressed the high-powered businesspeople in the ancient City of London, where Incarnation’s sister parish is located.

While this is regrettable, the church will have both leaders in place for some years to come. All the more reason to pray that other, Spirit-filled persons will also be raised up to share the governance of our mother Church. —J. Douglas Ousley


Maximum Security

May 6th, 2019

Despite the title, this post is not about the Kentucky Derby result–a matter I leave to the equestrian experts.

We on the Vestry have had several discussions about security during our worship services. Yesterday, we reiterated our current procedures and discussed other options. The local police precinct knows our church and sends officers quickly if we call them.

Our main threat is not an active shooter but someone with mental problems who wishes to disrupt the service by yelling or walking around. This is a genuine concern in our city with increasing numbers of homeless persons–though the matter is also tricky, since we almost always have homeless or recently homeless persons worshiping with us peacefully and happily.

The challenge is to provide a place of prayer that is both welcoming and safe. That said, we live in a fallen world and we are unlikely to find maximum security this side of heaven. —J. Douglas Ousley


Christians in the Arena

April 29th, 2019

Christians worldwide reacted in horror to the news of the bombing of Sri Lankan churches on Easter Sunday. More than 250 persons were killed and hundreds more were maimed or injured.

A prominent Wall Street Journal columnist, Gerald Baker, chided the Anglican Archbishop of York for not being more forthright in his expression of solidarity with the Sri Lankan Christians. Baker was concerned that Archbishop John Sentamu emphasized that he was against all forms of anti-religious violence. For Baker, this seemed to undermine the support the Archbishop should have expressed for the recently martyred.

This is a very tricky issue. Christians are “people of the Book ” but so are Jews and Muslims Especially given the secularization of Western culture, we Christians shouldn’t find ourselves blaming all Muslims for the crimes of a few. Faithful people have to stick together.

Nevertheless, the tragedy of Easter Sunday was all Christian. May the Sri Lankans be uplifted by the prayers and witness of all their fellow Christians–and by observant Muslims as well. —J. Douglas Ousley


Our Lady of Paris

April 23rd, 2019

When I served as canon pastor of the American Cathedral in Paris, I was invited to worship on several memorable occasions at what will now be known as the “old” Notre Dame Cathedral.

One evening, I was included in a group of French priests who had gathered to hear Pope John Paul II. On two occasions, I participated in joint Anglican-Roman Catholic baptisms of the children of French-American couples. The baptisms took place at the high altar; I’ll never forget the extraordinary view looking outwards down the length of the immense cathedral.

The French Roman Catholic Church of that era was particularly welcoming to Anglicans. If you were in France and there was no Anglican chapel near by, you could receive communion in the local Catholic church. The same “eucharistic courtesy” was extended to French Catholics visiting England.

Parisian Catholics are now extending openness is to all the people of France, and the French are responding in kind–and with amazing financial generosity. Let us hope that the spiritual generosity also abides, especially between French Catholics and Anglicans. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Great Fifty Days

April 15th, 2019

The Church season provides for 50 days of celebration of the feast of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead–known as “the Great Fifty Days.”

Unfortunately, the Easter flowers don’t last that long, and people begin to head for the parks or the country on Sundays, and Easter is soon forgotten. Ironically, the 40 days of Lent seem more likely to be observed faithfully!

And yet the tradition is a good one. We need to be reminded that Christ always gives us new life, and we need that reminder as much as we need to acknowledge our sins during Lent.

We have no trouble remembering to celebrate Christmas time. Let’s celebrate Easter time as well. —J. Douglas Ousley