Posts Tagged ‘Incarnation’

Maximum Security

Monday, 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


Why Socialism? Why Now?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

This was the topic of last night’s discussion at the Men’s Group. We especially focused on the distinction between 1960’s-era socialism (what I call, “hard socialism) and today’s socialism (“soft socialism.”) The former is a system of planned political economy with the state owning and controlling the means of production. The latter calls for more governmental regulation and control of society, especially in such areas as healthcare.

Debate was spirited between proponents of big government and defenders of individual freedom. What was perhaps most interesting was the fact that most of us find ourselves as Christians in the middle of the spectrum between hard socialism/communism on the one hand and unregulated capitalism on the other.

Since the middle is the preferred place for the Anglican Way, as well as for the Broad Church movement in which Incarnation was founded, perhaps this is the best place to be. —J. Douglas Ousley


Not Slaves But Free

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Under the leadership of our Associate Rector, Incarnation has become very active in the burgeoning movement to end human trafficking in the United States. As part of our observance of the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, we will be participating in a service at the Church of the Ascension, Fifth Avenue and 10th Street, this Thursday at 7 PM.

This movement isn’t just one more worthy cause. Trafficked women and men serve with minimal or no compensation as prostitutes, kitchen workers, nail salon workers, and other occupations, with little or no freedom of movement or basic human rights. There many within blocks of our church. The Church of England rightly doesn’t mince words; it calls such persons, “slaves.”

Incarnation has pioneered a program to increase awareness in Midtown Manhattan hotels, so that hotel employees may identify trafficking victims. Our next step will be to educate school children about the risk of being trafficked.

For most of us, the suffering induced by modern slavery is hard to imagine. We should do anything we can to help people escape or avoid this fate. Our Christian duty is clear.–J. Douglas Ousley


Remembering Eleanor

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Last week, I prefaced a panel discussion on the UN Declaration of Human Rights with a few remarks about Eleanor Roosevelt.

Mrs. Roosevelt was a member of Incarnation; she was confirmed here in 1903. She and her family attended Incarnation occasionally, and we have a ramp that was built to accommodate FDR’s wheelchair.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the guiding light and driving force behind the UN Declaration which was adopted in 1948, after much debate and many meetings. The panel discussion at the Roosevelt House on 65th Street included a United Nations official who worked for human rights. He made the interesting point that these rights were being increased in the years following the adoption of the Declaration–up until 9/11.

Since 2001, rights issues have taken a back seat to security issues. For example, a nation may ally with a dictatorship because this will help its own security; the rights of the ally’s citizens are ignored.

In my talk, I pointed out that Eleanor Roosevelt’s parish was founded as part of the Broad Church movement in the 19th Century. We may hope and pray that Incarnation’s tradition of concern for the freedom of all human beings, regardless of race or religion, will not be overshadowed by other concerns. —J. Douglas Ousley


This is the Day…

Monday, August 20th, 2018

This morning, our organist, Levente Medveczky underwent surgery for the second time in two weeks. While we are hopeful he will eventually return to work, he looks to have a substantial recovery ahead of him.

Scarcely a month ago, Levente was doing fine. Life was going well; he was 27-years-old and off to China to given organ lessons.

Now his mother and brother have journeyed from Hungary to care for him and help him to make medical decisions for his future treatments.

The opening for Morning Prayer in Easter Season is, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will be glad and rejoice in it.” As we remember that health is a gift and each day was made by God, let us also remember to rejoice and give thanks for the time we have before us. —J. Douglas Ousley


Never the Same River

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus pointed out, “You can never step into the same river twice.” A river is always changing from moment to moment.

The same is true of the soul–it’s always changing, always evolving. As a result, you never reach a point in this life where you can say that you have arrived at final stability. As the secular saying goes, “Life happens.”

We have at Incarnation a group called, the Spiritual Development Committee. These people are particularly concerned with the spiritual growth of the members of the parish. Again, the assumption behind the committee is that change will occur, regardless.

But I find this hopeful. We need not fear the future. Rather, we should prepare ourselves for the Holy Spirit to move us forward, to help us make the necessary changes in life into changes for the better. —J. Douglas Ousley


Money and Religion

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Last night, I attended the annual dinner of the Church Club of New York, a social organization run by city Episcopalians.

The guest speaker was the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the Very Rev. John Hall. Among other things, he mentioned an enormous building project in the upper gallery of the Abbey. It is in process now and will cost over thirty-two million pounds (over forty million dollars).

This is an extreme example of the vast expenses incurred by any ecclesiastical body that has to maintain a historic building. Many such buildings in the UK–like the Abbey and St. Paul’s–have American supporters or “friends” to help underwrite the work.

While Incarnation’s building needs at the moment (about three hundred thousand dollars) are much smaller, our base of support is also smaller. In other words, we need all the friends we can get. —J. Douglas Ousley


An Historic Place

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Today, I joined a group of New York historians and history buffs to witness the dedication of a plaque which will mark the first home shared by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt after their marriage. The brownstone is at 125 East 36th Street; Murray Hill residents were active in the effort to obtain the plaque from a city historic preservation group.

The speakers at the ceremony extolled the achievements of both Roosevelts. They particularly highlighted Eleanor and Franklin’s leadership in the areas of justice and human rights.

I was glad to be publicly thanked for attending, since I represented the church where Eleanor was confirmed. Of all the illustrious former members of Incarnation, we can be most proud of the Roosevelts–as one speaker noted, perhaps the two most important Americans of the twentieth century. —J. Douglas Ousley.


Happening Now

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

A member of our parish recently arranged for my associate and me to be trained in the use of Instagram.

The wildly popular social media app features photos that provide a visual entry into one’s personal “story”–or, in the case of Incarnation, into our parish life. Ideally we should not only post photos of past events but should report on events that are about to happen or are happening.

Our tutor, a social media expert at a top PR boutique firm, remarked that she often checked her Instagram account in the evening to see if there was anything interesting happening. If some post caught her eye, she would drop everything and follow the Instagram lead.

This is clearly a different culture from that of the Church, whose life is carefully planned and whose year of holy days is set for centuries in advance. All the more reason we need to maintain a sense of how we are being led by God in what theologians call, “the Eternal Now.” —J. Douglas Ousley


The Book Challenge

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Incarnation members have been challenged this Lent to read or re-read C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. This witty, clever, and spiritually wise book is one of Lewis’s most popular writings; it has sold millions of copies.

I have re-read and dipped into the book several times over the years. Returning to my copy recently, I was surprised to note from the flyleaf of the book that I first encountered the book when I was twelve years old! I believe it was a gift from a favorite uncle.

In any case, it is a testament to Lewis that the book still reads as fresh and as provocative as if I were opening it for the first time. There is an insight to ponder on virtually every page and yet it proceeds smoothly like the fiction it technically is.

Whether you are a member of Incarnation or not, think about reading The Screwtape Letters this Lent. —J. Douglas Ousley