The Seegcharist: Celebrating Pete

seegerIf you haven’t noticed (because you don’t have an internet connection), social media is abuzz about the death of singer-songwriter Pete Seeger. In fact, if one more person posts a picture of him, Facebook may actually explode.

So rather than doing likewise, I thought I’d offer tips for incorporating Pete Seeger songs into your Sunday worship service. Yes, folks, this is the Seegcharist (the term coined by my archnemesis Scott Gunn). 


Celebrant: Bob Dylan
Preacher: Arlo Guthrie
Lector: Joan Baez

OPENING HYMN: The Bells of Rhymney (This is an obvious choice as bells are often used to announce the start of worship. Also it has this great line: “Even God is uneasy, say the moist bells of Swansea.”


Celebrant: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Celebrant: Let us Pray.
I’ll arise at early morning,  When my Lord gives me the warning,  That the solar age is dawning,  And it’s good enough for me. Amen. (last verse of Old Time Religion)


Lector: A Reading from Pete Seeger: In His Own Words.
People: Thanks be to Pete.


Turn, Turn, Turn (Technically it’s a song but it’s basically a reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes)

SERMON: Arlo Guthrie (as posted on his Facebook page)

I usually do a little meditation and prayer every night before I go to sleep – Just part of the routine. Last night, I decided to go visit Pete Seeger for a while, just to spend a little time together, it was around 9 PM. So I was sitting in my home in Florida, having a lovely chat with Pete, who was in a hospital in New York City. That’s the great thing about thoughts and prayers- Y…ou can go or be anywhere.

I simply wanted him to know that I loved him dearly, like a father in some ways, a mentor in others and just as a dear friend a lot of the 20140131seeger-adv-obit-slide-9WAT-jumbotime. I’d grown up that way – loving the Seegers – Pete & Toshi and all their family.

I let him know I was having trouble writing his obituary (as I’d been asked) but it seemed just so silly and I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t sound trite or plain stupid. “They’ll say something appropriate in the news,” we agreed. We laughed, we talked, and I took my leave about 9:30 last night.

“Arlo” he said, sounding just like the man I’ve known all of my life, “I guess I’ll see ya later.” I’ve always loved the rising and falling inflections in his voice. “Pete,” I said. “I guess we will.”

I turned off the light and closed my eyes and fell asleep until very early this morning, about 3 AM when the texts and phone calls started coming in from friends telling me Pete had passed away.

“Well, of course he passed away!” I’m telling everyone this morning. “But that doesn’t mean he’s gone.”

THE PRAYERS: Free form petitions (naturally) with this line from If I Had a Hammer interspersed: “It’s the hammer of Justice,
It’s the bell of Freedom,  It’s the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters,  All over this land.”

OFFERTORY HYMN: Michael Row the Boat Ashore (along with the collection plates — Hallelujah!)

EUCHARISTIC PRAYER C (duh) — including “At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of  interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.”

CLOSING HYMN: We Shall Overcome

WARNING: Don’t even think about actually using this on Sunday morning!


Annual Meeting Marketing Makeover

Joseph_Ducreux_-_Self-Portrait_YawningThis time of year many parishes hold their Annual Meetings. I love taking a step back and reflecting on the year that is past, something tough to do in the midst of ministry. Though preparing for the Annual Meeting is something else — I swear I spend more time getting ready for Annual Meeting Sunday than any other Sunday of the year. Including Easter. Unfortunately among clergy, I’m not alone in this which may mean some priorities need tweaking.

Nonetheless, you’ll hear a lot of grumbling about the Annual Meeting as a necessary canonical evil. The rector gives the state-of-the-parish address, the budget gets presented, vestry members get elected, and a lot of people quickly leave before the meeting starts. It’s the one Sunday many people take the Dismissal literally and mutter “thanks be to God” as they sneak out the side entrance.

Most Annual Meetings are anxiety producing for clergy and boring for parishioners — at least that’s the common perception. But I think we can change that — the Annual Meeting simply needs a marketing makeover. Here are just a few suggestions for drumming up attendance. I’d give you more but I need to get back to preparing for the one I’m running tomorrow morning.

850_1340117746and Annual Meeting

lets-get-ready-to-rumble-1Come see parish cranks take pot shots at the leadership!

colic_survival_guideFussy Baby Can’t Sleep?    

Bring your infant to the Budget Presentation and he/she will be out in seconds.


objection court out of order lawyer attorney objectCome put your arcane knowledge of Robert’s Rules to the test by calling for a recount after the vestry elections.

Why the Pats lost: A pastoral response

NFL: AFC Championship-New England Patriots at Denver BroncosAs a clergyman, I am always sensitive to the pastoral needs of my flock. As a priest in New England, I realize that many in my congregation are grieving the Patriots loss to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. Yet as a Baltimore Ravens fan, I don’t really care about their feelings when it comes to football. So I’m torn in my pastoral duties. Since next week is the Annual Meeting and it’s best to keep the peace, I’ll err on the side of pastoral concern. 

In times such as these, many are left wondering why? Why did my team lose? Why did God do this to the Patriots? Is God mad at me? To ease some of the confusion, I thought I’d share some light on why the Patriots lost to the Broncos. Understanding why is an intellectual response and so Patriots fans will still need time to grieve. I’m sensitive to that and I will walk with them during this painful time. 

Here are the reasons the Patriots lost:

God’s wrath for cutting Tim Tebow after the preseason. (Of course he was also cut by the Broncos when they signed Peyton Manning but whatever. God’s complicated).

God prefers Anglicans (aka Redcoats) to Patriots (aka religious dissenters).

The continuing Wrath of the Cathedral Nautilus. This doesn’t explain the World Champion Red Sox but that was a beard thing.

Punishment for the globalization of Sam Adams Beer.

Aaron Hernandez.

Many patriots in the revolutionary age were Deists.

God’s anger at Patriots coach Bill Belichick who lives in Hingham and yet has never darkened the door of St. John’s.

The presence on the Patriots’ roster of linebacker Dont’a Hightower (of Babel).

Whitey Bulger.

Retribution for tossing all that tea into Boston Harbor.

Actually, I do know that when your team loses deep in the playoffs it feels like you’ve been slugged in the gut. I feel your pain — truly.




6 Reasons to Yell “Omaha” in Church

Peyton-Manning-Omaha1-300x198As everyone knows, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning uses the word “Omaha” while calling audibles from the line of scrimmage. This has gotten a lot of press in the hype leading up to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game between the Broncos and Patriots. The word has been trending on Twitter the Nebraska city’s tourism department has been milking it for all it’s worth (they have lots of cows in Omaha, right?), and Omaha Steaks has been using  Manning’s favorite word for marketing purposes.

I was in Omaha once. For five hours. In 1992 when I was still working on political campaigns for a living, I was hired to work on a congressional race in California. Naturally, I had to be there immediately so I drove from Baltimore to California in three days in my old 1985 Ford Bronco II. It was a crazy trip, though the only real blip came when I broke down just outside of Omaha. With all the miles I covered I was thrilled to break down only one mile from a gas station, where I sat for five hours waiting for a part to arrive. So, I’m grateful to Peyton for dredging up this wonderful memory.

Anyway, as I watched the Brady/Manning Bowl I started reflecting on ways the word “Omaha” could be used in liturgy.

At the end of the service the Verger could yell “Omaha” to change up the retiring procession. Perhaps indicating leaving one verse earlier in the hymn than originally discussed.

The Celebrant could yell “Omaha” if he/she decides to call an audible at the altar and switch from Eucharistic Prayer B to Prayer D.

The Congregation could yell “Omaha” if the sermon runs over 20 minutes.

The Rector could yell “Omaha” if he/she hears heresy in the Seminarian’s sermon.

The Choir could sing “Omaha” to Anglican Chant just to show off.

The Ushers could point and yell “Omaha” if a visitor doesn’t place anything in the collection plate as it passes by.

And if none of these work, maybe I can get the town fathers to approach Hinghamite Bill Belichick to persuade Tom Brady to start screaming “Hingham” before the snap.

16 Questions for Bishop Candidates

Nominees Composite Ready for Pub.img_assist_custom-500x114While I’ve served in three different dioceses (Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts) over the past 13+ years, I’ve never participated in an election for a new bishop. Pretty much every time I leave a diocese the bishop retires and there’s a call for an election — which I try not to read too much into. This week the slate of five nominees to become the 16th Bishop of Massachusetts was announced. I’m hopeful for the end result and am thankful for the priests willing to enter this vulnerable and exciting time of discernment.

Of course I’ve also been formulating questions to ask at the to-be-scheduled walkabouts/dog and pony shows where all the candidates present themselves and answer questions. Since I can’t be at all of them, I’m offering my list for others to utilize.

“Will you insist your bishop’s ring be larger and blingier than the 2013 Red Sox World Series ring?”

“Do you prefer to be called Your Grace or Your Lordship?” **

“Will you start wearing hideous vestments just because they were hand made for you by Sunday School children?”

“Do you Tweet? If so, perhaps following @FatherTim is not in your best interest.”

“If you use social media will you commit to never using the phrase ‘the good people of St. XX’ as in ‘I had a great visitation with the good people of St. John’s today.'”

episcopalian-bishop“When it comes to miters, do you believe size really does matter?”

“Do you feel that any seat a bishop sits in automatically become the Bishop’s Throne even if it’s at McDonalds?”

“Do you prefer purple purple or reddish purple?” **

“Will you return Confirmation to parishes or do you prefer 3 1/2 hour liturgies that forever sour teenagers on the Church?”

“Do you believe a pectoral cross should channel the spirit of Flavor Flav?”flavor-flav-200-020608

“How do you feel about mentioning Jesus in letters responding to world events?”

“Where do you stand on the issue of the Cathedral Nautilus?”

“Do you promise not to use the phrase ‘humbled and honored’ in your acceptance speech?”

“Will there be liturgical dance that involves orange chiffon at your consecration?”

“Do you currently or have you ever owned a clergy shirt in any color other than black?”

“What’s your position on clergy from Hingham who like to live-snark diocesan convention?”

** I grudgingly acknowledge that my archnemesis, Scott Gunn, came up with this question.

Motivational Sacristy Quotes

sacristy quoteAs football season winds down (what am I supposed to do after church now?!), there will be a dearth of motivational quotes spouted by head coaches. While the only “motivational quote” I keep in my office is the parish mission statement, I think these are great.

But why should motivational quotes be the exclusive domain of football locker rooms? The church equivalent of the locker room is, of course, the sacristy. The liturgical players all gather here before kickoff cum procession. The priest offers a prayer/motivational speech with the acolytes and choir and off they charge down the aisle (at a decorous, stately pace of course).

I thought it would be helpful to offer a few motivational quotes to post in your sacristy. This will keep all the servers motivated and focused for the task at hand. I suggest putting up a new quote every time the church season changes so they don’t get stale and the acolytes start phoning it in. Let me know if you think of others. The church needs fired up altar parties!

There’s no “I” in Acolyte.

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how the procession flows.

Win one for the Messiah.

Leave it all on the altar.

It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings the dismissal.

Let’s all give this liturgy 110% (which is the same fuzzy math as three in one and one in three)

It’s not the size of a crucifer but the size of the processional cross that matters.

Show me a bad liturgist and I’ll show you bad liturgy.

There is no substitute for preaching preparation.

It’s not whether the thurifer gets knocked down, it’s whether he gets up.

Communion isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

The Three (not really) Kings

The_Magi_Henry_Siddons_Mowbray_1915I love the Feast of the Epiphany, that day when the Magi finally arrive at the manger. Why were they so late? I wrote the definitive answer to this question a few years ago (Top 10 Reasons the Magi Were So Late).

There are some wonderful traditions surrounding Epiphany including the King Cake with good fortune going to the lucky person who finds the bean in their slice — well, unless they choke on it and die. And Three Kings Day celebrations and parades break out all over the world.

Not to throw a wet chasuble on your celebration but there’s one problem with all these kingly celebrations: the Three Kings weren’t actually kings at all. Those Burger King crowns used in Christmas pageants? Problematic — and not just because of the inherent trans fat issue. “Wise Men” is a better translation. The word magi is a Latin version of the Greek magoi, referring to a sect of eastern holy men. (It’s where we get the word “magic”). The original Magi were a hereditary priesthood of the Medes (present day Kurds).

These three men, known apocryphally as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar (no, their names aren’t in the Bible) were really star gazers, early astronomers perhaps. Actually we assume there were three because of those fabulous baby gifts mentioned in Scripture — gold, frankincense, and myrrh — but the Bible doesn’t specify this either.

It wasn’t until the third century that they started being referred to as “kings” and their apocryphal names didn’t emerge until the sixth century.

None of this takes away from this day Orthodox Christians call the Theophany (“God shining forth”). Wise Men, kings, whatever. The key thing is that they were Gentiles — non-Jews — and thus were symbols that embedded in the Incarnation was an offer of salvation freely offered to all people.

But don’t worry, even if the Magi weren’t kings there are still plenty of kings to go around. Here are a few:

King Kong

King Kong

Elvis "The King" Presley

Elvis “The King” Presley

Larry King

Larry King

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

B.B. King

B.B. King

King Me!

King Me!

King Tut
King Tut

King of Hearts
King of Hearts

Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King

Burger King

Burger King

King Crab

King Crab

Lion King

Lion King

Christ the King

Christ the King