surrounded by greatness

Well, here they are!  The 2012 summer staff of the Episcopal Conference Center, minus a few (it’s very hard to find a time when there isn’t at least one person working!).  This was right after our CIT’s had shown up for pre-camp and just before we sat around and introduced ourselves we stopped to snap a photo.  It’s always good to snap a “before” shot, because by the end of the summer they will all be different in all of the best ways: they will love more, they will have helped change lives, they will have given of themselves, and they’ll be exhausted.  But we’re still at the beginning, and we’re not that tired yet and we know a little bit of what’s coming but we’re still in for some surprises.

I can’t say enough about these people.  They are so good – smart and funny and capable, and they have incredible work ethics, and they love the camp and each other and they do everything they can to make it a beautiful environment.  They are much better counselors than I ever was and I love that because I can look at any parent I come across now and say “Don’t be stupid – send your kid to our camp!  Because these are the role models you want for your children.  This is the environment where you want them to grow and thrive and discover themselves.  Trust me.  Just send them.”

And so far, they are sending them.  Our registrations are coming in every day.  And the season hasn’t even started yet!  We’re going to have SO much fun next week that I’m pretty sure just about every kid is going to insist upon coming back if they haven’t already signed up for one already.  Oh yeah, I’m sure of it.  Just watch.

The counselors aren’t my only great staff though.  We have a dynamite kitchen crew (I mean, really, how they can be so fun and loving and supportive of the community while they are doing the dishes is beyond me, but they do.)  We have an incredible City Camp Coordinator, a compassionate CIT trainer, a staff coordinator who should probably be in charge of the whole camp, a registration assistant who’s like a machine, a great facilities assistant who can run all the machines, a program director who – though completely new to RI – has jumped in with both feet to help everything run smoothly, a nurse who provides popsicles, and a couple of cooks who make impressively good food for a summer camp.  I am surrounded by greatness.

And finally, I get to work with Joyce and Lance.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen two people work so hard.  Their dedication to this camp astounds me, and the care they show the community – even after years of uncertainty and transition – is astounding.  Most nights when I go to bed at midnight Joyce is still at her desk working, and in the afternoons when I sit down to take a break and chat with some friends I learn that Lance has been crawling around on bathroom floors fixing the plumbing.  Their list of things to do is hopelessly long, but they just keep at it, stopping to answer a constant stream of questions (many of which come from me!) and help whoever needs their immediate attention.  And they love – my goodness they love – those young people that they work with.  They have two of the biggest hearts I have ever seen (Lance tries to hide his in a grumpy package sometimes but he’s totally faking it) and I feel incredibly grateful that they have welcomed me on to their team.  I would be lost without them.

So to say that I’m excited about the summer is an understatement.  In fact, I’m sad that pre-camp is already over because I would happily choose to spend my time with these people any day of the week.  Thankfully we have seven weeks left, and the best part is still to come because the campers are coming, and they are the reason we’re here.  I can’t wait to see this staff in action, and I can’t believe how blessed I am to be among them.

Oh, and by the way – there’s going to be an abundance of silliness at camp this summer.  There might even be too much silliness.  It’s going to be awesome.

guide us waking, O Lord…

So the interesting thing about our ECC Facebook group is that as one of the administrators I can actually see when there is more activity on our page than usual.  There’s a chart, and it shows me when there’s a big spike in hits on our page.  I think I’m probably glad that this kind of chart isn’t visible to me about my personal page, as I’d rather not know that information, but it’s pretty great to know when people are coming to “visit” the camp Facebook page.

I was checking out our charts the other day when I noticed a spike in our visits.  A big spike.  Curious about what might have been posted that sparked people’s attention, I scrolled down our wall until I came to the post that had caught people’s eye.  It was the status from the Episcopal Church that had been shared on our page, and the status was simply “Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping.  That awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.”

These words from the Compline service in the prayer book would – of course – resonate with anyone from the ECC community, and with anyone who has spent time praying the beautiful prayers found in this short evening prayer service on page 127 of our Book of Common Prayer.  There is something about the service that is so special.  I came to know Compline through ECC, but I have continued using it in a variety of settings with a variety of people over the years.  Every time I am moved in the center of my being.  Every time I feel comfort.  Every time I feel the unshakeable presence of God.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way about Compline.  The other day my mother was cleaning out her email inbox (which I give her a LOT of credit for) when she came across an email my younger sister had sent to the family over a year ago when she was applying for her doctorate in choral conducting.  She’s being kind of enough to let me share that email with you, so here it is:


So today was a bit of a meltdown day.  I got the repertoire requirements for the UT audition. I am now aware of all the music I have to conduct and I am totally overwhlemed.  I am tense and tired and scared and I feel in over my head, even though when I talk it through I know I can do it and I am going to be okay, the rational thinking does not come easily.  

So I sat down tonight to get organized and start studying my scores for Texas.  The one I focused on tonight is the Nunc Dimittis from the Anglican Mass (circa 1610ish).  I started playing it and it made me so happy because all of the harmonies are the really Anglican/English choral sounds that I grew up singing at Trinity.  Then as I started singing the words, which I know are the Song of Simeon: Lord thou lettest now thy servant depart in peace…I knew it, but it felt familar- like I really KNEW it on a cellular level but it was old English… then it hit me- Compline: 

Guide us waking O Lord and guard us sleeping that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.

 Lord you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised, for these eyes of mine to see the Savior whom you have prepared for all the world to see, a light to enlighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen…

Guide us waking O Lord and guard us sleeping that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.

And I know I’m going to be fine.  I have been making music in a group of people for as long as I can remember, and it is spiritual and magical.  This piece is so great because each voice states the text- sometimes all together and sometime just a beat apart from each other, like in a congregation of people praying the same words at the same time, but they don’t always line up perfectly.  I don’t recognize that because I read in it some fancy book, I see and hear what’s happening musically because it’s a part of my experience and my faith.  Sure I understand the harmony and I can tell you about the development of English church music- but this music is timeless, it’s speech and prayer set to pitch- the music that I heard all those summer nights in the barn.

Thought I’d share.  Love and miss you all terribly.


Like my sister, I’m thinking about what lies ahead, and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.  Our counselors arrive on Tuesday and our summer at ECC begins, and I’m keenly aware that my life is about to change.  I’ll be stepping onto the emotional roller coaster that is living in community, and my heart will get bigger, and there will be challenges, and I’ll be completely exhausted and there will be abundant joy.  And I’m so excited for every minute of it but I’m also aware of the enormity of it all and the fact that I will be serving in a very different role than I have ever served.

But as I sit here writing this on this warm summer evening, with a breeze drifting in from outside, I can think of the prayers we will offer together every evening this summer in the barn.  I can remember that whatever each day at ECC holds – whatever adventure, laughter, heartache, and good, good fun occurs – each day will end with the peaceful prayers we offer to God and the soft sound of our voices joined in song.  And I know that I’m going to be fine.  We all are going to be just fine.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night,                       and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ;                    give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted,                    shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

sermon, St. Columba’s

I had the good pleasure of being with St. Columba’s Church in Middletown, RI this past Sunday.  When I scheduled myself to be with them on June 17th, I really didn’t put it together that it was Father’s Day, nor did I make the connection that we had had my father’s funeral in the parish hall of this lovely church.

It turned out to be the perfect place for me to be on such a day.  The people there are beautiful, as is the property, and I felt surrounded by a loving Christian community.  I went ahead and told them about my connections with their parish in this sermon:

Thanks St. Columba’s for a truly lovely morning!

big shoes to fill

This past Saturday night at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, RI, we held our annual fundraiser, “An Evening for ECC” and it was a huge success.  Not only did people’s generosity help us bring in a LOT of much-needed money, but it was also a wonderful opportunity for people who care about ECC to be together and share fellowship, laughter, and, for many, stories about how their lives were transformed because of their time at the Episcopal Conference Center as a young person.  As one friend said, the Holy Spirit was clearly present there.  It was a wonderful night, and our fundraising committee out-did themselves with this event: great music, a great auction, great food, venue, and more.

I could go on and on about how great the fundraiser was, but what I really want to talk about is how hard it was to find something to wear to the event.  (c’mon, I’ve got to cover the important things here people!)  For those of you who are not clergy, I want to go ahead and tell you that dressing up that little white plastic collar is no small feat, especially when you are going to a fancy fundraiser and you want to put your best self out there to a whole bunch of people you haven’t met.  I have suits, and I certainly could have worn one, but to be honest I only wear my suit when I go to a funeral.  And I definitely didn’t want this event to feel like a funeral!  If anything I wanted it to feel like a baptism  – full of new life and enthusiasm.  But wearing my alb didn’t feel appropriate either, so I was back to the drawing board.

After spending a lot of time thinking about how to approach this conundrum, I decided to go shopping, and I made an important executive decision: I would wear high heels.  For those of you that know me, you know this is no small decision.  I only own one pair, and I only wear them to weddings until my feet hurt from dancing at which point I pull out my back-up pair of flats for the duration of the evening. But I wanted this night to stand out.  So I rummaged through the back of my closet and pulled out my trusty black heels and headed to Banana Republic.

Luckily, after some searching, I found an outfit I was comfortable with.  There was a great wrap shirt that I could wear over my collar that didn’t look like a potato sack (which happens more frequently then you might expect) and then I found a cute black skirt.  Yes, I said it:  a skirt.  And the skirt went to my knees.  Which meant not only would I be wearing high heels, but I would be showing my legs.  I know this might not sound terribly radical, but for me it was the equivalent to sky-diving.  I couldn’t believe I was making this choice.  But really – the night was special, and I wanted to feel special.  So I went with it.

No one seemed horribly appalled at my outfit choice that night and I even got some compliments, especially from my female clergy colleagues who know the challenges we face when getting dressed like a priest every day.  I only had one moment of trepidation when it was time to jump on the stage for my welcome speech and I realized there were no gradual steps, only one LARGE step, and that was a little hard to master gracefully in my heels and fitted skirt.  But I made it, and all was well.  People even clapped a little when I spoke, which was a totally new experience for me and the first time they did it I almost said “NO WAIT – I’m not done!” until I realized they were only encouraging me and liked what I had to say.  Goodness.

I will say though, that the next day at church I paid the price for the heels.  My feet were killing me all morning.  I don’t think I’ve ever noticed how much standing up I do at church on a Sunday, but boy was I wishing for more readings to I could stay in my seat and just rest my tired toes.

So my feet were heavy on my mind when I found myself in a conversation with a parishioner from St. Thomas’ who had been to ECC back when he was a teenager after the camp had first opened.  He knew Canon Parshley, the priest who started bringing teens to the property in 1949, and he spoke fondly of him.  After reminiscing a bit on what a great man he was, he turned to me and said kindly, “You have some big shoes to fill.”

I smiled and agreed.  Because I do have some big shoes to fill.  Not only was Canon Parshley an incredible man, but many other wonderful directors followed him.  Canon Shumaker filled his stead, and then Caryl Frink and the Rev. John Hall, who ran the camp when I was a camper and counselor there.  Following them were the Susans: Susan Henthorne Kelley, then Sue Hurn, and then the Rev. Susan Carpenter.  Each of these people gave completely of themselves and their heart and helped make ECC what it is today.  And now here I am – eager for my turn to give to a place I love so much – and attempting to fill some very big shoes.

So here’s the thing:  I can’t help thinking about the actual shoes.  When I was a camper and counselor at ECC, Father Hall wore Birkenstocks.  And he wore them all the time.  They were kind of his trademark, and anyone who went to camp during that time can envision him in a button-down short sleeved white shirt, khaki shorts, and Birkenstocks.  He was pretty consistent that way.  There are SO many ways that I will try to be like Father Hall as the director of ECC, and like all of the previous directors.  But the thing I keep thinking is that while I’m trying to fill those shoes, I won’t be wearing those shoes.  I’m going to be wearing my black high heels.  (well, you know what I mean – I’m probably never going to wear those heels again, but it’s a metaphor…)  I’m going to bring the same heart and devotion to ECC that all of our directors have had.  But I’m going to be much different in practice and personality – and wardrobe!

Sometimes when I’m standing in my office in Canon’s Cottage I get can a little overwhelmed by the magnitude of this position.  I know how impacted my life was by Father Hall, Caryl Frink, and Susan Henthorne Kelley, all three of whom I was blessed to work with as a young person.  I know that there’s a possibility that I will have the same impact on young lives – I know (at least I hope!) I will help children and teenagers find a second home here.  Most days I’m not sure how I landed in this job, and I feel like Father Hall is going to show up and ask me what I’m doing in his office.  But then I know – I really know – that I’m being called to this job right now, and that I’m in the right place.  So I’m just going to say my prayers, and do my best, and show up for summer camp – with my heels on.  I’m going to try to be true to myself, and true to the experience of ECC.  We ALL have big shoes to fill here friends – and we all have a part to play in continuing the incredible ministry that has been happening here for over 50 years.  Will you help me?

sermon, June 10th

Here’s a link to another sermon (audio only) delivered at St. Thomas’ in Greenville, RI, from Sunday, June 10th.  I’ve put the gospel passage below if you are interested in reading it before you listen.

Admittedly, I speak pretty fast in this sermon.  I guess those little old ladies in the south were right when they told me to slow down… 😉

MARK 3:20-35

The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

a couple of sermons and a new bishop

I have the pleasure of being the supply priest at St. Thomas’ Church in Greenville for two weeks running – this past Sunday and this coming.  I like being with the people of St. Thomas – they are a lively bunch and it’s easy to see why they get along so well with the Rev. Susan Carpenter.

It was a funny week to be working supply because they day before had been so significant  for our Diocese, as we had just voted for our 13th Bishop, the Very Reverend Nicholas Knisely.  It was also Trinity Sunday, which is probably why that smart Susan Carpenter decided to take the Sunday off!  But I decided the bishop election was more exciting, and so preached about that experience instead.  After all, we’ll have Trinity Sunday again next year, but here’s hoping it will be awhile before our next bishop election!  As I say in the sermon, I was really struck by the feeling of community in the room for our worship at the election.  It reminded me how much we need one another, and how much we can accomplish together when we encourage each other!

You can hear that sermon here:

I also finally uploaded a sermon I gave at St. Thomas’ back in March.  This one is about two of my favs, Abraham and Sarah: