Just back from our diocesan clergy retreat at a Jesuit house on Lake Dallas. There was no liturgical dance, frightening Clown Masses, or bad craziness of any sort. There was a statue of St. Francis Xavier, which I liked and a neat sunrise or two - uplifted the spirits unlike...
Sun over the Chapel
the neo-brutalist architecture of parts of the retreat house, but that tends to go with the territory and was more than compensated for by the tranquility of the place.
The Halls of Rome
Even managed to get some reading in, "The 'West', Islam and Islamism", by Caroline Cox and John Marks. They pose the question, "Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy?" and answer that it isn't. Read the book if you can, it's short and clear, not least about 'abrogation' and the "Verse of the Sword" in the 9th Sura.
A UK member of the LSP research team managed to take some time off from Kandahar to send in this curious tale, from London's Evening Standard. Here's a quote:
"The Rev David Gilmore, rector of St Anne's Anglican Church in Soho, was removed from office a week before Christmas after church authorities received complaints.
Mr Gilmore, 40, who is gay, agreed to let two members of the Armed Forces stay at the rectory after a servicemen's gay rights conference in December 2009. The 30-year-old RAF member and a sailor aged 20, referred to as A and B, claimed Mr Gilmore plied them with wine and engaged in 'lurid' conversations, including details of his sexual conquests. They told the panel he made it clear they 'were not the first people he had tried to sexually lure, that he had never had a sailor before but soldiers were fun, and that he offered B to come and sleep with him in his bed'".
But that wasn't the problem. No. It was Gilmore visiting the 'guestroom' the next morning without any clothes on. That did it for the mysterious 'A and B' who went to 'church authorities' in the diocese of London.
You just couldn't make this stuff up, except perhaps, sadly, you could.
Finally, after about a month of rib-agony, I felt up for a ride. The weather was terrible, sleetish rain, biting wind and no lack of mud. Not dissimilar, I suppose, to Wales, or the Somme, or basic training at some training ground deemed suitably 'character building.' But the horses didn't mind, they had great fun bucking about in the mud...
Trip & BeBop playing in the mud
And I had a good, though short ride. JB was pretty skittish and I wasn't about to tempt fate and grievous bodily harm, so we walked about in an arena practicing turns and circles. Felt good to be back in the saddle, even at a slow pace and perhaps that's wise - doesn't hurt to walk before you run, or something like that.
Stay on the horse and well away from liturgical dance.
Once upon a time the Presbyterian Church was a grim, Calvinist, 'ban Christmas, support Cromwell' sort of affair. But that was then and this now, with interpretive liturgical dance being the order of the day.
PCUSA, North America's largest Presbyterian body, has suffered a 2 million member decline since 1965, with a 63,027 member loss in 2009 alone. The average age of PCUSAns is 61, evidently.
Perhaps liturgical dance will reverse such disturbing trends.
Ventured into the frozen wilds of the North to visit with family in Calgary over the New Year; neat views over downtown in a 'skyscraper on the edge of the world' kind of way. The city has an efficient light rail service, complete with futuristic platforms...
Well Done, Light Rail
and a new building called 'The Bow', which rises above the place like a giga-NSDAP ministry on steroids. The cranes on the top of the thing give an idea of scale.
Triumph of the Will
After a couple of days the weather cleared and the sun glinted off a light dusting of high altitude global warming. I found it beautiful but then again I don't have to live with the stuff; what a fierce climate - respect to the people who pioneered the place. Made of stern stuff.
Back in Texas now, which is, of course, great but I'd recommend Calgary. The city is booming thanks to oil and gas, the people are friendly, there's a 'High Street' with pubs - result - and plenty of decent places to eat. The Rockies are near too, if you've a mind to go ice-climbing/skiing/snowboarding and during the summer there's no shortage of rodeo amusement.
There are drawbacks - the place is expensive, but you'd expect that from a boom town. Visit if you can, it's a singular city.