It’s Go Texan Day in the City of Houston, which means that the Willard boys got to wear cowboy hats and boots to school today. And the youngest one sang this song over and over and over again in the car this morning on the way there:
Today’s edition of the Houston Chronicle includes an essay entitled “Going Texan: My life with boots.” It’s worth taking a few minutes to read in its entirety. As my wife Carrie said, “This sums up so much about what I love about Texas, and Houston, and the high holy day that is Go Texan Day.” Here’s the conclusion of that essay:
Over time . . . it’s dawned on me: Go Texan Day isn’t about being Texan. It’s about becoming Texan.
Here in Houston, most of us weren’t born here. And even the natives rarely grew up roping and riding. Most days of the year, we don’t look the way that Texans are supposed to look.
But once a year, just before Rodeo, we do. We dress up in what, for most of us, are costumes.
We turn ourselves into Texans. No matter where we started out — no matter which state, which country — we are here now. We swagger and play-act and refuse to be dull. Outsiders don’t realize how new most of us are to the role.
And that, you realize, is how Texans have always become Texans. We don’t just settle in this state; we enact it. Like I did.
The boots make us Texans. And Texans make Texas.
Let’s write haiku about Go Texan Day or whatever else it is that gives you roots in the place that is home to you now. All you need is a single verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line:
These two Willard boys
were born in Minnesota,
but now they’re Texans.
Today the world is mourning the death of famed author Harper Lee at the age of 89. She wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which was first published in 1960 and made into a film in 1962. This story of racial injustice, set during the Great Depression, is told through the eyes of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Scout’s father, Atticus, is a small town lawyer in rural Alabama who is appointed to defend a black man against an accusation of rape. While Atticus is unable to prevent an unjust guilty verdict, the truth shines through his words in the courtroom.
Not surprisingly, my image of Atticus comes from the film version. Gregory Peck won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Atticus. From the movie, I always remember the words of an African American pastor to Scout, which I quote in my haiku below, as Atticus walks beneath the balcony from which the pastor and Scout and numerous African Americans in the town have been watching the trial.
Maybe there’s a scene in your mind that highlights a hero from a book or a film — someone who has been an inspiration to you and to others. Those heroes are the theme for today’s haiku. Say a few words about them in one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line:
Atticus lost . . . yet
the man says to Scout, “Stand up,
your father’s passing.”
In the Episcopal Church, there are annual meetings not only for parishes but also for dioceses, which are geographic regions in which multiple congregations, under the leadership of a bishop, work together as God’s people. Today, a little north of Houston in The Woodlands, the 167th Diocesan Council convenes for the bishops, clergy delegates, and lay delegates from across the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.
It’s like an extended family reunion, with everything, good and bad, such an image encompasses. Sometimes these conventions inspire the faithful. Sometimes they’re blessedly boring. I say “blessedly” because occasionally metaphorical fireworks are set off. The 113th Diocesan Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia in 2005 was an example of high drama. Sometimes we move beyond past divisions.
There will be an opportunity for that kind of movement to happen this weekend if Diocesan Council votes to approve a reordering of our diocesan canons that omits Canon 43. That canon, or church law, bars gay and lesbian clergy in same-gender marriages from serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. We’ll see what happens.
In the meantime, I invite you to comment or share a memory or make a prediction — in the form of haiku — about Diocesan Council or about whatever conventions or annual meetings that you’ve witnessed. All you need for this is one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Here’s mine, which links to a relevant newsletter article from a friend:
Canon 43 —
shorthand for a lot of things.
Untangle this knot.
Today I received an autographed copy of this book from His Excellency Juan B. Sosa, Consul General of Panama in Houston. I love the very interesting people of all sorts and conditions and backgrounds whom I meet continually in this international city.
Last month I officiated at a beautiful Saturday evening wedding at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. Friends and family of the bride and groom, of course, gathered there for a joyous occasion in their life together. As a priest, I had the privilege of witnessing that moment and, in the name of God, blessing it. This is a photograph from another wedding, one of a former staff member at Palmer, about a year ago, in which I was assisted by a pastor in the Church of Norway (Lutheran):
There are all kinds of weddings. Some of them even include a blessing and readings in Norwegian. Write a haiku about that or other details from these ceremonies that mark the beginning of a marriage. Your one verse, like this, only needs five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line:
The bride and groom say
their vows. Then, as they walk out,
I think, “Mind the steps.”
In the fall of 2013, my previous congregation in a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis was in the midst of a similar conversation. Same-gender marriage had become legal earlier that year in Minnesota, and a pastoral letter from the Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota, which included guidelines for his clergy, was written in response to that change in civil law. Most of my parishioners embraced that out of love for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ.
Two things that had shaped my own thinking about same-gender marriage by this time were the Rev. Gray Temple’s short and accessible book Gay Unions in the Light of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason and a public discussion in 2012 that I attended at the University of Minnesota between David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch, moderated by On Being’s Krista Tippett, about “The Future of Marriage.” I commend both resources to everyone who desires to strengthen the institution of marriage.
While my congregation reflected on this, I responded to a request for pastoral care from two men in my community of faith who had been in a committed and loving relationship for more than three decades. These faithful Christians hoped to be married on the thirty-third anniversary of their first meeting. So, following the guidelines of the Bishop of Minnesota, I agreed to officiate at their marriage on that anniversary. It took place at a neighboring Episcopal parish since my own parish was honoring and completing the process outlined by our bishop in his letter.
I thought about that a lot the next year, after we had moved to Texas. My wife Carrie and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary on October 11, 2014. The next morning, on Sunday, October 12, the flowers at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church were given to the glory of God in thanksgiving for the first wedding anniversary of a same-gender couple in my new congregation. Monday, October 13, marked the first wedding anniversary of the two men in Minnesota whose marriage I had blessed.
Acknowledging the fact that there are people whom I know and love deeply who will disagree with me about all of this, I think it’s important for me to share with others the words of my sermon at that wedding more than three years ago in Minnesota. The happy couple have given me permission to do so, for which I am most grateful.