Last weekend I officiated at another beautiful Saturday evening wedding at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. There were lots of alumni/ae from Wake Forest University present, including me, the bride and groom, most of their parents, and most of the wedding party. I noted that in my remarks, of course, and also quoted the flamboyant Prince of funk, rock, and pop music, saying to all, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”
The reception after the marriage liturgy was held at the Houston Zoo, which is actually within walking distance of the church. My wife and I soon discovered that we got to sit at the fun table. Seriously, it was awesome. I’m so happy for this newly married couple and for the family and friends that surround them. Wedding receptions like this one, and many different kinds of parties, are ways of coming together in friendship and in community to get through this thing called life.
So that’s our haiku theme for this week — parties and receptions. Say something about an experience with those in a verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Here’s mine:
Sat down at the zoo,
pondering this thing called life.
It surrounded me.
Weekly thoughts from the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where these words remind us that Jesus’ peace goes with us into the world.
Our guest preacher last Sunday was the Very Rev. Andrew McGowan, Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. He also spoke during the Rector’s Forum and mentioned a new fellowship that will allow one recent graduate each year to spend about 9 months in residence at St. George’s College in Jerusalem. Located a few blocks from the Damascus Gate of the Old City, St. George’s College is an Anglican community of education, hospitality, prayer, pilgrimage, and reconciliation.
Today Mr. Stuart Kensinger will be our guest at the Rector’s Forum, beginning at 10:15 a.m. in Room A102. Mr. Kensinger is a member of Palmer’s Vestry and also the Co-Director and Treasurer of Jerusalem Peacebuilders, which is an interfaith non-profit organization with the mission of creating a better future for humanity across religions, cultures, and nationalities. Their programs focus on uniting Israeli, Palestinian, and American youth and providing them with the opportunities and skills they need to become future leaders for peace in the global community. The idea for Jerusalem Peacebuilders took root on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.
My interviews with Mr. Kensinger during the Rector’s Forum both this week and next week will cover the work of Jerusalem Peacebuilders, how that work has deepened his Christian faith, how it relates to Christians living in the City of Houston, and also provide a preview of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land that he will lead in the fall of 2016.
— The Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Rector
Today was the Fifth Sunday of Easter at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, where one of the readings came from Revelation 21:1-6. Those words speak of a new heaven and a new earth, when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and “mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” I thought about that as I heard the sound of a flute, and later the pipe organ with it, accompany the voices of the choir singing a beautiful text of Easter joy by Harriet Beecher Stowe for the offertory anthem.
Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.
Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
The solemn hush of nature newly born;
Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
In the calm dew and freshness of the morn.
Still, still with Thee! As to each newborn morning
A fresh and solemn splendor still is giv’n,
So does this blessed consciousness, awaking,
Breathe each day nearness unto Thee and heav’n.
So shall it be at last in that bright morning,
When the soul waketh and life’s shadows flee;
O in that hour, fairer than daylight dawning,
Shall rise the glorious thought, I am with Thee.
Yesterday a funky icon of pop music, especially throughout the 80s and 90s, died at the age of 57. Known to the world as Prince and, during a dispute with his recording company, as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, he was a favorite native son of the Twin Cities. Purple, of course, was his signature hue. One of my staff members at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston wrote a wonderful reflection, “. . . and the purple rain falls,” that’s worth taking a minute to read in order to appreciate the power of music to shape our lives and the world around us. Meanwhile, the Dean of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis wrote these words:
For three nights, your cathedral tower will be washed in purple to honor and celebrate someone who was, for me and for many, our very earliest border-bender. Well done, good and faithful servant [Prince]. May you rest with the angels in peace and rise with the saints in glory.
Did the songs of Prince shape your life in some way? Let’s write haiku about Prince or the music of other pop icons like him who created the soundtrack for high school or young adulthood or watching your children become little children no more. This time I’ll let Prince himself write a haiku and pray that his dream has come true:
Prince: “Dream if you can
a courtyard, an ocean of
violets in bloom.”