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Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, United States

Monday, December 7, 2015

Slow Train Wreck

St. David's is headed for a slow train wreck.  The pledge drive for
2016 is stalled at 87 units for 164K.  50 units who pledged for 
2015 have not shown up.  A few have departed to other churches,
and a few have departed to a better life.  The rest are unknown and
presumably will be followed up, at least by telephone.

That leaves the 2016 pledges 60K + short of the 225K considered
necessary to operate the organization and compensate a full-time
rector.  The church could tap the unrestricted investments to meet
the shortfall, thus spending dead peoples' money to stay alive.

In accounting parlance, that means the church is no longer a "going
concern."  The leadership of the church has been upfront about the
situation, apparently to scare the present membership into coughing
up more dough.  That is a fatal mistake, making them feel guilty
about the present level of their support.

The church has been without a rector for a year and a half.  The 
interim rector is a pleasant, cheerful, ineffective leader.  Her 
sermons are brief and forgettable.  She has changed the service
to omit confession, creed, and eucharistic prayers prescribed in
The Book of Common Prayer.  It is a combination of New Age
and Unitarianism.  She says the newer members like it.

Meanwhile, the search committee soldiers on, contacting 
candidates for full-time rector.  Apparently, they do not share
the dire financial situation with prospects.  They had someone
in agreement last summer, who bailed out at the last minute,
for reasons unknown or unstated.

From the safety of the end pew, we watch this train wreck as
it materializes.  To add insult to injury, we were not issued 
pledge envelopes for 2016.  Maybe our pledge got lost or 
they are trying to tell us something.  I believe, as always,
that the hand of God is at work, even though we do not yet
know the outcome.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Words at A Wedding

Three of my grandchildren
were married recently,
but I was not asked
to speak at the reception.

If I had been asked, 
I would have passed on
words of wisdom to each
of the happy couples.

First, to the groom:
Two simple words 
will keep the relationship
alive for the rest of your life.

They are simply, "Yes, dear."
Even if you do not agree
or wish to acquiesce,
let it play out her way.

To both the bride and groom,
never say the words
"You never" or "You always"
even if they are true.

You married someone 
whose ways attracted you.
You cannot now say,
"You're perfect, now change!"

Most of all, wherever you are,
never let a night pass
without saying "I love you"
before going to sleep.

Then He will keep watch over you,
give his angels charge of you,
as He shields the joyous, and
blesses your union forever.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

St. David's Update

At each of the services conducted at St. David's 
the senior warden made a solemn announcement:
The candidate for rector withdrew her
agreement to serve at our church.

There was something peculiar anyway 
in her not being able to join us until Advent.
One would think that by now she had made
her intentions known in her present situation.

One has to suspect that money is the consideration.
There has been no assurance from the vestry
that a full-time rector could be paid entirely
from ongoing sources of income.

Given the budget presented at the annual meeting,
a shortfall would have to be made up by raiding
the Diocesan Investment Trust for this year
and very possibly for years to come.

Then there is the very real problem of 
the high cost of living on Cape Cod,
particularly in the purchase or rental
of housing in a very tight market.

What happens next is up in the air.
There is talk of reconstituting the search 
committee with new members, assuming 
the present members are dispirited.

The congregation reacted calmly to the news.
It is as if they were already suspicious.
We may see a gradual departure of 
members who want permanence in their church.

The interim rector has served almost a year;
the former rector left in June of last year.
The situation calls for a diocesan appointment 
of a priest in charge as soon as possible.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Return of the Little Red Bag

The little red bag has been on many trips.
Carry-on size, easy to stow overhead,
it can be pulled through airplane aisles
and crowded airports without difficulty.

The little red bag made the tour 
to visit the National Parks last year,
and was the carry-on during the cruise
on the Rhine and Danube rivers.

We had three bad days on that expedition, 
the last being the trip home to Boston.
Woke up at 2:30 a.m. to be bussed to the 
Budapest airport for a flight to Amsterdam.

Time for a leisurely lunch in Amsterdam,
then off on the seven hour flight to Boston
First we had to stand in line for a grilling
by Delta reps before boarding.

The little red bag with us, we were treated
to a nonstop conversation by two loud
Eastern Europeans sitting in front of us,
thus ruining any chance for sleep.

Down in Logan Airport in Boston to be
herded in long lines through three 
separate machinations by customs officials,
the little red bag trailing behind.

Finally we were able to get to the baggage area
and retrieve our two large suitcases.
When we tried to exit, we were herded to 
another room for baggage inspection.

With about two hundred passengers lined up,
it looked like we would be another hour.
Suddenly the customs crew decided to wave
everyone out the door without inspection.

Now at this point, we were brain dead.
We had the two large suitcases in a cart.
Barbara was going to pull the little red bag.
I took off like a shot, pushing the cart.

We had been back and forth on the phone
with Ray, our limo driver, who had already
been waiting an hour for us, then called 
him again to say we were on our way out.

At this point, memory is clouded.
All we can say is that when we arrived home,
there was no little red bag in the car.
Ray said he never loaded such an item.

Despair.  Is it gone forever?
Not so;  nine days later, a latino voice
informed us that they (who?) had found
the bag (where?) with no tag (somewhere?).

He said he would send it on to Delta, 
then abruptly hung up, without further explanation.
Meanwhile, we had filed a lost item report 
with Delta, and were awarded a case number. 

A week later, Delta emailed to say they
could not find our little red bag.
A day or so after that, a lady called to 
say they had it in Delta lost and found.

So we asked Ray to pick it up on one of his 
runs to the airport, which he did, delivering 
this precious item right to our front door.
Inside a pocket was Barbara's card, written on.

This is another reason why we have taken an 
oath never to travel outside the country again.
Now we understand why we saw no other 
old people on either of the transatlantic flights.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Viking River Cruise

On our stay in Amsterdam before the cruise
we fulfilled a lifetime objective of 
visiting the restored Rijkes Museum, 
a splendid all-day experience.

The works of the Dutch masters
were displayed in the great hall
in separate enclaves for the most famous,
leaving room for photos of their paintings.

But we have taken an oath
never to travel out of the country again.
The outgoing day was difficult;
the return passage was nearly impossible.

In between were highlights and disappointments.
The promotional literature summoned up seeing
beautiful vistas while slowly gliding down the rivers
with occasional stops at interesting venues.

The reality was an unbroke regimen of 
herding large groups of passengers into buses,
then dropping them off for two hour walks
on cobblestone streets through medieval villages.

The guides spoke nonstop into walking radios
on the local history of governance and disasters
through the centuries, and on the lives and
scandals of the royals and clergy therein.

Naturally, we ignored the lectures and
took pictures constantly inside and out.
Fortunately, the dates of each shot will
help us to remember where we were.

We focussed on the churches,
ranging from lofty cathedrals and
brilliantly decorated rococo chapels
to somber reconstructions of WWII ruins.

Highlights included climbing up to a genuine castle,
walking through a walled town in a modern city,
and a slow tour through Buda and Pest, with
lights ablaze on the major buildings.

At one point, we were so exhausted
that we had to take a day off to remain
on the ship while the hardy tourists 
walked around Bratislava in the rain.

A low point was our transfer from one ship
to another, because the low water level
prevented our first boat from transiting
the locks on the Main River canal.

Although the food was somewhat bizarre, 
we enjoyed sitting with different people
who came from all over the U.S.A. and
as far as Australia and New Zealand.

The ship itself was super clean, with
service provided by bright youngsters
of many nationalities, who smiled constantly
and were anxious to respond to our requests.

Our conclusion is that the Viking River Cruise,
as it is currently operated, is beyond the
capabilities of most elderly people like us,
and should be marketed as such.

Friday, March 13, 2015


I am eighty-seven
which by any measure
is an advanced age, 
reached only by a select number.

Despite the debilities of age, 
I can stand upright,
walk and talk too much,
and make sense sometimes.

Two doctors in recent exams
said that I was good for ten more years, 
which begs the question:
When do I stop driving?

When I retired after forty-four years 
of employment in five careers, 
I still had not decided what I was
going to do when I grew up.

So in twenty years of retirement, 
I mastered the computer,
learned how to invest wisely,
hiked and biked all over Cape Cod.

My legacy is the website: "cctrails.org,"
including my book: "Long Walks on Cape Cod."
Now I enjoy the woods just as much
in hour-long strolls on pleasant days.

I changed my academic field to the
study of Christianity and its doctrine,
participating in small study groups, 
leading discussion and guiding leaders.

My children are my pride; not exactly my joy.
Independent of mind, they followed
the advice of their parents, who encouraged
them to make their own way in the world.

The apple truly does not fall far from the tree.
They have met all the statutory requirements: 
Get an education, get a job, get married,
stay married, and live an upright life.

They have raised their children to be upright 
also, attending to their needs and problems
(maybe with a little too much attention), and
encouraging them to follow their stars.

Grandchildren have not figured much in my life.
They are fun when young, going to the beach and such.
But they ignore you in their teens, and you
become simply a silent observer thereafter.

Seven years ago, God presented someone
athwart my path who made my life a joy
by choosing to spend her life with me.
We do indeed live happily ever after.

Still, I do not forget those who left me.
Their pictures greet me every morning.
When I join them someday, 
I will hear:  "What took you so long?"

Friday, January 30, 2015

St. David's Update

Average Sunday Attendance at St. David's Church 
in South Yarmouth, MA, is 110 worshippers, 
including choir, clergy, ushers, children.  That 
compares to 150 in 2013, 

The stewardship drive topped out at 208K in pledges.
The goal of 220K is planned to be reached by public
fundraisers, such as a silent auction and a summer 
barbecue.  Plate offerings in the past averaged 15K.
The thrift shop and rental of Nelson Hall could 
bring in another 15K.

Thus an optimistic income of 250K would be 65K
short of a lean budget of 315K.  And the diocesan
assessment of 25K must be paid in full.  The 
amount needed to compensate a full-time rector, 
according to diocesan requirements, cannot be met
without substantial gifts, and/or significant 
withdrawal from the funds invested in the diocesan

St, David's suffers from a continuing decline in 
members, with no plan to attract new people.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Church Downsized

"No, our church didn't go bust,"
said the churchwarden of St. XXXXXX.
"We were slaves to our buildings,
we couldn't afford the upkeep anymore.

"So we decided to sell the property,
and move to rented quarters.
The move worked out pretty well,
but we're having problems with the sale."

"The Episcopal diocese claims the proceeds,
under a church law called the Dennis canon.
They say the diocese has an 'implied trust'
over the property of its member parishes."

"We don't know how that will work out, 
neither does the lawyer we hired.
She does believe our liquid assets are safe,
although the diocese is trying to seize them."

"St. XXXXX is a functioning corporation, 
which has moved to another location.
Whether we own or rent is irrelevant;
we have not missed a Sunday of services."

"Our focus is on our main objectives:
bringing the saving grace to all who worship
with us, and engaging in charitable outreach
to the community around us."

"We employ a full-time pastor, paying her
the prescribed salary and allowances.
We pay the diocesan assessment on time,
which will have to be reduced."

"Our church has had to give up sponsoring
activities that used our former property/
AA groups and the thrift shop are gone.
The daycare operation moved elsewhere."

"We have an active network of 
church groups meeting in homes,
for education, moral support, and
simple fellowship and hospitality."

"All in all, our church regulars
are pleased with the new arrangement,
finding it much easier to invite
new people to meet with us."

"Our expenses are modest, operating
on sort of a pay-as-you-go system.
We don't worry anymore about 
what we can afford doing."

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Church For Sale

Church for Sale

"Both the land and the buildings 
are for sale," said the agent.
"The property just came on the market,
so they're all in pretty good shape."

"The old building in front has some
kind of historical protection, so it
can't be torn down.  If you use it,
it may need some upgrading."

"The church complex is from the
seventies.  They took real good 
care of it.  Put in two ACs to 
protect the organ and cool the crowd!"

"The big building in back is what
they called a parish hall.  It has
a commercial kitchen and storage.
Would be fine for parties and receptions."

"No, the day care outfit has no 
lease on the space they use.
The church didn't charge them
anything; it was all on charity."

"I don't know why the church went bust.
I work for the seller, what they 
call a diocese.  The woman who hired
us is a lawyer for the seller."

"This is not a great location for business,
so we told them to set a realistic price.
You would have to advertise a lot 
to build a clientele here."

"On the other hand, this is a great
place for something that blends
into a historic neighborhood.
Just don't plan on much signage."

"Yes, that is a landscaper next door.
They are grandfathered into the site.
You may have to initiate some legal 
action to get them to remove the pile of dirt."

"The parking lot needs regrading,
better yet, paved with asphalt.
It is plenty big enough to host
capacity crowds for local events."

"Yes, that is a memorial garden.
No one is buried there, in a casket, that is.  
What you see are places where the 
ashes of people are stuck in the ground."

"The seller hasn't said what should
happen to the memorial garden.
Maybe they will just ask people to
remove the ashes, if they want."

"So let me know it you're interested.
I may be able to get someone who
used to go to this church to tell you
a little more about its history."