Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January 2014 Visit to Barcelona, Spain

So I'm in Barcelona, Spain for the week! How in the world did that happen?
Back in the late Fall, my colleague Daniel mentioned he was going to be in Europe conducting for about a month and a half and that he might need some help. I said "say that a little louder?!" and we made it happen! I'm super excited to be here for the week helping as needed with chamber orchestra rehearsals of the Filharmonia Iberia and WOW - they are making a recording! How cool! I'm learning new repertoire as well as watching premieres of two works happen in collaboration with the orchestrator Melani Mestre. Here's a picture of the concert advertisement:
For me, I am happy to BE IN BARCELONA! I'm learning a new city, I'm getting to hang out with my dear friend Daniel and his family, and I'm not in New Orleans for the "sneauxmageddon" (dusting of snow and some ice/sleet) which closed my university and most of the city for two days!
Here is a link to my Facebook album from Barcelona (SO FAR! I will be adding many more pictures to it)
Having attended two rehearsals 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then taken long walks around the city, I believe that tomorrow I will actually go inside the Sagrada familia and take some "real pictures" with my new camera! You know, I really should mention that this trip is very coming at an important time for me and that I'm also finding myself able to use it and the time in cafes for some deep thoughts. I'll write about those a little later on, but they involve some self study and some time with God. Maybe I should call some of the posts "Coffee Time with God" because ever since the early Fall, that's usually when I feel able to experience some deep spiritual thoughts. At any rate, I'm so glad to be back in my blogging mode after several months off.

If you're reading any of the joyful gibberish, I hope you have either a margarita (to make sense of it all) or some coffee in hand (to stay awake). :-)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana Racial Reconciliation Service - Jan 18, 2014

On Saturday January 18, our Diocese (EDOLA) held an historic service at Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans. The Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev'd Katharine Jefferts Schori preached and witnessed the gathering. The purpose of the service was to mark several years of conversation surrounding the issue of racism and explore how The Episcopal Church (TEC) can more fully live into the calling of Christ. From what I understand, this was a national initiative. I remember at Gen Con 77, the theme was reconciliation and involvement was with the Native American community. Those services were AMAZING. This special service, entitled Seeking Christ in All People: A Service of Commitment to Racial Healing, Justice and Reconciliation  was both a culmination of the Year of Reconciliation and a celebration of the life and ministry of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
All were welcomed and we had a jazz reception following the service.
Rehearsal Fri night, me w/ Jarrett Follett (Dir of Music of Christ Church Cathedral), Jazz reception (Victor Atkins behind piano), and Tyrone Chambers (Excellent tenor and friend living in NYC)
I was VERY fortunate to be a team with that makes up the EDOLA Music & Liturgy Commission. It literally makes my heart sing to be able to share ideas at the diocesan level! My dear friend Jarrett, who is music director at the cathedral, invited me to conduct the service on Saturday. YAY! SO EXCITED! Over a period of a few months, we gathered a few folks from around the choirs of the diocese for a large group of singers. Our choirs: St. Paul’s Episcopal in Lakeview and the Christ Church Cathedral, were the two main choirs and the hosts. Friday’s rehearsal was terrific and I was truly able to bring out some very nice things in the music. Everyone was super excited to be there and I was able to make some music and bring alive the spiritual connections from the texts and our purpose that weekend!
Victor Atkins took this picture, from the piano, of me conducting :-)
This kind of work is THE BEST and again, it literally makes my heart sing! Our anthems were:
1.    Amazing GraceStephen Hatfield
2.    My God is So HighMoses Hogan (Tyrone Chambers, tenor soloist)
3.    Draw Us in the Spirit’s TetherHarold Friedell
"Amazing Grace" by Stephen Hatfield. Maria Elliott, Oboe
I felt that Amazing Grace needed to be included in the service, BUT I wanted a combination of the non-traditional and the hymn we all know. So, how about something where the choir NEVER actually sings the melody in its entirety?! The Hatfield arrangement allows for an instrument to perform the melody and I chose the Oboe, loosely reminiscent of the strength and edginess of bagpipe, but way more manageable J
Here is the program booklet for the service:
Here is a link to the audio from the entire service:
Here is the link to the EDOLA Facebook page album of pictures from the event:
She did a really fantastic job with this. It wasn’t a “comfortable” service for many people, but she stressed that we were leading The Episcopal Church in speaking on this issue and in reconciliation. She named the provinces around the globe and I think that some who never realized the breadth of places in the Anglican Communion, well…their eyes were opened.
Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Photo by Debbie Edens
One of the difficulties in the service was when the litany spoke of guilt associated with current people for past slavery. This made a LOT of people uncomfortable and one of my students said he was looking around and actually saw a lot of red faces. We personally may not have been responsible for the acts of our grandparents and / or other relatives or even – OUR OWN ORGANIZATIONS such as the Episcopal Church itself in Louisiana (and New Orleans proper), BUT it is amazing to see what a bit of give in that area makes. It makes a difference to those whose lives HAVE been affected in the past, present, and I daresay – the future. It also seems to me that one of the first steps in healing is to recognize the NEED for healing, regardless of situation. For this, I am so proud to be a part of The Episcopal Church. We are willing to come to the table, to discuss, to question, and to challenge ourselves and others. This kind of tolerance and openness is certainly not unique to TEC, but it is a most definitely a strength of it.

This strength and spiritual confidence is something from which I can learn. I sometimes forget that I can proactively apply this example to my own habits and my spiritual life. It’s a good reminder. Being open and willing to present an idea and perhaps to argue a point - with the understanding that there are varying facets of any argument - is a huge risk. I will never EVER forget when one of my friends working in TEC described death threats that he had received. They were from people whose opinions were different.
Katharine Jefferts Schori with Bishop Morris Thompson
I admire our PB. She’s a scientist, a warm and kind person, an introvert, thoughtful, BRILLIANT, a great writer, she’s a pilot (so cool and I’m slightly jealous), a runner, and a woman. Her office ends in 2015 and the new PB will be installed that Fall. I was not able to snag a picture with her this visit, but I did the last time she was in New Orleans and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to meet her during the House of Bishops in 2007 and at Bishop Thompson’s consecration three years ago. I also greatly admire our Bishop Morris Thompson and what he and the diocesan clergy and staff are doing here in Louisiana!
I’m going to sign off with a prayer that has been in my life for the past twenty years and that speaks to me deeply. After Bp. Thompson’s first annual visit to St. Paul’s, I Iearned that he also uses it and that makes me very happy!
My friends,
Life is short, and we do not have
much time to gladden the hearts of
those who travel with us, so be quick to
love and make haste to be kind.
And may the blessing of the One who
... made us, and the One who loves us, and
the One who travels with us, be with
you and those you love this day and always.
Adapted from Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881)

Friday, January 24, 2014

St. Paul's Episcopal Senior Center - Grand Opening

St. Paul’s Senior Center GRAND OPENING!

On Monday, Jan 20th from 11-2, the St. Paul’s Senior Center’s held its grand opening drop-in. Each year, many observe MLK Day as a day to give back to the community and a day to volunteer or do some kind of service. For us at St. Paul's, this seemed like a perfect day to open a senior center (the Homecoming Center transformed into senior center) and provide ongoing resources to senior citizens in the Gentilly area of New Orleans!
The center is located at 1509 Filmore Avenue in Gentilly.
It has been set up to accommodate lunches, games, computer work, crafts, and other activities:
Folks were so excited that they arrived early! Cathey Randolph, Natalie James, Connie Uddo and I finished preparing a delicious lunch Caesar salad, red beans & rice, French bread, and king cake and then everyone had a terrific hot meal!
Everyone that came also got a cool t-shirt!
Each person was given a schedule of Senior Center events for the month and we all had a good discussion of activities they would like to see and ideas for art projects, games or crafting. I was so happy to have a chance to hang out with them. I see them once a month for Bingo and while it is a social time, it’s not the best for really sitting with individuals and chatting. As Bingo players, they can be INTENSELY competitive so it was great to spend time with them in a different setting! Monday, I got to see pictures of people’s grandchildren, laugh, hear how they were really doing, and relax with a chance to get to know them better!  
Volunteering is something that I have tried to make time for throughout my life. Sure, I’m busy….. we all are, but it is SO rewarding and if you can carve out an hour a month, you can make a difference in someone’s life - including your own!
I challenge you all to volunteer somewhere during 2014!
I was impressed at how many St. Paul’s members and neighborhood friends came by the center to say hello and explore the offerings! I will be there on many Thursday mornings – helping with crafts or computer projects. I might even hold some hymn sings and/or some spiritual time with psalms or prayers if there is a need or desire for that. I'm currently trying to decide if I want to follow the path to chaplaincy or a host of other possible ideas. I will be writing a bit about that journey in some other posts.


Here are four photos of our Moon that I took recently!  Canon Powershot 50X zoom
1. Wed., Jan 22 2:30 a.m.

2. Closeup of CRATERS - I really can't believe this camera can get such a zoom!
3. This one was taken from the UNO parking lot in the morning! You can still see craters! I darkened it slightly and that's why it looks so grainy.
4. Crescent moon from the Crescent City. The moon was setting and to catch it, I had to climb up into the attic and take the pic through the dirty window, but it still came out pretty well :-)