Continuing Home

The ongoing saga of a Continuing Anglican church home, as seen by a member of the laity.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Omnipotent Weakness": Day 5

Today's reading from Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton:
It is no more inevitable to connect God with an infant than to connect gravitation with a kitten. It has been created in our minds by Christmas because we are Christians, because we are psychological Christians even when we are not theological ones... Omnipotence and impotence, or divinity and infancy, do definitely make a sort of epigram which a million repetitions cannot turn into a platitude. It is not unreasonable to call it unique. Bethlehem is emphatically a place where extremes meet.

Repeat visitor

It was a delight to welcome Mark back on Sunday. He's visited us the two preceding Christmases while up here from Santa Ana, California (where it's sunny & warm, what's wrong with this picture?) for Christmas with family in nearby Kent. I still regret not having been able to get away to his church a year ago last summer when I was in the area for a week.

But I have his phone number so hopefully we can get together for lunch this week, probably Friday or Saturday.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

On the (go-) Fourth Day of Christmas...

The highlight wasn't "Four Calling Birds" (or the 4 Gospels represented thereby) but today it was We Are Here, finally, to celebrate Christmas together. Sometimes it requires a denial or removal of an occasion to really appreciate its importance. At a time when the secular world around us is already discarding its Xmas trees we're greeting each other for the first time with "Merry Christmas" and celebrating with Christmas carols, copiously in today's service.

We also began to hear others' stories of the difficult situations and travel conditions of the past week -- our neighbors' accident appears to be minor compared to others'.

But at least of today, with fairly full attendance at Mass and the church fully decorated, It Is (clearly) Christmas at St. Bartholomew's!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The "All Clear" is sounded - come to church

We "got out" of the neighborhood this afternoon and Kathy stopped by the church -- only to find the entrance blocked by a truck & trailer. Fr. McGrath had found online (via Craig's List) one Colin Stewart who with his John Deere tractor was clearing the drive and parking lot, so that all will be ready for tomorrow's service, whether Holy Innocents or 1st Sunday after Christmas.

I am happy to see this"

instead of this:

Friday, December 26, 2008

It's not too late for Carols

St. Stephen's Day and we're still snowed in.

I understand two families, the McGraths and the Millers, made it to the Christmas Eve service. Four adults and six children. Many churches in the area canceled their midnight services; a wise move considering the dangerously slippery conditions out there.

I haven't heard about the Christmas Day service though I suspect it was equally low. The last report I had was under an hour before the service, and the power was out. At least the church has a generator so there would have been heat and light.

We had hoped to be free to move about tomorrow but this afternoon's rain is falling as snow instead, undoing the work of shoveling the drive and the hill so we could leave (and return) safely.

But as Fr. McGrath said in an e-mail to the parish on Christmas Eve, "Do not lose heart: the snow will melt in due time." It will, and as he also noted the First Sunday in Christmas will offer opportunity for lots of carols.

Fr. McGrath posted pictures of the church taken Christmas Day.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Very White Christmas

Woke up this morning expecting to see some melting underway, but instead we had a bit of a blizzard in progress, covering yesterday's tracks in the driveway and loading up the trees with snow. This is worrisome, because these conditions often lead to power outages -- but it's beautiful anyway and a relief from our dark winters. (At the low resolution of this picture the snowflakes aren't visible... but they're there -- and the photo is full color, by the way.)

But I was curious -- was this local, or more widespread? A week or two ago Fr. McGrath tipped me off to the fact that the county had made their traffic cameras (along with the state dept. of transportation) available on the Internet. So I'm able to look around for myself and see... yes, the snowfall is widespread. (This photo is from about 5 miles south of St. Bartholomew's, right in the center of Microsoft's Redmond campuses.) I expect a very low turnout for the 10 AM service this Christmas morning.

(Update 9:20 AM: Fr. McGrath reports the power is out in Woodinville. Fortunately the church has a generator so there will be light and warmth there.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A bad start for Christmas

I had my misgivings about going out tonight but relented with regard to attending the 5:30 PM Christmas Eve service, originally to be Lessons and Carols but changed to Holy Communion when Midnight Mass was canceled due to snow. We didn't get very far, maybe 30 meters down the road, at which point it became so slick one couldn't even stand on it -- far too dangerous for driving.

Given the forecast ahead (rain+snow, snow, rain) it's clear we won't be able to get to church tomorrow, either. I hope somebody in addition to the McGraths makes it...

(Not) Dreaming of a White Christmas

Here in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) we are always hoping for a White Christmas. Winters here are dark and gloomy -- SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, is quite real: I've seen people move away rather than face another PNW winter; it's the price we pay for our gorgeous Seattle summers. So snow almost is always welcome despite the trouble it brings: snow&ice and steep hills do not mix well.

This year will be something like the third I've seen a white PNW Christmas in my quarter-century here, and it will be by far the worst of any PNW snow season. A lot of our parishioners have already been snowed-in (unable to get out and about), as noted in this blog, and this morning there is a major snowstorm in progress. I am not even sure that this household is getting out this time, and we seem to have been the most mobile household in the parish.

Poor Fr. McGrath! Not only has he become rather proficient with the snow shovel, trying to keep the long church driveway clear (just helping out yesterday produced muscle aches), but nearly all the planning for this festive occasion is collapsing. The Choral Mass planned for last Sunday didn't occur because almost none of the choir were able to make it. The Greening of the Church was put off for this afternoon (it will be "Advent to the very end" someone remarked), but with this snow I suspect that won't take place. Services will still be held, though attendance will be sparse.

The snow is beautiful, but this year it carries a steep price for our parish Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"The Messenger" (Advent Series IV)

I read through Fr. McGrath's handout and the readings for the class for the "(Go Not) Fo[u]rth Sunday in Advent" last night. It was quite interesting, focused on the "messengers" ("angels", though the handout didn't give the origin of the term and though it seems that I should know this, I don't -- maybe I have forgotten it). I somehow never recalled that it was Gabriel who went to both Zachariah and Mary. And as Fr. McGrath notes, angels appear in several other places in the "Infancy Narrative," a detail I somehow missed, perhaps by never having focused on it.

Angels appear elsewhere in the Biblical narratives but never, I think, so many appearances in a short time. Indicative?

I have a feeling that this would have been a most interesting class, had it come to be held.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Epistle and the Prayer Hound

It started out as yet another one of those e-mails folks forward to their friends though, as the "original" (as received) e-mail noted, the picture is very cute. Kathy received it from a friend, forwarded it to me, and I sent it to Fr. McGrath.

Next thing I know, it's in his regular e-mail to the parish with the week's schedule, announcements, and more. But this time he included the picture, VERY appropriately captioned with a portion of today's Epistle:

"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." (Philippians 4:6)

Venture Not Forth Sunday (in Advent)

Today was the lowest Sunday at St. Bartholomew's I've yet seen in over 25 years -- only three families present. The windstorm did strike last night, as evidenced by the tree debris blown everywhere, but there didn't seem to be much in the way of power outages (except at my house).

We got some more snow too. My guess is that that's what kept people home; the roads were definitely in worse shape than yesterday -- and not long after the service ended it started snowing again.

It's a shame -- Fr. McGrath and the choir had been working on a Choral Mass for today. Today's class, the last of Fr. McGrath's Advent series, was also canceled. Still I have a copy of the handout to read, filling out my set of the series, titled "Four Images of Preparation from the Four Gospels," with the sections:

The Patriarch
The Prophet
The Expectant Mother
The Messenger
So I have some reading to do. And several days of snow ahead in which to do it. Fr. McGrath's work won't be completely for nought.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Today's "Ladies' Arts & Crafts Social" was cancelled, in part due to some of the regulars being away and in part because some weren't able to get there. I was able to get down the hill and into town (and back) in my little 4WD, but saw a few pileups at the bottom of hills that gave me pause. (This would have given me even more, I think!

Hopefully this will be the end of the cancellations. More snow is in the forecast but the temperatures are to be above freezing, and the forecasts are usually a few degrees low. On the other they're forecasting a strong east wind tomorrow -- this is very unusual and I'm not sure what to expect.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

No class

Last evening there was some discussion of holding the class this evening. I was a bit uncertain, watching the forecast, but this morning it seemed a possibility. Although it was snowing and looking like it would continue for a while, we only had a couple of inches on the ground.

Then Fr. McGrath e-mailed the group to cancel the class. He said he'd shoveled 8 inches of snow in front of the Narthex, which was quickly replaced by two more inches.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Weather Permitting II

Fr. McGrath's e-mail went out a half-hour ago -- the last of the Advent Wednesday series is canceled due to the incoming snow storm (which I've been watching the past 24 hours or more). Very sad, if only for the lost opportunity of discussion and fellowship (and the suppers by Nancy and others!).

As worrisome is the lineup of more snow over the next week and a half. Depending on the computer model we might be looking at 5 snowstorms from last weekend through Christmas.. and the Puget Sound region is not set up to keep roads passable with this much snow.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Caddy and the Needle

I've been a bit remiss in keeping up with the daily readings in Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton, but as things slow down (I'm now on holiday through the end of the year) I'm catching up. For all I tend to be a news junkie some things get by me; only today did I begin to learn about the The Madoff affair.

So it was that Saturday's reading "The Camel and the Needle" jumped out at me this evening with this: "His [Christ's] words must at the very least mean this -- that rich men are not likely to be morally trustworthy...There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck."

Which makes me wonder about the nature of being rich. By the standards of most of the world I am rich. But my car is the oldest, or maybe second-oldest, in the lot on Sunday. And I don't care -- it's a zippy fun drive regardless of its age. The day I show up driving a fancy new Caddy you might as well bury me in the blasted thing right then and there.

Having posted this, I suspect I've designated one topic for Wednesday night's discussion. Weather permittin' an' the snow don't fall.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Froze Sunday?

Looks like tomorrow, Rose Sunday, could be a rather low Sunday. I just happened to read a National Weather Service warning for the coming week:


Roads coated with ice, especially on hills, are bad news. If this hits a lot of folks will stay home.

Beat me to it... two whole days. I had planned to write something about the Wednesday evening Advent series Fr. McGrath is conducting, but as luck would have it work piled up on the last couple of my working days this year (I'm now on holiday through the end of the year) and my plan was forgotten.

Until now, but I took a quick look at Fr. McGrath's blog, Anglican Parish Priest and he'd already written about it. Along with a picture -- for all I had two cameras there with me (not including the one in the cellphone) I neglected to take any photos.

On top of that, he posted a photo of one of his neighbor's bright Christmas displays, with a bit of a newcomer's perspective on Pacific Northwest winters, not so very different from what I remember upon moving here 25 years ago.

Take a look.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Our newest acolyte

It was a pleasant surprise to see that we have a new acolyte (in training): Luke.

The cross seemed a bit much for him to bear (ummm...) but I think he'll grow into it.

Suddenly shy

I haven't quite had the courage to look at the pictures taken today, but the experience was interesting. I had to set up the lights again, which wasn't a problem, but it took a while to realize that the lighting looked different because of a coat rack with dark coats on it off to one side. But yesterday's problem with sunshine from outside was solved by today's dark sky and rain.

The McGrath kids were amusing; initially shy, they suddenly wanted to be in all the pictures. At least until this shot...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The 'Joys' of Amateur Photography

Our little board of photos & names of parishioners is way out of date (I'm not even sure if that Polaroid camera is still around), and Nancy decided we needed to bring it up to date. Since I'm the one usually around with a camera I was tagged to take the photos. Only this time we'd do it better, with proper lighting, nice backgrounds, and so on.

Well, it sounded good. I've been reading up on how to improve my photographic skills, and here was an opportunity to develop some portraiture skills. Turns out, just in equipment, this is rather more difficult than it appears.

The household budget doesn't allow for hundreds of dollars for "soft-box" illumination devices, not to mention the various flashes needed for same, so I decided to go for a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) setup -- no flash, what I see before me and in the viewfinder is the picture I get.

Would that that were so easy. After a better part of the day with invented alternatives, I wound up with two high-brightness worklights strategically oriented for indirect illumination, one window screened to reduce outside light and reflections off eyeglasses, and a heavy reliance on "white balance" (the reverse side of a business card just inside the photo to establish "white" for post-processing correction), plus a NICE fabric background.

Test shots looked good. We're ready to go.

I think.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Last evening was the first of our Advent Wednesday Evening series, starting with a beautifully sung Evensong (as soon as I heard Matt & Claire singing like larks I decided to forgo my croak), including a beautiful Advent hymn I didn't even know was in our Hymnal (1940): #6, Conditor Alme, 1st tune. It appears in Latin on my favorite Christmas album, "A Medieval Christmas" by the Boston Camerata (recorded sometime back in the 60s or 70s -- my ~70s LP wore out years ago but not ago I found it on CD.)

Then, per tradition, it was down to the Parish Hall for a "light" supper. Light enough, I guess, but hardly plain. Nancy worked her "usual" magic with the soup and salad (hard to call such delicious fare "usual"), and I don't know who was responsible for the place settings, but it was great.

Then we went on to discussions centered on this season's readings, Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton (skipping over Fr. McGrath's clever Irish/Seattle jest), focusing on two of the daily Advent readings preceding yesterday. Day 1: "The Gift of Hope" -- if only I had had signed up and had a copy of the book beforehand, I could have contributed to this.

Hope is, as Chesterton (and some in the group) noted, is not for the young. It requires experience; experience of dreams or expectations dashed to the ground only to have something new, maybe something unexpected, and maybe something even better, rise to take their place. That it "is from the backs of the elderly gentlemen that the wings of the butterfly should burst" is spot on.

It is also only the elderly caterpillar that sprouts the wings -- the statement I would have made if...
1: I hadn't been so tired and
2: I had been able to read the reading beforehand.

Hope doesn't belong completely to older folks, and older folks don't always have hope, but I suspect hope (as differentieated from anticipation) is best to be found amongst the older set.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Weather permitting

I think Fr. McGrath has been taken a bit aback by our Pacific Northwe(s)t winters. Sunday he announced that he'd told the Vestry he wasn't going to hold an Advent class this year because of the frequency with which he'd had to cancel in the past due to the weather.

I remember the big windstorm we had two years ago, with power being out days to weeks. Last year I recorded nothing in the blog, but then again I was away for a while and may have missed something. And it might have been in 2005 that Avondale Road because extremely treacherous with water over the sheet of ice on the road.

But Fr. McGrath relented and the class will go ahead, only three Wednesdays this year. This time the book will be Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton, Advent and Christmas readings. (I don't know if we're signed up but will have to ask.) The class is on -- weather permitting!