Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What ‘s So Special About the First Hundred Days?

I had been planning to blog about my assessment of President Obama’s first one hundred days in office. I decided not to post my reflections Wednesday morning because I wanted to first hear and read how the political pundits assessed his record. The democratic, progressive, liberal, socialist, communist media I read, like the New York Times and Washington Post, and listen to, such as NPR, and watch, such as MSNBC, has given him generally high marks. I do not know what I could add. Way to go Barack! Here is a first bump to you.

All this talk about the President’s first one hundred days got me thinking, however. What is so special about 100 days? It is not very Biblical. If we were truly a country founded on Judeo-Christian principals we would have assessed the President after his first forty Days.

Or if we were really patriotic we would assess the President after his or her first fifty days, one day for each state. Or maybe seventy-six days, for 1776. Or maybe thirteen weeks, a week for each original colony.

One hundred sounds so, well metric! And by extension, so European. I remember the big move to go metric. I remember when gas was sold in liters, distances on road signs were printed in both miles and kilometers, and speedometers were also calibrated in both miles and kilometers. But that seems like a long time ago. Metric now seems reserved for the laboratory and the mechanic who works on foreign cars, not or measuring up a President.

OK, so our monetary system, unlike the English, is based on a decimal model. There are 100 cents in a dollar, etc, etc, etc. But then again, maybe our economy would be in better shape if we went back to eights bits in a dollar, or converted to schillings, the pence and the pound. After all, we do still buy produce by the ounce and pound, and package beverages by ounces, cups, quarts and gallons rather than going metric. Maybe we should be assessing President Obama after his first dozen weeks in office (84 days) or his first baker’s dozen weeks (91 days).

Phileas Fogg made it around the world in eighty days. Is eighty days not enough time for a President to make an impression? Sometimes it seems like politics inhabits more of a fantasy world than any ever conjured up by Jules Verne. Surely both Republican and Democrat spin doctors can offer up a diagnosis within the first eighty days of a President, even if their sound bites are more fictional than non-fiction.

Regardless of the time span - forty days or 13 weeks - so far I seem to be more satisfied with our my President than he is with himself. He must hold himself to a higher standard than I hold him. I wonder what scale he is using. Fahrenheit or Celsius?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Welcome to My Neighborhood: Eddie’s Hairstyling and Barbering

In the header of my blog I proclaim that Summit to Shore includes theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood. Starting with this post I intend to begin focusing a little more on my neighborhood of Ridgewood than I have heretofore, especially some of the business and people in the neighborhood. Heaven knows, during the current recession, entrepreneurs need all the help and free exposure than can get.

Why blog about my neighborhood? I take my cue from another Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Minister, now deceased, by the name of Mister Rogers.

For the record I only live in Ridgewood. I generally work in the Queens neighborhood of Flushing and in the Manhattan neighborhood of SoHo. I have lived in Ridgewood, and New York, since the end of July 2007. I do most of my shopping in the Ridhewood neighborhood and regularly walk our dog Hermes around its streets. In the process I have come to know some of the local business people and some of their employees.

The first business I welcome to my neighborhood is Eddie’s Hairstyling and Barbering (pictured top right), located at 59-11 71st Avenue, owned by Leo. Leo bought the business from Eddie in 2005. The phone number is 718-628-6028. Currently there is no website but the Leo is planning to have one real soon.

Leo started barbering at the young age of 16 and worked at various shops and salons before coming to Ridgewood. The last time I visited in his shop he was training his younger brother to possibly enter the trade. What he likes most about the neighborhood is its diversity. You can read some of my own reflections about this diversity in an earlier post. As proof of Leo's admiration of diversity, Eddie’s is a multi-lingual barbershop where I have heard Leo and his two employees speak languages I do not understand.

For Leo, barbering is not just a job but a profession. When I asked him to sum up his business philosophy he talked about haircuts being works of art. He invites both men and women to come in and experience for themselves how he and the two other barbers/stylists that work for him will listen to the customer to provide the style/cut . . . or work of art . . . they desire. His prices are reasonable and his service outstanding. I know because I am one of his satisfied customers.

The current recession has really been cutting (is that a pun?) into Leo’s bottom line as he has experienced about a 40% reduction in business as customers seem to be coming in less frequently, apparently cutting their own hair and their children’s hair at home.

Speaking of home, Leo provides a unique service. He makes house calls! By appointment he will bring the tools of his trade (pictured bottom right) to the homes of elderly men that are unable to come to Leo at Eddie’s. Talk about service! Talk about caring for his customers!

In addition to creating works of art on the human head and face (he will trim beards, mustaches and eyebrows), Leo also sells various hair care products, beverages, jewelry, and phone cards to his customers. While sitting in his chair or waiting for service customers may also watch Direct TV on one of several screens strategically placed around his shop.

Leo, welcome to my neighborhood. On the other hand, since you have owned a business here longer than I have been living here, maybe you should be welcoming me.

Can a Prince Reclaim His Throne?

I was introduced to Neo-Orthodoxy in college in the late seventies. That introduction included helpings of Barth and the Niebuhr brothers along with side servings of Buber and Bonheoffer. My immersion in Barthian Neo-Orthodoxy continued at Princeton Seminary where by choice I also consumed heaping portions of Calvin and Tillich. Half of one of my Pittsburg Seminary Doctor of Ministry seminars was devoted to Calvin and I read in Barth’s Dogmatics while I was working on my D. Min. project and paper. Thus I have numerous volumes written by these theologians on my book shelf, but only one book by Schleiermacher, his Speeches to its Cultured Despisers.

While I have been exposed to other theological viewpoints throughout my education and have previously read a little Schleiermacher, I have recently rediscovered him. While on the campus of UnionPSCE for the last Colloquy on Prayer, I wandered into the Cokesbury Campus Bookstore and picked up a 75% off the retail price Wipf and Stock reprint of B.A. Gerrish’s A Prince of the Church: Schleiermacher and the Beginning’s of Modern Theology. It has been by far the most concise and clear overview of Schleiermacher that I have read. It has even prompted me to begin thinking of myself as a “Liberal Evangelical” and to think that it is about time that Progressive (i.e. Liberal) Christians re-claim the “Evangelical” label co-opted and held captive by conservatives.

It can be argued that Barth and neo-orthodoxy pounded the last nail in the coffin of Schleiermacher and 19th century Liberal Theology. But it can now also be argued that neo-orthodoxy no longer enjoys the theological monopoly it once did. Various Liberation Theologies, Process Theology, and other theologies have chipped away at the neo-orthodox consensus to the point where neo-orthodoxy is just one theology among many. With the end of the neo-orthodox consensus perhaps it is time to dust off the throne, remove the nails from Schleiermacher’s coffin, and see if there is still some theological life left in this one time prince of the church. Resurrections, after all, have been claimed to happen.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Sights and Sounds of 88 Degrees Fahrenheit

This afternoon around 4 PM I rode the “L” into Manhattan and walked around in the vicinity of Grand Central Station and Lincoln Center. I saw a lot more skin than I am used to seeing. Women were wearing short skirts and halter tops. Both men and women were wearing shorts and t-shirts. I saw pink, pale skin, untouched by the sun skin, with one exception. I saw three women with sunburned shoulders sitting near us at the sidewalk café. One of them even had a tube of suntan lotion sticking of her day pack.

Along Columbus and Amsterdam the outdoor sidewalk cafés were packed. It was the first day since mid-autumn that many were even open. We were lucky to find a table for two at Fusion where we enjoyed Karin and sushi al fresco.

Walking home from the subway around 8:30 PM I realized as I was walking through that the neighborhood sounded different than I am used to hearing it. It was no longer quiet. I heard the sounds of Latin beats and other music leaking out of open windows. I heard children laughing and yelling as they played games in their back yards. Apartment dwellers were sitting on the front stoops of row houses and playing cards or just talking.

Today was the first day in a long, long time the temperature rose above 80. The mercury while I was in Manhattan topped out at 88, a degree lower than the record. 84 was the temperature while we were walking home. Tomorrow might be even warmer.

The Last Colloquy

I have written in an earlier post about my participation in a Colloquy on Prayer sponsored by the Institute For Reformed Theology (IRT) at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education. That participation has now officially ended, along with the colloquy. The colloquy met for six times from September 2007 through April 2009. Our last gathering was last week.

During our final time together we were treated to a lecture by Elsie McKee, Professor of Reformation Studies and the History of Worship at Princeton Theological Seminary. She lectured on Calvin and Praying for “All People Who Dwell on Earth”. Colloquy participants discussed the section of Calvin’s Institutes devoted to prayer, specifically III.20.1-52. We also discussed Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki’s In God’s Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer. Being that it was our last colloquy we also reviewed and evaluated our time together and said our goodbyes.

Unfortunately I was not able to attend McKee’s lecture and came in midway through the discussion of Calvin. It seemed to me, however, that Suchocki elicited more discussion than Calvin, perhaps because most of the participants being Presbyterian meant that Calvin was nothing new but Suchocki’s Process Theology was. Suchocki defines prayer as “our openness to the God who pervades the universe and therefore ourselves, and that prayer is also God’s openness to us.” (p. 18) The “basic supposition” of Suchocki’s “relational theology or prayer” is that “God works with the world as it is in order to bring it to where it can be.” (pp. 18-19)

I found Suchocki refreshing and insightful. I think there was a consensus among colloquy participants that she address a contemporary and popular audience that many Reformed writers have not addressed. There may be however, resources within the Christian and Reformed Tradition prior to Process Theology that might be mined to do just the same. Thus, while this was our last colloquy, we still have much work to do.

Over all I appreciated gathering with colleagues in pastoral ministry as well as with seminary students and seminary faculty to read and discuss several texts related to the topic of prayer without the need to write papers, take exams, or in any other way document our learning. The IRT Colloquy models a company of pastors and others coming together around agreed upon topics and texts, reflecting on and discussing those texts and topics, learning from the authors and from each other without a certificate or degree in mind. .Imagine that, learning just for the love of learning. I think Socrates would be pleased.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Has San Francisco Lost Its Heart?

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but I wondering if it is still there.

I was on the campus of UnionPSCE in Richmond Virginia Wednesday morning when I learned that San Francisco Presbytery had become the first presbytery to flip-flop from having historically supported the full inclusion of all God’s children in the leadership of the church to rejecting that possibility by failing to approve 08-B with a 167-177 vote. A member of Redwoods Presbytery, the presbytery just to the north of San Francisco Presbytery, was sitting nearby and was not a bit surprised by the vote, saying that SFP has always been a divided Presbytery.

Thanks to Presbyweb one can easily review Tuesday's results. National Capitol Presbytery maintained its supportive progressive record, approving 08-B with a vote of 222-102. Salem flipped-flopped into the progressive column by a mere seven votes, approving 08-B with a vote of 156-149. Wabash Valley also flipped flopped by approving 08-B by sixten votes, 76-60. And San Franscisco Presbytery . . . well . . . disappointing from my perspective, and perhaps a bit symbolic, and instructive.

In an earlier version of this post I had credited The GA Junkie for some astute observations regarding the possible symbolism of this flip-flop by San Francisco Presbytery but the credit really belongs to John Shuck at Shuck and Jive. To paraphrase and add to John, San Franscisco Presbytery is . . .

where PCUSA Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow is a minister member;

where Out Lesbian and Minister Coordinator for That All May Freely Serve Lisa Larges is a candidate;

where The Covenant Network of Presbyterians maintains its office and some of its staff; and

where there areapparently numerous bath houses editor emeritus of The Layman Parker T. Williamson believes will erupt in jubilation if the PC(USA) approves 08-B.

In spite of some presbyteries voting overwhelmingly to approve 08-B and some others voting overwhelmingly to defeat 08-B, the vote in many other presbyteries, like San Francisco Presbytery, has been very close. Three presbyteries, in fact, have had tied votes and a tie vote does not count toward approval but rather defeat.

Why the flip flop in San Francisco Presbytery? Progressive turnout or lack thereof. In 2001 there were 186 votes against 01-A, nine more than this year. But in 2001 there 216 votes FOR 01-A, 49 more votes than this year! Where have the progressives gone? Could not eleven more have dragged themselves to Tuesday’s meeting? Every vote does indeed count.

Le Bateau Ivre

One of the first rules of safe boating is to not boat under the influence. A few drinks after a day of kayaking is one thing. A few drinks just before or during kayaking is another thing and altogether dangerous. But what about when the boat itself is drunk?

To celebrate my 51st birthday my wife recently treated me to a French Wine Bar monikered Le Bateau Ivre, or “The Drunken Boat” located on Manhattan’s 51st Street (51 for the birthday! Get it?)(facad pictured right). The name is taken from a classic French Poem by Arthur Rimbaud. To round out the experience our wait staff was a native Frank complete with accent who tolerated my poor attempts to pronounce the little French I know.

Since we were already in a drunken boat and land locked rather than on the open water we began our culinary excursion by sharing the nine wine tasting tray (pictured left). $35 will enable you to choose and taste nine French wines in 3oz glasses. Since we like red wine we chose nine red wines to taste and then ordered two full glasses of the one we liked most. Being in a French Wine Bar we began the non-wine portion of our meal with French onion soup. For our main course we ordered and shared two different tartines with mesclun salads. To cap of the French experience we concluded our voyage by splitting a delicious crème brulee.

All in all it was a delicious evening and we did not even become sea sick.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Trip Report: Empire Kayak 04/17/09

Last Friday, April 17, 2009, I joined my Sebago Canoe Club paddling pals Tony and Walter for a day on the water starting at Empire Kayaks. Empire is located on the waterfront at in Island Park, NY along Nassau County’s South Shore, just west of Jones Beach. It was the first time I had paddled since kayaking at Jones Beach on February 28, and the first time I had been to Empire Kayaks.

Empire was started and for the last eleven years has been owned and managed by Gabrielle and Michael Fehling (pictured top right). It was a pleasure meeting them, talking with them and getting to know them. Their shop might be small (all the boats are kept outside) but it is packed with just about every conceivable kayaking accessory imaginable. What one can’t readily see is the kayaking knowledge and experience that both Michael and Gabriellel possess. Paddling is their passion. To top it off, their personal vehicle, a Honda Element with Yakima roof racks for three kayaks, is almost the splitting image of the Honda Element my wife and I have, so they can't be all bad. Stop by Gabrielle and Michael’s shop some time and tell them you read about them on Summit to Shore. Mentioning my name will not get you a discount but it will get me some exposure.

Tony, Walter and I put in just a little around noon. Four hours and 7.8 miles later we took out after an enjoyable paddle though open bay and marshland. Once again I paddled the Necky Chatam 16 that belongs to the Sebago Canoe Club that I had paddled before and that is currently my favorite boat. Walter and Tony paddled boats they own (pictured bottom right). With a water temperature around 50 and air temperature around 56, all three of us wore dry suits with minimal insulation underneath. The water and wind were generally calm but the wind picked up a little near the end of our trip. Waterfowl were numerous, but not being a birder, I cannot really report what we saw.

Presbyterians call the church owned hosing clergy live in a “Manse” but I felt right at home, and not at all out of my element, when we were paddling through a channel bisecting “Parsonage Island.” Can I claim I was working at home when I was actually paddling?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

NOLS Alums in NY Gather

One of the pleasures I have experienced after moving to New York City is the opportunity to occasionally gather with other graduates of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) who live in New York City. NOLS is the premier teacher of outdoor skills and leadership, offering courses of ten days to a full semester in the world’s most spectacular wilderness classrooms. OK, that is pretty much verbatim taken from the NOLS Website, but I think it is true. So do most other NOLS alums.

Thanks to the organizing efforts of Tobey, Gint and Lori (pictured second right), NOLS alums in the NYC area gather about once every other month at one or another random local bar/restaurant for drinks, food and conversation. Our conversation might include politics, the economy, our work, and the local music/bar/restaurant scene, but will almost always incorporate our favorite, latest, or upcoming outdoor adventure.

Last Thursday, April 16, 2009 we gathered at Connolly’s Pub and Restaurant (pictured top right) at 121 West 45th St. between 6th Avenue and Broadway. Most of us drank Guinness. Food was varied. I enjoyed the garden salad followed by the walnut crusted salmon. Yum!

Gint and I talked about climbing in the Gunks. When Chris and I discovered that we had grown up near the same area of western Pennsylvania we talked about our boyhood adventures of climbing, caving (spelunking), white water rafting and backpacking along the Laurel Highlands and Chestnut Ridge of Western Pa. Lori, John and I talked about sea kayaking.

Tobey (far left in the picture center righjt) is perhaps the senior member of those who regularly gather. His first NOLS course was a Wind Rivers Wilderness Course all the way back in 1976. Thirty years later he returned to NOLS for the Instructors Course. He works as a Civil Engineer with the Metropolitan Transit Authority but occasionally returns to NOLS to lead courses.

Lori’s NOLS course was in Kenya in 1999. She (center in the picture center right) works with the Asthma Free School Zone, a non-profit (501C3).

Gint (far right in the picture center right) is a newbie among the alums. His NOLS course was a 2007 Wind River Backpacking Course. He works at a Manhattan Brokerage in Technical Sales.

Having taken three NOLS courses, Elizabeth is perhaps a NOLS course collector. In 1999 she took a Baja Sea Kayaking Course. She was on a Patagonia course in 2004 and a New Zealand Backpacking Course in 2006. It was Elizabeth who introduced Gint to NOLS. She is currently unemployed and looking to serve in Higher Education.

Mac took her NOLS course in 2006, the Pacific North West Trip Leader Course, and is the Founder and Executive Director of Concrete Safaris.

Chris is an entrepreneur developing interactive software for CE Interactive. His NOLS course was a 1982 Backpacking Course in the Wind Rivers.

John's NOLS course was a 1995 Brooks Range River Trip. He is a Professor with his own textbook and an Entertainment Technology Site on the web.

A few others came and went during the evening but I either did not know them as well or did not have the time to talk with them. My wife Vicki, not a NOLS Alum but an avid kayaker with other varied outdoor experience, joined our group near the end of the evening.

I think there exists among NOLS alums a bond forged by a shared base of knowledge and experience. I know that whenever I have climbed, backpacked or kayaked with a NOLS alum I have always felt more comfortable and at ease with that person and their skills and knowledge than perhaps others on the same trip who are not NOLS alums. While others may also be knowledgeable, skilled and trustworthy, they do not share the NOLS experience. OK, perhaps what others say about NOLS alums is true. We are elitist.

As for me? My first NOLS course was an Outdoor Educators Course in the Wind River Range of Wyoming in August 1979. In 2005 I took a Leave No Trace Master Educator Course in Shenandoah National Park co-sponsored by NOLS and the National Park Service. One of our two instructors was long-time and legendary NOLS Instructor Haven Holsapple. Our other instructor was John Buchheit, National Park Service Backcountry Ranger in Shenandoah National Park. One of the other eight participants was NOLS Instructor Chris North, who was taking the course to receive LNT Master Educator Certification.

In spite of NOLS alum's commitment to Leave No Trace backcountry ethics; we may not always practice the same ethics when we are out on the town. Take for example the mess we created on the NOLS Banner (Pictured bottom right. Folks in Lander, don’t look at this!). Even though our table looked a lot cleaner before we left, the astute observor could still tell that we had been there.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Obama’s First International Crisis?

Did the Somali pirates holding the American captain of an American flagged commercial ship qualify as an international crisis? Whether or not it did, I am impressed with how our President handled the situation.

First, he did not say a lot about it. He made no bellicose statements and issued no threats.

Second, he did not embargo, bomb or invade Somalia.

Third, he allowed enough time for the Navy and FBI to negotiate with the captors in an attempt to diffuse and end the situation without loss of life. There was no knee-jerk reaction.

Fourth, he empowered and trusted the Navy Commander in the field to exercise deadly force if the opportunity presented itself. No innocent civilians were killed. There was no collateral damage.

Fifth, he did not fly to the Navy destroyer to make a speech with a big banner proclaiming victory behind him. In fact, he has said very little after the fact.

Not only do I think that our President passed the test; I also think the Navy passed as well, especially the Navy Seal sharpshooters. The final score: Obama 1, Navy 1, Navy Seals 1, Somalia pirates -3.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Sights of the Falklands and the Sounds of Germany in Brooklyn, NY

On July 17, 2007, Marcus Demuth finished paddling a sea kayak around Ireland. On January 26, 2009, he successfully completed a circumnavigation of the Falkland Islands by kayak. In the wet and rainy early evening of Saturday, April 11, 2009 he successfully peddled his bike (photo top right) from his home in Brooklyn to the Sebago Canoe Club on Brooklyn’s Paerdegat Basin to talk about and present a slide show about his recent circumnavigation of the Falklands.

Saturday evening was my first opportunity to meet Marcus. A native of Germany who recently moved to New York City, his German accent betrays his soft spoken, polite, mild manner which can disarm any stranger but hints of the deep reserve of inner and physical strength that has been more than once tested on the open sea.

The Sebago Canoe Club is not the most high tech sort of place to present an expedition travelogue. The laptop with attached projector seemed just a little out of place next to the double 55-gallon drum wood stove with a fire burning inside to take the chill off the air. The white plastic tablecloth tacked to the wall as a make-shift projection screen seemed more appropriate. One or more of the four nautical charts of the Falklands that Marcus had taped to the wall with blue painter’s masking tape would occasionally fall down during his presentation. The plastic table-cloth screen also started to fall but was quickly re-tacked. Concessions consisting of tortilla chips, cheese, crackers, wine and local brews were free.

I thought the most startling visual aid was a map of the Falklands detailing mine fields left over from the Falkland’s War fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom. (photo bottom right, not a photo of the war but a photo of the map). The slides, consisting mostly of scenes featuring penguins, treeless landscapes and vast ocean reminded me of scenes from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, except there are no penguins in Scotland.

Marcus began his presentation with a short quiz. How far is it from Brooklyn to the Falklands? How many islands comprise the Falkland archipelago? How many people live in the Falklands? How many tourists visit the Falklands annually? The answers: Approximately 10,000 miles, 750 islands, 2,500 residents, and 500 tourists. After his presentation, which lasted about two hours, I was convinced that Marcus had met and befriended every one of those 2,500 Falklanders and probably knew them by name.

Seventeen people and two dogs attended the presentation, including some good folk visiting Sebago for the first time. Of the sixteen other people in attendance (not counting myself and Marcus) I had paddled with six of them.

The folksy, laid back presentation and slide show of an expedition reminded me of a similar experience more than thirty years ago. It was a seasonable summer evening. Several climbers were sitting in the dead-end road outside The Gendarme climbing shop at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. After a day of climbing under the hot sun about two dozen climbers were drinking ice cold beer and watching an open-air slide show about an expedition to the Himalayas. It was an enjoyable evening spent with likeminded folk who shared a passion for climbing. Similarly, Saturday night’ s gathering at the Sebago clubhouse was an enjoyable evening spent with likeminded folk who share a passion for sea kayaking. These two experiences, one a summit slideshow and the other a shore slideshow are now inexorably wed in my memory as well as in this blog post.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sophia’s Daughters Expand Their Voice

You may have noticed that in the past few days I have added a few more blogs to my blog roll. One of the blogs I have added is Voices of Sophia.

In the New Revised Standard Version translation of the Bible, Proverbs 1:20 reads “Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.” This verse is an example of one of the many places in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures where wisdom is personified as a female. In the original Hebrew the word translated into English as “wisdom” is chockmah, a feminine noun. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, chockmah was translated as sophia, also a femine noun.

Voices of Sophia (VOS) was organized in 1995 in response to the backlash against the 1993 feminist theological event known as “Re-Imagining.” When a bunch of evangelical conservative dead white Layman found their heretofore privileged positions of patriarchal power threatened and challenged by a bunch of uppity and vocal feminist theologians they went ballistic and forced the ouster of some female staff in the national offices of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). VOS was formed as a response to the response, to support feminists being attacked by the right, and to continue and broaden the discussion and community begun at Re-Imagining.

In a classical dialectic, the Re-Imagining Thesis was countered by the dead white male antithesis of the Presbyterian Layman, which was in turn countered by the synthesis of Voices of Sophia.

In July 1996 my wife learned how to make Southwestern style Santos in a workshop at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Meixico. Ghost Ranch is one of the national conference centers of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). One of her early creation was the Santos pictured top right, which she titled Sophia. VOS later adopted the design to feature on t-shirts and sweatshirts (pictured bottom right) promoting one of their conferences, and the design can still occasionally be seen around the PC(USA) General Assembly.

After fifteen years of continuous scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia can now be heard in the blogosphere. And in some very exciting news you can read about in their blog, VOS and The Witherspoon Society are joining together in a holy union that promises to strengthen and expand not only feminist voices but all voices calling for peace, justice, the care of creation, and the inclusion of all God’s Children in the leadership of the Church.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How to S**t in the Woods

The other day I was honored to be interviewed by Attila Horvath for a story he is writing for Get Out! magazine. He wanted to interview me because I am supposed to be somewhat of an expert about the topic he was writing about. His topic? How to shit in the woods (in an ecologically sound way, of course).

There is actually a book by that title, but I have loaned out or misplaced my copy so I have attached an original photograph (right) of the next best scatological book in my personal library, Up Shit Creek.

Here is the poop. Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished, and pack out your toilet paper. For more in depth information about disposing of human waste when there is no toilet or outhouse in site, consult the web sites of The National Outdoor Leadership School and/or the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

Since I also write about religion and spirituality as well as climbing and kayaking I suppose I should cite at least one biblical reference to back up the practice of disposing of human waste in a cathole. Take a look at Deuteronomy 23:12-13, where you will find Leave No Trace (LNT) principals related to human waste in God’s Holy Word: No shit! I’m not kidding.

Deuteronomy 23:12-13 (NRSV) “You shall have a designated area outside the camp to which you shall go. With your utensils you shall have a trowel; when you relieve yourself outside, you shall dig a hole with it and then cover up your excrement.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Decline and Fall of Christian America?

I am not a subscriber or usual reader of Newsweek, but when I heard a blurb on NPR about the April 13, 2009 cover story, I popped into Barnes & Noble and bought a copy. “The Decline and Fall of Christian America”? So what’s new? Oh, that’s right. This is the Newsweek issue hitting the newsstands just before Easter. It is the one of two issues of Newsweek a year with a cover story about religion, the other issue being the one just before Christmas. Does that mean Newsweek shares a profile with “C&E” Christians? You know, the ones that show up for worship only at Christmas and Easter.

“The End of Christian America” by Jon Meacham quotes E. Albert Mohler Jr.—president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—as writing in response to the news that “the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified” “The so called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture.”

Mainline Christians have been aware for years of the trends cited. We have been bantering about the terms “post-modern, post-Christian” and “post-Western” for awhile now. Some of us even think that the end of the Constantinian era and end of Christian empire is a good thing for the faith. After all, Jesus was a counter-cultural, in your face, speaking truth to power sort of guy rather than an establishment type.

Consider this, however. George Bush, the born-again conservative and the religious right activists that put him into office probably did more with their policies to hasten the decline of Christianity in the West than any Scientist, Philosopher or decision by the Supreme Court. On the other hand, even before he was elected, the campaign of Barack Obama had people once again talking about, and seriously re-considering and rediscovering the theology of H. Richard Niebuhr and talking about ethics.

Maybe Christian America is not as Christian as it once was. Then again, maybe America was never as Christian as we have been led to believe. Maybe America is growing up, embracing a more critical faith posture and asking questions about things ultimate that a church grown fat and lazy from its baby-boom growth spurt is unprepared and unwilling to address and answer.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

ex nihilo redux: Three Months and Counting

Today marks the 3 month anniversary of my first blog post, ex nihlio, posted on Monday, January 5, 2009. In WWJB, posted on February 5, 2009, I reflected on a month of blogging. I allowed the second month anniversary to go by without comment, however. Not so the third month.

Though I started Summit to Shore on January 5 I did not begin using Google Analytics until January 25, so I have no traffic reports until starting then. Here are the numbers since January 25.

951 visits have come from 19 countries/territories. 918 visits came from the United States. The other 18 countries/territories with their numbers of visits have been:
Canada 6
United Kingdom 6
India 3
Philippians 3
Spain 2
Netherlands Antilles, Sweden, Nigeria, Ireland, New Zealand, Belgium, Poland, Panama, South Africa, France, Trinidad and Tobago, Jordan, and Australia each logged one visit.

Of the 918 visits from the United States, over half, 500, were from New York State, and over 80%of those, 411, were from New York City (thank you, home town folks).

Two visits from Alaska still stand out in my mind. Alaska’s two visits to Summit to Shore have been from Wasilla, home town of Alaska Governor and former Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin. Do you think? Nah! But just in case, and in the event of a return visit, HELLO SARAH! Thanks for visiting Summit to Shore. You betcha. Have you seen any Russian planes flying over Alaska lately?

To date I am still waiting for visits from nine states as no one from Vermont, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Montana or Hawaii have yet to visit Summit to Shore. If you have friends or relatives or know anyone else in those states, please ask them to visit my blog and be the first from their state to do so.

The most popular page view, with 80 views, has been my post about Western North Carolina Presbytery being the first Presbytery to flip-flop on their vote regarding G-6.0106b. The second most popular post has been my tongue-in-cheek parody masquerading as a Presbyterian News Service article about Amendment B showing a fourth quarter rally. I wrote that parody in response to two PNS articles, one posted March 11 and the other posted March 19 by Jerry L. Van Marter. The third most popular post, with half as many visits as the most popular, was my Letter to the Editor of the Presbyterian Outlook in response to their lagging coverage of the amendment 08-B vote. Thus, by far the most popular material on Summit to Shore has been related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its voting on amendment 08-B.

The three next six most popular posts have all related to kayaking, and two of those related to Jones Beach. Page views after these most popular are pretty mixed with regard to content.

What has been your favorite post? Least favorite? What would you like to read more about? What I have I not written about between summit to shore that you like me to write about? Leave me a comment and give me some direction. Otherwise I might break out my GPS and ask it to send me to a randomly selected direction.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Presbyterian Saint

Presbyterians generally do not have saints, at least not the kind of Saints Roman Catholics have, and certainly not living saints. If Presbyterian did have living saints, however, one of them would be Thelma Adair (pictured right).

When I was a teenager I was very active in a local Presbyterian church as well as a Presbyterian Synod. I was also a pretty good student. So I applied for a Presbyterian College Scholarship and was selected as a National Presbyterian College Scholar. To prove it I even received a small cardboard National Presbyterian College Scholar I.D. Card signed by the current Moderator of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. The Moderator’s name was Thelma Adair.

During my freshman year of college, which was also Dr. Adair’s Moderatorial year, Thelma Adair visited the small Presbyterian Church related college where I was a student and I was able to meet her. She was the first Presbyterian Moderator I ever met and will probably remember her for as long as I live.

I was able to meet Thelma Adair again thus past Tuesday evening at the Presbyterian Senior Services Maggie Kuhn Award reception. It was one of the highlights of my evening. As I was talking with her I felt like I was living in an historical moment.

Dr. Adair is an ordained elder in the Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church of New York City. She became the first black woman elected Moderator of a Presbyterian General Assembly when she was elected Moderator of the 188th Assembly in 1976. The Moderator of the General Assembly is the highest elected office of the church. She has served as chair, Presbyterian Senior Services and as advisor, Church Women United, National Board. In addition, Dr. Adair has been a member of both the advisory council of the National Council of Churches and the Harlem Hospital Community Advisory Board. She is also the only living Presbyterian Moderator from New York City.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

PSS Panther Cubs Honor One Of Their Own At University Club

Last evening, thanks to an invitation from John Mosser, the Clerk of session at North Church Queens (where I serve as Designated Pastor) and a member of the Presbyterian Senior Services Board of Directors, I attended a reception at the University Club, One West 54th Street, New York, New York .

The occasion for open bar and hors d’oeuvre reception was the Fourteenth Annual presentation of the Maggie Kuhn Award, an award which recognizes distinguished honorees for their outstanding commitment to the elderly and social justice. This year's recipient of the Maggie Kuhn Award was William J. Dionne (pictured right), Executive Director of the Carter Burden Center for the Aging and President of the Board of the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City.

After hobnobbing for awhile with Minister and Elder colleagues and being introduced to a few members of the PSS Board and others in attendance, I observed one of the most spirited, entertaining, funny and brief award presentations I have ever witnessed. From my experience these sorts of things tend to be dry, boring and take far too long. Last evening’s Welcome, Greetings, Remembrances and Introductions were a joy to observe.

As I reflect on the evening, I think Maggie, founder of the Gray Panthers, would have been proud and happy of how her cubs were not only honoring her and her work but the importance of advocating for and providing services to the elderly.