Exploring: The Church, Theology and Food

Archive for December, 2015


Reflections from a dear friend of mine.  A word of caution there is a story from back in the day.

It Started with a Question…

It’s funny how things got started. My son always curious about his familial history asked for a copy of the family tree as well as a collection of the family recipes. This brought me to talking with my sister, with whom I began to reminisce about growing up. She remembered our baking Mandelbrot with my grandmother. (Neither of us was sure how to spell it). As I mentioned elsewhere, it was the first thing I learned to cook and with that began my passion for creating food.

Being in a whimsical mood, I posted this on line. A very dear and old friend made a request and opened a door. (I don’t think she knows just how dear a friend she is. We haven’t talked much these past few years. But some of you have people like that in your lives. You seem to be able to pick up with them from where ever you left off as if it were yesterday. She is an Episcopal Minister now and goes by the title Reverend Doctor…. But I just know her as Karen, sometimes KC. I am so proud of what she has accomplished even if I can’t quite come to including the “Reverend Doctor” and her name in the same sentence. It’s just not how I know her. That doesn’t diminish the pride I feel in what she has done with her life. Especially since this is the same person with whom I used to danced until dawn at a transvestite (or to be politically correct, transgender) disco club followed by breakfast at a greasy spoon Russian diner in lower Manhattan and made fun of the people we worked with at Sotheby’s and christened the Fine and Decorative Chachka Department there… eons ago.)

But I digress and for good reason… Because from simple things… a question, a reminiscence, an inquiry suddenly becomes an opening into sacred places; familial stories; life long connections, and a desire to learn and uncover more. Karen, The Reverend Doctor ;), asked me to send her the recipe for Mandelbrot along with the stories. And that opened another door and some more reminiscences; Of my family; of her and our friendship; other family members, other friends. It became a living process; Or to use Karen’s word… “Sacred”.

I shared with her the story of how my Dad and I spent his last days together listening to the Mariners lose and my plaguing him with questions, anything I could think of, about his life, our family, anything at all. I knew as he was passing, a door was rapidly closing and I wanted to keep it open as long as possible. I wrote about my grandmother and who she was, growing up, based on my father’s stories about her; how she emigrated from Lithuania in the 1890’s at the age of six, I believe; Her involvement with the suffragette movement in the early 20th century; About my grandfather whom I only met twice and had almost no memory of. He was a button salesman I found out. Who sells buttons for a living? But he did. It was another era. One that ended long before I was born.

And this is just the beginning. Some veil has been lifted and while it is easy to gently poke it back into place, I am not sure I want to… It’s not about going back to the past. It’s about celebrating it, revering it, reveling in it … “Sacred Places”.

I am inviting you to consider undertaking a similar journey. What are your stories? Where are your sacred places? Where are the connections that gently travel between friends and family, loved ones and ones almost forgotten. Where do you come from? How did you get here? Who was there along the way? Who was there before you? And who are those who will be left behind in your absence? Are there debts of gratitude that have been acknowledged or have they been left unpaid and still lingering? My friend the Reverend Doctor, my friend Karen quite possibly doesn’t know the debt of gratitude I owe her. She may not know how much the fact that I got to grow up and mature as a man was because of her influence in my life. It is a gift she gave me that she may not even know she bestowed.

And all of this started with a simple series of questions… “Do you know our family tree?”. “Do you have the recipe you used to make with Grandma?” “Do you remember….?”

I invite you, this holiday season, while you’re gathered around the table or in front of the fire, or where ever you come together…Start a conversation…Ask a question…. “Do you remember…?” And don’t hesitate to follow where that can take you. Take the journey, follow the path, if you come to a fork in the road, take it.

And if you care to do so, I invite you to share them here, with me, with us. They are sacred and they deserve to be released and shared because these sacred stories are what connects us as a race of people. Before there was ever a written language, there was the story. It is what transcends borders and race and beliefs and differences. It is what brings us together in a shared human experience. They are the ties that bind. But they also can be what releases us…



Advent Reflection 2015

A Boston paper recently published an article about a “Black Lives Matter” banner vandalized outside a church in Arlington, MA. In fact, the banner had been vandalized twice before. After reading this article, I wrote to a white clergy colleague and ally: “While I ardently support those houses of worship that put up “Black Lives Matter” banners, I feel that the real transformation occurs when the deep work is done inside of communities. Whether the community is our home, house of worship, place of employment. Essentially, from cradle to grave.”

As an African-American Episcopal priest, I have some questions. Are we (using the corporate we) willing to change the racial paradigm and structure of the Episcopal Church? We delude ourselves if we believe that all should be at the same place at the same time in our journey toward racial justice and in realizing the Reign of God here on earth.

It’s a process and we come into this process as unique God-created gifts on earth. The process is both internal and external. Internal change comes at a cost; an action, a thought or gesture can get to that place where you are no longer comfortable with what you say, think or do. Note that this process does not happen overnight.

Life in the Boston area can present phrases and questions that are sometimes baffling and have double meaning to a community of color. Questions such as: Do you live around here? What does your spouse, partner etc. do? Phrases such as: The organization decided to go in a different direction at this time. Statements such as: I am sorry, I forgot to introduce you (the only person of color in the room). Examples such as someone addressing everyone in the room by their title except you. Circumvention of the work of the Human Resources Department to make a hire. Or the latest in The Episcopal Church by white clergy, “I want to take a point of personal privilege.” You are a priest in The Episcopal Church; thereby you are privileged.

Social justice work is hard work for all.

In this season of Advent, to quote a prayer from the Brothers at The Society of St. John the Evangelist, “Now is the time to wake out of our sleep. Now is the time for you—a choice to be made, a decision to be taken.”

Advent Blessings to All.