Monthly Archives: September 2011

Apocryphal Baby B.

My older brother has six children with his wife, three boys and three girls, and although the youngest girl is no longer the baby of that sizable family, we still call her Baby B. My niece indulges us in this, but it is worth noting that she herself is a spiritual adept and has been from a very young age. Really, all of her siblings are wonderful kids, decent and principled and considerate. Children with a lot of siblings learn fairly early on that they have to make elaborate negotiations to get through life, so they develop certain strategies around that. Continue reading


Angels: A Retraction

Like many a minister, I’ve preached some very fine sermons that I can no longer recall and some roundly mediocre ones that I cannot seem to forget. Yet there is only one I truly regret delivering, not because it was rotten or wordy or diffuse but rather, because it was just wrong. I remember this sermon often, with a curious admixture of mortification and gratitude. Certain kinds of mistakes can be real gifts, if we receive them in the right spirit. Continue reading

Lessons from Brown Buttons

Oddly, the prolonged aftermath of 9/11 felt more stirring to me than the actual event itself. As one of the train passengers who was evacuated into the subway stop at Wall Street while the Twin Towers burned overhead, I took from that day, month, year a pronounced sense of having being spared. That sense stayed with me for some time and it obligated me in ways I could never fully explain. So I developed a series of private devotions around the people who had not survived; there were many of those. Continue reading

The Fleet of Blessing

Now that summer’s nearly ended, I find myself nostalgic for the start of it. Nothing else signals the full swing of summer to me as much as the Blessing of the Fleet. While other children of New England will readily recognize this ritual, for the uninitiated: it involves all sailboats, trawlers, and other vessels that do float upon the waters getting bedecked and festooned and staging a parade past a member of the clergy who imparts a blessing on each and every one of them. Depending upon the size of the fleet, it can be quite a production — a glorious, slapdash, exhilarating, and exhausting production. Continue reading