Sunday, October 04, 2015

Pasadena Now Covers Blessing of Animals at All Saints Church

[Pasadena Now | October 4, 2015] “May God bless you and keep you, and fill you with happiness, obedience and health for all the days of your wagging life,” said Susan Russell, Senior Associate of Communications, as she blessed the furry animals that came out to All Saints Episcopal Church near Pasadena’s City Hall Sunday morning for their annual pet blessing.

Catholic, Episcopalian and other Christian denominations hold animal blessings on or near Oct. 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

Not all friends were furry though. George, a thirty-year-old turtle, was carried to church in a Converse box by his owner, Keenan Williams. But he came out of the box, and received a blessing, a pat on the head, and an amen, just like all the other animals.

As for Panda the hamster, he came in his cage and stayed in his cage, bobbing up and down throughout the ceremony.

Luke, a eight-year-old dog who usually “channels happiness and enthusiasm,” according to his owner Ann Heil, remained serene and peaceful today, as he lay on the ground under a tree, watching everyone from afar.

This Sunday morning’s skies opened with rain and sunless clouds. Russell thought this would keep the animals away, but it didn’t. Plenty of the community’s animal friends were present to receive their blessing and just as the “blessing stations” opened, a few rays of sun lit up the sky.

It is important, however, to recall the reason why we bless animals on Saint Francis Day, pointed out Ed Bacon, Rector of All Saints. Bacon is the owner of three cats, and in the past, he has owned dogs, birds, and hamsters. “And for one night, a snake,” added Bacon, “before I said, ‘no more.’”

As Bacon’s words were transmitted to the church’s front yard on televisions with large speakers hanging nearby, the animals sat, for the most part patiently, on their owner’s laps, by their sides, or in cages. Mary Stafford tightly hugged her Snoopy and baby Snoopy, stuffed animal pets.

According to Bacon, “the reason we bless animals on Saint Francis Day is we believe that animals are our fellow creatures. They are our siblings in the cosmic family. They have the divine presence in them. They are divine. They are saints.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#StandWithPP -- All Saints Church Goes Pink for Planned Parenthood

All Saints Church in Pasadena has a long history as a prayerfully pro-choice church. Today I was honored to stand with my staff colleagues AND stand with Planned Parenthood in support of the tremendous work they do across the nation providing reproductive health care to women, men and families on the margins.

As our friends at Catholics for Choice put it: “Defunding Planned Parenthood would give the least among us even less.”

“All Saints Church has been a prayerfully pro-choice church since 1989,” said my rector Ed Bacon. “Planned Parenthood’s work in advancing women’s rights and promoting social justice is sacred work that should be celebrated and supported, not attacked, lied about and defunded.”
Adopted by the Vestry of All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA, October 23, 1989
Reaffirmed by the Vestry of All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA, April 13, 2004
The Vestry of All Saints Episcopal Church,
— Reaffirming its commitment to the sacredness of life;
— Deeply concerned about the efforts to deny women the safe and legal abortions protected under Roe vs. Wade (1973); and
— Convinced that a pregnant woman is the moral agent in the profound and personal decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy; and convinced that this belief is consistent with the Judeo-Christian understanding of God’s empowerment of each person with the freedom to make choices, and the responsibility for those choices,
— That no law should be enacted to force an unwilling woman to give birth to an unwanted child, within the parameters of Roe vs. Wade. A pregnant woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy or to bear a child. She has the right to have access to information and counsel. She has the right to privacy in making this decision, without intrusion by the state. Safe abortion must be available to all, regardless of their economic circumstances.
— That we will renew our efforts within the parish and throughout the nation to create a society in which abortion is less and less a necessary option. In our efforts to construct a loving society, where unwanted pregnancies do not occur, we advocate responsible expressions of human sexuality in the context of love and commitment. We commit ourselves to assuring the quality of life for each child born in this world.

Monday, September 28, 2015

"Defunding Planned Parenthood would give the least among us even less"

ICYMI, over 60 Catholic state leaders and legislators from 25 states banded together in a full-page back-cover ad in the Washington Post urging Congress to preserve federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The statement draws on Catholic social justice and tells representatives in Congress that defunding Planned Parenthood would give the least among us even less. Bravo, Catholics for Choice.

Just imagine a world without Planned Parenthood.

It is a world where a dark, harsh landscape is all that remains for women who already have so little.

Where a mother in Chicago works extra shifts to pay for groceries, but can’t afford contraception.

Where a woman in the Appalachian hills takes several buses to a clinic, only to be told she cannot have her procedure and must come back.

Where a woman in Tupelo with a family history of cervical cancer can’t go to a reliable health center for yearly Pap smears.

Where a boy in Utica isn’t offered sex education at his school
and cannot turn to a quality health care provider for information or services when he contracts an STI.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would give the least among us even less.

It would rob us of compassionate caregivers and educators.
It would punish the most vulnerable,
taking away their ability to make reproductive decisions
according to their own conscience.

Catholics believe that conscience isn’t a status symbol.
We believe everyone has the ability to decide to be pregnant or not,
and to protect oneself from sexually transmitted infections.
Our laws should make this possible for everyone,
no matter what their means,
where they live,
or what they believe.

We, your fellow legislators and constituents,
urge you to stand up for Planned Parenthood,
to oppose any attempts to defund, and to listen to Catholics.

Listen to the majority of Americans
who recognize the critical importance of Planned Parenthood.

We envision a world where a woman at risk of cervical cancer
can get the care she needs from the people she trusts.
Where rural women can get abortion care
without extra days off work, expensive travel or waiting periods.
Where the gap between poor women’s and privileged women’s
health closes for good.

Congress can protect the people who will suffer most.
Stand with Planned Parenthood before it’s too late
and the world without Planned Parenthood becomes a reality.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ben Carson "On the Record"

So quick one here ... been watching the news today and hearing Ben Carson trying to "walk back" his Islamophobic comments on Meet the Press on Sunday, September 20. And -- because the "walk back" today is that the comments were "out of context" -- here's the excerpt from the transcript to save you looking it up:
CHUCK TODD: Let me wrap this up by finally dealing with what's been going on, Donald Trump, and a deal with a questioner that claimed that the president was Muslim. Let me ask you the question this way: Should a President's faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?

DR. BEN CARSON: Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem.

CHUCK TODD: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?

DR. BEN CARSON: No, I don't, I do not.

CHUCK TODD: So you--

DR. BEN CARSON: I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.
Seriously, people. Unforced error, pure and simple. We've just got to do better than this.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fighting for Planned Parenthood and Religious Liberty

The day after Congress voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, I stood with hundreds of Planned Parenthood supporters -- including Pasadena Mayor Terry Torneck and Congresswoman Judy Chu -- in a rally at Pasadena City Hall. Here's more or less what I said -- as posted to the Huffington Post.

I am a priest, a pastor and a proud member of the member of the Planned Parenthood Clergy Advocacy Board - made up of interfaith clergy and faith leaders from around the country committed to protecting reproductive freedom for women -- something which is quite literally at risk in our nation today. For me, supporting Planned Parenthood is a religious liberty issue.

Religious liberty - as you've no doubt heard in the news - is under attack in this nation. It is under attack by those who confuse exercising their religion with imposing their religion - and in the process are confusing their theology with our democracy. My religious liberty as a Christian is only as protected as the religious liberty of every other person of every other faith -- and yes, that includes the liberty of those who choose "none of the above." And all of our liberty is threatened when the religion of any American citizen is misused to undermine the constitutional protections of any other American citizen.

And that's why I believe it is so critically important for people of faith to speak out AS people of faith when access to health care for women is turned into a bargaining chip in a game of political brinkmanship. It is our responsibility to stand up when the core American value of religious liberty is hijacked as a weapon of mass disinformation in a campaign to undermine a woman's constitutional right to make choices about reproductive health care. And that is why we are here today to Stand with Planned Parenthood.

I am also a mother - the mother of two sons - and one is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before they put their lives on the line for their country, he and his colleagues took an oath to "defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." And not long ago he said to me: "Mom, it never occurred to me that Congress would be one of those enemies."

My thirty-three year old Army veteran son gets it. The majority of Americans get it. And we need to keep raising our voices until Congress gets it, too.

Because I'm a preacher, I want to close with two brief theological points. The first comes from the Ten Commandments - which inform the faith of Christians, Jews and Muslims across this nation. You may - or may not - remember that one of the ten is "You shall not bear false witness" - and if Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai today those tablets might include "... or make false videos that fraudulently misrepresent the work of Planned Parenthood - or anybody else for that matter."

The second comes from my own tradition as a Christian and follower of Jesus in these words from John 8:32 "The truth will set you free." And the truth is there is a war on women. The truth is that there is an orchestrated effort to reduce women's access to reproductive health care. And the truth is there is an escalating campaign to defame and defund the important work of Planned Parenthood through fraud, fiction and disinformation.

And the truth is we have the power to keep that from happening. The truth is we have the responsibility to continue to fight this fight. And the truth that will set us free is that with the truth on our side we're not just going to fight - we're going to win.